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'New' is the perfect word to describe this year's Maryland basketball team. The Terrapins will sport four new starters, a new style of offense, and a brand new venue at the Comcast Center. Maryland fans will find few similarities to last season's dominating squad, which finished off a storybook season with its first national championship in the program's history.

Maryland was hit hard during the off-season, as their top four scorers left for the NBA. However, the picture is not as bleak as it seems. Four experienced seniors will take the court this season, led by senior point guard Steve Blake.

"We have seniors that were a big part of our team last year that played quite a bit of big games last year," Maryland head coach Gary Williams said.

The spotlight is shifting to Blake, as he will be expected to shoulder much of the scoring and leadership burden, a role once held by the departed Juan Dixon. Maryland will seemingly be in good hands, since Blake has started 105 of his 107 games as a Terrapin and is threatening to become one of the top NCAA assist leaders of all-time. But with the revamped Terrapin roster, Blake will be called on to expand his role.

"I'm going to look to score a little more than last year," Blake said. "But, I'm still going to be the same player as I was last year. I'm going to pass the ball and look for assists."

Senior guard Drew Nicholas, who averaged 20 minutes of playing time off the bench last season, will get regular starts for the first time in his Maryland career. The experience of Nicholas and Blake makes for another solid Maryland backcourt.

"I have worked a lot on my ability to score," Nicholas said. "I am going to do whatever coach wants me to do, but I spent a lot of time during the summer working on my scoring ability. I believe I can be a slashing type of player."

Filling the holes in the frontcourt could be a problem for the Terrapins.Senior forward Ryan Randle, who only played an average of 10 minutes a game last season, will have to fill the rebounding void left by Lonny Baxter and Chris Wilcox.

"Our seniors have to step up," Williams said. "They're ready and looking forward to the challenge."

Maryland hopes their highly touted recruiting class can make an immediate impact on the court.

"It's different with the new guys," Williams said. "They are very talented, if they can come along by the time we start playing, we'll be okay."

Even though Maryland lost key players, they have fielded another talented squad with aspirations to play deep into March, and ideally to repeat as champions.

"Everyone in the ACC lost a key component." Blake said. "Whoever's new pieces fit in the best will determine who is going to come out on top."

Are the Terrapins deep enough and talented enough this year, to find themselves cutting down the nets in New Orleans? Maryland fans sure hope so.


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