Both Maryland and Penn State won its respective preseason tuneups this week, albeit against vastly different levels of competition.
1. Jalen Smith is good.
The highly-touted freshmen forward managed to move his already high hype needle up another tick thanks to an impressive first game donning the Maryland red and white.
Playing just a shade under 18 minutes, Smith was an incredibly efficient leading scorer for the Terps, going 8-for-10 from the field on his way to a 22 point outing. Even more drool inducing for Maryland fans was the 6-foot-10 forwards stroke from behind the arc, as he went 3-for-4 from three, reinforcing his one-and-done lottery pick potential in the process.
Smith’s time in College Park may be short, but he’s definitely got all the tools to be a key contributed for coach Turgeon this year.
2. Lynn University? Not so much.
With all do respect to Lynn University — an institution I’ve oddly enough spent a decent chunk of time at and that has an absolutely beautiful campus down in Boca Raton, Fla. — games like this should never be played.
The Fighting Knights were out leagued, both literally and figuratively, by the Terps and I pity anyone who sat through the entire drubbing.
Look, I get that it’s only a preseason scrimmage, but the contrast between Maryland-Lynn and Penn State-West Virginia as exhibition tuneups is stark. Can we make it a rule that major Division I programs play charity scrimmages against other Division I programs, instead of being served up Division II and III sacrificial lambs? Wouldn’t that be like a win-win-win-win-win?
3) Maryland is underrated heading into the 2018-’19 season.
And yet, with that said, I was super impressed with Maryland’s play on Tuesday night. No, there isn’t much you can read into regarding the Terps margin of victory or any one specific statistical category, but the cohesion and balance of its starting five was impressive.
More often than not last year, Maryland struggled to get all of its cylinders running at the same time. Sure, it was an uber-talented basketball team, but one that never really hit full stride which ultimately played a big reason in why the Terps struggled for much of the year.
But coach Turgeon’s starting group looked very comfortable with each other, and that’s saying something considering the addition of two true freshmen. If that’s the case once we hit the regular season next week, Maryland’s return to relevancy will be here sooner rather than later.
4. Lamar Stevens is First Team All-Big Ten good.
For the record, I deemed this takeaway worthy BEFORE Jon Rothstein declared the following on Twitter:
If there are five better players in the Big Ten than Lamar Stevens then the league is in for one heck of a year. Was best player on the floor today from start to finish. 20 and 11. Stud.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) November 3, 2018
In 38 minutes of game action (which, I mean, is a lot for an exhibition, don’t wear this man down already Pat!) Lamar put up the aforementioned double-double while debuting a new wrinkle to his game — a three point shot.
Sure, it’s a small sample size, but the 6-foot-8 junior went 3-for-4 from beyond the arc, and in the process, put Penn State’s opponents on notice that the he’ll be a headache all over the court in 2018-’19.
5. The Lions are going to live and die by the three.
I have to admit — I didn’t see this one coming.
When Penn State lost Tony Carr and Shep Garner from last year’s high-octane offense, I figured Penn State would be grinding games out this year as, say, a poor man’s Virginia Cavaliers.
But after one glorious exhibition game, I seem to have been proven incorrect.
Going up against one of the most notoriously stringent defenses in college basketball, all the Lions managed to do was go 13-for-25 from three.
As I’ve said a million times, don’t read too much into the results of an exhibition game, but, I mean, hot damn.
The biggest contributor to Penn State’s arial assault was freshmen Myles Dread, who went 5-for-10 from three. He was a fairly prolific shooter in high school, so his outburst in his first game as a Nittany Lion isn’t all that unexpected.
If he can keep up a similar performance once the games actually count, he’ll go along way in easing the fears of many in Happy Valley.
6. Penn State is far too undersized to compete in the Big Ten.
It wasn’t all good news, however.
Missing junior forward Mike Watkins (who was declared out indefinitely late Friday evening), Penn State was incredibly thin in its frontcourt. And, accordingly, they we’re manhandled down low on more than a few occasions.
Sophomore John Harrar was more or less able to hold his own against West Virginia’s Thanos-esque big man Sagaba Konate, but when the former football recruit turned hoopster was on the bench, the Lions really struggled.
Trent Buttrick, a 6-foot-8 rarely used sophomore, looked like a player still trying to find his way. Word out of practice has been that Buttrick is progressing nicely and, to be fair, he did show flashes of promise. But with each positive, came two or three miscues in the form of an ill-advised shot or bobbled pass.
Mike Watkins’ struggles have been widely reported, and I can’t image there’s anyone out there not rooting for the kid to get back on the court at some point during this season. But from purely a basketball perspective, the Lions will need his size come Big Ten season, otherwise they’ll be eaten alive on the glass and inside come January.