It's finally here. After a long offseason of waiting and a pair of exhibition games to help hold us over, Maryland basketball takes to the court again Friday against Wagner in their season opener. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET at the Xfinity Center in College Park, with streaming coverage available on ESPN3.
Friday officially starts Maryland's bid for Mark Turgeon's first NCAA Tournament appearance in College Park, but a win over Wagner -- no matter how dominant -- likely won't be on their resume at year's end. The Seahawks slot in at No. 230 in KenPom's preseason rankings, and look like they'll count as one of those "cupcake" games power conference teams use to start out the season. But who is Wagner?
Wagner is located in Staten Island, and they were pretty good for a Northeast Conference team last season. The Seahawks finished 19-12 with a 12-4 record in conference play, ending the regular season on an eight-game winning streak. Wagner's best win, by far, came in a November home upset over Vermont (who eventually went 15-1 in America East play), and they also recorded relatively close losses against Penn State (74-62), St. John's (73-57) and St. Bonaventure (70-67).
Wagner and head coach Bashir Mason have built their identity on defense, but lose four starters from last year's team. Departed senior Naofall Folahan was one of the nation's best shot blockers (and the best in school history), and they also have to replace top guards Kenneth Ortiz (three-time NEC defensive player of the year) and Latif Rivers (1,500 career points). Their only returning starter, junior wing Dwaun Anderson, will miss this game with an ankle injury.
Mason, just 30 years old, is the youngest head coach in Division 1. A former point guard at Drexel, he is in his third year in charge of the Seahawks.
Players to know
Marcus Burton, senior, 6'0 guard. Burton was one of Wagner's most efficient offensive players last season, but he's still a point guard with a high shot volume and a poor assist-to-turnover ratio. He's a solid three-point shooter who can drive inside occasionally, but his ball-handling troubles prevented him from playing major minutes behind Ortiz and Rivers last season.
Langston Burnett, junior, 6'5 guard. One of three players in Wagner's backcourt from Maryland, Burnett will likely see an increased role in the early part of the season due to Anderson's injury. Burnett went to St. Vincent Pallotti, while freshmen Corey Henson (DeMatha) and Romone Saunders (Potomac/Mt. Zion Prep) will be making homecomings of sort in the game. Burnett did not play much last season but didn't do much well when he did.
Hugo Naurais, senior, 6'8 forward. Another player who didn't see much time last season, Naurais is a pretty good rebounder who fouled way too much to stay on the court. He also had turnover problems and does not appear to be much of a scoring threat.
Nolan Long, sophomore, 6'10 forward. Long was Wagner's most efficient offensive player last season, but had the lowest shot rate on the team. He's a strong rebounder on both the offensive and defensive boards, is able to use his large frame to block shots and made 11 of his 21 shots from the floor last season. He also averaged 7.1 fouls per 40 minutes, so if Maryland can get him in trouble early, they may have an easy time getting shots off inside.
Greg Senat, sophomore, 6'8 forward. Senat did not play much as a freshman either, but played a more active role in Wagner's offense during his time on the floor. Along with Long, he was one of just two players to make at least half of his shots from the floor, and is a capable rebounder. Senat had even more foul trouble than Naurais or Long, however, averaging 7.5 per 40 minutes.
Defense. The Seahawks have been a good defensive team under Mason, and they play man-to-man. Maryland had a much easier time on offense in their exhibition game against San Francisco State, a zone team, than against Bowie State, a man-to-man team. The Terrapins are better able to use their depth in the backcourt and numerous shooters against a zone, but this will give them an opportunity for a test against a pretty good man defense.
Unknown. Wagner has some players who played significant minutes last season, as explained above, but they have a number of new faces between freshmen and transfers. Those players could play roles this season, and there's certainly room in the rotation for them.
Inexperience. Wagner will not have a single returning starter available in this game, and it could be a rough start to the season after two strong years under Mason.
Scoring ability. Burton is the only player who has shown a consistent ability to put up points, but he hasn't yet shown that he can command an offense from the point. If Melo Trimble can shut him down, it's hard to see Wagner being able to keep up.
KenPom’s prediction: Maryland, 81-65. The Terps are given a 93% chance of winning.
Our prediction: Maryland, 73-52.