Brooklyn, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - Brooklyn is the backdrop for an intriguing
season-opening clash, as the 18th-ranked Connecticut Huskies and Maryland
Terrapins meet at the Barclays Center to tip off the 2013-14 campaign.
Kevin Ollie is in his second season at the helm of Connecticut and enters off
a strong debut, as the Huskies went 20-10 in 2012-13. The 20 wins were the
most by any first-year coach in UConn history. Now in the American Athletic
Conference, Connecticut hopes to take the next step under Ollie and with a
core of veterans led by All-American candidate Shabazz Napier, the sky is the
limit in Storrs this season.
Mark Turgeon's third season in College Park could be his best to date. That
is certainly encouraging for a team that won 25 games a year ago and advanced
to the semifinals of the NIT. Problems for Maryland however, arose in
conference play, as they were just 8-10 against the rest of the ACC, plagued
by inconsistent play. This will be the last season in the ACC for Maryland,
which will make the move to the Big Ten next year.
This marks the sixth all-time meeting between these two squads. The Huskies
own a 3-2 series advantage, but Maryland won the last meeting, a memorable
90-82 shootout in the 2002 NCAA Tournament Elite Eight.
The strength of the 2013-14 Huskies is the backcourt. Napier is one of the 15
players on the Oscar Robertson Trophy Watch List and for good reason. As
complete a guard as there is in the country, Napier is coming off a season in
which he averaged 17.1 ppg, 4.4. rpg, 4.6 apg and 2.0 spg. Ryan Boatright
(15.4 ppg, 4.4 apg) can fill up the basket as well and is a solid defender.
Omar Calhoun (11.1 ppg) is a valuable contributor in the backcourt also.
Improving up front is what could push UConn into the upper echelon of
championship contenders. DeAndre Daniels (12.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg) and
Tyler Olander (4.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg) could see their numbers rise on a team that
likes to get everyone involved.
The Terrapins must overcome several key losses from last season, none more
important than lottery pick center Alex Len (11.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg). Still, there
is plenty left in the cupboard in College Park. Backcourt play should be
headlined by junior Dez Wells. The 6-5, 215-pounder was the team's leading
scorer a season ago at 13.1 ppg. Sophomore Seth Allen (7.8 ppg) was expected
to handle the point this season, but Allen suffered a fractured foot in the
preseason and his sophomore debut will be pushed back. Other guards that
should contribute and make things interesting for Maryland include lanky
sophomore Jake Layman (6-8, 205) and junior Nick Faust (6-6, 205). The
frontcourt should be physical this season, anchored by the 6-9, 260-pound
Charles Mitchell (5.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and 6-9, 265-pound Shaquille Cleare (3.7
ppg, 2.7 rpg). Neither has shown much at the offensive end, but the addition
of Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz (6-9, 235) should help in that regard.
The Sports Network