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College basketball preview: Maryland Terrapins

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Coach: Mark Turgeon. Second season, 17-15; 266-174 overall

Last season: 17-15, lost in ACC quarterfinals

Key player: C Alex Len. The Ukrainian sophomore bulked up to nearly 250 pounds during the offseason and, armed with a solid jump shot, could be a complete nightmare for ACC foes after averaging 6.0 points and 5.4 rebounds in 22 games last year.

Biggest loss: G Terrell Stoglin. No matter how much of an odd couple he and Turgeon were, the Terrapins never would have come close to a winning record without him. Stoglin averaged 21.6 points as a sophomore before departing when Maryland suspended him for a year.

Top newcomer: G/F Dez Wells. The NCAA granted the Xavier transfer immediate eligibility this week, and it changes the complexion of the Terps' prospects. The 6-foot-5 swingman averaged 9.8 points and 4.9 rebounds as a freshman and instantly makes Maryland's backcourt significantly deeper.

Best case: Maryland knocks off Kentucky in Friday's season opener, securing a place in the top 25 as it navigates an otherwise manageable nonconference schedule. Wells provides requisite toughness, Shaquille Cleare, Charles Mitchell and Jake Layman are immediate contributors, and a healthy Pe'Shon Howard helps Maryland end a two-year NCAA tournament drought.

Worst case: The Terps lose the opener and generally have no postseason profile entering league play. They then experience the usual ups and downs of a young team on the way to winning 18 to 20 games and earning a spot in the NIT.

Key games

Nov. 9 vs. Kentucky in Brooklyn, N.Y. The Terps open with their only nonconference game against a top-60 RPI team from last season. The Wildcats have a new cast of stars after last year's national title run, but they're still Kentucky.

Jan. 9 vs. Florida State. This is the second of back-to-back home games to open league play for the Terps and the first against a team expected to finish in the top half of the conference.

Feb. 16 vs. Duke. Regardless of the trajectory of the season, this is the one time Comcast Center is guaranteed to be crammed. The teams also meet Jan. 26 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

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