Saturday, October 04, 2014

2014-15 Schedule Preview - Maryland Terrapins/Arizona State Sun Devils

Alabama will close the CBE Classic against one of these two teams, providing our beloved Crimson Tide with back-to-back opportunities to notch non-conference victories against Power 5 conference schools.

Like Alabama, 2013-14 was a disappointing year for the Maryland Terrapins relative to the talent on their roster. While the Terrapins did finish the season with a winning record (17-15), the preseason expectations among the fanbase were much loftier as the program made its farewell tour through the ACC before leaving for the Big Ten. In the aftermath of the season, five players who averaged between 13-30 minutes per game transferred. The fan backlash was severe. As a result, head coach Mark Turgeon enters this season firmly on the hot seat.

It will not be an easy task for Turgeon and his staff. The transfers left only 3 of the top 8 remaining scorers from last season. Depth will also be an issue as there are only 10 scholarship players on the roster, and one of those is a transfer from Georgia Tech who will most likely be forced to sit out this season. Therefore, Turgeon and his staff will have to lean heavily on a handful of freshmen, all while beginning play in the Big Ten conference, considered by many to be the best college basketball conference from top to bottom.

Despite the challenges, the ray of hope is that the team may not be deep, but it is talented. The 3 returning players - Dez Wells, Jake Layman and Evan Smotrycz - are seasoned players with a lot of games under their belts. Wells has the talent to be an All-Big Ten performer if he remains healthy. The incoming freshman class was rated Top 10 by some recruiting services. They will have to be, as all of them will be required to play major minutes.

Meanwhile, Arizona State is looking to return to the NCAA Tournament, after making the 68-team cut last season. It was their first tournament appearance since 2009. They lost in the 1st round to Texas on a buzzer beater, in one of the better games of the tournament. If Arizona State is to return to the NCAA tournament, they will have to lean on some new guys to make it happen as their top 3 players from a year ago - Jahi Carson, Jordan Bachynski and Jermaine Marshall - all rode off into the sunset.

Arizona State returns 3 of their top 8 scorers from a year ago. Shaquielle McKissic (9.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg) could be the best of the returners, and will most likely be expected to step up his production as a senior. Head Coach Herb Sendek, perhaps hoping to avoid a rebuilding season, hit the Juco route hard, signing four talented Juco players to his roster. In addition, Sendek signed a solid freshman class that will be afforded time to develop thanks to the presence of the veterans and the Juco transfers. It's an intriguing team from a talent standpoint, but it's hard to know for certain how good a team with so many new players will be. If this team gels quickly, they could be a surprise team in the Pac-12. The games in Kansas City will certainly serve as a barometer for all four schools as they wrap up the first month of the season.

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