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Tide set to tangle with Terps

The Crimson Tide basketball team will open up play in the 2011 Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament late this afternoon against the Maryland Terrapins. The game is scheduled to tip off at 4:00 pm CST and will be televised nationally on ESPN2. As always, we'll have a live game thread up here at RBR for those who want to comment and for those unable to watch.

Below we'll take a look at some quick hitters on this year's Terps. (Also, be sure to check out a nice preview from the other side at our Maryland sister site, Testudo Times).

  • The Terrapins are undergoing a transition year after long-time legendary coach Gary Williams stepped down last season. New coach Mark Turgeon has now taken the reigns of one of college basketball's top programs after very successful stints at Wichita State (a potential 2nd-round matchup for the Terps) and Texas A&M, where he took the Aggies, not known for their basketball tradition, to four straight NCAA Tournaments.
  • Last season Maryland was actually a very efficient team, ranking 36th in the nation in the Pomeroy ratings. However, they couldn't quite get over the hump and get enough wins against the stronger opponents on what was a very tough schedule, and as a result they missed out on the Big Dance, likely hastening Williams' departure. However, their efficiency ranking implies they were a stronger team than their win/loss record indicates.
  • To make the transition a bit tougher, the Terps lost a lot from last year's squad, and failed to maintain a solid recruiting class through a coaching transition, which is often the case in basketball. They lost their top player, sophomore post player Jordan Williams, to the NBA Draft. They also lost three key seniors in forwards Dino Gregory and Cliff Tucker, and guard Adrian Bowie.
  • The team's top returning player is 6'1" sophomore guard Terrell Stoglin, who was second on the team last year with 11.4 points and 3.2 assists per game. Not surprisingly, he led the team in scoring in their only game thus far--a 71-62 win over UNC-Wilmington--when he poured in 22 points in 33 minutes. The offense will likely run through Stoglin again, as not only is he their top returning player, but also the Terps will rely even more on perimeter scoring this year after their frontcourt was wiped out by graduation and Jordan Williams' NBA decision.
  • Other key players include: 6'6" freshman wing player Nick Faust, a highly touted recruit; athletic but inconsistent 6'4" senior wing player Sean Mosley; another athletic but inconsistent wing player, 6'5" sophomore Mychal Parker; 6'8" junior forward James Padgett, who has the body but is unproven as a full-time starter; and 6'8" redshirt freshman forward Ashton Pankey, who may hold a lot of promise but didn't play at all his senior year of high school or obviously during his redshirt season last year due to injury.
  • The big concern for the Terps coming into the season was their inside play. With only Padgett returning from last year's squad (where he was merely a bench player), Pankey (the redshirt freshman) and 6'10" transfer Berend Weijs are all the Terps have. That won't be that big an issue against Alabama, however, who typically plays only one true post player anyway. Also, Maryland actually did a pretty solid job rebounding in their first game. The Terps have no one with the scoring prowess of Green, but Padgett and Pankey do have the size and athleticism to hang with Alabama's horribly thin frontcourt.
  • Guard play was expected to be the Terps' strength, with Stoglin returning as the star, Faust coming in as a big-time recruit, and Mosley and Parker returning on the wings. That will probably be the case, but Maryland actually went 0-for-9 from the 3-point line in their first game, and their two primary post players were actually 2nd and 3rd in scoring after Stoglin. Despite their shaky performance in the opener, Maryland's guards figure to match up well with Alabama athletically. However--and my hands are trembling as I type this--Bama actually has the advantage in skill and...wait for it...shooting on the perimeter.
  • Maryland's team this year resembles Grant's first team at Alabama. It's a team in transition that has some nice pieces and some good athletes, but as Grant conceded himself during that 09-10 season, they are "undersized and underskilled" for a major ACC program. That said, also like the 09-10 Bama team, they do have some good players accustomed to and capable of playing with the big boys. They also have an impressive coach who will get the most out of his players, and while it's unlikely they will put together an NCAA Tournament run themselves, they will be a tough out even for teams that are on that level. Alabama had some major personnel issues that season, but still put together some nice wins over good teams and proved tough to take down even for top teams. I see Maryland as being similarly flawed, but similarly dangerous this year.
  • This won't be an easy game for Bama. Maryland may be down, but they are still an ACC team and they won't be an easy out, especially if Bama plays sloppy on offense or if Green and/or Mitchell get into foul trouble. Alabama should be better, but Alabama was better than all three teams we lost to in last year's Paradise Jam, too, and Maryland this year is probably better than any of those teams were last year. This game will not only set the tone for the tournament, but it will also dictate whether Bama spends its last two games playing the tournament's stronger teams (resume/RPI implications) or playing its weaker teams. Hope for the best and be sure to tune in on ESPN2.