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Breaking down Maryland men’s basketball’s nonconference schedule

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The Terps tip off the season with matchups against Old Dominion, Navy, Mount St. Mary’s, Monmouth, George Mason, Clemson, and La Salle.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Tournament-Miami-Florida at Clemson Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland men’s basketball officially announced its non-conference slate on Wednesday, confirming the team’s first seven matchups for the 2020-21 season.

This year’s opponents are almost certainly less competitive in comparison to years past. With a range of team, both familiar and unfamiliar, set to face off against the Terps, here’s what you need to know about each matchup.

Old Dominion Monarchs — Nov. 25

2019-20 record: 13-19 (9-9 C-USA)
Head coach: Jeff Jones
Returning starters: Malik Curry, Xavier Green, A.J. Oliver II
Kenpom: No. 101

After posting a 26-9 record en route to an NCAA Tournament appearance two seasons ago, the Monarchs regressed significantly in 2019-20.

Old Dominion’s 13-19 record last season was the first time the team posted a sub-.500 record since 2012-13, uncharacteristically plummeting toward the bottom of Conference USA. However, there’s cause for optimism heading into this season.

The team returns both of its top scorers from a season ago, with senior guards Malik Curry and Xavier Green each set to lead the team once again this season. Old Dominion also returns forward A.J. Oliver II, a Clemson transfer that received eligibility halfway through last season and made the most three-pointers on the team in just 21 starts.

Navy Midshipmen — Nov. 27

2019-20 record: 14-16 (8-10 Patriot League)
Head coach: Ed DeChellis
Returning starters: Cam Davis, John Carter Jr., Greg Summers, Luke Loehr
Kenpom: No. 193

In 10 seasons under head coach Ed DeChellis, the Midshipmen have showed promise at times but still have yet to take the next step as a program.

Navy hasn’t to reach the NCAA tournament in this century, with its last appearance coming in 1998. And although the team reached the Patriot League Tournament semifinal in both 2019 and 2017, the Midshipmen simply have not been able to compete with the likes of Colgate, Bucknell and Lehigh year after year.

But, like Old Dominion, Navy returns a veteran-laden core in 2020-21 that features four starters from a season ago. Led by the guard tandem of Cam Davis, who averaged a career-high 16.4 points per game last season, and John Carter Jr., the team’s only other player to average double-digits points per game, the Midshipmen could finally get over the hump in the Patriot League this season.

Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers— Nov. 29

2019-20 record: 11-21 (7-11 NEC)
Head coach: Dan Engelstad
Returning starters: Damian Chong Qui, Jalen Gibbs, Malik Jefferson, Nana Opoku
Kenpom: No. 260

Maryland’s run of three games in five days continues against Mount St. Mary’s, another team that typically competes among its conference’s best teams but hasn’t in recent years.

Although boasting a combined record of just 20-43 in their first two seasons under head coach Dan Engelstad, the Mountaineers are far better positioned to compete in 2020-21. Mount St. Mary’s hopes for a strong season centered around the growth of junior guard Damian Chong Qui, who was named Third-Team all-conference and the NEC’s Most Improved Player last season after averaging 12.3 points and 3.9 assists per game.

Paired with senior guard Jalen Gibbs, as well as returning starters in the front-court in Malik Jefferson and Nana Opoku, the Mountaineers came in at No. 3 in this year’s NEC Preseason Poll, with Chong Qui making his first appearance on the NEC Preseason First Team.

Monmouth Hawks — Dec. 1

2019-20 record: 18-13 (12-8 MAAC)
Head coach: King Rice
Returning starters: Deion Hammond, Samuel Chaput, Marcus McClary
Kenpom: No. 182

Similar to Mount St. Mary’s, this year’s Monmouth team figures to go as far as its star player can take them.

That star is Deion Hammond, an All-MAAC First Team selection and a volume shooter that has scored at will for the Hawks since his freshman season. Behind Hammond, Monmouth put together its first winning season since 2016-17 and was in position to make a serious push in the MAAC Tournament before the pandemic canceled the remainder of the season.

Now in his final year of eligibility, Hammond is joined in the backcourt by two other upperclassmen guards in Samuel Chaput and Marcus McClary, that figure to provide a capable scoring attack for the Hawks, who checked in at No. 3 in this year’s MAAC Preseason Poll.

Oh, and Monmouth also still has senior guard George Papas, who averaged 8.5 points per game last season and gained national notoriety for stealing the ball and dunking it in the final seconds of the Hawks’ blowout loss to Kansas last season.

George Mason Patriots — Dec. 4

2019-20 record: 17-15 (5-13 A10)
Head coach: Dave Paulsen
Returning starters: Javon Greene, Jordan Miller, AJ Wilson
Kenpom: No. 110

After putting together top-five finishes in the Atlantic-10 in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, George Mason dropped toward the bottom of the conference last year in what was its worst performance in conference play since 2015.

But, the Patriots return three players who averaged double-digits in scoring last season in Javon Greene, Jordan Miller and AJ Wilson, with Greene and Wilson each being named to the conference’s Preseason All-Conference Third Team. However, expectations for a return to the conference’s top-five are relatively tempered, as George Mason comes in at No. 10 in the Atlantic-10 Preseason Poll.

The matchup also marks the second consecutive regular season meeting between the Terps and Patriots, with Maryland winning last season’s matchup 86-63.

Also of note: Duane Simpkins, who was a guard at Maryland from 1993-1996 and ranks seventh in program history in assists (483), enters his second year as the assistant coach at George Mason, now promoted to associate head coach.

Clemson Tigers — Dec. 9

2019-20 record: 16-15 (9-11 ACC)
Head coach: Brad Brownwell
Returning starters: Aamir Simms, John Newman III, Al-Amir Dawes
Kenpom: No. 40

Here it is Terp fans, the marquee nonconference matchup you’ve all been waiting for!

Okay not really, but Clemson will be the only Power Five team that the Terps will face before Big Ten play begins. After putting together two 20+ win seasons in 2017-18 and 2018-19, head coach Brad Brownwell’s squad had an up-and-down year last season in conference play, upsetting the likes of Duke, Louisville and Florida State but finishing below .500 overall against ACC opponents.

This year’s Tigers are once again led by senior forward Aamir Simms, who averaged 13.0 points and 7.2 rebounds per game last season to earn a spot on this year’s Preseason All-ACC First Team. The team also brings back guards Al-Amir Dawes and John Newman III, who each enjoyed breakout seasons as underclassmen in 2019-20 and figure to inherit larger roles with Tevin Mack having graduated.

Still, Clemson has an outside shot at competing in the ever-talented ACC this season, coming in at No. 10 in the ACC Preseason Poll.

La Salle Explorers — Dec. 22

2018-19 record: 15-15 (6-12 A10)
Head coach: Ashley Howard
Returning starters: David Beatty, Scott Spencer
Kenpom: No. 150

After enduring five straight seasons without a winning record, second-year head coach Ashley Howard leads La Salle into the 2020-21 season hoping to finally stem the tide for the Explorers.

Having spent five seasons under Jay Wright at Villanova, Howard’s efforts to revive LaSalle’s basketball program have already been met with some mild success, with the Explorers’ 15 wins last year being the program’s most in a season since 2016-17. However, the team suffered several key losses this offseason, with starters Isiah Deas and Saul Phiri each graduating and second-leading scorer Ed Croswell transferring to Providence.

Guards David Beatty and Scott Spencer both return to the fold this season, though, each of whom played over 26 minutes per game last year. Beatty’s 10.7 points per game scoring average landed him on the All-Philadelphia Big 5 Second-Team, while Spencer’s 43.8 shooting percentage from beyond the arc put him atop the Atlantic 10 in three-point shooting percentage.

The Explorers are still massive underdogs coming into this season in regards to conference contention, with the Preseason Atlantic 10 Poll ranking La Salle second to last coming into the season.