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Maryland basketball vs. American preview: Terps open the season with an easy one

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Maryland kicks off its season with an opponent that shouldn’t put up too much of a fight.

Scenes From Maryland's 95-61 Win Over Catawba Sammi Silber / Testudo Times

Maryland basketball kicks off its season against American Friday night, a full 233 days after the Terps were eliminated from the 2016 NCAA Tournament by Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen.

The No. 25 Terps look totally different from the team that opened last year at No. 3 in the AP Poll and ended at No. 18. Maryland has four new faces that should see plenty of time on the court against the Eagles. American, which finished 12-19 in the Patriot League last season, shouldn’t be a challenge for the Terps.

Freshmen Anthony Cowan, Justin Jackson and Kevin Huerter are all going to play big roles on this team, as is graduate transfer L.G. Gill. Power forward Ivan Bender and center Michal Cekovsky won’t play in this one, which means Gill and Jackson should see a lot of minutes.

Of course, old friends Melo Trimble, Damonte Dodd and Jared Nickens will be back too, among others. This’ll officially be Dion Wiley’s return from injury, as he missed all of last season with a torn meniscus. He played in the team’s exhibition against Catawba, but his last meaningful minutes came when the Terps lost to West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament two seasons ago.

So far, all we’ve seen of Maryland has been one open practice and an exhibition game against a Division II team. This game is still essentially a warmup for Tuesday’s match against Georgetown, but it’ll be our next step in evaluating this team. This game tips off at 7:00 on BTN.

American Eagles

The coach

Mike Brennan. He’s 49-48 in three seasons at American. Brennan was an assitant coach for the Eagles from 2007 to 2009, then became head coach after four seasons as an assistant at Georgetown.

Players to know

Delante Jones, guard, sophomore, 6’5/195, No. 2. He was the Patriot League’s rookie of the year last season, averaging 12 points per game on 43 percent shooting. He had senior Jesse Reed by his side as a freshman, but with Reed graduating, Jones is American’s clear No. 1 option.

James Washington, guard, sophomore, 6’1/160, No. 3. The other starter in the Eagles’ backcourt, Washington is the team’s second-leading returning scorer. He averaged 6.4 points per game last season, and that’ll almost certainly go up this year.

Mark Gasperini, forward/center, freshman, 610/250, No. 23. He and junior transfer Matt Cimino are the team’s tallest starters. They luck out in that Cekovsky and Bender will both miss the game, and will likely have to defend smaller, quicker players.

Strengths

Defending the perimeter. American was 20th in the country in opponents’ three-point percentage last season, as enemies hit 31.1 percent from deep. Other than that, there aren’t any detectable advantages the Eagles will have against a superior Maryland team.

Weaknesses

Offensive and defensive efficiency. The Eagles aren’t particularly great at scoring or stopping opponents from doing so, ranking 336th in KenPom’s offensive efficiency and 219th in defensive efficiency last season.

Shooting. American was 219th in effective field goal percentage last season. That ain’t great.

Rebounding. The Eagles were 328th in the country in offensive rebound percentage last season, and were only slightly better at getting boards on defense (195th in defensive rebounding percentage).

Predictions

KenPom's prediction: Maryland, 75-54. The Terps have a 97 percent chance of winning.

Ryan's prediction: Maryland, 78-48.