No. 7 Maryland Men's Basketball vs Fairfield Preview

Andy Kwong

The Maryland Terrapins are off to a fast start, outscoring Holy Cross, Rhode Island, and Oakland by a total of 72 points. Head coach Mark Turgeon continues to add to his coaching resume, improving his career-record with the Terps to 183-92. 

Their next opponents will be the Fairfield Stags, who has struggled in their 1-3 start. They currently own the second-worst record in the MAAC (Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference). Despite the record, they did not lose to their opponents by many points. 

Here are the scores of the Stags' previous four games:

1. vs. Bucknell (68-64 L)

2. vs. UMass (62-60 L)

3. @ Holy Cross (68-63 OT W)

4. @ Loyola (MD) (84-75 OT L)

In every game thus far, the Stags either had the lead or were tied going into the half. They are led by junior guard Jesus Cruz, who is averaging 19.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, three assists, and two steals per game. The 6-foot-5 210-pound guard from Puerto Rico has kept the Stags in a position to win. 

Let's take a look at the Stags' strengths and weaknesses:

Strengths

Free Throw Conversions

The Stags have made a respectable 75 percent from the free throw line. Their three guards in junior Taj Benning, senior Landon Taliaferro, and sophomore Calvin Whipple have all converted at least 90 percent of their free throw attempts. Though, the team expects better from their top playmaker in Jesus Chris, who is only converting 68.8 percent in this category. 

All of the games the Terps played this season have been at home. At the Xfinity Center, their opponents have converted only 50 percent of their free throw attempts. That is the fifth-best in all of college basketball. The pressure that the Terps' home crowd will bring will make it hard for the Stags to continue their success with free throws. 

Rebounding

Their unit as a whole is averaging 34.8 rebounds a game, out-rebounding their opponents by a ratio of 130-105. Taj Benning and junior forward Wassef Methnani each have 27 rebounds on the season. The Stags will have a bigger challenge against Maryland as the Terps have five players on the team that are 6-foot-10 or taller. The Stags only have one in Maryland native and freshman forward Chris Maidoh.

Weaknesses

Strength of Schedule

In the four games played, the Stags matched up between two Patriot League teams, one from the MAAC, and one from the Atlantic 10. None of their prior opponents compare to Maryland Terrapins, among the best in one of the toughest conferences (Big 10) in college basketball. Even though the Terps have not faced a Big 10 or ranked opponent yet, they have won all their matchups in convincing fashion.

Accuracy from Behind the Arc

Let's face the facts here. The Stags have converted 27 percent of their three-point attempts compared to the Terps' 26.4 percent. Neither team is good in this category. Unfortunately for Fairfield, they are one of the worst teams when it comes to defending three-point shots. They have allowed a 37.5 conversion percentage to their opponents, giving the Terps a significant advantage.

Overall, the Maryland Terrapins have more depth than the Fairfield Stags. Head coach Mark Turgeon has played a big role in the development of star forward Jalen Smith and continues to make good use of the junior standout guard Darryl Morsell. Expect the Terrapins to be the dominant team in this matchup.

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