The Maryland Terrapins have a lot of high expectations entering the 2015-2016 season as they are expected to enter the year as a Top 5 team in the AP poll and the Coaches' poll. However, knowing the Terrapins, things don't just come easy for them. Historically, the men's basketball program tends to make things harder than it really should on and off the basketball court.
Questions loom for the Terrapins as they are looking for the school's second men's national championship in college basketball.
#1. Do the Terrapins have enough depth at point guard?
The Terrapins have one of the best point guards in the country in Melo Trimble and they also have added transfer Jaylen Brantley. But outside of those two players, the Terrapins really don't have much depth in the ball handling department.
The hope is that shooting guards Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens improve on their ball handling from last season as the Terps as a whole were exposed against the West Virginia Mountaineers in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Mountaineers went to a press defense against the Terps and Maryland didn't have an answer for it, especially when Trimble went out of the game with a head injury in the second half.
Things will go smoother on offense with the addition of center Diamond Stone and power forward Robert Carter Jr. as both big men will create legitimate opportunities underneath the basket, which have voided that the team for such a long time. It's going to be really hard for opposing defenses to pick their spots accurately with the amount of weapons the Terrapins will have on the floor all at the same time.
The Terrapins roster from top to bottom looks strong. But the amount of capable ball handlers on the team is a question mark.
#2. Will the Terrapins play better on the road in 2015-2016?
The sign of a national championship contender is the ability to win in any environment and if you happen to lose, at least keep it close consistently.
Last season, there were times where the Terrapins were just plain pathetic on the road. Among other losses, the team suffered embarrassing losses at the Iowa Hawkeyes, Indiana Hoosiers and the Ohio State Buckeyes, which were not competitive and probably even bigger than the score indicated. That can't happen again if the team has their sights set on capturing a number one seed in the NCAA tournament.
The Terrapins got a small dose of what it is like to have a target on their back as a good team last season and that target will be even larger entering this fall. A lot of schools in the Big Ten are seeing the type of team that the Terrapins are building right now and for the future and will want to play spoiler.
Still, even with this challenge, if the Terrapins can respond and reel off some major wins on the road, including the major showdown with North Carolina in December, it will only serve to strengthen one of the most talented and deepest rosters in the country. How the team plays on the road will be a good indicator of how tough the Terrapins are physically and mentally.
#3. Will Stone play big in his freshman year?
Stone has a tall order and big responsibilities for the Terrapins entering the 2015-2016 season. There's an argument that can be made that the main reason why the Terrapins are expected to go very far this season is because of the addition of Stone.
The Terrapins haven't had a dominant center since Lonny Baxter in 2002 and for at least 10 years now, the Terrapins have lacked a great presence inside the paint. Watching a Terrapin center make a bucket within three feet of the basket consistently in recent years has been wishful thinking.
Offensively, not only can Stone dominate the paint, he can also be a stretch five or a stretch four. He has shown to have pretty good range from the perimeter, which is a scary thought for opposing defenses. It's going to be interesting for Stone, especially given how physical the Big Ten can be inside the paint.
Stone is really the only polished pure center the Terrapins have right now on the roster. With Trimble feeding him the ball, and small forward Jake Layman being able to play the stretch four as well, there will be situations where Terrapins head coach Mark Turgeon and the rest of the Terrapins coaching staff will create spacing for Stone which will make his job a lot easier.
Stone playing up to his potential is critical because of some of the unanswered questions the Terrapins have on the bench. The Terrapins already know that they are going to get out of center Damonte Dodd off the bench. He is a defensive enforcer who will also crash the boards.
Answers still remain for the Terrapins power forward/center Michal Cekovsky. He is pretty athletic and has shown to have some good hands offensively but not consistently. Last season, Cekovsky was completely raw on the floor offensively and defensively. There were games where it felt like the moment felt too big for him as he was reacting slower than the opponents on the floor.
Dodd and Cekovsky have talent. But at the same time, it is too risky to rely on them heavily for long stretches which is why Stone has to be a home run for the team.
Lofty expectations come with serious questions. The Terrapins have all the talent and the right coaching to once again be in play for the national championship. The Terrapins are loaded on paper but these three questions have to be answered in a positive way if the Terrapins are going to be lethal for every single one of their opponents.