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Freshmen, front-court keys to watch in Maryland's opener with Wagner

The Maryland Terrapins open up their season on Friday night with Wagner coming to the Xfinity Center. The much-hyped freshmen class, an uncertain front court, and coach Mark Turgeon's coaching style will be three things to watch for in what should be an easy win.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

So much is new for the Maryland Terrapins this season.

New faces - six, to be exact.

A new conference - the Big 10, after spending the better part of the century in the ACC as a founding member.

Most importantly: a new season.

Alleluia college basketball is back!

The Terps, in coach Mark Turgeon's fourth year and first in the B1G, tip off their season in College Park on Friday night as Wagner comes to town.  Yes, it's Wagner, and the College Park denizens have already sold out the student section tickets for the football team's tilt with Michigan State on Saturday.

But there is still much to look forward to and keep an eye on, particularly in a year in which five new faces will take the floor - per NCAA rules, Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter will sit out the year - and likely eat up a large portion of the minutes in what should be a cozy season-opening win.

Three things to watch:

1. Freshmen

Much has been made of the hyped up class of 2014 Turgeon hauled in for this season. Point guard Melo Trimble, the No. 1 recruit out of the state of Virginia and a preseason Cousy Award nominee, will likely get the start, as will 7-foot-1 Slovakian freshman Michal Cekovsky.

Coming off the bench will be shooting Dion Wiley, himself a heralded recruit 45 minutes down the road from College Park, and small forward Jared Nickens.  In the final exhibition, an 89-47 blowout of Bowie State, all received more than 20 minutes, with Nickens getting the most time with 25.  The quartet combined for 37 points, shooting 9-for-20 from the field but turned it over 10 times compared to just nine assists.

These four are a big reason Maryland has been projected as an eight seed in the NCAA tournament - snapping a four-year absence from the Big Dance - by Sports Illustrated, and all should be receiving plenty of time on Friday night.

2. The front court

Wagner's is not good, having graduated its all-time leader in blocks, Naofall Folahan, and the 6-foot-8 Orlando Parker.  Maryland's is full of question marks and uncertainty.  Aside from a pair of exhibition games against vastly inferior opponents and a few YouTube videos, nobody can be sure what to make of Cekovsky quite yet.

Jon Graham, a Baltimore native and transfer from Penn State, established himself as a fairly raw workhorse last season, but his offensive game was still roughshod at best. With Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell transferring over the off-season, more may be required of Graham offensively.  This game won't - or shouldn't, rather - be a reliable barometer by any means, but it ought to provide at least a glimpse of what to expect from Graham this year.

Sophomore Damonte Dodd is in essentially the same boat - a 6-foot-11 tangle of athleticism but little technical skill, relative to the big men he will see in the Big 10.  Coming off the bench against Bowie State, he played 16 minutes and still found a way to foul out.

With the arrivals of Trimble, Wiley and Nickens and the return of Jake Layman and Dez Wells, the back court and wings are expected to be Maryland's strength.  The opposite goes for the front court, which is a glaring source of concern.  Friday night provides an opportunity to either assuage or confirm that doubt.

3. Turgeon's subbing

The coach is known to have a quick trigger when it comes to pulling his players. One mental mistake could land them on the bench for several minutes, a habit that Nick Faust and Seth Allen - both of whom have transferred, to Oregon State and Virginia Tech, respectively - voiced their displeasure.

With a lineup replete with youth, it will be intriguing to see whether Turgeon allows the newcomers to play through their mistakes or if he will be quick to yank them in favor of the more experienced players.  Thus far, with the small sample size of the two exhibitions, he has been fairly spread with the playing time.  Nobody played more than 25 minutes against Bowie State, and nine players received at least 16 minutes.

This could be attributed to the overall ease with which the Terps handled Bowie State, but Turgeon has long harped on going deep into the bench this season.