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Does Rasheed Sulaimon Make Maryland A National Championship Contender?

The Terps picked up Rasheed Sulaimon after his departure from Duke earlier in the year. Does Sulaimon plus Maryland's returners and new additions vault them into the national title conversation?

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

In college basketball, one team's rags become another team's riches. For the Maryland Terrapins, these riches arrive in the form of Rasheed Sulaimon, a former Duke guard that was kicked off the team for misconduct. Maryland has had recent success with transfers Dez Wells from Xavier and Evan Smotrycz from Michigan, and coach Mark Turgeon believes that Sulaimon can be an important contributor on a team that was already very good. The question that looms is just how good this Maryland team can be this season.

Maryland looks to build off a 28-7 season, including 14-4 in the Big Ten, with an even better second year in the Big Ten. The biggest Terrapin addition, both literally and figuratively, is 6'10 center Diamond Stone. Stone is a consensus five-star recruit by every scouting site, and will give Maryland a massive big man with a soft touch around the basket. Alongside Stone in the frontcourt is 6'8 Robert Carter, a transfer from Georgia Tech who averaged 11 points and 8 rebounds before heading to College Park for his junior season. Swingman Jake Layman gives the Terps versatility at small forward, where can he stretch the defense with his shooting and give opposing forwards trouble with his length. In the backcourt, Melo Trimble, a freshman phenom alongside Wells in his first year, looks to take the reins of the offense. He can shoot, create and defend at 6'2, and will look to play a bulk of the minutes at point guard.

Which leads us back to Sulaimon. The 6'5 senior is immensely talented, but there were obvious character issue that caused his dismissal at Duke. He will be given a fresh start at Maryland, and will likely be thrust into the starting lineup based on his previous credentials. Sulaimon is an amazing shooter, and given the talent around him, will likely have ample opportunities to take as many shots as he pleases. He hovered around 40% for his career at Duke, but dropped nearly 1.5 points every season after averaging nearly 12 points per game in his freshman campaign.

Two big questions accompany Sulaimon's arrival: Can Sulaimon take advantage of his second chance at a new school, and do the Terps have enough depth behind their starting five to make a legitimate run at a title? Before Sulaimon's dismissal, there were already many rumblings of his detrimental conduct and bad behavior. Turgeon has agreed to take on Sulaimon's one-and-done "contract" as a low risk, high reward agreement. Turgeon knows the scholarship will be available next year, and that Sulaimon has the potential to be a major contributor on an amazing team. Whether Sulaimon is up for the challenge, and can conduct himself accordingly, is squarely on the senior's shoulders.

As for the rest of the team, there are still questions about Maryland's depth. Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens both proved last season they have extreme value off the bench, a role that both sophomores will continue to play again next season. They will not have to be brilliant, but if Sulaimon or Trimble finds themselves in foul trouble, they could be called on to play big minutes. In the frontcourt, it will be interesting to see how Michal Cekovsky and Damonte Dodd play behind the two newcomers in Carter and Stone. Stone could struggle early, and Dodd will likely earn the minutes behind him if he is not playing well early on. The most interesting bench piece Maryland has is 5'11 point guard Jaylen Brantley, a transfer from Odessa College in Texas. Brantley might be the 9th or 10th guy off the bench, but providing Trimble a solid back up point guard could be key.

Overall, the Terrapins are extremely talented at every position and have solid depth to go 8 or 9 deep. Maryland was fortunate enough to land Sulaimon, a player chomping at the bit to prove to the entire country he's good enough to play elite Division I basketball. Whether Sulaimon can contribute and make an impact could be the difference between Maryland playing to make the NCAA Tournament or having a legitimate shot to win it all.