The 2015 BTPowerhouse Recapitulation Series will look back at the season of each Big Ten team through a 10 point analysis designed to reveal what went right, what went wrong, and whether the team met expectations in 2014-15. The series will be released during the summer in reverse order of conference standings, meaning the last place team will be reviewed first and the Big Ten champions will be reviewed last.
Confused? See the advanced stats glossary here.
The 2014-15 season was a season of progress and fulfillment for Maryland. After failing to make the NCAA Tournament in Mark Turgeon's first three years with the program, most considered Turgeon to be on the hot seat and battling for his job last season. He wouldn't have to win the Big Ten or make a deep run to keep his spot with the Terps, but showing some progress would be crucial. There were certainly issues for the 2014-15 team and they had a few rough losses, but a 28-7 overall finish, a runner-up spot in the Big Ten, and a return to the NCAA Tournament and the Round of 32 removed a lot of doubts about Turgeon and the program. They were finally able to tap into some of the recruiting talent they had been building and finally put it all together.
Let's look back at the season in its entirety.
1. Preseason Expectations
Entering the season, Maryland had pretty weak expectations for the season. The Terps had talent, but they had seemed to have talent in the prior seasons and had still failed to make the Big Dance. There was little doubt that the team would be built on the backcourt of Melo Trimble and Dez Wells, but many were unsure about how several units and particularly, the frontcourt would perform. Plus, even Trimble was an unknown despite being praised as one of the best recruits Maryland had landed in years. Ultimately, due to the program's lack of recent success coupled with some major question marks led me to slot Maryland at #10 in my Big Ten preview.
Here was my preseason storyline for Maryland:
The biggest storyline for Maryland this season is going to focus on Mark Turgeon's job status with Maryland. This is Turgeon's 4th year with the Terps, but all he has to show for it so far is one trip to the NIT in 2013. None of Turgeon's teams at Maryland have been able to finish with a winning conference record and with the transition to a much deeper and tougher Big Ten, there are questions about whether this trend will end this season. On top of that, Turgeon will have to overcome major roster turnover this season. Over the offseason, Maryland lost 8 players and lost a key recruit from their 2014 recruiting class. Regardless of why this turnover occurred, it makes this season even more challenging. Not every departure was a major contributor, but Seth Allen and Nick Faust were impact players and the team certainly lost plenty of depth. A lot will depend on how Turgeon and his team can overcome these challenges, but it will have a tremendous impact on Turgeon's tenure in College Park.
The Big Ten writers were actually on the exact same page as me and put the Terps at #10 in their preseason conference standings as well with Maryland behind Illinois and Indiana and just ahead of Purdue and Penn State. Everyone knew that the Terps had the pieces to compete for an NCAA Tournament bid, but this was a team that had pieces before and had not shown a lot of success. Perhaps this was a flawed approach, but most took a "wait and see" approach with Maryland, especially with the team joining a deep and talented Big Ten.
2. Non-Conference Play
With relatively underwhelming preseason expectations and some pressure on Mark Turgeon to turn things around, few expected the Terps to be a smashing success in non-conference play. Again, there were talented players on the roster, but until people were able to see production, the Terps would not get the benefit of the doubt, especially when one considered that they had challenging games against teams like Iowa State and Virginia. Here is how things went.
Maryland 2014-15 Non-Conference:
- Win (1-0): Wagner, 82-48
- Win (2-0): Central Connecticut, 93-57
- Win (3-0): Fordham, 66-50
- Win (4-0): Arizona State, 78-73
- Win (5-0): Iowa State, 72-63
- Win (6-0): Monmouth, 61-56
- Win (7-0): VMI, 95-77
- Loss (7-1): Virginia, 76-65
- Win (8-1): Winthrop, 82-62
- Win (9-1): North Carolina Central, 67-56
- Win (10-1): USC Upstate, 67-57
- Win (11-1): Oklahoma State, 73-64
- Win (12-1): Oakland, 72-56
3. Conference Play
During non-conference play, the Terps had shown they could beat good teams, win on the road, and take care of business against lower teams - even if the games were close - but Maryland had done similar things in the past and still failed to reach their season goals. For instance, during the 2012-13 season, the Terps went 12-1 during non-conference play, but failed to make the NCAA Tournament. They had faced much tougher teams this time around, but as with virtually any team, their fate would sit in conference play. Here is how things went.
Maryland 2014-15 Big Ten Play:
- Win (1-0): Michigan State, 68-66 OT
- Win (2-0): Minnesota, 70-58
- Loss (2-1): Illinois, 64-57
- Win (3-1): Purdue, 69-60
- Win (4-1): Rutgers, 73-65
- Win (5-1): Michigan State, 75-59
- Loss (5-2): Indiana, 89-70
- Win (6-2): Northwestern, 68-67
- Loss (6-3): Ohio State, 80-56
- Win (7-3): Penn State, 64-58
- Loss (7-4): Iowa, 71-55
- Win (8-4): Indiana, 68-66
- Win (9-4): Penn State, 76-73
- Win (10-4): Nebraska, 69-65
- Win (11-4): Wisconsin, 59-53
- Win (12-4): Michigan, 66-56
- Win (13-4): Rutgers, 60-50
- Win (14-4): Nebraska, 64-61
2014-15 Maryland Performance By KenPom Pre-Game Odds:
4. Postseason Play
Thanks to Maryland's great play down the stretch, the Terps had put together an impressive 14-4 record in Big Ten play, were considered a virtual lock for the NCAA Tournament, and a potential contender to move up with a successful Big Ten Tournament. Thanks to that impressive record, Maryland would be the #2 seed in Chicago on the opposite side of the bracket as Wisconsin and get the double-bye in Chicago. In their first game, Maryland would face the winner of the Indiana and Northwestern game. If they were able to win, they would likely face Michigan State in the semi-finals. Here is how things went:
Maryland 2014-15 Postseason Play:
- Win (Quarterfinals - Big Ten Tourney), Indiana, 75-69
- Loss (Semifinals - Big Ten Tourney), Michigan State, 62-58
- Win (Round of 64 - NCAA Tournament), Valparaiso, 65-62
- Loss (Round of 32 - NCAA Tournament), West Virginia, 69-59
Coming into the postseason, Maryland had achieved a lot and were in pretty solid position for a good seed in the NCAA Tournament, but a good performance in Chicago could put that extra polish on their resume to get on the #2 or #3 seed line. They were also on the opposite side of Big Ten champion, Wisconsin, which meant that a route to the Big Ten Tournament championship game would not be that improbable.
With the Hoosiers knocking off Northwestern in the 2nd Round, the Terps would get to face Indiana for the third time over the course of the season. Their last matchup had been a thriller and many were looking forward to a similar game in the Windy City. The Terps would be favored before tip-off, but with just 57.5% odds per KenPom. These odds also tell a lot about how Maryland's regular season had progressed. Most were confident that they were a good team, but few truly believed they were on that elite level and would have to prove their worth yet again.
The start of the game did not disappoint with both teams trading shots and Melo Trimble and Dez Wells making some really nice plays for the team. However, as they progressed toward the middle of the 1st Half, the Terps were able to take a slight lead. That held for awhile, until Troy Williams made some big times plays and got the Hoosiers back within a possession at the half.
The 2nd Half went very similarly to the 1st Half. Both teams were making plays back and forth, but the Terps just always seemed to keep the lead by a possession or two. For those who watched Maryland over the last month or so of the season, it came as no surprise. The Terps were winning, but they just weren't quite good enough to really create a sizable lead. In the final minutes, Maryland clung to a 62-60 lead, but Evan Smotrycz and Wells were able to push it to 68-62 and Indiana never recovered. The final score was Maryland, 75-69.
With Michigan State taking care of business against a good, but not great Ohio State team, they would be moving on to face Maryland in the semi-finals. Unfortunately for Maryland, the Spartans had been trending up for quite some time and were likely more talented than their recorded indicated. As such, KenPom gave MSU solid 59.6% odds to beat the Terps and move on to the championship game before tip-off. Remember, Maryland was actually the higher seeded team in this game and had lower odds than Indiana had in Maryland's previous matchup. Again, this is telling about where the advanced stats perceived the Terps.
Maryland actually got out to a great start in the game and jumped out to an 12-1 lead in the opening minutes and a 23-9 lead halfway through the 1st Half, but things would become a struggle later on in the game. Both Branden Dawson and Travis Trice went to work and the Spartans had cut it to 25-33 at halftime. This may not seem that close, but it was a big step to get the game within shooting distance.
In the 2nd Half, the Spartans took over. They cut the lead to 36-33 just a few minutes into the 2nd Half thanks to some big plays from Marvin Clark and Matt Costello. The Terps got plenty from Melo Trimble and Dez Wells contributed 10 points himself, but there just wasn't enough production from Maryland's role players to hold off MSU. In the 2nd Half, MSU would outscore Maryland by a margin of 37 to 25 and would give the Spartans a 62-58 win.
Though Maryland would exit Chicago with a loss to lower seeded MSU in the semi-finals, they were still in good position for March and found themselves placed as the #4 seed in the Midwest Region. Other teams in their region included #1 Kentucky, #2 Kansas, #3 Notre Dame, and #5 West Virginia. It would be an extremely tough bracket, but the opportunities were there. Their first game would be against Valparaiso, where the Terps would have 60.3% odds to win the matchup.
Again, Maryland would start well. They were able to grab the lead thanks to some early plays from Damonte Dodd, but with some major outside shots from Darien Walker, the Terps ended up trailing 21-15 with just 8:50 remaining in the 1st Half. It was a bit uncomfortable, but by halftime, Maryland had been able to regain the lead and were sitting at 31-27 at halftime. Jared Nickens and Melo Trimble had made some big plays and keep Maryland in good position.
In the 2nd Half, Valparaiso continued to stick around, but with Trimble and Wells making major plays, the Crusaders got down 39-31 early on and the Terps gradually took control. Again, like so many of their wins all season, the opponent would continue to stay within a possession or two, but just never seemed able to make up quite enough. In the waning minutes, Maryland held a narrow 60-59 lead, but Smotrycz and Wells made the plays at the end to push Maryland over the top to a 65-62 win. Again, a tight win, but a win nonetheless.
With West Virginia knocking off a Round of 64 win over a tricky Buffalo team, the Terps would have an interesting matchup with one of the more physical defenses in the country that lead the nation in defensive turnover rate. Like the MSU game, despite being the higher seeded team, Maryland found that West Virginia would be 53.5% favorites heading into the matchup according to KenPom. Fans would have to see if they could change the outcome this time.
The Mountaineers were able to gain control early on and held a 16-10 lead for early portions of the game, but for the most part, it was a pretty back-and-forth affair. The Terps would close the gap and take the lead and West Virginia would respond by taking it back. It was a great game and was looking like it might even turn into one of the better NCAA Tournament games of the year. West Virginia led 35-34 at halftime.
The 2nd Half really continued the same trend. The game was highly competitive and both teams had clearly learned how to operate in close battles over the course of the season. However, the game ultimately changed when star point guard Melo Trimble had to leave the game due to injury. There were debates about what actually led to the injury and whether the Mountaineers had caused it with some questionable tactics, but nonetheless, the Terps really could never recover and ended up losing what originally looked to be a nail-biter by a final score of 69-59.
Overall, Maryland took a team that had underwhelming expectations and put together an overall record of 28-7 and a Big Ten record of 14-4. They not only qualified for the NCAA Tournament, but ended up being a #4 seed, winning their Round of 64 game, and nearly beating West Virginia before Trimble left with injury. It was a surprising turnaround for the team and program and certainly seemed like a successful one.
Maryland may have received some fortunate luck in some of its games, but there's no doubt that it was still a good team with plenty of strengths. Among these strengths, the team's significant offensive improvement and its ability to get to and convert from the free throw line were some of the strongest parts to its game. These provided the Terps the balance they needed to compete in the conference and nationally.
During the 2013-14 season, Maryland was a decent to solid team, but were unable to show enough consistency to make the NCAA Tournament. Losses to Boston University, Clemson, George Washington, and North Carolina State stung and really hurt the team's resume. It wasn't an awful team, but Maryland was going to need significant improvement if it was going to seriously get into the NCAA Tournament chatter.
Fortunately, the Terps not only found a way to improve, but improved dramatically. Easily, the biggest area of improvement was on the offensive end. Much of this was likely due to the addition of players like Melo Trimble, but by taking these steps forward and adding more balance, they became a much better team. Just take a look at how they improved last year.
2014-15 Maryland Offensive Improvement:
Undoubtedly, a major part of that offensive improvement came from the free throw line, where Maryland turned into one of the better teams in the country. The crazy thing about Maryland's performance here is that it was twofold. They got to the line very often and also converted when they got there. Obviously, if a team is able to accomplish those two tasks, it's going to lead to good things. In fact, thanks to their free throw percentage, which ranked #14 nationally, they ended up at #18 in the country in point distribution off free throws. Considering that they had a Top 100 offense according to KenPom, that's a pretty significant statement.
As mentioned, the other big reason for this was that Maryland was really good at actually getting to the line. Even if a team is the best free throw shooting team in the country, it's not going to lead to a ton of points if the team never gets to the line. However, the Terps were really good at getting there as well. Just take a look at how some of Maryland's top players performed in this stat.
2014-15 Big Ten Top Contributors FTRate:
Maryland was far from a perfect team last season, but their substantial offensive improvement led by their performance on the free throw line was a major storyline of the season. Without this improvement in balance in the team's play, it's hard to imagine them winning as many games as they did last season.
Unfortunately, though Maryland had some major strengths, the team also had its share of weaknesses as well. Two of the biggest issues on the team were its rebounding and its inability to create turnovers defensively. Overall, the Terps weren't a terrible rebounding team and did get some turnovers, but they were weaker areas for the team.
One of the biggest areas for improvement for Maryland last season was on the boards. The team finished at #143 nationally in defensive rebound rate and just #251 nationally in offensive rebounding rate. They still found success despite these issues, but when a team doesn't even break into the Top 100 in a major category like rebounding, it's not exactly something just to overlook. Here's a look at their top guys in rebounding compared to the Big Ten.
2014-15 Big Ten Top Contributors Offensive Rebounding Rate:
The other major area where the Terps had room for improvement was on the defensive end and particularly, in creating turnovers. It's not essential to create turnovers to be a great defense, but it's certainly something that can take you from a good to great defense and make you elite. If Maryland doesn't finish at #282 in defensive turnover rate and #322 in defensive steal rate, perhaps they can be one of those #2 or #3 seeds and really make a deep run. Just take a look at how their top players held up in the Big Ten.
2014-15 Big Ten Top Contributors Steal Rate:
Maryland had a fantastic regular season and were able to put together a really nice season, but they did have some areas that really held them back from that elite level. If they could have simply been mediocre in rebounding or in creating turnovers, that really could have helped them get into that elite group of teams.
7. Top Player
Coming into the year, most figured that Dez Wells would be a major contributor, but there were a lot of questions about the roster outside of Wells. The team lost several major players outside of in Seth Allen and Nick Faust and would have to hope some of the newcomers could make a difference. Luckily, the team added a major prospect in Melo Trimble that would make an early impact.
Let's take a look at how the players compared.
Maryland 2014-15 Stat Leaders:
- Minutes - Melo Trimble
- Field Goal Attempts - Melo Trimble
- Points - Melo Trimble
- Rebounds - Jake Layman
- Assists - Melo Trimble
- Blocks - Damonte Dodd
- Steals - Melo Trimble
Trimble also held up very well in the advanced stats.
Of course, advanced numbers may not necessarily be a perfect reflection compared to how a player performs in big games and whether he can push them over the top. To help assist in this, KenPom does an analysis of an MVP in each game and awards it to the best player during the game. Here is how Maryland stacked up.
There's no doubt that Maryland had some great players last season, but it's hard to think that anybody other than Melo Trimble was the best player on the roster last season. He led in total contributions, did well in the advanced stats, and also had the most outstanding performances on the team. Trimble was an unknown before the season so to see him develop into the team's best player is pretty remarkable.
8. Sixth Man
The Terrapins were certainly not among the nation's elite in terms of bench production, but they were at least in the middle of the road. Overall, Maryland came in at #140 nationally in bench minutes.
Last season, Maryland's most started lineup was Damonte Dodd, Jake Layman, Richaud Pack, Melo Trimble, and Dez Wells. This was certainly not the lineup for the entire season, but these were the most started players, which is the measure for this comparison. This left the top bench contributors as Michal Cekovsky, Jonathan Graham, Jared Nickens, Evan Smotrycz, Dion Wiley.
Maryland 2014-15 Bench Leaders
- Minutes - Jared Nickens
- Field Goal Attempts - Jared Nickens
- Points - Jared Nickens
- Rebounds - Evan Smotrycz
- Assists - Evan Smotrycz
- Blocks - Michal Cekovsky
- Steals - Evan Smotrycz
Here is how they held up in the advanced stats comparison.
Maryland had a few guys off the bench that made a pretty big impact, but it's pretty hard based on this comparison to select anybody other than Jared Nickens as the team's best bench player.
9. Top Storylines
The storyline of Maryland's 2014-15 season was a fulfilling one. Though the season may not have had that extra polish of taking home a championship or making a deep NCAA Tournament run, it was still a season that included 28 wins, a massive home win over Wisconsin, and a Round of 32 appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Preseason expectations were not great for Maryland. The media selected them as #10 in the Big Ten before the season and most thought they would have a tough time reaching the NCAA Tournament. Still, with plenty of talent, including incoming point guard Melo Trimble, there was a lot of upside to the team despite its underwhelming predictions before opening the season.
Things started extremely well for Maryland with 12 wins in non-conference play, but many were still hesitant to buy into the Terps given their hot starts and rough finishes in years past. However, they were able to perform well early in Big Ten play and though they had some close finishes, they won their final seven games of the regular season. The Terps were also able to beat Indiana in Chicago in the Big Ten Tournament, but fell to Michigan State and subsequently found themselves matched up with Valparaiso in the Round of 64. They were able to beat the Crusaders, but fell to West Virginia in the Round of 32.
Maryland was never a perfect team over last season and relied on a good number of close wins - including some against underwhelming teams - but it's hard to say the Terps were anything other than a really good team last season. They might not have been elite, but they won a lot of games, took care of business in conference play, and avoided the upsets that doomed them in past seasons. It was a fantastic entrance into the Big Ten.
(Photo Credit: Greg Bartham-USA TODAY Sports)
10. Final Verdict
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.
Season Grade: A