Last year, the Maryland Terrapin's went an astounding 18-0 in Big Ten conference play, in addition to winning the Big Ten Tournament and making the Final Four. They did this by playing only one senior, Laurin Mincy (now with the New York Liberty.) Many observers expected them to compete with the Connecticut Huskies this year for the National Championship. Then came the devastating news: The team's starting point guard and all-around best player, Lexie Brown, was transferring to Duke.
How many players can a juggernaut lose before it's no longer a juggernaut?
|Player||Pts/Game||Team Rank||Ast/Game||Team Rank||Stl/Game||Team Rank|
Brown's tenacious defense will especially be missed. Those steals led to a lot of easy transition buckets.
Who's Got Next?
One way for Maryland to make another run at the Final Four is for a bench player to make the leap to the All-Conference level. Here are the candidates:
Brena Mosley, Senior
The senior guard was quietly efficient coming off the bench as a junior last year. While she only averaged 5.6 points per game, they came in a mere 11 minutes. If you look at Points Per 40 minutes, Mosley's 19.7 was good for second on the team. Her assist numbers were equally impressive in limited time. If she wins the starting job, we would expect to see those numbers decline a bit since she'll be up against stronger players, but if you like efficiency, Mosley is your pick.
Kiara Leslie, Sophomore
The sophomore guard comes with the best pedigree: The only Maryland 4-Star recruit in last year's recruiting class, according to Dan Olson of ESPN and Hoop Gurlz. At 5'11", she's tall for a guard. She's an explosive athlete, but raw; her True Shooting percentage was an abysmal 45%, second worst on the team, and dead last among Terrapins who played over four minutes a game. We'll see if she can fix her broken shot.
Kristen Confroy, Sophomore
The 3-Star recruit out of Ohio was one the silent surprises of last year's team. She led the Maryland freshman in minutes and was one of the better passers on a very good passing team. Her shooting was bad, although much better than Kiara Leslie's, finishing up with a True Shooting rate of 51%. Coach Brenda Frese has already shown that she trusts the cerebral Confroy, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see her step in to the starting point guard role.
The Incoming Freshman Class
... is going to keep the rest of the Big Ten up at night. Coach Frese has one of the most highly touted recruiting classes she's had in years. It's a short list, more quality than quantity:
5-Star recruit Brianna Fraser.
5-Star recruit Kiah Gillespie.
That's two of the top 25 players in the country, according to Dan Olson. The 6'3" Brianna Fraser is expected to be, "[an] ultra-athletic face-up 4," a hoover on the glass with dancer's feet. Kiah Gillespie is another power forward prospect, 6'1" and "among the elite scoring forwards in the nation."
The only problem is that Maryland already has a pair of incredibly talented bigs. Will there be enough minutes to go around?
The Likely Starting Five
The twin towers, junior Brionna Jones and senior Malina Howard, will be back patrolling the paint, although one of them - possibly Howard - could get shifted to a Sixth Man role if one of the freshman proves she can start. Glue gal Shatori Walker-Kimbrough will do a little bit of everything and continue to quietly stuff the stat sheet.
Brena Mosley and Kristen Confroy are good bets to round out the starting guards.
On paper, this year's model of the Maryland Terrapins doesn't look much like the elegant passing team of last year. This is a collection of bruisers. With some of the best frontcourt depth in the country, Maryland should boast elite defense and rebounding.
Having said that, the backcourt is a big question mark, and there's no help coming from the freshmen. Maryland should compete for the Big Ten tournament title, and has the talent to make the Sweet Sixteen. However, only the most optimistic Terps fans should expect to mow down the conference like they did last year.