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Breaking Down Maryland’s Non-Conference Schedule

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Maryland vs Xavier Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Maryland Terrapins have announced six games of what will most likely end up being an 11 to 13-game 2017-’18 non-conference schedule.

So far, it is official that the Terrapins will play Stony Brook, Butler, St. Bonaventure, Syracuse, Gardner Webb, and either New Mexico or TCU.

None of the six teams previously mentioned finished worse than three games over .500 last season. In fact, the teams combined to go 142-93 during the 2016-’17 season. As you can see, none of these games should be overlooked by Maryland.

While all teams could present Maryland with a challenge, I’ve decided to study each team and rank which three the Terrapins need to watch out for most. Let’s have a look.

3. Syracuse Orange

Deciding between Syracuse and St. Bonaventure, who went 20-12 last season and returns its two best players in Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley next season, was difficult. However, I gave the edge to Syracuse considering Maryland has to travel to the Carrier Dome to face the Orange.

Syracuse provides one of the greatest home-court advantages in today’s game. The Orange made this evident last season by beating sixth-ranked Florida State, ninth-ranked Virginia, and #10 Duke at home. In addition to their three victories over top 10 teams at the Carrier Dome, the Orange went 17-4 overall at home last season.

Besides being a lethal team on their home floor in the 2016-’17 season, Syracuse all-in-all was a pretty tough opponent. The Orange finished last season 19-15 and made it to the second round of the NIT as a one seed. Their season ended with an 85-80 loss to fifth-seeded Ole Miss.

Jim Boeheim’s squad is going to look a lot different next season. Unfortunately for Syracuse, it is losing three of its four leading scorers in Andrew White III, Tyler Lydon, and John Gillon. The three combined for an average of 42.2 points per game last season. This was good for over 55 percent of the Orange’s scoring.

Although it goes without question that Syracuse is saying goodbye to a number of impact players, Boeheim is bringing in an impressive bunch of freshmen next season.

Three out of Syracuse’s four incoming freshmen are given four-star ratings by ESPN. This group is headlined by Oshae Brissett, a 6-foot-6-inch small forward from Ontario, Canada. There was a long list of schools that offered Brissett a scholarship, including Maryland and UCLA. The Terrapins also dished out an offer to one of the Orange’s other incoming four-star recruits, Bourama Sidibe.

Syracuse will be a young, but talented team next season. Though they will be unpolished and maybe a bit immature at the beginning of the season, playing at the Carrier Dome is never an easy task. Expect an entertaining game at the end of November.

2. Butler Bulldogs

The Butler Bulldogs were practically untouchable during their non-conference slate last season. Butler went 11-1 during that span and picked up some significant resume-building wins. The Bulldogs knocked off eighth-ranked Arizona, ninth-ranked Indiana, #22 Cincinnati, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, and Utah before conference play.

Butler wasn’t only dominant during their non-conference games either. The Bulldogs finished the season 25-9 and made it to the Sweet 16 as a four seed. Butler’s final RPI of 14 was the school’s highest since joining the Big East before the 2013-’14 season.

LaVall Jordan’s bunch return a good amount talent from last year’s team as the Bulldogs will attempt to make the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive season. Butler’s leading scorer Kelan Martin, who averaged 16 points per game last season, will be coming back for his senior year. Butler’s third highest scorer from last season, Kamar Baldwin is returning as well.

Though the Bulldogs lose Andrew Chrabascz and his 11.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, Butler welcomes five incoming freshmen. Three of which are four-star recruits and two are three-stars. The class is headlined by forward Christian David, who received offers from Creighton, Miami, Oregon, and Pitt.

Butler is without a doubt an improved squad and will most likely find itself in the AP Top 25 for the majority of the 2017-’18 season. Beating the Bulldogs would be a marquee win for Maryland.

1. TCU Horned Frogs

Depending on the outcome of Maryland’s first round matchup with St. Bonaventure in the first round of the Destin Realty Emerald Coast Classic, the Terrapins will either play TCU or New Mexico to follow.

If Maryland does in fact square up with the Horned Frogs, a highly competitive contest can be anticipated.

TCU concluded the 2016-’17 season by winning five straight games to win the NIT as a four seed. The Horned Frogs dominated the NIT title game against six seed Georgia Tech 88-56.

Overall TCU finished the season 24-15 after going 8-0 to begin the season. Besides capturing an NIT title, the Horned Frogs season was highlighted by an 85-82 victory over #1 Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament.

Though TCU struggled a little bit in Big 12 play last season, they should be a much better and even more competitive team next season. The Horned Frogs essentially have their six best players returning and are adding two four star recruits in Kevin Samuel and R.J. Nembhard.

If any, next season appears to be the season that TCU has its best opportunity to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998. If it indeed happens, the neutral site matchup between Maryland and the Horned Frogs in Niceville, Florida will most likely go down to the wire.

Overall

Basically all of the non-conference games Maryland has announced so far provide the Terrapins with the opportunity to gain a resume-boosting victory. In a day and age where the Big Ten is extremely competitive, wins over any of these teams could be what separates Maryland from the pack come selection Sunday in March.