The ‘2015-16 BTPowerhouse Season Preview' series will take an in-depth look at all 14 teams in the Big Ten heading into the 2015-16 season with analysis on each program's previous season, offseason departures, new additions, strengths, weakness, top player, and top storylines. Each post will also include predictions on each team's starting lineup, season performance and commentary from a local "insider" who covers each team.
The Maryland Terrapins have completely changed expectations for the program in just a little over a year. After stumbling through Mark Turgeon's first three seasons, the Terps finally got it together and put together an impressive 28-7 overall record and runner-up finish in the Big Ten. Now, with the vast majority of last year's team returning and the addition of several newcomers, the table could be set for a remarkable run.
All told, even getting this kind of preseason attention is a big statement about Maryland's process. The Terps were incredible in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but struggled following that run. Heading into last season, the program had just three NCAA Tournament appearances in 10 seasons and no trips past the second round. In fact, head coach Mark Turgeon had just a 59-43 (.578) record and no NCAA Tournament appearances with Maryland.
Now, the Terps are coming off a 2014-15 season with the most single-season wins since Maryland won the national championship in 2002. The Terps are also being labeled as a potential title contender. That's quite a transition.
For Maryland, everything begins with star guard Melo Trimble. He had an impressive freshman campaign last year and could be in position to contend for Big Ten Player of the Year this season. Along with him, the Terps returns most of the team's biggest contributors. Additionally, Maryland also adds one of the Big Ten's best incoming recruiting classes and two impact transfers. The roster is simply loaded.
Of course, this year's team will have its challenges as well. For one thing, replacing a departure like Dez Wells is not something the Terps can simply assume will happen. He made a lot of huge plays for Maryland last year and was one of the team's best players. Along with this, the Terps have real expectations for the first time under Turgeon. Maryland will have to get used to being the hunted. Every team is going to be gunning to upset the Terps and having the consistency to overcome that challenge will be difficult.
Nonetheless, this is still a Maryland team that pretty easily has the best roster in the Big Ten. The Terps could reasonably have the Big Ten Player of the Year, three players in All-Big Ten consideration, and the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in its starting lineup. That won't guarantee Maryland the success fans are expecting this season, but it should at least put the Terps in the Big Ten title picture.
With that, let's take a look at the Terps.
BTPowerhouse Season Preview Podcast
Along with reading BTPowerhouse's season preview post for the Maryland Terrapins, make sure to check out the site's podcast preview of the Terrapins featuring BTPowerhouse Manager Thomas Beindit and Andrew Emmer of Testudo Times breaking down Maryland's roster, incoming recruits, schedule, and season outlook.
1. 2014-15 Season Performance
- Record: 28-7 (14-4)
- KenPom Team Rating: #32
- RPI Rating: #13
- Postseason Appearance: NCAA Tournament
Last season was an extremely successful one for Maryland. The Terrapins had incredibly low expectations entering the season and though most admitted that there was talent on the roster, almost no one projected Maryland to do anything significant. Of course, the Terps not only outperformed those expectations, but made it back to the NCAA Tournament and put together 28 total wins on the year.
One of the particularly interesting things about Maryland's last season was how Maryland sat right on the line between success and failure. In fact, 12 of Maryland's 14 conference wins came in games decided by 10 points or less. All in all, this added up to the Terps being rated as KenPom's second luckiest team in the country. There's no debating that Maryland was one of the better teams in the country, but Maryland's ability to to pull out the close games was a major part of the team's success.
In my 2014-15 Big Ten Recapitulation Series, this is what I wrote about Maryland:
Maryland's performance during the 2014-15 season certainly vastly exceeded preseason expectations. Though they failed to reach the pinnacle of success in the Big Ten or go on a deep run in March, it's hard not to think that 28 overall wins, a Round of 32 appearance in the NCAA Tournament, and a 14-4 record in the Big Ten was not a great season and a massive achievement in comparison to expectations.
The big things that carried the team were its significant offensive growth, its ability to get to and convert at the free throw line, and its ability to take care of business in winnable and tight games. This was a major reason that the Terps were able to finish so well down the stretch, including seven straight wins to close the regular season. They also pulled off some really impressive regular season wins including wins over Iowa State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin.
However, despite this success, the Terps also had their issues. Their underwhelming rebounding and difficulties in creating turnovers on defense undoubtedly held the team back. Along with this, Maryland may have won a bunch of close games and taken care of business against the lower end teams, but there was a reason that Maryland was rated as the second luckiest team in the country by KenPom. It took some fortunate bounces to put together their 14-4 record and easily could have dropped some games to underwhelming teams like Nebraska and Penn State.
Of course, even if Maryland got some luck of the draw and didn't quite hit that elite level, they were still a very good team that won a heck of a lot of games. At the end of the day, when one sits back and looks at where the Terps were perceived before the season and where they ended up, it was an unbridled success. Few were convinced the Terps would even make the NCAA Tournament field and they ended up being a #4 seed. Maryland was not a perfect team last year and likely had a few more wins then they should have had statistically, but at the end of the day, the combination between Big Ten success, postseason success, and low preseason expectations warrant an excellent grade for the Terps in 2014-15.
Analyzing Maryland's last season is largely about balancing between the fact that the Terps won 28 games and the fact that Maryland won a large hunk of these games by small margins. Maryland was a good team and maybe even a great one, but it's hard to argue that the Terps were among the nation's elite. A "win is a win," but at some point, the numbers get concerning and that was certainly the case for Maryland last season.
Highlights of the season included non-conference wins over Iowa State and Oklahoma State, a regular season sweep of Michigan State, a massive home win over Wisconsin, and a Round of 64 NCAA Tournament win. Low points of the season included a rough home loss to Virginia, a loss to Illinois, and relatively uncompetitive losses to Indiana, Iowa, and Ohio State.
Individual statistical leaders were Damonte Dodd, Jake Layman, Melo Trimble, and Dez Wells. Dodd led the team in blocks. Layman led the team in rebounds. Trimble led the team in minutes, points, assists, steals, and total win shares. Wells led the team in usage.
2. Offseason Exits
Since the start of last season, Maryland lost a total of six players. These players were Spencer Barks, Jonathan Graham, Richaud Pack, Evan Smotrycz, Jacob Susskind, and Dez Wells. Despite what some have stated, there are some significant losses for the Terps, highlighted by Pack, Smotrycz, and Wells. Those three combined for a lot of minutes and a lot of contributions during their careers.
Of course, the most significant loss comes from Dez Wells. After all, he finished in the top two on Maryland's roster in field goal attempts, rebounds, assists, and steals and the top four in minutes and scoring. When on the floor, Wells was arguably the key to Maryland's offensive production. After all, he did lead the team in usage. Also, Wells was a key piece in many of those tight wins down the stretch, making him incredibly valuable.
The other two significant departures come from Pack and Smotrycz. Both played significantly last season and Pack actually ended up playing 63.8 percent of the team's total minutes. Maybe Pack's 5.8 points and 3.3 rebounds per game don't look all that great on paper, but this was a guy that easily played a lot. Regardless of his impact during his playing time, that alone makes him a significant departure.
Smotrycz didn't contribute as much, but he was one of the team's key frontcourt depth options. Additionally, he was a solid defensive rebounder. The other notable departure was Jonathan Graham. He averaged 11.3 minutes per game and was also a frontcourt depth option. Graham was pretty deep on the depth chart by season's end, but did have some minutes that will have to be replaced.
Finally, Barks and Susskind combined to play 13 total minutes on the season. Outside of potential hits to the team's leadership, these are not significant losses. After all, neither of these two players even scored a point last season. It's just hard to spin that as a major departure.
Overall, Maryland is looking at losing one of its star players, another player that got starter minutes, and two frontcourt bench options. Many have minimized Maryland's offseason departures, but these are not losses that can simply be ignored. As such, they will pose challenges to this year's Terps.
3. New Additions
This season, the Terrapins are adding one new recruit, three transfers, and two walk-ons. The lone incoming recruit is Diamond Stone, who is rated as a five-star prospect according to 247Sports. Stone is listed as a center and is generally regarded as one of the best prospects in the 2015 recruiting class.
Stone is set to be a massive contributor down low for Maryland this season. His athleticism, physicality, and size made him one of the top prospects in last year's recruiting class and should suit him well with the Terps. There are some concerns about his conditioning and how much of an impact he can make early on for Maryland, but most remain confident that he will be a significant part of Maryland's team this season.
Along with the recruiting addition, Maryland will be adding three transfers in Jaylen Brantley from the JUCO level, Robert Carter from Georgia Tech, and Rasheed Suliamon from Duke. Carter sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, but all three will be eligible to play this season.
Both Carter and Sulaimon are expected to make major contributions this season. In fact, both Carter and Sulaimon are considered to be players who could have very legitimate shots to enter the starting lineup. Sulaimon will have his work cut out to start, but Carter seems likely to lock down the power forward spot.
During his time at Duke, Sulaimon was a solid contributor that could score from outside and was decent on the boards. Carter only played two seasons at Georgia Tech, but had exceptional ratings coming out of high school and was considered to be one of the best prospects in the country. Now, both should help the Terps this year.
The last additions are Brantley from the JUCO level and Kent Auslander and Andrew Terrell, who will be walk-ons to Maryland's team this season. Brantley will be a valuable depth addition to the backcourt and already has some solid experience as a player. His minutes will be limited simply due to the players above him on the depth chart, but he should get some decent time. Auslander and Terrell will likely redshirt.
Maryland has an intriguing group of newcomers this season. There are legitimately three players who could earn their way into starting roles and one other depth option. Projecting this group long-term is tough because there is only one true freshman scholarship player, but this group will be vital if Maryland does live up to the hype.
4. Team Strengths
The Terps will undeniably look much different this season than the year prior. Even just considering the fact that three newcomers have a shot to start should tell something about how much different this year's Maryland team could be from last season. Nonetheless, one area where the Terps should continue to progress is on the offensive end and in the team's ability to get to the free throw line.
Last season was a remarkable improvement for Maryland's offseason. Overall, the Terps finished at No. 58 nationally in offensive efficiency, No. 82 in effective field goal percentage, and were one of the better outside shooting teams as well as Maryland finished No. 49 in three point percentage. According to just about all the important statistics, Maryland improved significantly.
Improving more than 50 spots in offensive rating alone is a pretty massive step forward. The team just got more efficient at putting up shots. As one can see, not only did the team's general shooting improve, but even the long range improved as well. The emergence of Melo Trimble alone added a lot here.
Of course, the area where the Terps really stood out offensively was in the team's ability to get to the free throw line and convert once there. Overall, Maryland came in at No. 14 nationally in free throw rate, No. 25 in ratio of free throw attempts to field goal attempts, and No. 18 in percentage of team points off free throws. Maryland got to the free throw line and had no problem converting once there.
As seen above, Maryland was very good at getting to the free throw line. Undeniably, the key piece of this was Trimble, who finished second in the conference among contributors in free throw rate. Remember, this is a stat that traditionally favors big men and the Terps were still one of the best teams in this area without a dominant big man. Now, with Maryland adding two key frontcourt players in Robert Carter and Diamond Stone, there's a decent chance that Maryland actually gets better in this area.
It's hard to tell just how good Maryland's offensive performance could be this season, but given the improvement seen last year and the potential of some of the newcomers, expectations are high. This should be a team that has few problems producing offensively this season.
5. Team Weaknesses
Admittedly, picking weaknesses for Maryland's team this season is not be easy. This is a loaded roster that is also going to look much different than last year. As such, picking out a few areas where the Terps will struggle is not an easy task. Nonetheless, there are a few areas where Maryland will need to improvement from last year's performance. Particularly, the team will be looking to improve on the boards and in its defensive pressure.
One of the interesting things about Maryland's team last year was the variation between the team's performance on the offensive and defensive boards. The Terps came in at No. 143 nationally in defensive rebounding rate, but finished at No. 251 in offensive rebounding rate. Regardless of whether some other factors played into these stats, there isn't much debating that the offensive boards will be an area that Maryland is looking to improve in this year.
Maryland's performance on the boards was severely lacking last season and undeniably, the team is going to have to at least get closer to average if it's going to have the season many are expecting. The good news is that with the additions of Robert Carter and Diamond Stone, it's not hard to see improvement coming. Additionally, if the Terps can move Jake Layman to small forward and get Rasheed Suliamon in the lineup, those are two pretty good rebounders are shooting guard and small forward.
One of the other areas that Maryland will need to improve in this season is in its ability to pressure on defense. The Terps didn't force a lot of turnovers last year and with the departure of Dez Wells, it could be even more of an uphill battle this season. Overall, Maryland finished at No. 282 in defensive turnover rate and No. 322 in steal rate. If the Terps are going to improve defensively, it likely starts here.
What will be particularly interesting is to see if the backcourt can take a step forward in its ability to pressure. Melo Trimble isn't known for being an elite defender, but he was just a freshman last year. If he can improve a bit and the frontcourt can keep opponents out of the paint, it's not hard to see the steal numbers trending up.
Overall, Maryland should be a really good team, but it will still have some areas where it needs to improve. Particularly, if the Terps can take a step forward on the offensive boards and in forcing turnovers, it's not hard to think that Maryland can live up to the preseason hype.
6. Top Player
Heading into last season, most anticipated that Dez Wells would be the team's best player. However, as the season progressed, freshman guard Melo Trimble started making a claim for himself being the best player on the roster. Trimble played very well over the course of the season and arguably, became the team's best player. Now, with Wells departing and Trimble returning, it's not hard to think Trimble takes the edge. He was picked by the BTPowerhouse staff as the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year and for good reason.
Trimble was likely the key piece that allowed Maryland to improve so drastically last season and now, with an improved roster around him, it's not hard to think he gets even better this year. Trimble could score, get to the free throw line, shoot, and get teammates involved. There's really no doubt he will be one of the best players in the Big Ten. The question will just be about how good he can be this season.
Of course, there are a few others that could make their own claim as Maryland's best player. To start, Jake Layman was one of the team's best players last year and returns on the wing. Along with him, the additions of Robert Carter and Diamond Stone in the frontcourt could have those players primed for breakout seasons as well.
Nonetheless, even if the Terps do have more quality options around Trimble this year, it's a stretch to think anybody is Maryland's best player other than Trimble. He already has played at an extremely high level and still has the potential to develop his game this season. Of course, if somebody is able to outplay Trimble on Maryland's roster, the Terps would be incredibly dangerous.
7. 2015-16 Schedule Breakdown
- 11/6 - Southern New Hampshire (Exhibition)
- 11/13 - Mount St. Mary's
- 11/17 - Georgetown
- 11/20 - Rider
- 11/24 - Illinois State
- 11/25 - Rhode Island/TCU
- 11/28 - Cleveland State
- 12/1 - at North Carolina
- 12/4 - Saint Francis (PA)
- 12/8 - Connecticut (New York, NY)
- 12/12 - Maryland Eastern Shore
- 12/19 - Princeton (Baltimore, MD)
- 12/27 - Marshall
- 12/20 - Penn State
- 1/2 - at Northwestern
- 1/6 - Rutgers
- 1/9 - at Wisconsin
- 1/12 - at Michigan
- 1/16 - Ohio State
- 1/19 - Northwestern
- 1/23 - at Michigan State
- 1/28 - Iowa
- 1/31 - at Ohio State
- 2/3 - at Nebraska
- 2/6 - Purdue
- 2/9 - Bowie State
- 2/13 - Wisconsin
- 2/18 - at Minnesota
- 2/21 - Michigan
- 2/27 - at Purdue
- 3/3 - Illinois
- 3/(5/6) - at Indiana
Generally speaking, Maryland's non-conference schedule is pretty underwhelming. That may sound odd to say given the fact that the Terps have at least a handful of major games on the slate, but it still seems accurate. For a team that is set to be in national championship contention, there just aren't that many enticing games.
The significant games on the non-conference schedule include the road game at North Carolina, the neutral site games with Connecticut and Princeton, the Cancun Challenge, and the home game against Georgetown. Though North Carolina looks stacked for this season, none of the other games look like too massive of challenges.
Again, maybe this sounds like a pessimistic approach, but according to KenPom's ratings, the Terps are only set to play one top 25 team in non-conference play and only three top 50 teams - the potential matchup with Rhode Island would be the fourth. As Maryland fans know all too well, KenPom's ratings aren't perfect, but it gives one an idea of what lies in Maryland's non-conference slate and the answer is that there's not too much on the slate outside of that North Carolina showdown.
Given the way this schedule sets up, it would be a disappointment if Maryland loses more than one game in non-conference play. That North Carolina game is going to be incredibly difficult, but the Terps have no other true road games and Georgetown comes at home. Even on paper, the only other games that look dangerous are Georgetown and UConn and frankly, Maryland should just be better than two teams.
Of course, Big Ten play is going to be a different story. In total, Maryland will play 15 of its 18 conference games against top 100 KenPom teams and eight games against top 25 KenPom teams. The Terps got one of the tougher schedules in the Big Ten this year and considering the depth of the conference, that's saying something.
The good news is that there are wins on the table. To start, the Terps will get games against Nebraska, Penn State, and Rutgers and home games against Illinois, Iowa, Northwestern, and Ohio State. That should be likely seven wins. Along with that, road games against Minnesota, Northwestern, and Ohio State don't look that difficult either. Finally, with home games against Michigan, Purdue, and Wisconsin, there's a reasonable shot at three more wins.
All in all, this looks like a conference schedule that should bottom out around 11 or 12 wins. Upsets happen, but Maryland is going to be a significant favorite in 10 games and a favorite in at least three more. That doesn't even include the fact that the Terps could very well beat teams like Indiana, Michigan, Purdue, and Wisconsin on the road this season. All told, expect around 13 or 14 conference wins.
Maryland will have challenges on the schedule this year, but all told, this still looks like a team that is going to cruise through a lot of its games and be set up for a shot at a Big Ten title. The non-conference slate isn't particularly difficult minus a matchup with North Carolina and though conference play will be challenging, if Maryland takes care of business at home, look for some hardware to go to the Terps.
8. Projected Startling Lineup
PG: Melo Trimble (So.) - 95%
SG: Jared Nickens (So.) - 60%
SF: Jake Layman (Sr.) - 95%
PF: Robert Carter (Jr.) - 80%
C: Diamond Stone - (Fr.) - 75%
(Percentage likelihood of starting at season tip-off.)
The backcourt for Maryland is set to be excellent this season. Not only does it have players with experience, but it also has some of the best players in the Big Ten. Period. Undoubtedly, the point guard position is going to be locked down by Melo Trimble. He has been predicted to be the Big Ten Player of the Year this season and rightfully so. Behind him, expect JUCO transfer Jaylen Brantley to take most of the minutes. Having a decent backup point guard will be crucial this season as the Terps didn't have much depth at the position last year.
Alongside Trimble, things will be a bit more interesting. Sophomore Jared Nickens has gotten a lot of attention and appears to be the guy leading the battle, but the position is definitely not locked up quite yet. The biggest challenger will be Duke transfer Rasheed Sulaimon, who has the potential to work his way into the lineup with time. Dion Wiley was another player expected to contribute here before going down with injury.
On the wing, there probably won't be much of a battle for the starting role. With Jake Layman returning, he is virtually a lock to start at small forward. The only way he doesn't start is if the frontcourt struggles and Mark Turgeon decides to move him down to power forward. When Layman does rarely head to the bench, Nickens will probably move down to small forward to take the minutes and Sulaimon will come into the lineup.
At power forward, just about all indications are that Robert Carter will grab the starting role. He is a bit of a mystery at this point, but his raw skillset indicates he could be a really good player for the Terps this season. As mentioned earlier, if Carter doesn't play well, expect Layman to move to power forward. In fact, even if Carter produces, it wouldn't be surprising to see Layman get the bench minutes here as well.
Finally, at center, the Terps are going to have a few options. The big two players to watch will be elite incoming prospect Diamond Stone and returner Damonte Dodd. In all likelihood, these two players are going to get the vast majority of the minutes at center in some form. At this point, it looks like Stone has the edge to start. Additionally, Michal Cekovsky could provide a great bench option if one of Dodd or Stone gets into foul trouble.
There's no way around the fact that is an absolutely loaded starting lineup. To start, not only could Trimble be the best player in the Big Ten, but Carter, Layman, and Stone are also likely going to be some of the better players in the conference as well. On top of that, the Terps have a great transfer in Suliamon, a rising sophomore in Nickens, and what should be a good bench option in Dodd. There is a lot to like.
On paper, the only thing that looks concerning in the slightest is that the shooting guard, small forward, and power forward positions are likely going to rely on some combination of just four players following Dion Wiley's injury. If any of these four players do struggle or have to deal with injury issues, things could get tricky. It probably won't matter concerning that all four should be set for great years, but it is one of the very few concerns with this lineup.
Overall, Maryland has an absolutely stacked lineup that should allow the Terps to match up with virtually any team either in the Big Ten or nationally. There are a few question marks about guys like Carter and Stone and some depth concerns, but this team certainly looks to be among the most talented in the country.
9. Team Perspective From Dave Tucker of Testudo Times
"The Maryland Terrapins enter the 2015-2016 season with the highest expectations the program has seen since the start of their 2001-2002 national championship season. After a somewhat surprising season last year in which the Terps finished 28-7 and returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010, Maryland enters this year as the favorites to win the Big Ten, one year after finishing 14-4 in their inaugural B1G campaign. Many believe this team is a Final Four and national title contender thanks to the depth and talent on their roster, led by sophomore guard Melo Trimble.
Maryland is remarkably in this position just 18 months after five players transferred out of the program following a disappointing 17-15 season in 2013-2014. Mark Turgeon was able to quickly recover from the loss of those players with a large and very talented 2015 recruiting class, led by Trimble, and transfer Rachaud Pack.
Over the past nine months, Maryland has experienced a perfect storm of events that have resulted in the Terps being named a preseason top-five team. Mark Turgeon and his staff secured a commitment from five-star center Diamond Stone, giving them a front court presence that was lacking last year. A short time later, both Melo Trimble and Jake Layman announced they were returning to school for their sophomore and senior year, respectively. Then former Duke guard Rasheed Sulaimon decided to transfer to Maryland after graduating from Duke, making him eligible to play immediately. On top of all of that, former Georgia Tech forward Robert Carter is eligible to play this season after sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer rules. Despite the loss of Dez Wells, Maryland finds itself with an extremely talented team that should present nightmare match-up problems for opposing coaches.
While Maryland had an amazing stretch of positive events, it did suffer a major setback this week when the school announced sophomore guard Dion Wiley will likely miss the entire season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Mark Turgeon said that he expected Wiley to start at guard, so his loss is certainly significant. Maryland has a lot of depth on their roster and should still be one of the nation's best teams, but losing Wiley definitely hurts Maryland. With Wiley out, Mark Turgeon will probably use a starting five of Melo Trimble, Jared Nickens, Jake Layman, Robert Carter and Diamond Stone." - Dave Tucker.
10. Overall Season Outlook
There's a new air in Maryland this year. The Terps had a nice year in 2014-15, but now finally have the roster and starting lineup to truly compete at the highest level in college basketball. A program only enters a season so often with legitimate national championship aspirations. That's happened to Maryland this year.
For the Terps, everything starts in the backcourt with Melo Trimble. He looks primed for an outstanding season and should be in the running for Big Ten Player of the Year at season's end. However, with a few new faces at shooting guard, Jake Layman at small forward, and significantly more talented in the frontcourt, this Maryland team is far more than just one or two really good players.
Of course, a new year also brings brings new challenges. For the first time in nearly a decade, the Terps not only have expectations, but have incredibly large expectations. Making the NCAA Tournament or winning a bunch of games is no longer enough. Fans and the media are expecting Maryland to not only compete for the Big Ten title, but also to be in play for a Final Four appearance. How Maryland reacts to this is the question for this season.
Nonetheless, with Maryland's roster, this still looks like the team to beat in the Big Ten this season. With a deep and talented conference, getting to the title will not be easy, but the Terps have the pieces to get it done. If all goes right, the Terps could be the team to finally break the streak and give the Big Ten its first national championship in well over a decade.