Seventh, seventh, and eighth. Those are the places Maryland has finished in the ACC since head coach Mark Turgeon took the reigns in 2011. Maryland hasn't made the NCAA Tournament in any of those seasons, reaching the NIT semifinals in 2012-13. They have a conference record of 23-29 in this time period.
I don't know about you, but I wouldn't be satisfied with that as a Terps fan, let alone a player.
With that being said, how important is the upcoming 2014-2015 season for Maryland basketball? Obviously the move to a new conference (that's the B1G, guys) is huge for Maryland both monetarily and in the level of talent of the other teams, but what are the expectations for the Terps? What do fans and alumni need to see in order to declare next season a success for Maryland?
Let's dig into the details.
To look ahead, one must first look behind. This is a philosophical quote that I just made up right now! It also applies to the upcoming Maryland basketball season. As your intrepid reporter for "Checking In With Maryland & Rutgers" this year, I feel like I was able to gauge the temperature of the Terps, so allow me to tell you this: things weren't always peachy keen in College Park this year.
Things came to a head this offseason with the transferring of three players, Shaquille Cleare, Roddy Peters, and Nick Faust. While unfortunate, these losses are not insurmountable. With the arrival of a heralded freshman class the Terps would be able to overcome three bit players transferring. The bomb that dropped, and shined a bright light on the culture surrounding the Maryland basketball program, was when Seth Allen decided to transfer. Allen was the best player on Maryland's team, and would have been looked to for leadership next season. The last kick to the groin was Allen choosing to transfer to former conference mate, Virginia Tech.
Turgeon noted that Allen transferring was a "big surprise." It would appear that the head coach doesn't have the pulse of his own team. I don't think that is a good thing. In Turgeon's defense, he has taken all the blame for the spate of departures from his team and has tried to frame this as a chance for a rebirth for the program. This is what he told the Baltimore Sun: "You don't lose four guys and say, ‘Oh, it can't be me,' " Turgeon said. "This is new territory for me. This has never happened" during his career as a head coach." Luckily, the rumored transfer of The Rebounding Machine Charles Mitchell appears to be just that, a rumor. So that's a step in the right direction.
So, where does this leave the Terps heading into the 2014-2015 season? To deliver a hot take, I'm not sure. With all these departures you may be inclined to think that there is something wrong with Turgeon and the program, but I'm not so sure that's the case. If these guys didn't want to be in College Park, it's best for them and the team for them to be elsewhere. You can't underestimate the power of chemistry in a team making a run in the tourney. Just look at last year's Wisconsin team, those guys genuinely seemed to enjoy hanging out with each other and the end result was a trip to the Final Four. Shoehorned reference to my alma mater aside, this is a valid point.
The loss of four players that played minutes are also gone, opening up plenty of playing time for the new recruiting class filled with impressive talents like Melo Trimble and Jared Nickens. Letting the young bucks play significant minutes right away could be a major factor in the Terps making it back to the Tournament.
Maryland is in a tough spot. They are entering a new conference, full of teams that they rarely play against (which works both ways in terms of difficulty), and need to have a bounce back year in order to keep fan interest high. Obviously Maryland isn't going to start playing games in front of 200 people, but multiple seasons of middling records and bottom of the conference finishes will start to deliver some fan apathy. This next season is extremely important for Maryland. They need to make the Tournament to consider it a success, and if they don't I think we may be posting about Maryland's coaching search next offseason.
Let us know your thoughts on this next season with this highly scientific poll and in the comments.