Who: Maryland Terrapins vs. Delaware State Hornets
What: Second to last gimme before the real season starts
Where: Comcast Center or ESPN3
When: 12:30 pm ET
Every year in Maryland basketball, there are 1 or 2 games that are just more important. There’s a little bit of extra vitriol built up when they roll around. A win feels “free steak dinner” good, and losing provides the mental anguish of passing a kidney stone. That’s just how it is when the Georgia Tech game rolls around. Because Georgia Tech’s mascot is a yellow jacket. And I hate bees.
I regard them with a mix of respect, abhorrence, and sheer terror. Ever since I went fishing as a kid and got my hand stuck in a digging wasp nest, I have had an overarching life mission of eliminating all bees on the planet, regardless of type: I’m an equal opportunity bee hater. Yellow jackets, wasps, bumblebees, honey bees, bees voiced by Jerry Seinfeld. They are all members of the great soulless terrorist cell of the animal world. It takes every ounce of strength in my body to spare the two honeybee hives in my girlfriend’s back yard.
So, although you may have just taken a cursory glance at the team sharing the Comcast Center floor tonight, know that I have had this game circled for months. I’ve had trouble writing this Delaware State preview. The picture on their team page looks like something sourced directly from my nightmares. I will take extra pleasure in seeing Maryland squash the hornets tonight. Mainly because it’s something I could never do, I mean Christ look at the stinger, what if it gets away? What if it calls its friends…let’s move on to basketball
Who is Maryland playing today:
The Delaware State Childhood Ruiners. Outside of their nickname, the team is incredibly underwhelming. They play in what is quite possibly the worst conference in the country (the MEAC is “lead” by 6-8 Norfolk State), and it requires quite a bit of digging to unearth any quality that could be considered a strength on this team.
What can be said about Delaware State is that they lack efficiency. They rank 67th in the NCAA in 3’s attempted, and yet they’re 282nd in 3pt % (a paltry 30%). A similar trend has developed in their field goal attempts (662 – 124th in NCAA) compared to their field goal percentage (41.8% – 241st in NCAA).
They don’t rebound well, pass well, defend well, or create takeaways. But there is one small niche that the Hornets have carved out for themselves. In just 12 games, they have amassed an astounding 85 blocks, good for 7th in the NCAA. So if Maryland can deal with getting blocked a few times, this game shouldn’t be an issue.
Gotta watch out for:
The guy who blocks a lot of those shots, 6’10” sophomore Kendall Gray. Although he’s dealt with significantly less rejection lately (only 5 blocks in his last 3 games total), Gray is still one of the top rim guarders in Division 1. His offensive game is still very raw (double figure points in only two games this year), and his rebounding numbers are not where they should be considering his stature (only 4.4 per game). But his unique talent should provide a legitimate obstacle for Faust and especially Wells in terms of getting easy buckets at the rim.
There’s only one player on Delaware State that averages in double figures, and not coincidentally he’s rarely off the floor (35.1 mpg), sophomore guard Tahj Tate. Tate has an interesting story: he was an extremely productive 22-year old freshman last year (16.1 ppg), and he was the top returning scorer in the MEAC heading into this season. Around this time last year, he was suspended four games for conduct detrimental to the team. He was good enough coming out of high school to garner some interest from more glamorous programs (Georgia, Clemson, South Carolina according to Scout.com), and also earn a cool nickname (Freeze or Freezer depending on where you look).
That nickname fits his game to a T: he’s quick enough off the dribble to freeze defenders before throwing down monster dunks, and also when he goes cold, he might as well be frozen (he went 1-13 in a game this season).
Chance of an upset?
Small, but not completely out of the realm of possibility. All the dominoes would need to fall for Delaware State, but a hot shooting game out of Tate and lone shooter Tyshawn Bell (43.8 3pt %) could make this interesting, at least for a little while. I just don’t think there are enough complimentary pieces to keep this competitive for the full 40. As I learned very early in life, hornets can definitely dig themselves out of a hole (and when they do, they’re very angry), but these particular hornets don’t have the offensive talent or rebounding ability to pull off that trick.
Three things to watch for:
Literally the only problem I have with Dez Wells:
In a surprise to no one, Wells has been a beast this season. He can score from everywhere, and in 2 or 3 games he’s caught fire and dropped 8 or 10 points on some helpless opponents. He rebounds extremely well for his size, and his defense has been as advertised. But the turnovers need to come down.
Wells has 30 in the Terps first 11 games, 4th most in the ACC, more than enough to warrant concern once the ACC schedule starts.
The continuing evolution of the rotation:
This game and the following one against IUPUI should mark the end of the little league rotation (EVERYBODY GETS TO BAT!!), as the big leagues are looming. Logically, the game against Stony Brook should provide a decent idea of player roles.
Unless something major changes, my thought of Charles Mitchell overtaking James Padgett looks like a pipe dream. Mitchell got only 11 minutes to Padgett’s 23 last game, and hasn’t played only 30 minutes total in the past three games. It’s obvious Turgeon prefers Padgett’s leadership and level head to Mitchell’s never ending motor.
The sixth man appears to be Seth Allen at this point, with Turgeon occasionally opting to go small with a Howard/Allen backcourt. Allen’s only had one major hiccup this season (7 turnovers vs Monmouth), but considering he’s on the court to provide scoring from the 2-guard spot, it’s surprising that Logan Aronhalt hasn’t cut into some of his minutes. So, watch the Mitchell vs. Padgett minutes, and see if Allen continues to get 6th man minutes.
Who’s guarding Tate?
This should give fans a good idea of who Turgeon considers his top dog defensively. Tate is one of the more legitimate scoring threats that Maryland has faced since the Kentucky game, and priority 1,2, and 3 will be to shut him down. I can’t imagine one of the point guards (Howard or Allen) sticking with him, so it should be fun to see whether Turgeon opts for the longer Faust or the more physical Wells to try and contain the lone hornet with a sting.
Terps have enough RAID (Rebounding, Assists, Interior Defense) to take out this raving pack of devil animals.
Maryland – 80 Delaware State – 62