Northwood has developed into a perennial powerhouse in the NAIA over the past few seasons while under the watchful eye of coach Rollie Massimino. Massimino, who coached Villanova to their historic national championship in 1985, enters his sixth year at Northwood (West Palm Beach, Fla.) with a record of 137-33. The Seahawks, ranked No. 1 in the NAIA Division II Preseason Coaches' Poll, went 33-4 last season, making their first ever trip to the NAIA National Tournament Final Four.
Massimino, the reigning NAIA National Coach of the Year, returns six letterwinners from last season including the reigning Sun Conference Player of the Year and First Team All-American, senior Jonathan Dunn (24.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.3 spg). Northwood also returns junior forward Patrick Horstmann (11.9 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 1.6 apg) from a team that went a perfect 16-0 in the Sun Conference last year.
For Maryland, Friday night will mark the coaching debut of first-year head coach Mark Turgeon. Turgeon, who comes to College Park from Texas A&M, earned back-to-back Coach of the Year honors in the Big 12 Conference and took his team to the NCAA Tournament four years in a row.
However, Turgeon has not had the easiest start to his time at Maryland. Shortly after losing sophomore phenom Jordan Williams to the NBA draft, forward Haukur Palsson announced his plans to leave Maryland to pursue a career in Europe. To make up for the deficit of players, the staff decided to bring six walk-ons onto the roster for the 2011-2012 season.
Turgeon and his staff bounced back nicely however, especially on the recruiting trail. Many class ranking for 2012 have the Terps in the Top 10 after getting summer verbal commitments from the likes of Seth Allen, Shaquille Cleare and Jake Layman.
Just when it seemed that the Terps were establishing some much-needed consistency leading up to the start of the season, they suffered a huge setback just last week when they learned that sophomore point guard Pe'Shon Howard would be out 10-12 weeks with a broken foot. Perhaps the greatest ripple effect Howard's injury may have on the team is at the guard position, where fellow sophomore Terrell Stoglin will have to take over the reigns in partner with freshman Nick Faust, who Turgeon claims is working towards a level of comfort at the position.
Another great move by Turgeon and Co. over the summer was the signing of Ukranian big man Alex Len. The 7-foot-1 Len brought some much-needed size to a rather small frontcourt. Yet, the acquisition didn't come without drama, as an eligibility question concerning Len's club career in Europe prompted a grueling NCAA clearinghouse investigation that was finally resolved Wednesday, when Len was given a ten game penalty but was cleared to return to practice.
Despite all of the hiccups before the season has even started, Turgeon has remained focused and realistic with the media. What we've worked on is defense this week, said Turgeon in a press conference on Thursday. Our offense will look probably pretty ugly tomorrow night. If we don't guard tomorrow night and we don't run back on defense tomorrow night then I'm going to be pretty concerned because we've put a lot into that.
Turgeon also made it clear that he and his coaching staff have recognized just how big of a threat Northwood could pose come Friday. This team can really score and they've got a bunch of shooters, said Turgeon. They're really gonna test us. Their number one ranked in the NAIA.
And Turgeon certainly hasn't forgotten who he'll be coaching against in his debut at Maryland. In fact, Turgeon and Massamino spoke shortly after the first-year coach took the job in May as headman in College Park. I tried to get out of the game when I took the job and I was like, 'Rollie, I can't lose my first game at Comcast,' remarked Turgeon. And he said, 'Oh, Mark,' whining on the phone. 'We're no good.' And then I hear they're ranked number one so, classic Rollie.
As for whom we can expect on the floor Friday night, Turgeon still isn't sure. While he did announce that Len would make his debut in the exhibition game, he's made it clear that the only surefire starter on the team is senior guard Sean Mosley. Yet, with the Howard injury, Turgeon had a little more insight to offer on Thursday concerning the starting lineup. It'll change 15 times between now and Friday, said Turgeon. But I know Mosley will start. Nick Faust will probably start and Terrell Stoglin will probably start. But after that, I don't know. We'll see. I might start all the walk-ons. They played better in the scrimmage the other day than our other guys did.
Hopefully, the Terps will find more consistency starting tonight.