The good news: as Jeff Barker reported earlier, the NCAA has come to a decision on the eligibility of Alex Len, and he's now allowed to practice. The bad news: the decision also doled out a ten-game suspension to start Len's career. The bonus good news: at least it's only a ten-game suspension.
Len, of course, had a deal with a pro team in his native Ukraine, Dnipro, before coming to College Park. John Wall, Josh Selby, and Deniz Kilicli all had to serve similar suspensions at the beginning of their collegiate careers.
So long as Len wasn't declared ineligible for an entire year I was going to consider it a victory, and anything under 10 games would've been gravy. As it stands, 10 isn't a bad number at all, even if it'll make some of the early season games a bit uncomfortable. Again: at least he's eligible at all.
Depending on whether the NCAA counts the exhibition game against Northwood on Friday against that ten-game total, Len will either be back in the lineup against Radford (12/23) or Albany (12/28). (It didn't count for Kilicli, but did for John Wall.) He'll miss the Puerto Rico Tip-Off (where potential opponents include Alabama, Wichita State, and Purdue, amongst others), the Illinois home date, and the Notre Dame game in D.C. for the BB&T Classic. He won't miss any ACC games, however (in fact, he gets a nice little warm-up before the conference slate begins), and will be available when the Terps travel to Philly to play Temple in the Palestra.
Len's addition will bump Maryland's total number of scholarship players up to eight - it'll be nine if/when Pe'Shon Howard returns from his foot injury - and gives them four viable big man options (Len plus James Padgett, Ashton Pankey, and Berend Weijs). That should change the paradigm from consistent four-guard sets to a more traditional lineup with two big men. Perhaps more importantly, he should be able to absorb another 15-to-20 minutes a game (or more, if they're lucky), which lightens the load on everyone else in what should be an extraordinarily grinding season.
As far as talent goes, we don't know if Len changes the game for Maryland or not. He's obviously very big (7-1) and obviously very athletic (go back and watch the Maryland Madness scrimmage to see evidence), but he's also a freshman, transitioning to both the American game and America itself at only 18 years old. Sometimes players make that switch with consummate ease; sometimes it takes a bit of a settling-in process, especially when you build in culture shock. Until we see some more of him in action against ACC-level talent, it's tough to know whether or not which he'll be and, thus, whether not he significantly alters expectations for Maryland this year.
Of course, even Len's size alone is a more-than-welcome addition, and should guarantee that Maryland never has to find itself in the uncomfortable situation of (generously listed) 6-4 Sean Mosley having to guard John Henson, Plumlee B, Bernard James, or Milton Jennings, all of which would've been likely had the Terps been forced to miss Len for any serious amount of ACC time.
One thing's for sure: if the Terps can get Howard back on time, the Maryland we see in the ACC games should be much better than the Maryland we see in the early non-conference games.