The fourth ranked Maryland Terrapins are 11-1 on the season with some drama on the side. The Terps opened up the year to a little bit of a slow start with close wins at home against their local rival in the Georgetown Hoyas and needed a late second half rally to beat the Rider Broncs in a game in which the Terps were held to their lowest point total of season at just 65 points. Since that game against Rider, Maryland’s next eight wins have been by an average of 20.5 points.
Has Maryland turned the corner? Not yet.
Turnovers are a problem for Maryland
The biggest flaw Maryland has right now is their turnovers. Maryland averages 14 turnovers a game with a schedule that has been OK for the most part. They haven’t played a whole lot of cupcakes, but they also haven’t played a whole lot of stiff competition either. They need to clean up in this department because from top to bottom in the Big Ten, Maryland isn’t going to get away with being sloppy too often.
The best team Maryland played so far this year would be the North Carolina Tar Heels which is a team that gave Maryland their only loss of the season which was 89-81 at North Carolina. Maryland suffered 22 turnovers in that game and lost by eight. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.
The Terps just get careless with the ball too often. They try to fit passes into tight windows that will never work. There are passes from across half court that get picked off easily. Combine that with the fact that centers in Michal Cekovsky and Damonte Dodd have trouble catching the ball inside the paint and you begin to see why Maryland has had constant issues in this department. Melo Trimble, Rasheed Sulaimon and Robert Carter all average over two turnovers a game.
The turnovers overall can certainly be decreased in conference play. But I think that unless Cekovsky and Dodd get better catching the ball, they will have issues with turnovers inside the paint all season long.
Defense is inconsistent for Maryland
Let me say this very clearly: If Maryland can play good defense consistently from here on out, they could run the table. That’s how good Maryland’s offense has been, even with the turnover issues. I honestly believe Maryland would beat any team in the country if they are playing well on the defensive end. Opponents can’t hold Maryland under 60 points.
But that consistency on defense for Maryland is a massive IF.
This team has good nights and bad nights too often on the defensive side of the ball. They especially struggle with defending the perimeter from time to time. What is noticeable about Maryland’s defense, especially in the front court, is that whenever their power forward or center gets caught defending the perimeter, they tend to just stand there and dare the ball handler to jack up a three and Maryland gets punished for it from time to time. That can’t happen.
Part of Maryland’s issues on defense also has to do with their struggles with defensive rebounds. The Terps average 26 defensive rebounds a game which ranks them tied as the 166th best team in the country in that department. When you have a 6-9 power forward in Robert Carter Jr., 7-1 center in Cekovsky, two 6-11 players in Dodd and Diamond Stone, you expect Maryland to be better at crashing the boards. This allows opponents to get more second chance opportunities which has haunted the Terps at times.
Now, Maryland so far on the season allows 64.3 points a game which ranks 46th in the country, but they can certainly be better.
Maryland has already achieved some big things so far this year. They average over 80 points a game. Small forward Jake Layman is finding his stroke as the season goes along and Maryland as a whole is the only team in the Big Ten that has five players averaging at least 10.8 points a game.
However, the best part about Maryland lately has been the emergence of backup point guard Jaylen Brantley. Brantley really struggled to get involved in the offense in the Terps first-ten games of the season but in the last two games, Brantley has averaged 11 points off the bench. He’s finding his confidence and if he can keep this up, it will help Trimble and Sulaimon get some rest during conference play.
I think during February is when everyone will see Maryland play well together. Right now, they are still a work in progress.