CBE Hall Of Fame Classic Preview: Weighing The Terps Chances


The Maryland Terrapins basketball season is officially underway for 2014-2015, and with the first three creampuff games behind us, the team is about to move out of the desert aisle into some Thanksgiving entrees. After blowing out Wagner, Central Connecticut State, and Fordham by a combined margin of 86 points, Maryland’s finally going to face its first stiff test in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic.

The potential opponents as Maryland heads to Kansas City, Missouri? The Arizona State Sun Devils, Alabama Crimson Tide, and Iowa State Cyclones. Each team in the tournament enters with an undefeated record, and only one team will come away with that same distinction. But before we start breaking down opponents, let’s take a look at the schedule of events:

24-NovArizona State vs. Maryland6:00 PMSprint Center – KC, MO ESPNU
24-NovAlabama vs. Iowa State8:30 PM**Sprint Center – KC, MO ESPN2
25-NovConsolation Game6:00 PMSprint Center – KC, MO ESPN3
25-NovChampionship Game8:30 PM**Sprint Center – KC, MO ESPNU

The first order of business for the Terrapins will be taking down Arizona State at 6:00 PM on ESPNU, after which they’ll either be in the championship game or the consolation game (both of which are played on the following day).

It only makes sense that we view Arizona State first, as they’re the first opponent.

Arizona State Sun Devils

Head Coach: Herb Sendek (9th season, 144-121 overall, 2 NCAAT appearances)

2013-14 Record: 21-12, lost in NCAA Midwest Second Round (87-85) versus #7 Texas

Wins This Year:

Nov 14
  • vs Chicago State
Nov 17
  • vs Bethune Cookman
Nov 20
  • vs Loyola Marymount

For those of you older ACC fans, you might be familiar with Mr. Herb Sendek; Sendek was previously the North Carolina State Wolfpack’s head coach from 1996 to 2006. Sendek took the Wolfpack to five-straight NCAA tournament appearances before deciding to leave for, of all places, Arizona State, in one of the more peculiar moves by a coach. Sendek was a monster in the ACC, and during his time there no team won more than his except Coach K and the Duke Blue Devils. He is a fantastic coach, and gave Maryland fits during his run there (which included Sweet 16’s).

Living in Jim Valvano’s shadow wore on him, so he’s slowly but surely turned Arizona State into a solid team. The Sun Devils have won 21 or more games five times during his nine seasons there, and he’s got his most interesting team this year. After losing three of their top scorers, Sendek brought in (literally) seven new players, four of which are junior college transfers. The Sun Devils need all the help they can get to give the school back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances for the first time since 1981.

The team itself is mature. Plenty of these transfer players have been through a lot and are looking for second chances after messing up their first ones (by their own admission). The Sun Devils have eight upper classmen in name alone, some of which are a fair amount older than that. Freshman Trae Holder was a four-star point guard coming out of high school, and he’s already been playing significant minutes (averaging 2.3 assists in 18 MPG). Willie Atwood was the #8 ranked transfer out of junior college last season, and he’s averaging 20 minutes per game for the Sun Devils already.

Key players:

  1. SR Shaquielle McKissic, G, 6’5″
  2. JR Eric Jacobsen, F, 6’10”

Arizona State features a lot of unknown entities, but two who have already made a solid impression are McKissic and Jacobsen. McKissic has an awesome story of revitalization that saw him go from a junior college stud to a felon to a homeless student-athlete sleeping in his car before being granted an extra extra year of eligibility from the NCAA. Last year he was crucial in Arizona State’s first tournament appearance in over a decade.

This year, he’s their leading scorer averaging 10 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists. McKissic is a strong athlete and one who will pose a challenge for Dez Wells on the defensive side of the ball, and he’s a decent enough three-point shooter to keep defenses honest. He’s had one 20-point outing thus far in his first game, and as a low-turnover, high-efficiency guy, you can bet he won’t wow you a bunch. But leave him open and he’ll score on you in short order.

Meanwhile, Jacobsen is their big shot blocker in the paint this year; he’s averaging 3 blocks per game already (T-19th nationally). Jacobsen’s problem last year was his foul rate, and this year he’s averaging more but in fewer minutes. While his 9.3 points and 9 rebounds per contest help the team out, he’s prone to overextending himself and picking up tick-tack fouls. Still, when he’s one the court Jacobsen does a fantastic job at getting to the free throw line, and with Maryland big men that love to foul, he could be a major X-factor in the game.

Strengths, Weaknesses:

For starters, Arizona state is athletic and intelligent. Everyone on their team seems to be able to guard multiple positions on the floor, and that jack-of-all-trades mentality permeates through the roster. It’s the most athletic group we’ve seen in Tempe in awhile, and it shows as they’re second nationally so far in holding opponents to 44.3 PPG.

While no one on the team is a premier scorer, they pass the ball well and don’t force bad shots. The team is 15th nationally in assists per field goal made, and while they do turn the ball over a lot (15 per game), that’s more a result of all the new guys gelling than it is a lack of basketball intelligence.

The downside to this team is that no one has emerged yet as an elite scorer. The Sun Devils have a lot of good players, but no one who has proven they can beat you single-handed. If McKissic gets hot, sure, they’re solid, but his hot is not the same as someone like Dez Wells or Jake Layman catching fire. Without that, going up against teams with as much raw talent as the Terps have will be tough work.

Prediction: Maryland wins by 8.

While interior defense does concern me a bit with a team that likes to bang around the bottom of the paint, Maryland has more than enough offensive firepower to take down the Sun Devils. If the Terps can get hot from outside and open things up a bit, expect the guards to slash to the rim and get a guy like Jacobsen in foul trouble early. Without him on the court, the Sun Devils will face an uphill battle from that point on.