Maryland Terrapins-LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds Preview: Cupcake II: The Cupcakening

Jason Szenes

After a resounding win over Morehead State brought the Terps to .500 on the season, Mark Turgeon and Maryland will look to join the ranks of those with winning records as they host Long Island on Friday.

What: Maryland hosts 0-2 LIU Brooklyn in their second home game, the Terps' final game of the Barclays Center Classic.

When and Where: 7:00 in the Comcast Center, College Park, Md.

Where to Watch: ESPN3.

Line: None that I could find.

Notes / Storylines

The .500 hump. Ha, just kidding. But this is a thing, at least today.

Still, the shooting. Granted, it was an improvement from the Kentucky game, but while the Terps drew close to 50% in field goals and made a third of their threes, their previously improved free throw percentage was dragged down to last year's poor effort. In particular, the second half stood out, when Maryland made one of seven free throw attempts, including oh-fers from Charles Mitchell and Conner Lipinski.

The development of Dez Wells. After an extremely quiet against Kentucky, Wells scored eight points with three assists a week ago, including a high-flying alley oop that showcased his athleticism. Mark Turgeon said there's still plenty more we can expect from the small forward, and that should excite Maryland fans as much as anything.

The quiet productivity of James Padgett. Padgett scored ten points against Kentucky (notably hitting all six of his free throw attempts) and scored nine against Morehead State (tying for the team lead with four made field goals). He seems to have improved his touch significantly, and may provide the senior leadership this team needs to hold it all together.

Rebounding. This is specifically about Charles Mitchell, but we can also talk about the whole team. Maryland has outrebounded their opponents in two straight games, and while the margin against Morehead State wasn't nearly as impressive as the one against Kentucky (either in quantity or quality), the Terps certainly look fierce on the boards, led by the freshman Mitchell. Through two games, he has 19 rebounds, tied with Alex Len for the team lead.

Attendance. Both Turgeon and Wells noted the less-than-great attendance last week for the home opener. Will Comcast be more crowded in the second game? Doubtful.

Who gets left out of the rotation? This week, Turgeon said he likely won't keep the ten-man rotation going. So who's the odd man out? Going by minutes, it's Logan Aronhalt. Aronhalt played the least amount of time against Kentucky, and of the ten contenders, he tied with Padgett (!) for the least minutes against Morehead State. He's also a situational player, so I don't know if it's exactly fair to call him in the "rotation".

When will the walk-ons play? But seriously, I want me some Varun Ram.

The Opponent (An Overview)

The Blackbirds are coming off two straight NEC championships, including a 25-9 record last year. They were a 16 seed in the tournament, and hung with Michigan State before losing 89-67 in the first round.

So far this season, they stand at a disappointing 0-2, losing by a combined seven points to Morehead State and Lafayette - the latter in overtime. With road trips to College Park and Kentucky, an 0-4 start looks like a depressingly likely prospect for an LIU team that KenPom picked to finish third in the conference. But not so fast! They have some serious talent.

The Blackbirds are led by Julian Boyd, a two-time first team all-conference selection and last season's NEC player of the year. Boyd was the conference's rookie of the year in 2008-09, and then missed the next season with a heart problem - there was a serious risk that he would never play again. Instead, he came back strong, averaging 13.0 and 17.4 points per game and 8.9 and 9.3 rebounds per game, respectively, over the past two seasons. He's made at least half of his shots in each of his seasons, and the 6'7" forward is a real threat.

Joining him at forward is fellow first team conference selection and local Springbrook grad Jamal Olasewere. Also 6'7", the senior has scored 25 and 26 points, respectively, in LIU's first two games (with a double-double in the most recent one), and averaged 16.9 points and 7.5 rebounds last season.

The Blackbirds have another all-conference player - guard Jason Brickman, who made the second team last year after scoring 9.6 points with 7.3 assists per game. Add in two-time conference coach of the year Jim Ferry, and you've got a very solid mid-major team.

Over the break, four players were charged with assault and suspended - Olasewere, Boyd, starting guard C.J. Garner and back-up Troy Joseph. Their ban was apparently lifted, with each player receiving a two-game suspension...yet all four have played in the team's first two games. Mystery is afoot.

Expected Starting Fives:
Maryland LIU Brooklyn
Pe`Shon Howard (Jr., 6-2) C.J. Garner (Sr., 5-10)
Nick Faust (So., 6-6) Jason Brickman (Jr., 6-0)
Dezmine Wells (So., 6-5) Brandon Thompson (Sr., 6-1)
James Padgett (Sr., 6-8) Julian Boyd (Sr., 6-7)
Alex Len (So., 7-1) Jamal Olasewere (Sr., 6-7)

Matchup to Watch:

Len vs. Olasewere. While Wells and Boyd may be the two most talented players on each team, respectively, Len and Olasewere have undoubtedly been the stars of the first two games for these two teams. Len has an even larger height advantage here then he did against Morehead State, and we'll see if he's able to dominate.

Four Factors:


Yeah, yeah, we know. Maryland hasn't been able to shoot, but they've certainly rebounded well.

Prediction:

Long Island has some talent and pedigree, but they've been unable to put it together so far. This continues on Friday, with Maryland struggling at first but cruising to a 74-61 win.
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