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Breaking down Maryland basketball’s 2017-18 schedule

It’s a slightly condensed season, with the biggest tests coming in the middle.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Maryland vs Xavier Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

With the college basketball season getting underway this week, we decided to take a deeper look at Maryland’s schedule.

The Terps start the season on the road against Stony Brook on Friday, to kicking off a non-conference slate that’s light on marquee matchups.

The season starts with some tough but winnable games.

Maryland opens the season with a 10-day stretch that includes two teams rated in KenPom’s preseason top 75—Butler (42) and Bucknell (75)—but also includes three teams ranked lower half of Division I basketball in Stony Brook (197), Maryland Eastern Shore (326) and Jackson State (323). Maryland is ranked 41st, for reference.

The Terps’ Gavitt Games matchup with Butler will provide one of the team’s few chances to get a quality win in non-conference play. The Bulldogs received 13 votes in the preseason AP poll, compared to Maryland’s seven, and the Nov. 15 matchup will be the Terps’ earliest litmus test.

Besides the Butler game, Maryland’s only chances for signature non-conference wins will come in a three-game stretch from Nov. 24-27. The Terps travel to Niceville, Florida for the Emerald Coast Classic from Nov. 24-25; a tournament that’s not that prestigious, but will feature quality teams in Saint Bonaventure, TCU and New Mexico. After that, the Terps will head north and visit Syracuse for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

While Saint Bonaventure features Baltimore product Jaylen Adams, who was named to the preseason Bob Cousy Award watch list, the potential final matchup with TCU is the part of this early season tournament to keep an eye on. TCU is the only out-of-conference team on Maryland’s schedule ranked higher than the Terps by KenPom, coming in at No. 14. The Horned Frogs return their four top contributors from last season, which ended in the NIT, and open this year with a 14 percent shot at making the Final Four, according to ESPN’s preseason Basketball Power Index.

Maryland follows up the two-day stretch with a trip to Syracuse for a matchup in the Carrier Dome on Nov. 27. While Syracuse isn’t expected to be that great this year, a win over Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone always presents a challenge, especially on the road.

After that, Big Ten season starts early ... sort of.

Maryland will begin December with a home matchup against No. 20 Purdue. The Boilermakers will be the Terps’ best early season indication of where they rank in the conference. Purdue’s in a similar situation as Maryland, replacing star Caleb Swanigan and transitioning control of the offense. The Terps follow that up with a trip to Illinois on Dec. 3, where Brad Underwood is in the first year of a rebuild in Champaign.

After a brief wade into Big Ten play, it’s right back a Charmin soft non-conference schedule that concludes with five straight home games, where the toughest opponent in that stretch is Ohio, whose best player from last season, Jaaron Simmons, will suit up for Michigan this year.

Once the Bobcats leave town, Maryland finishes the calendar year with matchups to Gardner-Webb, Division-III Catholic University, Fairleigh Dickinson and UMBC.

January should present the toughest challenges.

The Terps ring in the new year with more conference play and the toughest month of their schedule, with five of Maryland’s nine games on the road and two matchups with No. 2 Michigan State.

Maryland will get back into conference play by inviting Penn State to College Park on Jan. 2. This will be a matchup of the Big Ten’s premier sophomore trios. Just two days later, the Terps will be East Lansing for a matchup with Miles Bridges and Michigan State that will provide Maryland with its toughest test to date.

It doesn’t get much easier for Maryland in January, with road games against Ohio State, Michigan and Purdue in the month. Maryland also welcomes Iowa on Jan. 7 and No. 15 Minnesota on Jan. 18 before a second matchup with Michigan State at home on Jan. 28. If the Terps struggle to get going in January, Maryland is going to have a tough go of it.

February will give Maryland a chance to gain some steam before the postseason.

The Terps have two matchups with Northwestern—at home on Feb. 10 and in Rosemont, Illinois on Feb. 19—but outside of that, their two toughest opponents come to College Park in February.

Ethan Happ and Wisconsin come to town Feb. 4, then the Terps end the regular season against Michigan, who once again look like Big Ten contenders, at the Xfinity Center on Feb. 24.

In between, Maryland will face Rutgers, Penn State and Nebraska, who all represent beatable opponents for the Terps.

With the Big Ten Tournament in Madison Square Garden, Maryland’s conference postseason will start on Feb. 28, and it’ll have a week before Selection Sunday. With so few marquee non-conference games, a strong January, and conference play overall, is going to be crucial to Maryland’s seeding come March.