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No. 21 Maryland men’s basketball vs. Quinnipiac preview

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The Terps open their season at home against the Bobcats

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics
UMTerps

Maryland men’s basketball returns for a regular-season game in front of fans in the Xfinity Center for the first time since March 8, 2020. The Terps faced Michigan that day and won, 83-70, claiming a piece of the Big Ten regular season title.

Now, about 20 months later, senior guard Eric Ayala, junior forward Donta Scott and junior guard Hakim Hart are the only players who were on the roster for that game that will also be playing for the Terps this season.

In addition to returning that trio, head coach Mark Turgeon picked up graduate guard Fatts Russell from the University of Rhode Island and junior forward Qudus Wahab from Georgetown in the transfer portal this season, rounding out the projected starting lineup.

Turgeon also added freshmen forwards Julian Reese and Ike Cornish as well as graduate guard Xavier Green (Old Dominion), sophomore guard Ian Martinez (Utah) and sophomore forward Pavlo Dziuba (Arizona State).

Now, after all the offseason work, the Terps will kick off their 2021-22 regular season with a game against Quinnipiac. The game is set to tip at 7 p.m. and will air on BTN Plus.

Quinnipiac Bobcats (0-0)

2020-21 record: (9-13, 7-10 MAAC)

The Bobcats are led by head coach Baker Dunleavy who is entering his fifth season at the helm. Before arriving in Connecticut, Dunleavy served as an associate head coach for Villanova men’s basketball when the team won the NCAA Tournament in 2016.

Quinnipiac is coming off a season in which it captured nine wins, with just one of those victories coming on the road.

Players to watch

Kevin Marfo, graduate center, 6-foot-9, No. 0 – Marfo’s journey to this season has been anything but direct. He started his career at George Washington and completed the season there in 2016-17 seeing action in 23 out of 35 games. Ahead of his sophomore year, he transferred to Quinnipiac and took a redshirt season. In 2018-19, as a redshirt sophomore, Marfo averaged 5.4 points and 7.5 boards per game. His redshirt junior season, Marfo exploded grabbing a nation-leading 13.3 rebounds per game and recording 17 double-doubles, the most in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

Following the breakout season, Marfo had a change of scenery at Texas A&M where his stats dipped, only recording 3.7 boards per game and starting eight times, a stark difference from the 29 he started in his redshirt junior year as a Bobcat. Ahead of this season in April, Marfo decided he would rejoin the program and he will play an integral role in the paint for this Quinnipiac team.

Jacob Rigoni, graduate forward, 6-foot-6, No. 25 – Similar to Marfo, Rigoni has made a large impact on the Bobcats. Last season as a senior, the forward averaged a team-high 11.8 points per game as well as a team-leading 6.3 boards per game. Rigoni surpassed the millennium mark last season in points and set a program record for the most three-point field goals made with 259. His performance earned him a spot on the 2020-21 All-MAAC Second Team.

Tymu Chenery, sophomore guard/forward, 6-foot-6, No. 1 – Chenery is on the younger side of this roster, but he made a splash last season in his collegiate debut season. The Philadelphia native played in every game, including 18 starts averaging 9.7 points and 3.8 boards per game. His scoring ranked second on the team and his freshman performance earned him a spot on the MAAC All-Rookie Team. His scoring ranked third in the conference out of all first year players last season.

Strength

Experience. Having Marfo back in the lineup and year off and returning Rigoni will allow them the excel moving forward this season. Both graduate students were named to the Preseason All-MAAC Second Team and bring knowledge as well as experience to the roster. Rigoni is the only player currently on the team who has been on all rosters under Dunleavy since he took over as head coach and during the 2019-20 season when both these players were last on the roster, the Bobcats finished with a 15-15 record, 10-10 in conference play, and had the chance to play Monmouth in the first round of the canceled MAAC tournament who they split the series with earlier in the season.

Weakness

Turnovers. During the 2020-21 season, the Bobcats turned the ball over an average of 14.2 times per game while their opponents did so 12.6 times. Last season, the Terps scored an average of 12 points per game off turnovers. Although these are two completely revamped teams with the readditon of Marfo and the additions of Maryland’s new players from the transfer portal, if that trend continues, Maryland will capitalize on Quinnipiac’s mistakes.

Three things to watch

1. The impact of Fatts Russell and Qudus Wahab on the starting lineup. Russell and Wahab made an impact in the exhibition matchup against Fayetteville with 10 and 12 points, in 20 and 18 minutes, respectively. Russell finished with five boards, two assists and two steals, while Wahab grabbed six rebounds. The duo out of the transfer portal is expected to play an integral role in Maryland’s offense and with the season starting on Tuesday, fans will get to see that in action.

2. What will playing time look like for Julian Reese? The Baltimore native had a strong showing off the bench in the exhibition matchup leading the team with 16 points. He shot 6-for-10 from the field and 4-for-6 from the charity stripe. However, he also committed two turnovers and four fouls. Wahab seems to have the starting spot at the five however, Reese showed promise in his debut and will be able to provide energy off the bench for the Terps.

3. What will the defense on Marfo and Rigoni look like? When the Terps faced Fayetteville State, two players scored over 10 points and both Marfo and Rigoni have the potential to do so as well. Rigoni’s three-point shot will be especially interesting to watch given that he’s made it over 250 times in his career. Additionally, it will be a battle to compete with Marfo on the boards. In 2019-20 when Marfo was last on the Bobcat’s roster, Quinnipiac outrebounded its opponents, but by a narrow 1.8 margin.