Maryland mens basketball versus Old Dominion University preview.
The University of Maryland’s men’s basketball program will host its season opener against the Monarchs of Old Dominion University on Wednesday, November 25th 2:00 pm at Xfinity Center. Both teams are led by experienced guards and have plenty of questions heading into the 2020-2021 season.
The Monarchs return the majority of last year’s roster and have high expectations from their starting backcourt of Senior Malik Curry (13.4 ppg) and Junior running mate Xavier Green (12.8 ppg). The team can also expect meaningful contributions from A.J. Oliver II and Jason Wade as the four returning starters which averaged double digit scoring in the 2019-2020 season.
After last year’s NCAA season was cut short due to safety concerns related to COVID-19, the Terps have many fans wondering what would have happened in the NCAA tournament. With the loss of two key catalysts in Anthony Cowan Junior and Jalen Smith, questions now circulate around Senior Darryl Morsell and the progression of Juniors Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins.
Currently, both teams enter the new season with similar questions before Wednesday’s tipoff.
How will each team rebound figuratively from last year?
Both ODU coach Jeff Jones (8th season) and Maryland coach Mark Turgeon (10th season) are veteran coaches who entered an offseason unlike any other. With restrictions and guidelines put into place and every player and coach balancing their lives around basketball and handling COVID-19 differently, which team will be more prepared entering the first game of the season?
ODU have six players returning averaging over 10 minutes per game including four starters from last year’s campaign set to return. This suggests the Monarchs are a team with defined roles and should have an early edge in finding comfort and consistency to the new season. The Monarchs will be without last year’s leading rebounder Aaron Carver who started all 32 games at the forward position last year but Juniors Joe Reece and Kalu Ezikpe both received ample playing time and are expected to complement each other to fill minutes. While the team is still expected to rely on both Curry and Green as the team leaders, Jason Wade is the player Monarch fans are anxious to see return after injuries shortened last year’s season. Despite his injury, Wade led the team with 52 steals which was good enough to be ranked 3rd in Conference USA.
Maryland lost its emotional leader in guard Anthony Cowan to graduation and leading rebounder Sophomore Jalen Smith to the NBA draft. They will now look to Senior Darryl Morsell as its emotional leader and team captain. Morsell undoubtedly has been one of Maryland’s most passionate players since the likes of Greivis Vasquez, however Morsell often attempts to take a game into his own hands when the team needs a defensive stop or offensive spark. That passion has led to inconsistency with turnovers and finishing around the rim. During an offseason, teams typically find identity as an extension of their head coach and its team captains. If that proves true, we can expect an emotionally charged Terps team prepared to turn each game into a physical and emotional battle for 40 minutes each night.
How will each team rebound literally this year?
The Monarch’s leading rebounder Aaron Carver averaged an impressive 10.3 rebounds per game last year and the Monarch’s team out rebounded their opponents by an average of 5.3 rebounds per game. With Carver out, Kalu Ezikpe is likely to get the first opportunity to start and increase his 4.8 rebounds per game. However, don’t be surprised to see Joe Reece on the floor to help spread the court and open opportunities for the guards.With more career starts and a much higher three-point shooting percentage than teammate Ezikpe, Reece could find himself pulling down Carvers minutes.
The Terps will not be able to replace NBA lottery pick Jalen Smith’s rebounding and rim protection with only one player. Fans hope Sophomore center Chol Marial will be the answer, but even with a strong offseason and another year of rehabilitation there is not enough evidence to suggest Marial will be the highly touted four-star player recruited out of high school. Instead, look for transfers Jarius Hamilton and Galin Smith to rotate at the forward position with an emphasis on team rebounding.
ODU and Maryland are a tale of two teams with uncertain trajectories. While Maryland tied for a share of the BIG 10 title last year, it loses its top players in Cowan and Smith and might struggle when tested in game without them. While plenty of players return to the Terps roster, there are still uncertainties around both offense and defense.
ODU is a team that seemed to be growing with every game in Conference USA last year. ODU posted a 10-4 home record but couldn’t seem to find the same production away from Cartway Arena. ODU went a combined record 3-15 away or neutral courts and the Monarchs were outpaced early by their opponents, often needing second half adjustments to find victory. However, a combination of last year’s home record, a veteran coaching staff, and a cohesive backcourt suggest this team is on the rise.
With college basketball, the three-point line is always an X factor, but neither team has shown consistency shooting well from beyond the arc. Old Dominion shot 29.3% as a team last year, while Maryland shot slightly better at 31.1%. This, combined with an inconsistent offseason, has the potential to be a sloppy 40 minutes of basketball. The final score will likely favor the team who wins the transition game, rebounds, and makes the better in-game coaching adjustments.
With more options on the bench, a size advantage across the roster, and playing on a familiar court Maryland should be the favorite versus Old Dominion. Don’t be surprised if Curry and Green start off hot and Twitter starts begging for Turgeon’s resignation letter, but Morsell and company won’t let their season start off with a loss. Terps win 72 – 65.