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Scouting New Hampshire

The biggest adjustment New Hampshire Coach Bill Herrion believes his players will have to make Friday night when the Wildcats take on No. 25 Maryland at Comcast Center is the playing venue. New Hampshire, an America East squad that finished 14-16 last season, returns three key contributors and employs a motion offense to go along with its man-to-man defense. The Wildcats are off to a 1-0 start after beating Division III Suffolk, 91-45, at home on Saturday, but Herrion is well aware of the stark contrast in opposition (and in environment) his team will face tomorrow night.

"We fully understand coming down on Friday what we're going to be up against," said Herrion, in his fifth season at New Hampshire. "It's going to be a challenging, new thing for our kids. We play in a 2,000-seat gym and we had 720 people at our first home game the other night, so coming down there and playing in front of 17,000 on Friday night is going to be a really big challenge for our kids, just to see how they handle playing in that kind of atmosphere."

Among New Hampshire's more experienced players are junior guards Alvin Abreu and Tyrone Conley. Abreu (6 feet 2, 188 pounds) averaged 12.8 points per game last season and tallied a team-high 32 steals. Conley (6-2, 200 pounds) averaged 8.9 points per game last season and is more known for his defensive proficiency.

"When they came in as freshmen two years ago, we had kind of torn the program down and really started from scratch," Herrion said. "Tyrone Conley, Alvin Abreu and our big kid, Dane DiLiegro, they came in as freshmen and started from day one. Alvin and Tyrone are our best perimeter players, our leading returning scorers on the perimeter. What we need from them is they've got to become more consistent offensively, more go-to guys and give us more production on the offensive end of the floor."

DiLiegro (6-9, 240 pounds), a junior center, also provides the Wildcats with a veteran presence. He averaged 5.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game last season and talied 14 points and 15 rebounds against Suffolk last Saturday.

"The last couple of years we've been primarily a three-point shooting team, really out of necessity because we did not have a real strong post game," Herrion said. "DiLiegro has really improved. He's a hard-playing kid, very physical. He really rebounds the basketball. I think if he's had a drawback with his game, it's been his offensive development. I think he's finally starting to catch up offensively. If you're going to be any good and you're going to have a successful team, you got to have an inside-out game. We have not had much of an inside game."

Joining Abreu and Conley in the back court of New Hampshire's three-guard lineup is freshman Chandler Rhoads (6-4, 190 pounds), who is from Berryville, Va., and was named the Virginia A basketball player of the year in 2007-08. Rhoads spent last season at Air Force Prep in Colorado.

"He's a freshman as far as what year he is, but for us he doesn't play like a freshman," Herrion said. "He was at the Air Force Prep Academy last year out in Colorado Springs and was going to go to the Air Force Academy and then decided he did not want to do that, so we were very fortunate to get him. He's a true point guard with great size. He plays older; he doesn't play like a freshman physically."

Rounding out New Hampshire's starting five is sophomore forward Brian Benson (6-9, 215 pounds), who is expected to take on a much larger role this season after averaging 12.7 minutes per game last year. Benson averaged 2.3 points and 2.8 rebounds per game in 2008-09.

The Wildcats' top options off the bench are sophomore guard Russell Graham (6 feet, 185 pounds), senior forward Radar Onguetou (6-5, 230), freshman center Chris Matagrano (6-9, 250) and senior guard Colbey Santos (6-5, 200). Onguetou averaged 5.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last season.

New Hampshire has several capable guards, though there are significant size, depth and talent questions in the Wildcats' frontcourt. Herrion appeared to understand the reality of Friday night's game against the Terrapins.

"Well, you know, I think the number one thing for our kids is that it's only one game," Herrion said. "We're not going to be preparing our team, you know, this is not a do-or-die game for us. It's a great opportunity for the kids because it's a great arena, it's the ACC. I think what we've got to do is play with great toughness and poise and confidence, and I think if you get caught up with their press -- I think, for us, it's two things: shot selection is crucial on offense, and [limiting] turnovers."

By Steve Yanda  |  November 19, 2009; 9:02 AM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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