There is only one week until the start of the 2019-20 season for No. 7 Maryland men’s basketball.
Our player preview series is over, which means it’s time to turn to the schedule. The Terps will have a daunting slate come Big Ten play, but the nonconference opponents may not be as tall a task to overcome. To get things started, let’s take a look at Maryland’s first five games of the season.
The Terps face Holy Cross, Rhode Island, Oakland, Fairfield and George Mason to kick things off. They haven’t faced any of these squads over the last three seasons, most recently playing Rhode Island in 2015-16 in the Cancun Challenge.
Holy Cross Crusaders — Nov. 5
2018-19 record: 16-17 (6-12 Patriot League)
Head coach: Brett Nelson
Returning starters: G Austin Butler, F Matt Faw
After four years of Bill Carmody running the show in Worcester, Massachusetts, Holy Cross decided to shake things up at the helm of its program. Carmody failed to post a single winning season in his brief stint as head coach, though the Crusaders made the NCAA Tournament in his first season thanks to a miracle run in the Patriot League Tournament.
Brett Nelson is now in charge after five seasons as an assistant at Marquette, earning his first career head coaching position. As with many coaching transitions, his inaugural roster underwent a great deal of turnover — three of the four leading scorers are gone, two of which exited by way of transfer.
In the Patriot League preseason poll, the Crusaders were picked to finish last in the conference, which comes as no surprise given the lack of returning talent. The onus will be on Austin Butler and Matt Faw to usher the program into the new era, which may come with growing pains.
Rhode Island Rams — Nov. 9
2018-19 record: 18-15 (9-9 Atlantic-10)
Head coach: David Cox
Returning starters: G Jeff Dowtin, F Cyril Langevine, G Fatts Russell, F Jermaine Harris, G Tyrese Martin
The Rams are one year ahead of Holy Cross in their rebuild, as David Cox is entering year two of his tenure in South Kingston. Cox was an assistant for four years under Dan Hurley, who spent six seasons at the helm.
Last year was the big roster turnover for the Rams, who lost six seniors from the year prior. But Cox led the team to a solid eighth-place finish — out of 14 teams — in the conference. The trio of Jeff Dowtin, Cyril Langevine and Fatts Russell was particularly dominant, combining for 44.2 points and 16 rebounds per game.
With its returning talent and a top-5 A-10 recruiting class (per 247Sports), the Rams were selected to finish fourth in the conference’s preseason poll behind VCU, Davidson and Dayton. Langevine earned both all-conference first team and all-defensive honors, while Dowtin and Russell were named to the second and third teams, respectively.
Cody: Maryland, closer than most will think, though.
Oakland Golden Grizzlies — Nov. 16
2018-19 record: 16-17 (11-7 Horizon League)
Head coach: Greg Kampe
Returning starters: F Xavier Hill-Mais, C Brad Brechting, G Tray Maddox Jr.
Kampe is something of a legend, as the veteran head coach is entering his 36th season in charge of the Golden Grizzlies. His 618 career wins rank 14th among active Division I coaches, and that ranks third-most among coaches at their current school.
Oakland’s season record may look unimpressive, but that’s due to a strong nonconference schedule that included Michigan State. The Golden Grizzlies finished third in the Horizon League standings, losing by one point to eventual-champion Northern Kentucky in the conference tournament semifinals.
Leading scorer Xavier Hill-Mais is back for his redshirt senior season, but the team lost its second-leading scorer Jaevin Cumberland, who averaged 17.2 points while shooting 39.9 percent from beyond the arc. As such, the Golden Grizzlies were picked to finish fourth in the Horizon League preseason poll, and HIll-Mais received first-team all-league honors.
Fairfield Stags — Nov. 19
2018-19 record: 9-22 (6-12 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference)
Head coach: Jay Young
Returning starters: G Landon Taliaferro, G Jesus Cruz, G Taj Benning
In March, Fairfield fired Stanley Johnson, its coach of eight seasons, paving the way for Jay Young to take over. Young is a familiar face — for the hyper-observant, at least — as he most recently served as an assistant coach at Rutgers for three seasons.
Landon Taliaferro was the team’s leading scorer a year ago, but Nos. 2 and 3 — Neftali Alvarez and Jonathan Kasibabu — are gone, with the former transferring to Mercer. The trio were the only double-digit scorers for the Stags last season, who could be looking at another long season.
With the loss in returning production and the uncertainty of a new coach, Fairfield was picked to finish last in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference preseason poll. Taliaferro and Jesus Cruz earned all-conference third-team honors, and no other Stags received any recognition.
George Mason Patriots — Nov. 22
2018-19 record: 18-15 (11-7 Atlantic-10)
Head coach: Dave Paulsen
Returning starters: G Justin Kier, G Jordan Miller, G Javon Greene
Dave Paulsen is the second coach to lead the Patriots after the departure of Jim Larrañaga, who left for Miami after the 2010-11 season. Paul Hewitt didn’t pan out in Fairfax, Virginia, for very long, but Paulsen seems to be building a strong mid-major program.
The Patriots have put together back-to-back top-5 finishes in the Atlantic-10 regular season, including an impressive 11-7 mark last year. Led by Justin Kier’s 14.5 points per game and 47.1 field goal percentage, George Mason averaged a healthy 70.4 points per game on offense, which placed in the top half of the conference.
Second-leading scorer Otis Livingston II is gone, but the Patriots have plenty of talent to pick up the slack. However, they were picked to finish ninth in the Atlantic-10 preseason poll, which may say more about the improvement of the rest of the conference’s teams rather than a potential regression from George Mason.