by ANDREW HORN
Terps fans rejoice!
The 2015-2016 season began last night, eight months after the bitter exit from the NCAA tournament at the hands of rival West Virginia. Since then, the Terps lost their heart and soul forward Dez Wells, along with fellow big men Jonathan Graham and Evan Smotrycz and guard Richaud Pack.
Dion Wiley also injured his knee in the exhibition game and will miss four months of the season. How could the Terps replace all that? They bring in Top-10 recruit Diamond Stone, former Duke wing Rasheed Sulaimon and get Robert Carter Jr, who had to sit out last season after transferring to College Park, eligible. Add in year two for Melo Trimble, Jared Nickens and Michal Cekovsky and the Terps begin the year ranked 3 in the polls. The last time the Terps were ranked in the top three at the start of the season,they won a national title. If the Terps want to bring the title back to College Park, there are a few games during the season they have to win.
Georgetown- November 17:
The Terps play the Hoyas for the first time in a non-tournament setting since 1993, something 90 percent of current students were not alive to see. The track of the two teams over the past three years has been quite different. Georgetown has struggled to bring in top recruits since the original Big East disbanded as Maryland’s brand has regained popularity among recruits. The Terps play Georgetown at home in the last slot of the College Tip-Off Marathon. A 9 p.m. game at the same time as Michigan State/Kansas is huge for the few 2016 recruits still available.
The Terps need a marquee win to kick off their campaign and can cement their spot as the dominant team in the DC area with a win against the Hoyas. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera is in his senior season at Georgetown. The Hoyas also have two good young forwards- Isaac Copeland and Trey Mourning- that are in pivotal points in their developments. The Terps will win this game if they keep Georgetown below 72 points. The Hoyas only reached the 70-point mark in two of their losses. The second key for winning this game is getting the Hoya frontcourt in foul trouble. If Maryland gets the Georgetown frontcourt rotating personnel, it will be a long night for the DC rivals.
@UNC- December 1:
When the ACC/BIG 10 Challenge schedule came out, every sportswriter drooling at the sight of Maryland matched against North Carolina. There are five decades of memorable games against UNC- most recently the Greivis Vasquez triple-double against UNC in 2009. The Terps will roll down into Chapel Hill with three weeks of experience for the team. They will need their very best A-game to win in Chapel Hill. Trimble cancels Marcus Paige’s impact on the court. This game will be about who wins the frontcourt. Joel James is a load inside for UNC and has four years of experience. Add in Kennedy Meeks, Justin Jackson and Brice Johnson and the UNC frontcourt is as talented as their backcourt. The senior-laden squad will be the toughest test of the season for the Terps.
There is only one key to winning this game: Terps frontcourt of Stone, Dodd, Cekovsky and Carter has to be better than UNC. If UNC plays better inside, no amount of guard play can save the Terps.
Both games against Purdue- Home on Feb. 6, Away on Feb. 27
Maryland vs Purdue. Sounds like a regular Big Ten conference matchup right? You are looking at my picks for the top two spots in the conference this year. Common theme in my picks is the matchup with the frontcourts. Purdue has the best defensive frontcourt in the conference and possibly the nation. They added Caleb Swanigan, a Top-10 recruit, to add depth in the frontcourt. Purdue also has length on the outside with 6′ 5″ guard Rapheal Davis. Purdue will be difficult to score on this season.
If there is one game this season Maryland will have to rely on their guard play, it is the February 27 game at Purdue.The Terps struggled against press defenses last season. West Virginia’s press was so effective because of the experienced guards running the point and length in the back able to cut off passes. Purdue has the length to run a very troublesome press. February 27 is also Purdue’s senior night, where emotions will run high and the players leaving the program after four years seem to play their best.