After a slew of cancellations and rescheduled games, Maryland men’s basketball is set to play Saint Peter’s and James Madison in a weekend back-to-back.
The Terps had plans to play against Monmouth, Towson and George Mason this week, but positive COVID-19 tests within each program forced Maryland to have to find new opponents on the fly. Saint Peter’s and James Madison are now the two programs filling in, giving Maryland its first back-to-back since last year’s Orlando Invitational.
“Our guys want to play games and they were really excited that we were able to reschedule these games,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “I thought that was big.”
On the floor, Maryland couldn’t have asked for a better start to its 2020-21 season. The Terps currently sit at 3-0 following their opening week of action, defeating Old Dominion, Navy and Mount St. Mary’s by an average margin of 22 points. It hasn’t been just one player doing the damage offensively either, as the team currently has four different players averaging double figures in points per game.
Maryland has faced Saint Peter’s just once in program history, defeating the Peacocks 49-42 back in 1982. They’ve also only faced James Madison once as well, beating the Dukes 90-76 in 1987.
Saint Peter’s Peacocks (2-1, 0-0 MAAC)
2019-20 record: 18-12, 14-6 MAAC
Head coach Shaheen Holloway enters just his second season in charge of the Saint Peter’s men’s basketball program, returning after an impressive debut season with the Peacocks. A former associate head coach at Seton Hall, Holloway guided Saint Peter’s to a strong performance in conference play after a 5-8 start to the season, finishing second in the MAAC to earn 2020 Coach of the Year honors.
Shaheen’s Peacocks lost their opening game of the season this year against St. John’s, but picked up wins against La Salle and Stony Brook to move a game above .500 heading into their matchup with the Terps.
Players to Know
Fousseyni Drame, sophomore forward, 6’7, 192 lbs. — After showing promise in his 25 starts a season ago, Drame has assumed a much larger role for the Peacocks this season. Averaging over 30 minutes per game, Drame now leads the team in scoring at 14.7 points per contest. Although being lighter side for a 6’7 forward, Drame still manages to lead the team in rebounds per game (7.0) while also stretching the floor from beyond the arc.
KC Ndefo, junior forward, 6’7, 195 lbs. — Sporting a similar physical profile to his front-court mate, Ndefo serves as the team’s primary rim-protector on the interior with his team-leading 2.3 blocks per game. Named the MAAC Defensive Player of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year a season ago, Ndefo has become an important offensive contributor this season as well, trailing just Drame in scoring with 13.0 points per game.
Daryl Banks III, sophomore guard, 6’3, 165 lbs. — Having lost two of its primary backcourt options from a season ago, Banks III has taken over lead guard responsibilities for the Peacocks this season. Becoming a full-time starter in the second half of last season, Banks III has built on his strong freshman season by averaging 12.0 points per game this season while shooting 57.1 percent from three point range on 4.6 attempts per game.
Three-point shooting. Although it’s still early in the season and they could eventually regress to the mean (34.2 3P% last season), the Peacocks have shot lights out from three point range so far this year. Thanks in large part to Drame and Banks III’s respective shooting performances, Saint Peter’s has shot 41.3 percent from beyond the arc, good for 39th in Division I.
Free throws. Despite their strong shooting from deep, the Peacocks have been far less effective at the charity stripe. As a team, Saint Peter’s sports just a 71.4 percent free throw percentage this season, ranking 110th in Division I in that category.
Vegas: Maryland -12.5
ESPN FPI: N/A
Kenpom: Maryland 74, Saint Peter’s 60 (89% chance to win)
Me: Maryland 75, Saint Peter’s 59
James Madison (2-1, 0-0 CAA)
2019-20 record: 9-21 (2-16 CAA)
Head coach Mark Byington is in his debut season in charge of the Dukes, having only been named head coach back in March. He previously spent seven years at Georgia Southern, leading that program to a 131-97 record while being its first head coach to win 20+ games in three consecutive seasons in 30 years.
After three games at the helm for the Dukes, Byington has led his team to a 2-1 record with wins over Radford and D-II Limestone University.
Players to Know
Matt Lewis, senior guard, 6’5, 200 lbs. — Having been an offensive force since his freshman year, Lewis enters his final season looking to leave a lasting imprint on James Madison’s basketball program. Lewis was named Preseason CAA Player of the Year and to the Preseason CAA First Team prior to the start of the season, and was recently named to the Mid-Major Player of the Year Watchlist.
A prolific offensive talent, he’s currently fourth all-time in scoring in James Madison’s history and is on pace top that list with his 19.3 points per game scoring average this season.
Vado Morse, junior guard, 6’0, 170 lbs. — As a second option to the team’s lead guard, Morse and Lewis combine to create a formidable scoring punch for James Madison. A transfer from Mount St. Mary’s, Morse has averaged 18.3 points per game in his first three games with the Dukes. A capable scorer from all over the floor, Morse does most of his damage from behind the three-point line, shooting 47.8 percent from three on 7.6 attempts per game.
Julien Wooden, sophomore forward, 6’8, 225 lbs. — With the team’s primary interior scoring presence having transferred this past offseason, Wooden has been tasked with taking the reins inside the paint for the Dukes. It’s been so far so good for Wooden in the offensive department, upping his per game scoring average to 11.3 this season. However, he’s been more pedestrian as a rebounder than his predecessor, pulling down just 4.7 boards per game (which is actually a team-high).
Putting teammates in position to score. The Dukes don’t rank very high in many team statistical categories so far this season, but one area they’ve managed to perform capably in is assists. Led by Lewis, Morse and freshman guard Terrell Strickland, James Madison has totaled 37 assists through three games, good for 97th in Division I.
Protecting the rim. With an offensive-minded big man in Wooden controlling the paint, James Madison has struggled to send back shots consistently at the rim in 2020. The team has just three total blocks this year, ranking 220th in Division I in that category.
ESPN FPI: Maryland 70.7 percent chance to win.
Kenpom: Maryland 81, James Madison 65 (93% chance to win)
Me: Maryland 77, James Madison 61
Three Things to Watch
1. Who will step up for the Terps offensively? Through three games, Maryland has had three different leading scorers in each of its wins so far this season. Though Eric Ayala, Darryl Morsell and Aaron Wiggins will all have a say, it should be interesting to see if the Terps continue the trend of scoring by committee.
“We focus on getting the best shot for the team,” Morsell said. “We not worried about who scores the most points or who gets all the accolades. Because as we saw last year, when you win games everybody gets noticed, everybody gets the ultimate prize that we all want. So we just focus on winning and take taking the best shot for the team.”
2. How will Maryland respond to the back-to-back? Though Maryland has had back-to-backs on its schedule in the past, this one is a bit different. Rather than playing both games at the same site as it did in Orlando last year, Maryland will play its game against Saint Peter’s at 3 p.m. at Xfinity Center, then hit the road to play at James Madison at 3 p.m. the next day. The Terps’ cancellations has given them the entire week away from competition, but navigating this back-to-back could prove difficult.
3. Can Chol Marial find his footing? The 7’2 center has struggled to find his rhythm so far this season, despite head coach Mark Turgeon allowing him to start in the last game against Mount St. Mary’s. There’s no questioning the potential of the Sudanese big man, but allowing Marial to find a role he can play down low will be important to sort out before the stiffer competition comes in Big Ten play.
“I definitely think we can get him going, it’s just a matter of time.” Wiggins said. “He’s grown a lot over the last just summer alone and preseason that we had. It’s just a matter of him getting his timing and staying confident and being ready to go and his name is called.”