Maryland’s centennial season of men’s basketball tips off against Delaware Tuesday night. Head coach Mark Turgeon enters the season with a couple returners and a really young team.
The Terps are coming off a disappointing season, after completely missing the postseason, but retooled quickly with the No. 7 recruiting class in the nation. Add returners Anthony Cowan Jr., Bruno Fernando and Darryl Morsell back into the equation, and Maryland has all the makings of an cohesive, entertaining team.
“It just feels like this is a hungry team,” Cowan told reporters Monday. “I think the young guys really came in and embraced the fact that we didn’t make the Tournament last year. So that gives us a little more energy every day in practice. ... I think we gel a lot better than we did last year. This team’s a lot deeper, in terms of being able to go to the bench. I don’t know, it just feels like this team’s a lot more hungry.”
Delaware enters the game without its top returning scorer and 2018 Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Year Ryan Allen. Allen’s still recovering from an October foot surgery, and the Blue Hens will also be living a new reality without 2017 CAA ROY Ryan Daly, who transferred to Saint Joseph’s. Delaware will have to hope its own transfers will be enough to replace the production.
The Terps are 3-2 all time against the Blue Hens and won the only contest between the two teams since 1970, 76-46, at the Comcast Center in 2007. Delaware returns to the Xfinity Center Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. ET, airing on BTN Plus.
Delaware Blue Hens (0-0)
2017-18 record: 14-19, 6-12 CAA
Head coach Martin Ingelsby is beginning his third season at the helm of the Hens, after spending the prior 13 on Notre Dame’s staff. He entered the coaching ranks just two years after his playing days for the Fighting Irish were done. He coached Delaware to the second round of the CAA tournament, and has also produced the conference’s Rookie of the Year in each of his first two seasons.
Players to know
Kevin Anderson, sophomore, guard, 6’5/190, No. 1. No, not the former Maryland AD, obviously. Anderson was having an excellent freshman season through 11 games before suffering a season-ending knee surgery. He started each of those contests, averaging 13.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists a contest before getting shut down for the year. He’ll try to pick back up right where he left off.
Eric Carter, redshirt senior, forward, 6’9/ 235 lbs., No. 5. The fifth-year senior is Delaware’s leading returning rebounder after averaging 9.1 boards a game last season. Carter is also the third-leading returning scorer after starting every game last season and scoring 11 points a game. His 12 double-doubles also ranked third in the CAA. He and Allen were both preseason all-conference honorable mentions.
Ryan Johnson, graduate transfer, guard, 6’5/ 195 lbs., No. 13. Johnson joins the Hens as an immediately eligible grad transfer from Mercer. The guard will look for an expanded role, and is expected to start after averaging 3.1 points and 9.2 minutes per game in two seasons at Mercer. Prior to that stop, Johnson averaged 11.3 points at Tallahassee Community College, where he played after redshirting his freshman season at Rutgers.
Limiting turnovers. Obviously, this could change with the new season, but Delaware specialized in keeping its turnovers to a minimum last season. The Blue Hens finished the season with a top-30 turnover percentage, according to Kenpom, and were 21st in total turnovers on the season. The team didn’t crack the top-50 in any other statistical category, advanced or otherwise.
Established scorers. After losing Ryan Daly to transfer and Ryan Allen to surgery for the start of the season, the Blue Hens don’t have any established go-to options for the season-opener. Anderson will look to fill that role against the Terps, fresh off injury, and Anderson will have take on a larger share of the offensive load than he’s likely used to. Delaware will have to hope the addition of Johnson and 6’11 George Mason transfer Collin Goss gives the offense some punch.
Three things to watch
1. What will Maryland’s pace of play be like? With little depth in the frontcourt behind its starters, the Terps could end up with a good number of small-ball lineups. They’ve also been tinkering with the press and have multiple shooters on the team. Add all that up and it should equal a quicker pace of play for Maryland than in years past, but that all depends on how much Turgeon loosens the reins.
“It’s an up-tempo team,” Cowan said. “A team that really tries to defend and tries to get out in transition. ... [The press] could be a really good weapon. I think we have a lot of length on the team, and we also go deep in our bench. So I think we can tire a lot of teams out.”
2. How do the freshmen do in their first actual game? Maryland’s freshmen class looks great on paper, and has impressed in limited live-action, although this will be the first time the games count. Jalen Smith dropped 22 points in the exhibition and should start along with fellow freshman Aaron Wiggins, while Eric Ayala looks like the leader of the bench unit right now. Those three should make an immediate impact from day one, while the other half of the class could take a little longer.
“What I want to see is just development,” Turgeon said. “We’ve continued to get better. I hope that the bright lights don’t intimidate them; I don’t think they will. Because young guys just come play, older guys have been through it.”
3. What type of in-game lineups does Turgeon go with? This is less about who ends up starting and more about who shares the court during the game. Most likely, Turgeon will stick with the lineup he’s used in the Terps’ secret scrimmage and exhibition, with Cowan next to Wiggins, Morsell, Smith and Fernando. It will be interesting to see how he distributes bench minutes, though, and whether he’ll do more line substitutions or player-by-player changes.
“In both scrimmages we’ve played 11 guys in the first half. We’re not going to play 11 guys in the first half as it goes on,” Turgeon said. “There’s six or seven that really know they’re going to be a part of the rotation every night. It’s finding out who’s seven for sure, eight and nine are going to be, but I think it will change. The good thing for me is that I have a team where really, eight through 11, there’s not much difference.”
KenPom: Maryland, 82-63
Me: Maryland, 85-60