Maryland ready to return to big time college basketball

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Maryland ready to return to big time college basketball

After a brief hiatus the Maryland Terrapins mark their return to big-time college basketball with a nationally televised tilt against the reigning national champion Kentucky Wildcats on Friday night from the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn, New York. The game will be played on national television in a sold out NBA arena where 31 NBA scouts and executives have been credentialed for the game.

To some degree, the Terps are already winners by virtue of being in this game. It was not that long ago where games like this were commonplace for the Maryland program. But in an era of instant media and shortened memories, those games seem like ancient history. This game came about when Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari called Maryland Head Coach Mark Turgeon the day he took the job in College Park eighteen months ago and offered the opportunity. Calipari and Turgeon are long-time friends dating back to their days in Lawrence, Kansas in the early 1980's.

The Maryland coach was quick to seize the chance for his team to play in this spotlight game last year but he had to worry if his team- and his program- would be ready for a game like this against arguably college basketball's premier program.

As circumstances and good fortune have it, the Terps enter this game not only excited about the opportunity, they actually have more than a puncher's chance of competing with–and defeating–the Wildcats.

Since the day he took charge of the Maryland program, Turgeon has combined good fortune (inheriting center Alex Len from the previous staff's recruiting efforts) with hard work on the recruiting trail to completely retool the program he inherited. The hard work on the recruiting trail paid immediate dividends and the Terps will have six new players who will all be in Turgeon's ten-man rotation on Friday night.

In addition, if there is a good time to play a team as talented as Kentucky, early November may very well be that time. The exodus of NBA draft picks from Lexington after Kentucky's championship run last year has been well documented. Just as well documented is the profile of Calipari's incoming freshman class. If you need any primer on Kentucky talent and star power, just tune into ESPN's omnipresent “Kentucky All-Access” that seems to be on fourteen times a day.

In spite of the talent that left, nobody is going to feel sorry for Kentucky.

There is no way to predict how a young team will fare in the spotlight of a big early game like this and both the Terps and the Wildcats are exceptionally young and–for the most part–unproven.

Assuming both teams are ready to play and put forth the kind of efforts that both Turgeon and Calipari expect, this game could come down to a handful of different boxes that the Terps will have to check to come out of New York with a win.

In an early game like this between two uber-athletic teams, often time the game comes down to who scores the most easy points. If Maryland is able to limit easy Wildcat baskets in transition and keep the Kentucky size off of the backboards it will go a long way to insure a positive outcome. Considering all of the new talent on Kentucky's roster, a central part of the Maryland game plan almost certainly hinges on forcing the Wildcats to grind out baskets in their half court offense.

That said, the Terps have their own challenges in the same area and Calipari will look to limit Len around the basket and Terrapin wings Dez Wells and Nick Faust in the open court.

With both coaches looking to accomplish similar things, this game will probably not be aesthetically pleasing. Expect a game where shooting 40% from the field feels torrid.

With both teams grinding it out in the half court then things like foul trouble, turnovers and free throw shooting become paramount. Expect Turgeon to play ten men in the game and shorten his bench a bit down the stretch. Conversely, Kentucky will play up to eight players. But just because you use more players it doesn't mean you're deeper unless you're getting quality play from your bench.

Both teams enter the game with questions about their respective point guards. Maryland's Pe'Shon Howard will try and rebound from an injury riddled sophomore season and will be greatly aided by the presence of freshman Seth Allen. Howard is more pass oriented than Allen is right now but the presence of both offers Turgeon a luxury he simply did not have last season. Regardless of which one gets the bulk of the minutes, the Maryland point guards will have to handle the ball in the face of an impressive Kentucky defense.

Maryland fans last saw Kentucky point guard Ryan Harrow when he was wearing a North Carolina State jersey two years ago. After sitting out his transfer year last season, Harrow has inherited the point and will ask to provide his young team with experience, stability and direction. Even as talented as he is, that is an awful lot to ask a player after a year away from competition. He will have to deal with an equally impressive Maryland defense.

The Terps received a huge break leading into the game with the NCAA's decision to grant Maryland's appeal to grant Wells immediate eligibility. Not only is he clearly one of his team's best players he offers up big game experience where it is in short supply on both sides. He will also help his team that – in the early going at least- is in need of a regular scoring threat from the wing to compliment Faust and freshman Jake Layman.

The humble and self-effacing Turgeon would probably never admit to it but a fascinating subplot will be his matchup with Calipari. Turgeon is an interesting mix of old school and new school. He is part player's coach and part “my way or the highway.” The slicker than slick Calipari is just now getting credit for the coach that he is. Say what you want about the issues that have surrounded some of the programs he left he is both a savvy marketer and a completely underrated in-game coach. His team went 38-2 last season when they were everybody's biggest game.

When this game was announced a year ago most people looked at it like it was an Opportunity Game. Meaning that it was an opportunity to play a spotlight game in the Big Apple and have a place close enough for Terrapin Nation to gather and watch their team against the kind of program they aspire to be.

Now, because of events of the past 12 months, the “opportunity” has taken on a completely different meaning. Now it's an opportunity to beat the sport's standard bearer and announce your return to the highest level of college basketball.

Game on.

George Washington hoops signs Maurice Joseph to multi-year deal

George Washington hoops signs Maurice Joseph to multi-year deal

WASHINGTON — Maurice Joseph is sticking around as George Washington's basketball coach, signing a five-year contract on Monday after one season with an interim title in place of the fired Mike Lonergan.

The Colonials went 20-15 this season under Joseph, losing in the quarterfinals of the lower-tier College Basketball Invitational.

"Maurice has demonstrated that he is the right individual to lead our men's basketball program," athletic director Patrick Nero said, according to a statement released by the school. "Our student-athletes respond well to his energy, passion and vision. ... We're confident that he will continue to recruit and retain the next generation of men's basketball student-athletes and help their talents shine."

Six of GW's top eight scorers this season are expected to return to the team.

The 31-year-old Joseph said it is "a privilege to be tasked with the responsibility of mentoring our team moving forward."

Joseph, who is from Montreal, played for Lonergan at Vermont after transferring there from Michigan State.

After working as an assistant on Lonergan's staff for five years, Joseph was promoted to head coach in late September.

That came 10 days after Lonergan was fired, following an internal investigation by GW that determined he "engaged in conduct inconsistent with the university's values." A Washington Post report in July included accusations of player mistreatment by Lonergan.

MORE NCAA HOOPS: Georgetown icon Patrick Ewing now being considered for head coach job

Virginia guard Marial Shayok transferring from program

Virginia guard Marial Shayok transferring from program

By Ben Brown

Following a disappointing end to a once-promising season, Virginia guard Marial Shayok and forward Jarred Reuter will transfer to another school, head coach Tony Bennett announced Wednesday. 

"Marial and Jarred informed me today that they are leaving the Virginia basketball program and are looking to transfer to other schools," Bennett said. "I thank Marial and Jarred for their hard work and contributions to our program, and wish them success in the future."

Shayok was the Cavaliers' second-leading scorer at 8.9 points per game, despite playing only the fifth-most minutes and regularly coming off the bench. The Ontario product scored a career-high 23 points in Virginia's win over UNC-Wilmington in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. 

Reuter averaged 10 minutes a game and averaged 3.8 points per game. 

Shayok and Reuter transferring comes at the end of a very disappointing season for Virginia. The Cavaliers began the season in the top 10 of the AP poll, and halfway through conference play they were near the top of the standings in the ACC. But that was before the team went into a major funk as they lost four of their last seven games, which dropped them to sixth in the conference standings. 

Virginia lost in the second round of the ACC Tournament to Notre Dame, and then got blasted by Florida by 26 points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. 

In addition to the losses of Shayok and Reuter, London Perrantes, the team's best player and leader, is graduating. 

After a rough regular season, Virginia's offseason is off to a rocky start as well. 

Related: 2017 NBA Draft early entry list: Who is going and who is staying?