The 2018-19 Maryland women’s basketball regular season is finally here.
After getting bounced in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season, the Terrapins have been ready to start anew and reclaim their position as one of the best teams in the nation.
That fire was on full display in the team’s two preseason exhibitions, as the Terps outscored their opponents 217-104, including an 86-point victory over Clarion a week ago. Yes, the games were against Division II opponents. But regardless of competition, those are impressive margins of victory.
Now, it’s time to see what Maryland is capable of against a Division I team. It’ll take a couple of games before the schedule ramps up, but on Friday, a real, meaningful game will be on display.
Coppin State will be the Terps’ first opponent of the season, and the Eagles are coming off a 78-37 loss on Tuesday to No. 25 West Virginia. Friday’s tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET and can be seen on BTN Plus.
Coppin State Eagles (0-1)
2017-18 record: 6-23 (5-11 MEAC)
Head coach DeWayne Burroughs is now in his third season at Coppin State, having previously coached at the University of the District of Columbia from 2011-2016. At UDC, Burroughs helped take the Firebirds to three NCAA Division II Tournaments, and he hopes to bring that success over to Baltimore with the Eagles.
Players to know
Chance Graham, junior, forward, 6’0, No. 23. One of just three players from last year still on the team, Graham is the leading scorer among those returning. As a sophomore last season, she averaged a healthy 13.4 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, good for second and first on the squad, respectively. And in the season opener against West Virginia, she led the Eagles with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Maraiyah Smith, sophomore, guard, 5’5, No. 2. Smith averaged 8.7 points per game last season, good for third on the team. She also averaged 31.8 minutes per contest, starting 24 of 27 games. Against West Virginia, she scored six points while logging 35 minutes.
Free-throw shooting. Last year’s Eagles team was excellent at the charity stripe, shooting at a .705 clip to lead the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. And although this squad is nearly unrecognizable, that same success translated to the first game of the season - against West Virginia, Coppin State went 15-21, good for a .714 percentage.
Shooting. Coppin State has been offensively challenged for a couple years now, and that was clear in the 2017-18 season. The Eagles finished 11th out of 13 teams in the MEAC with a .336 field goal percentage and last in the conference with a .249 clip from behind the arc. In fact, those figures ranked 345th and 341st in the nation, respectively, out of 349 teams.
Three things to watch
1. Does Maryland keep it up? The Terps followed up a 37-point win over Kutztown by eviscerating Clarion by an 86-point margin. It’s all Division I opponents from here on out, but given the state of Coppin State’s program, that supposed upgrade may not be as drastic as one would expect. If the Terps get going early, this game could be over in a hurry.
2. What is Shakira Austin’s role? Based on the exhibitions, Austin was locked into the first spot off the bench. However, given the scripts of those games, the bench played a larger role than expected, or at least what can be expected as the regular season progresses. Thanks to her size and ability inside, Austin can give defenses a fit. She might not crack the starting rotation just yet, but expect her to get plenty of minutes, especially if the game gets out of hand.
3. Does Blair Watson continue to improve? As Brenda Frese has made clear in the preseason, Watson won’t be rushed back. That was evident in the difference in how she was used in the two exhibitions. After playing just 14 minutes two weeks ago against Kutztown while scoring two points, she saw 15 minutes of action against Clarion but managed to score ten points on 4-5 shooting. Watson will be vital to this team’s success as the season progresses, although she may be limited for the first few games.