Before the season started, a lot of people expected the Maryland Terrapins, led by head coach Mark Turgeon, to be ranked in the top five in either the AP poll or the Coaches poll to start the season. As of Monday morning, the Terrapins are ranked number three in both of them. The Terrapins were expected to be 3-0 to start the season. The Terrapins have met that goal. However, a lot of people who have watched the Terrapins after three games, are now calling the team overrated.
Is Maryland really overrated?
If you go by their performance in their first-three games against the Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers, Georgetown Hoyas, and the Rider Broncos, then it is easy to say that Maryland is overrated. Maryland won convincingly against the Mountaineers and won 80-56, but they had to rally late in the second half from a seven point deficit to beat the Hoyas at home 75-71 and worst of all, Maryland had to rally from a 14 point deficit in second half to beat the Broncos 65-58.
Maryland doesn't look like a top three team from those results.
If you go by Maryland's talent level, then yes they have talent to be a top three team. The main problem with Maryland is chemistry. At this point, it just doesn't seem reasonable to think Maryland would run out of the gate considering that many of the players are still learning to play with each other.
In the frontcourt, centers in Damonte Dodd and Michal Cekovsky were expected to make the next jump to be key contributors for Maryland in the paint. Maryland has gotten mixed results from them offensively and defensively. There are some nights where Cekovsky looks improved like he did against the Hoyas and then there are nights where he looks lost like in Maryland's last game against the Broncos.
Dodd on the other hand, was never expected to be a force on the offensive side of the ball and he is still limited in that regard. But everyone expected Dodd to be the best defender in the paint that Maryland has and he hasn't been that so far. Every player on Maryland's front line have been very limited on defense including power forward Robert Carter Jr. and center Diamond Stone.
The biggest concern for Maryland so far with their frontcourt is the fact that they are not getting the amount of physicality that needs to be seen from that unit. Maryland has one of the bigger frontcourts in the country and they have been outmuscled at times by smaller defenders. The same problem occurs in the rebounds department as well. It's almost like Dodd, Stone, Cekovsky and Carter are often trying to avoid fouls instead of making plays. The technique on defense just isn't there consistently in the paint either.
From the point guard position through the wing position, the consistency on offense and defense isn't where it needs to be at this point. On defense, Maryland defenders have just had a hard time staying in front of their man over the course of the game.
Even if Maryland is playing well offensively, it hasn't meant much because the man to man defense has allowed their opponent to stay in the game. Turgeon is going to have to play more zone defense because when Maryland started to play press defense and more zone towards the end of games against both the Hoyas and Broncos, the Terps had a lot of success. Zone and press defense will be the way to go for Maryland this season for sure.
Offensively, Maryland has very good shooters. But they are not finding their rhythm very well after three games. Point guard Melo Trimble has been hot and cold a bit shooting 41 percent from the field, small forward Jake Layman has really struggled to get himself going despite his 50 percent field goal percentage. Right now, Maryland has a 50 percent field goal percentage. While that is very good, Maryland has a 32 percent three point field goal percentage. Not good at all for a team that has six players in their main rotation who shoot beyond the arc.
All three opponents for Maryland this season are playing zone against them and it has really confused Maryland's offense. Players on offense for Maryland will pass the ball multiple times around the perimeter to find an open man and simply hasn't been able to find one consistently. At times, Trimble will hold the ball on a 30 second shot clock and wait until there are 10 seconds left on the shot clock to make a move driving to the rim drawing a foul or creating his own shot for a three point jumper. That strategy might work sometimes, but it's certainly not sustainable long-term.
The confusing part about Maryland's offense is that they have all of the key pieces to destroy a zone defense. Stone and Carter are very skilled offensively in the paint. Trimble, Layman and Sulaimon can all create their own shot or decide to drive to the lane on their own. Yet the offense isn't fluid. They will get better as the season goes along, but this seems like a product of talented players offensively still learning to feed off of each other.
And last but not least, Maryland as a team is shooting 69 percent from the free throw line. The biggest shocker at the free throw line at the moment has to be Trimble. Trimble shot 86 percent from the free throw line last season but he is only shooting 69 percent from the line this year. When you shoot 69 percent from the free throw line as a team, it is no wonder why Maryland has had to rally late to their games.
It is still early in the season. The number one ranked North Carolina Tar Heels lost to the Northern Iowa Panthers this past weekend. Even the best teams are not going to look great early on out of the gate. Maryland has all of the pieces to turn things around it might take a month to do so, but this is still a team that can beat the doors off a top 10 team in the country if everything comes together.
Maryland will face Illinois State on Tuesday with a matchup against either Rhode Island or TCU awaiting. With that and a game against Cleveland State on Saturday, perhaps the Terps can get things together before their showdown in the Big Ten - ACC Challenge with North Carolina.