Maryland gets a break from schedule-makers

Maryland’s basketball team, coming off back-to-back 27-win seasons for the first time in school history, faces a lot of questions entering the 2016-17 season.

Starters Jake Layman, Rasheed Sulaimon, Robert Carter and Diamond Stone have moved on. The return of point guard Melo Trimble and the arrival of a strong recruiting class seems to have convinced someone that the drop-off won’t be too severe, though. ESPN picked the Terrapins 18th nationally in its most recent preseason poll.BB coach

That’s the good news. The bad news for Terrapins fans is that four Big Ten teams (Wisconsin at No. 8, Michigan State at No. 10, Indiana at No. 11 and Purdue at No. 14) are ranked ahead of the Terrapins by ESPN.

However, the conference’s schedule-makers (Maryland’s slate was released last week) seem to have done the Terrapins a favor.

They’ll play each one of those teams just once this season in league play, and all but the game against Wisconsin will be at Xfinity Center – where the Terps are 34-2 during the last two seasons.

The favorable draw doesn’t stop there. Of Maryland’s 18 league games, eight will come against teams that finished among the bottom five in the league last season. Maryland gets two games each against the likes of Rutgers (7-25), Minnesota (8-23) and Illinois (15-19). The Terrapins also play host to Nebraska (16-18) and visit Penn State (16-16).

The toughest road games in the Big Ten figure to be at Wisconsin (27-9 last year), at Iowa (22-11) and at Michigan (23-13). Five of Maryland’s six league losses last season came on the road, including a 70-67 loss at Michigan.

The non-league schedule features some intriging matchups as well, but many of the marquee names on the schedule are coming off disappointing seasons a year ago.

JanuarySchedule.0Maryland’s game against crosstown rival Georgetown at Verizon Center (Nov. 15) will be the first meeting of the two schools inside the District boundaries in almost 40 years. The Hoyas gave Maryland quite a battle last year before succumbing, 75-71.

The Hoyas wound up just 15-18, with losses to the likes of Radford, Monmouth and UNC-Asheville.

Maryland will face Richmond (16-16) and either Boston College (7-25) or Kansas State (17-16) in the Barclays Classic in Brooklyn Nov. 25-26. None was particularly impressive last season. The same was true for Oklahoma State (12-20) which visits College Park Dec. 3.

Right before that game, Maryland will play host to Pitt (Nov. 29) in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Panthers (21-12) earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament last yeat. But the program is starting over with new coach Kevin Stallings. Jamie Dixon departed in the offseason for TCU.

Actually, the most successful non-league team Maryland will face this season (based on last year’s results) is Stony Brook, which won 26 games a year ago before falling to Kentucky in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The Seawolves come to College Park Nov. 22.

The slate is front-loaded with local teams. American (Nov. 11), Georgetown, St. Mary’s (Nov. 17), Towson (Nov. 20) and Howard (Dec. 7) all square off against the Terrapins during the first month of the season. Maryland will also reach out to its local fans with a game against Charlotte in Baltimore on Dec. 20.

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