Maryland men’s basketball (1-0) is on the road for an early-season tournament this weekend. The Terps will compete in the Asheville Championship in Asheville, North Carolina, alongside Davidson, UAB and Clemson, providing a first look at how the team will fare away from College Park and against better competition than Mount St. Mary’s — its first opponent.
Maryland will play Davidson on Friday at 7 p.m. in the first round. The winner and loser of that game will match up with their counterparts from the other semifinal between UAB and Clemson on Sunday.
Here’s what to know about the Terps’ opponents.
Davidson Wildcats (1-0, 0-0 Atlantic 10)
2022 record: 16-16, 8-10 A-10
According to KenPom.com, Davidson is the weakest team in the Asheville Championship, coming in at No. 154 nationally. Matt McKillop assumed head coaching duties last year after his legendary father, Bob, retired following his 33rd season. He has a winning tradition to uphold; Davidson hasn’t had a losing season in over two decades.
Players to know
Grant Huffman, senior guard, 6-foot-4, No. 5 — Huffman is back for his senior year after starting every game last season and averaging 9.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. He was included on the A-10 Preseason All-Defensive team.
Angelo Brizzi, redshirt sophomore guard, 6-foot-3, No. 14 — Brizzi barely saw the court at Villanova but will assume far more responsibility at Davidson. He led the team with 15 points in a season-opening win against Washington and Lee.
Defense. Last year, the Wildcats had the No. 170 defensive in the country, per KenPom. While their offense was ranked higher, the loss of lead guard Foster Loyer will put a dent in that and force them to recuperate on the defensive end.
Key losses. The stars from last year’s Davidson squad are gone. Loyer led the group, but forward Sam Mennenga’s graduation is also reason for concern. Without any obvious successors, the Wildcats will need someone to step up and assert themselves.
UAB Blazers (0-1, 0-0 American Athletic Conference)
2022 record: 29-10, 14-6 Conference USA
UAB made a run to last season’s NIT championship game, priming them for their first season in the American Athletic Conference. Despite losing star guard Jordan “Jelly” Walker, the Blazers were picked fourth in the conference’s preseason coaches poll behind Florida Atlantic, Memphis and Tulane. Head coach Andy Kennedy’s squad lost their season opener to Bradley in overtime.
Players to know
Eric Gaines, junior guard, 6-foot-2, No. 4 — Gaines represented UAB on the preseason All-AAC first team and is primed to step into a larger role with Walker gone. Last year, he averaged 11.5 points, 4.3 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.
Javian Davis, redshirt senior forward, 6-foot-9, No. 0 — Davis shined in the Blazers’ loss to Bradley, posting 20 points. He’s never averaged more than 6.1 points per game in a season during his previous four years and is not a threat from three, but could be primed for a breakout season.
Experience. All but three players on UAB’s roster have at least three years of college basketball experience. Especially in the early portion of the season, that experience will help the Blazers gel and put forth a more refined product.
Walker and Jamison are gone. As is the case with Davidson, UAB will have a tough challenge replacing its lead guard, although Walker may be the single most impactful departure in the AAC. Trey Jamison also left for the professional ranks. Walker averaged more than 20 points per game and will be impossible to fully replace — the question is whether or not guards elsewhere on the roster can help fill that void.
Clemson Tigers (1-0, 0-0 ACC)
2022 record: 23-11, 14-6 ACC
Last season, Clemson stacked plenty of regular-season wins, but losses to Boston College, Louisville and Morehead State kept it out of the NCAA Tournament. This year, head coach Brad Brownell is back and looking to crack the field for the first time since 2021. The Tigers were picked fifth in the preseason ACC poll.
The Terps have played Clemson 132 times in its history, the fifth-most of any opponent in Maryland history.
Players to know
P.J. Hall, senior center, 6-foot-10, No. 24 — Hall was a third team All-ACC selection last season and is back for his senior season. He was the team leader with 15.3 points per game despite averaging only 24.6 minutes per contest. Hall led all players with 20 points in Clemson’s first game against Winthrop.
Joe Girard III, senior guard, 6-foot-2, No. 11 — Girard spent four years at Syracuse and developed a reputation as a high-level three-point shooter. He only scored three points in Clemson’s season opener, but with a career average of 13.1 points per game and a 36.3% mark from beyond the arc, he’ll be one to keep an eye on.
Three-point shooting. Clemson was an above-average three-point shooting squad a season ago and the addition of Girard should help that. Against Winthrop, the Tigers shot over 40% as a team on 32 attempts from distance.
Offensive rebounding. This year may show some improvement, but the Tigers were one of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the nation last year. They ranked No. 327 in that department, per KenPom, despite ranking 55th in average height.
Three things to watch
1. Maryland’s rotations. Maryland head coach Kevin Willard was not afraid to extend his bench in the team’s first game, using 11 players. With a short turnaround between games this weekend, he may do the same.
2. Early-season tournament. Usually teams have an opportunity to play in more than one game before entering a multi-team event. The early nature of the Asheville Championship shouldn’t give an advantage for any team, but it’ll provide a chance to learn a lot about this Maryland team within the first week of the season.
3. An encore for the freshmen? Maryland’s freshmen were impressive in their debuts, namely guard DeShawn Harris-Smith. He and Jamie Kaiser Jr. will likely see the court for extended periods this weekend against tougher competition.