What: Maryland basketball plays their first home game of the year against the Morehead State Eagles, a team who has made the NCAA tournament two out of the last four seasons.
When and Where: 8:00 in the Comcast Center, College Park, Md.
Where to Watch: Comcast SportsNet, ESPN3.
Line: Terps -12.5.
Notes / Storylines
Recovering from Kentucky. Maryland lost a three-point game to Kentucky in the season opener Friday, where a spirited comeback effort fell just short in Brooklyn. For an extremely young team, it will be interesting to see how they respond. Will the Terrapins come out strong, full of confidence after just barely losing to arguably the most talented team in the country? Or will the fact that they lost provide a hangover effect of sorts? I'm leaning towards the former, but like we said, this is a very young team so anything can happen.
Emergence of the Freshmen. Speaking of the team's youth, let's talk about the performance of various freshmen on Friday. Seth Allen played was the only one who played more than twenty minutes, and he was also the most impressive of all the newcomers. While he only made two of eight shots, both of his makes were big three-pointers, and he had five assists with no turnovers in his collegiate debut...against Kentucky. Also, this happened:
Next up is Charles Mitchell, who in 16 minutes scored four points with ten rebounds, six of them offensive. Like some kind of weird Charles Barkley-Dennis Rodman hybrid, the 6'8" Mitchell isn't tall enough for you to expect him to accumulate these kind of rebounding numbers, but he's smart enough and strong enough to find the right positioning and stay there, anticipating the bounce of the ball off the glass.
Jake Layman played 11 minutes, hitting a three pointer, grabbing two rebounds and blocking a shot. Shaq Cleare rounded out the group, as the highest-rated of the freshmen only played seven minutes and had two fouls and a turnover to go along with two points.
Home Debuts. All of those players will be making their home debuts in front of a Maryland crowd (we're not counting the preseason exhibition against Indiana Univ. of PA), as well as transfers Dezmine Wells and Logan Aronhalt. Wells had eight points and four assists in 29 minutes against Kentucky, but shot a pitiful 2-12 from the floor (second worst on the team to Pe'Shon Howard's 1-8). Aronhalt only played four minutes, as the three-point specialist didn't have much of a place against the ultra-athletic Wildcats.
All of those players will surely be hyped up for their first game at the Comcast Center, but will it effect their play? We saw nerves at the beginning of the Kentucky game, so that may have solved that, but playing for the expectations of the home crowd is a different animal. Luckily, Morehead State is no Kentucky.
Shooting. However, if Maryland shoots like they did against the Wildcats, the Eagles could easily keep it close. Maryland was 25-75 from the floor and an astonishing 3-19 from three. The only good news was from the free throw line - the Terps were 16-21 in an area they struggled mightily in last year. Nick Faust was 0-5 from three and Howard was awful from the floor - the former will need to hit his shots and the latter will likely need to stop taking his.
Rebounding. We talked about it a little bit with Mitchell, but Maryland looked extremely impressive on the glass against Kentucky. They outrebounded the extremely tall Wildcats by a margin of 54-38, on the strength of 28 offensive rebounds. Five players had at least five rebounds, with two in double digits.
Alex Len. In a large part, that was thanks to the fantastic play of Alex Len. The sophomore looks like a completely different player, and was the most dominant force on the floor Friday (the most dominant force off the floor? Jay-Z's perpetually bored expression). Len had 23 points and 12 rebounds, made 10 of his 18 shots (with three of four free throws made), four blocks and only three fouls? All of those are fantastic for the big man, and hopefully a sign of huge things to come for Maryland this year.
The Opponent (An Overview)
So we've talked about Maryland at length, and considering this is a preview of Morehead State, we should probably discuss the Eagles. They were involved in the earlier game at the Barclays Center (this game is actually technically a continuation of that "tournament"), and they beat a decent LIU Brooklyn team (who got 26 from Jamal Olasawere, the best player in Montgomery County when I went to high school) 77-74. Let's first talk about that game, and feel free to yell "small sample sizes!" whenever you please.
The biggest takeaway from Morehead State's win over Long Island is the threat of Milton Chavis. Chavis, who was fifth on the team with 7.9 points per game last year, scored 24 against the Blackbirds, and the small forward hit more threes (four) than Maryland did against Kentucky as a team. Those four threes were also a career high for Chavis - not only for a game but for a season (he made three of five last year in over 600 minutes). Maryland, like every other team, has struggled with bigs who can shoot in the past (looking at you, Kyle Wiltjer), so that will be an interesting player to watch out for.
Joining Chavis at forward is Drew Kelly, who was second on the team in scoring last year (first was Terrance Hill, who played in only 15 games before a season-ending knee injury). Kelly averaged 10.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game last year, but was one for six against Long Island, scoring only two points and four rebounds before fouling out after 19 minutes (he also had five turnovers).
At guard will be Devon Atkinson and Angelo Warner. Atkinson led the team in minutes (32) and assists (four) against Long Island and had 13 points, and Warner had just five points in 17 minutes before fouling out as well.
At center is the 6'9" Jason Holmes, who had three fouls in eleven minutes on Friday. Playing more of a role were bench players Kahlil Owens (6'7") and Maurice Lewis-Briggs (6'8"), who each finished with twelve points. Owens had a game-high 12 rebounds, while Lewis-Briggs tied for second with six.
You may know the Eagles from past NCAA Tourney glory - namely, beating Louisville two years ago with some help from Kenneth Faried. Last season, they finished 18-15 with a 10-6 mark inside the Ohio Valley Conference, finishing third in the league. They lost to conference winners Murray State by six in the regular season, and lost to runners-up Tennessee State in the conference tournament semifinals.
Expected Starting Fives:
|Pe`Shon Howard (Jr., 6-2)||Devon Atkinson (Sr., 6-1)|
|Nick Faust (So., 6-6)||Angelo Warner (So., 6-3)|
|Dezmine Wells (So., 6-5)||Milton Chavis (Sr., 6-6)|
|James Padgett (Sr., 6-8)||Drew Kelly (Jr., 6-7)|
|Alex Len (So., 7-1)||Jason Holmes (Sr., 6-9)|
Matchup to Watch:
Dezmine Wells vs. Milton Chavis. Wells didn't have a great game against Kentucky, but he's an extremely talented player who, until recently, most likely wasn't expecting to play this season. He's still looking to find his groove while Chavis has most certainly found it. Wells will have to play good defense on the perimeter, and look for him to launch off a signature dunk early.
Keep in mind, this is after one game for each team. But yeah, about that shooting percentage...
Prediction: Morehead State is not a bad Division I basketball team. They've got a pair of good forwards, and are coming off a nice season-opening win against Long Island. That being said, they don't stand much of a chance here. Alex Len looked other-worldly against Kentucky, and with a four-inch height advantage on Holmes, it's hard to see him not putting up another 20-point, ten-rebound performance. I'm going to say Faust and Wells each score 15 as well, and it's a blowout. Maryland 86, Morehead State 63.