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No. 21 Maryland men’s basketball vs. Fayetteville State exhibition preview

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The Terps are back in action for the first time this season.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Maryland at Alabama Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The wait for the Maryland men’s basketball season is coming to an end this Friday. The No. 21-ranked Terps will kick off their 2021-22 season with an exhibition match against Division II school Fayetteville State at Xfinity Center in College Park.

Maryland’s regular season officially opens just four days later on Nov. 9 in a meeting with Quinnipiac at home.

The game will be streamed at 7 p.m. on BTN Plus.

Let’s take a look at the Fayetteville State Broncos in Maryland’s lone exhibition match of the season.

Fayetteville State Broncos (0-0, Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association)

2020-21 record: (Season canceled due to COVID-19)

It’s been a hectic two years for Fayetteville State and head coach Luke D’Alessio, who was named head coach of the program just before the 2019-20 season. D’Alessio came into the program with experience at every level in the NCAA. The three seasons before accepting the head coaching job at Fayetteville State, he was an assistant coach for North Carolina Central University and helped lead it to three consecutive Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) championships and NCAA Tournament appearances.

In his first season with the Broncos in 2019-20, the team went 24-8 and made it all the way to the final round of the CIAA Tournament, before falling by one point in the championship. The Broncos had the most regular season wins in the conference that season. Now, Fayetteville State will look to recapture that same success in 2021-22 after a year off from competition.

Players to know

Jalen Seegars, senior guard, 6-foot-5, 215 lbs. (No. 11) — Seegars is the most important player returning from the Broncos’ strong 2019-20 season. The senior was the program’s top scorer two years ago, averaging 15.5 points per game with nearly 40% shooting from three-point range. Seegars is a do-it-all type player as he also averaged 6.2 rebounds per game and had the second-most blocks on the team in the last full season the program played. He was the only Bronco to receive more than 30 minutes per game on the court in 2019-20, and he will likely be an even bigger factor this season with a lot of fresh faces on the roster.

Darian Dixon, senior center, 6-foot-7, 230 lbs. (No. 0) — Behind Seegars, Dixon is another quality player returning for Fayetteville State for the 2021-22 season. Dixon was third on the team two years ago with an average of 9.9 points per game. He connected on 57.6% of his field goal attempts, a mark that the tall center will try to replicate this season. Dixon made 30 starts in the 31 games he appeared in during the Broncos’ latest full season and he’s an impact player that will see a lot of time on the floor come Friday.

Leroy Butts, senior forward, 6-foot-8, 220 lbs, (No. 4) — Butts is one of the best players on this roster and he transferred from Radford after playing there in 2019-20. As a junior in his final season at Radford, Butts averaged just over four points and two rebounds per game on nearly 50% shooting from the field. He started in 18 games for Radford and will likely be a factor for the Broncos in this season. Keep an eye on Butts to see what kind of impact he can make with his new team in this exhibition game.

Strength

Height. When looking at the Broncos the first thing that jumps out is the plethora of height on the roster. There are nine players on the roster that are at least 6-foot-5, while Fayetteville State also has four players that are 6-foot-7 or taller. Maryland is also a lengthy team as well and it will be interesting to see the battle on the boards on Friday.

Weakness

Lack of returners. While Seegers and Dixon are two important returners that played big roles in the finals trip in the CIAA Tournament in 2019-20, this roster has plenty of new faces. Three of the program’s top five scorers from two years ago are not on the roster. It will be a challenging year for the Broncos to recover from their recent roster losses and the new players will get a chance to prove themselves against Maryland.

Three things to watch

1. How will head coach Mark Turgeon split up the playing time? Whenever a top team in the nation like Maryland is projected to face a Division II school, it’s fairly expected that it will be a lopsided game. That means that we will likely see the entirety of the Terps’ roster make an appearance on the Xfinity Center floor. Outside of Maryland’s projected starters, look out for players like freshman forward Julian Reese, freshman Ike Cornish and freshman James Graham III to see a fair amount of playing time on the court this Friday.

2. What will Hakim Hart’s offensive game look like? With the departure of Aaron Wiggins, it’s expected that the now 6-foot-8 Hakim Hart will immediately step into a much larger role on offense. The junior, who is listed as a guard, made 19 starts a season ago and averaged 7.1 points on 45.2% shooting. He has taken positive steps in each season in College Park, but the 2021-22 season will be even more critical for Hart to take a leap forward. Maryland will need to find a way to replace Wiggins’ 14.5 points per game in 2020-21 and Hart is in line to be relied on heavily.

3. How will transfers Fatts Russell and Qudus Wahab look in their debuts? Despite Friday’s game just being an exhibition, it’ll be the first chance to see Maryland’s highly-touted transfers in action in College Park. Fatts Russell, a guard who transferred from Rhode Island, should immediately step in a big role in the backcourt for Maryland. Center Qudus Wahab is another valuable piece to the puzzle for Turgeon’s starting lineup this season. Wahab is the more interesting of the two to look out for as Maryland primarily struggled with the absence of a true big man in the paint last season.