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Maryland vs. Mount St. Mary's preview: Terps start most anticipated season in years against Mountaineers

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The Terps' quest for a championship starts with a visit from the Mountaineers.

Sammi Silber

The Maryland men's basketball team begins anew Friday night, with a visit from Mount St. Mary's for a 7 p.m. tip at Xfinity Center. It's the first night of the season, and you can watch the game on the Big Ten Network or stream it at BTN2Go.

The Terrapins, whose season ended against West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament's round of 32 last March, will almost certainly become the first team to ever play consecutive games against different teams named "Mountaineers." But this is a drastically different matchup than the one Maryland had last season.

Based in Emmittsburg, Md., these Mountaineers are a member of the Northeast Conference. They went 15-15 a season ago under head coach Jamion Christian, with their best win coming by 10 points against St. Francis (New York). They also took eventual conference champion and NCAA play-in victor Robert Morris to overtime in a narrow loss.

For Maryland, this is a tuneup, but it counts as much in the standings as non-conference tilts with Georgetown, North Carolina and Connecticut. It has special significance as the official Maryland debut for center Diamond Stone, forward Robert Carter and guards Rasheed Sulaimon and Jaylen Brantley. It's also the first formal step toward what the Terrapins hope is a remarkable season. If these really are the good times, they'll start on Friday.

Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers (0-0)

The coach

Jamion Christian. 49-46 in three seasons at Mount St. Mary's. Took Mountaineers to NCAA Tournament in 2014.

Players to know

BK Ashe, junior, guard, 6'1. Ashe led the Mountaineers with 11.1 points per game last year, and he's back to drive their offense again. He used up a full quarter of their possessions last season, posting somewhat efficient 54.4 percent true shooting percentage. He's OK from beyond the arc, having made 36 percent of his 150 tries from deep last year. He's a 74 percent foul shooter but doesn't make more than one or two trips to the foul line in a given game.

Gregory Graves, senior, forward, 6'7. At 10.1 points per game, Graves was the only Mountaineer other than Ashe to average double figure last season. He's also a really good rebounder, at least for the NEC: He pulled down 9 percent of all available offensive boards and 21 percent of defensive boards.

Junior Robinson, guard, sophomore, 5'5. No, that height isn't a typo. Robinson is presumably really fast, or else it's hard to see how he'd have played 60 percent of the Mountaineers' total minutes last season while only offering a 48.3 percent true shooting rate and going for 36 percent from the field. Robinson also went on to lead the team with 3.3 assists per night. He's certainly going to be an interesting matchup for Melo Trimble and Jaylen Brantley.

Khalid Nwandu, guard, junior, 6'3. Nwandu is a nice distributor, with a 24 percent assist rate and the second-best assist total on the team after Robinson. His true shooting was just 45 percent, so he isn't much of a marksman, but he played almost half the team's minutes last season and could be in line for a bigger role as a junior.

Strengths

Forcing turnovers. The Mountaineers pressure the ball a little bit, having forced turnovers on 21.3 percent of their defensive possessions last year. That was No. 46 in all of college basketball. They had 202 steals as a team.

Getting shots to the rim. This might not be the case against Maryland, but Mount St. Mary's only had 8.6 percent of its shots blocked last season, which is a percentage point lower than the national average of 9.6.

Weaknesses

Shooting. The Mountaineers don't make a lot of shots. Their team effective field goal percentage – which specifically weights 2- and 3-point attempts – was a lousy 47.2 percent last year. If you prefer raw percentages, they shot 68 percent at the foul line, 45 percent on 2-pointers and 33 percent on 3-pointers. That's bad, bad and bad.

Getting to the foul line. They don't spend a lot of time shooting free throws, having only taken 500 in 30 games last year. That was 334th in the country. It's unlikely to be much better against Maryland.

Predictions

KenPom's prediction. Maryland, 76-61. Terps have 92 percent chance to win.

Alex's prediction: Maryland, 91-64.