Maryland men’s basketball will take the XFINITY Center hardwood for the third time in three games Tuesday when it hosts the Binghamton Bearcats.
The Terps are 2-0 on the young season, posting two 20-plus point victories in the season’s first week. Maryland took down Niagara, 71-49, on opening night and is coming off a 71-51 win over Western Carolina that was not close.
In head coach Kevin Willard’s second game, Maryland simply dominated the Catamounts. Though the Terps did not hit a single 3-pointer in the first half — and closed the game with just a 2-for-19 mark from deep — they imposed their will on the defensive end. Maryland allowed just 15 first-half points and its defensive stats would have looked much better if it was not for a 14-1 Western Carolina run in garbage time.
Sophomore forward Julian Reese capitalized on the Terps’ size and strength advantage inside, finishing with 19 points and 12 boards — both career-highs. Charlotte transfer point guard Jahmir Young also continues to impress; he leads the team with 15 points per game thus far.
Tuesday’s game is set for a 7 p.m. tipoff and will air on Big Ten Network. KenPom projects a 79-61 Maryland win.
Binghamton Bearcats (2-0, 0-0 America East)
2021-22 record: 12-17 (8-10 America East)
Since being promoted on March 1, 2021, head coach Levell Sanders has worked wonders for the Bearcats program. Despite being picked to finish last in the conference last season, Sanders led Binghamton to the America East Tournament semifinals and its most conference wins in 12 years. Under the former Seton Hall star’s leadership, Binghamton has turned into a respectable America East program.
The Bearcats opened their season by breezing past Division III Cazenovia with an 87-56 win. Binghamton showed their gumption, though, with Saturday’s 78-75 win at Marist. The Bearcats were three-point underdogs but never trailed in the second half.
Binghamton was picked to finish fourth of nine teams in the America East’s preseason poll, voted on by the conference’s coaches.
Players to know
Jacob Falko, senior guard, six-foot-three, No. 3 — One of six players selected to the America East’s preseason all-conference team, Falko has been a steady producer for Binghamton since arriving on campus before last season. Falko averaged a team-high 12.9 points per game last season en route to earning first team all-conference honors. Binghamton’s point guard, who previously played at both Cecil College and Gardner-Webb, scored 19 points in its win over Marist.
Miles Gibson, graduate forward, six-foot-six, No. 10 — A transfer from Division II Metropolitan State University of Denver, Gibson has been a revelation thus far for the Bearcats. A journeyman, Gibson went from Northwest Tech College in Kansas to Eastern Michigan to MSU Denver before finally ending up at Binghamton. Gibson scored 19 points on 7-for-13 shooting in the Bearcats’ win over Marist.
John McGriff, junior guard, six-foot, No. 0 — A native of Glenn Dale, Maryland, McGriff played his first year at St. John’s before transferring to Binghamton prior to last season. McGriff averaged 11 points and 2.6 assists per game last season, both of which ranked second on the team. He is averaging 12 points per game through two games this season.
Three-point shooting. The Bearcats were a solid 3-point shooting team last year, as their 34.7% clip from three against Division I competition ranked 103rd of 358 teams. That trend seems to be continuing through two games this season, as Binghamton is shooting 37.1% from beyond the arc. Falko, who is 7-for-15 from deep this season, is specifically someone to look out for.
Adjusted offensive efficiency. Though the Bearcats were competent from three last season, they ranked 316th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom. KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency estimates how many points per 100 possessions a team would score against the average Division I defense. Given how Maryland’s defense has performed so far, Binghamton could be in for a long night of offensive struggles.
Three things to watch
1. What do we see from “JuJu” against the Bearcats? Pegged by many as the breakout candidate for the Terps, Reese showed flashes of what he could do with a career game against Western Carolina. If Reese is to take a leap forward this year, he should be expected to dominate mid-major and low-major teams in nonconference play. The matchup against Binghamton presents another opportunity to do so Tuesday.
“I think JuJu is improving a little bit by little bit each game,” Willard said. “I think he can be more of a presence down there. I don’t think he’s even close to what he’s going to be. But I think he’s making the proper strides as someone that’s — I think he’s hungry to make those strides. And I think the more we teach him, the more he gets out there, the more expereicnce he gets, the more he understands the physical presence he can have, I think he’s gonna get better and better.”
2. What looks do the Terps present on the defensive end? In last Monday’s season-opening win over Niagara, Willard debuted a chaotic 2-2-1 press that fell into a 1-3-1 zone. The Terps were out of sorts against the Purple Eagles, but it was fun and new for fans. Three days later against Western Carolina, Willard displayed a lot more man-to-man looks and the times his team pressed were a lot less frantic. Game three provides another look to see how Willard mixes it up on the defensive end.
“It’s all scouting,” Willard said. “So they had, Western Carolina, I thought they played three point guards. And I think his last name is Jones, but number three, was a guy that you just didn’t want to leave open and get going. So a lot of pressing, and a lot of times you look at the personnel you’re going against, and you’re looking at, all right. The first game, I didn’t think that Niagara shot the ball very well, so we could be a little bit more aggressive chasing them around and get them into shooting shots. Western Carolina shot the ball much better and was going to be a much tougher team to press because of their guard play.”
3. Can Don Carey get going? The Georgetown transfer and graduate shooting guard has been praised as a sniper by Willard. Through two games, his lights-out shooting ability has yet to come to fruition. A 38.8% 3-point shooter at Georgetown last year, Carey is only 1-for-10 from deep this season. Maryland will need him to get going sooner rather than later.
“We shot terribly the other night [against Western Carolina], and I think one of the reasons is we took a lot of rushed threes,” Willard said. “We took a lot of just one pass over half court, shoot it. Something that we haven’t been doing in practice, I just think that’s — Don’s gonna get a little bit more comfortable. I’m not worried about Don.”