B1G Basketball Preview: Maryland
Head coach Mark Turgeon avoided a season that was predicted to be mediocre due to the five transfers that departed over the offseason. Turgeon led the Terrapins to a second place finish in their first year in the Big Ten. Maryland (28-7, 14-4 Big Ten) saw their shocking season come to an end with a disappointing loss to West Virginia in the Round of 32 of the NCAA tournament. Maryland’s preseason ranking of No. 3 puts a lot of pressure on Turgeon as they are heavy favorites to win the Big Ten and make a Final Four appearance for the first time since 2002.
Key Returning Players
The Terrapins bring back three of five starters and 67 percent of their scoring from last year’s team. After passing on the NBA draft, potential Naismith candidate and leading scorer Melo Trimble (16.2 points per game) is vital to Maryland earning its No. 3 ranking.
Also, 6-foot-9 senior small forward Jake Layman will return for his senior season. Layman averaged 12.5 points per game along with 5.8 rebounds per game last year.
Duke transfer Rasheed Sulaimon will enter the starting lineup at shooting guard, filling the major void of Maryland star Dez Wells in the backcourt. Sulaimon was suspended from Duke and was granted eligibility to transfer after the season came to an end. Sulaimon has shot 40 percent from three over his college career and looks to be a consistent perimeter threat.
Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter Jr. redshirted last year due to NCAA transfer rules. Carter will look to post similar numbers in his lone year at Georgia Tech where he averaged 11.4 points per game and 8.4 rebounds per game.
Sophomore Guard Dion Wiley’s season-ending MCL injury could affect the Terrapins when they need a spark off the bench.
Returning big men Damonte Dodd and Michael Cekovsky will add depth down low and returning sophomore guards Jared Nickens and Jaylen Brantley will provide perimeter experience when Trimble and Sulaimon need rest.
Mark Turgeon loses one of the most influential players in Maryland basketball history with the graduation of three-year starter Dez Wells. Wells averaged 14.3 points per game over his career and always had the ball in his hands during crunch time. Wells’ leadership and experience will not be replaced, but his success from downtown and overall point production could be replicated by transfer spot-up shooter Sulaimon.
Graduate senior guard Richaud Pack played in all 35 contests and averaged 25.7 minutes per game. Pack gave the Terrapins valuable minutes on the defensive end of the floor.
Big man Jon Graham shot 53 percent from the field in limited minutes.
Forward Evan Smotrycz averaged 19.7 minutes per game and spread the floor for Melo Trimble and Dez Wells to make plays and get in the paint.
Maryland finished ninth in scoring offense in the Big Ten, a number that will improve with the addition of five-star big man Diamond Stone. The offense was very reliant on the play of Trimble and Wells in which combined for 45 percent of the scoring output. The post presence of Stone and Carter Jr. should give the Terrapins a more balanced inside-out attack.
The Terps finished 87th in scoring defense; a number that needs to improve if they would like to live up to expectations. The past 10 national champions were both ranked in the top 20 in adjusted defensive and offensive efficiency. The added length and athleticism among the frontline will play a role in contesting shots and forcing opponents to take contested shots from range.
Maryland scheduled three potentially tough games throughout non-conference play. The Terps open the season with five consecutive home games with the only challenge being Georgetown in the second game of the season.
Melo Trimble and company then go on to face what will be their toughest matchup of the season when traveling to Chapel Hill for the B1G/ACC challenge to take on the No. 1 Tar Heels of North Carolina. Maryland will be vying for a chance at a 1 seed, and a victory against UNC would pad their resume.
The next chance of unseating a ranked opponent would be at Madison Square Garden against No. 20 UCONN during the Jimmy V Classic.
Maryland finishes up non-conference play with two out of three games at the Xfinity Center against Maryland-Eastern Shore, Princeton, and Marshall.
To remain atop the rankings and stay in contention for a No. 1 seed the Terps should come out of non-conference play with no more than one loss.
Maryland will not be able to walk through conference play and earn their first Big Ten Championship with the quality depth the conference has to offer. Eight games will feature teams ranked in the Top 25 of the preseason AP poll.
The stretch of games from Jan. 9 to Jan. 23 will determine whether Maryland is a contender. Back to back away games at No. 17 Wisconsin and No. 25 Michigan will be tests to see whether they have the poise that can carry into March. Following those two games are Ohio State, Northwestern, and at No. 13 Michigan State.
The schedule does not get any easier when their final six games of the season consists of four teams ranked in the Top 25. With Maryland being preseason favorites to win the Big Ten, they cannot lose more than three to four games with Michigan State, Indiana, and Wisconsin in contention.
Coach’s Hot Seat
Mark Turgeon does not have much to worry about in comparison to a few years ago. He has gone through a multitude of highs and lows in his first four seasons in College Park, but turned the program around with Maryland’s unexpected dominance in the Big Ten last year.
With 51 percent of scoring, 64 percent of assists, and 41 percent of rebounds leaving the previous year due to five transfer players, Turgeon still found success and worked his way out of the hot seat conversation.
Turgeon landing five-star recruit Diamond Stone to add to an experienced squad shows his ability on the recruiting circuit. Turgeon now has a team full of his players and recruits and it has resulted in a No. 3 preseason ranking. If he does not come close to a Final Four berth in Houston, there may be some cause for concern with hot seat talk being discussed again.
Maryland’s team will still be perimeter oriented and focus around leading scorer Melo Trimble. But, this year’s Terps will not be one-dimensional on offense with the low-post presence of Diamond Stone and Robert Carter Jr.
Maryland’s height and physicality will be key to their success. Their starters in order go 6’2”, 6’4”, 6’9”, 6’9”, 6’10”. This will result in a much stronger Terrapins defense looking for a better finish than their ranking of 87th a year ago.
The well balanced attack that Maryland will throw at teams is going to be too much to handle with arguably the best point guard in the nation at their disposal. Melo Trimble will win Big Ten Player of the Year and lead the Terrapins to a record of 27-5, finishing 15-4 in the Big Ten. Expect them to land in Houston to compete for a national championship.
Dave Correll is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com