Well, it’s finally here. College basketball season, which for so many teams tips off tonight.
That includes Maryland, which opens Mark Turgeon‘s second season with a showdown with No. 3 Kentucky at the Barclays Center.
Maryland lost its top two scorers from a 17-15 team. More significantly, Kentucky had its entire starting lineup and its sixth man on a national title team picked in June’s NBA Draft.
So besides the obvious (Kentucky is talented! Alex Len is really tall!), there’s a lot to learn about both of these teams.
For tonight’s purposes, here are three subplots to keep an eye on
1. All’s Wells that ends Wells? So how does Maryland swingman Dez Wells fit into the rotation. Just a couple days after being cleared to play immediately, the Xavier transfer figures to eat into the minutes of several players. Among them: Logan Aronhalt, Pe’Shon Howard and Jake Layman, and maybe Seth Allen as well.
PREDICTION: Wells plays 23-28 minutes in his Maryland debut, while Aronhalt, Howard and Layman all log less time than they did in last week’s exhibition defeat of Indiana (Pa.)
2. Start them up. Turgeon is perpetually amused at the attention paid to starting lineups, and chances are the five on the floor around 8:30 tonight won’t be the Terps’ starting five in a month, let alone the end of the regular season. But it could be a slight window into who has had a solid four weeks of practice.
PREDICTION: Howard, Nick Faust, Wells, James Padgett and Len all draw a start, though Allen, Layman, Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell will all play as well.
3. Swat a shot. One statistical quirk of this game will be the possibility of supreme shot blocking at both ends. For Maryland, Len figures to rank among the leaders in the ACC in that category. For Kentucky, Nerlens Noel is one of the most lauded freshmen in the country.
PREDICTION: In some combination, Len and Noel combine for at least seven blocked shots.
—- Patrick Stevens