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Maryland vs. Central Connecticut State preview: Terps host Blue Devils in College Park

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Maryland plays another Northeast Conference opponent. This one could be better, but early returns haven't been promising for them.

USA TODAY Sports

Maryland faces their second Northeast Conference opponent in a row Monday, hosting the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET and will be streamed on ESPN3.

Remember that Wagner team Maryland beat up on Friday? Last season, they beat the Blue Devils two out of three times with an average scoring margin in the series of 84.7-68.3. That Wagner team was nearly unrecognizable from the one Maryland played a few days ago, however, and Central could be a tougher test for the Terps. The Blue Devils' tough task has been made harder by the absence of two-time All-NEC guard Kyle Vinales, a prolific scorer who has averaged 19.2 points per game in his career. The senior was suspended from team activities earlier in the year after allegedly hitting his girlfriend.

Central Connecticut State also played their opener Friday, playing in-state rivals Fairfield and losing 71-63 in a neutral site game. There was one encouraging sign for the Blue Devils, as sophomore guard Matt Mobley scored 30 points in the losing effort. That broke a career high previously set in Central's lone win over Wagner last season, when Mobley scored 22.

KenPom ranks Central at No. 246, seven spots below Wagner. They play mostly man-to-man on defense.

Head coach Howie Dickenman, Jim Calhoun's top assistant at UConn for a decade, has been running the show at his alma mater since the 1996-97 season. A former first round NBA draft pick (he never played in the league), Dickenman has a 273-261 record with the Blue Devils, leading them to three NCAA Tournament appearances (the last in 2007). Things have not gone well for Central since, with six losing seasons in their past seven years.

There are a few more local faces in this one. Brandon Peel (Riverdale Baptist), Malcolm McMillan (John Carroll) and Juwan Newman (Phelps School) are all from Maryland, Khalen Cumberlander (Coolidge) hails from D.C.

Players to know

Matt Mobley, sophomore, 6'3 guard. That first game could suggest Mobley is capable of being the kind of high-volume scorer that can lead a mid-major program to an upset, but that would be a pretty massive step up from last year for him. As a freshman, Mobley averaged 6.8 points per game, posting an offensive rating of just 93.2 (Jon Graham had 98.6 last year). He didn't make many three pointers (29.1% of 103 attempts) and didn't get to the line that often either (2.5 fouls drawn per 40 minutes). In his 30-point outing against Fairfield, Mobley made three of six three-pointers and 11 of 12 free throws (8.2 drawn per 40).

Malcolm McMillan, senior, 6'0 guard. Both McMillan and Mobley played every single minute of the Blue Devils' loss to Fairfield. It looks like the offense will run through them this year, and it could lead to positive returns down the year. McMillan didn't have a great outing against Fairfield, making just one of 12 shots from the floor, but he was one of Central's better offensive options last season. McMillan got to the line a lot last season, averaging 3.9 free throw attempts per game, and shot reasonably well, averaging 10.8 points per game.

Faronte Drakeford, senior, 6'7 forward. Along with Vinales, Drakeford was one of Central's two most important players last season. As a junior, the big man averaged 13.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, helping serve as an inside presence to counter Vinales's outside scoring ability. It looks like Drakeford can still play that role with Mobley on the outside, but he was held to 10 points and seven rebounds on 3-of-9 shooting against Fairfield before fouling out.

Brandon Peel, junior, 6'7 forward. Peel was the most efficient player on offense for Central last season, sporting a healthy 112.1 offensive rating (higher than any Maryland player that year). He shot 54.5% on two-point shots and made 71.4% of his free throws, averaging 7.1 points per game with limited shot usage. Peel also rebounded well (6.3 per game) and blocked two shots per game (his 8.7 block % ranked 61st in the country). Against Fairfield, he scored five points with nine rebounds and a block before fouling out.

Khalen Cumberlander, sophomore, 6'3 guard. In limited playing time last season, Cumberlander showed promising scoring ability, making 51.4% of his two-point shots (a very high rate for a guard). Now seeing more playing time with Vinales out, he scored nine points against Fairfield.team.

Strengths:

Free-throw shooting. The Blue Devils made 20 of 24 free throws against Fairfield, and shot 72.4% from the line last year.

Experience. Unlike Wagner, Central returns most of last year's team. Unlike Wagner, Central wasn't any good last year, so we don't know if that's a good thing.

Weaknesses:

Height. Maryland's biggest weakness comes off the boards, so this matchup will help. The Blue Devils average 6'3, with only one player (6'9 Corey Barrett) over 6'7.

Two-point shooting. Central made just 14 of 40 two-point field goal attempts against Fairfield. Maryland's defense did a fantastic job against Wagner, so it could be another long outing for the Blue Devils offense.

Predictions:

KenPom’s prediction: Maryland, 83-65, 94% chance Maryland wins.

Our prediction: Maryland, 78-50.