Maryland men’s basketball’s start to the season has been tumultuous.
The Terps began the year with a win over Mount St. Mary’s, 68-53, but then went 0-2 in the Asheville Championship, despite being the favorites to win the tournament.
Now, Maryland has a tall task with No. 21 Villanova on deck. Friday’s road game will start at 8:30 p.m. and air on FS1.
Villanova Wildcats (2-1, 0-0 Big East)
2022-23 record: 17-17, 10-10
Second-year head coach Kyle Neptune is coming off a disappointing debut season with the Wildcats. Following Villanova’s loss in the Final Four and long-time head coach Jay Wright’s retirement, Neptune failed to lead the Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012.
Villanova finished last season 17-17, capped off by a loss in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament to Liberty, 62-57. The Wildcats began this season 2-0, but were upset at Penn, 76-72.
Players to know
Justine Moore, graduate guard, 6-foot-5, No. 5 – Moore spent most of last season recovering from a torn achilles, which is a major reason why Villanova struggled. Now, he is playing the best basketball of his career, leading the team with 18.7 points on 44.4% shooting.
Eric Dixon, redshirt senior forward, 6-foot-8, No. 43 – In Moore’s absence, Dixon led the Wildcats with 15.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game last season, while shooting 37.8% from three. He is averaging just 9.0 points per game this season, but is still one of the best forwards Maryland will have had faced this year.
TJ Bamba, senior guard, 6-foot-5, No. 0 – Bamba is one of three highly-touted transfers Villanova added in the offseason. After three seasons at Washington State, Bamba is averaging 11.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists. He is also shooting 46.2% from three.
Experience. Villanova is loaded with experienced players. Four of its starters are upperclassmen and started for their respective teams last year. Former Terp Hakim Hart, who started in all but one game over the last two years, is also an option off the bench.
Efficiency. It’s hard to pick a weakness just three games into the season, but in their lone loss, the Wildcats shot 34.9% from the field. They also rank second to last in the Big East in field goal percentage at 45.3%.
Three things to know
1. Who will be Maryland’s fifth starter? Maryland head coach Kevin Willard has experimented with two starting lineups this season. The first featured forward Jordan Geronimo, and the second included guard/forward Noah Batchelor – alongside Jahmir Young, Julian Reese, DeShawn Harris-Smith and Donta Scott. With Batchelor failing to score a point against UAB, it will be interesting to see if Willard resorts back to Geronimo or explores a new option.
2. Will Maryland continue to shoot the three? Despite shooting just 22.6% on the season, the Terps continue to shoot a lot of threes. In the Asheville Championship, Maryland shot 23.9% on 23 attempts per game. To beat a team as good as Villanova, the Terps either need to shoot better, or less.
3. Who will bounce back? Both teams are coming off disappointing losses. Maryland lost to Davidson and UAB by three points each, and Villanova lost to Penn. Each team is out for redemption, but only one will come out on top.