The Maryland Terrapins are 13-1 on the season and have had their moments where they look like a top three team in the country and other times where they just forget to play fundamental basketball with constant turnovers. At the end of the day, this team has proven that they can win at a high level under head coach Mark Turgeon. After all, they feature possibly five NBA players in Melo Trimble, Rasheed Sulaimon, Jake Layman, Robert Carter and Diamond Stone. All five players also average at least 10 points a game.
Overall, this is an elite team. A team that when at its peak, could handle any team in the entire country. But in order for the Terps to reach that peak, they will need more out of their bigs in center Damonte Dodd and center/power forward Michal Cekovsky.
Dodd, at 6'11, is known for his defense and is the best defender Maryland has in the paint at the moment. Over the last two seasons, Dodd has been somewhat of an emotional leader for this team. When he plays well, the entire team feeds off of it. But he has had some inconsistencies with rebounding over the course of this season and he is very limited offensively.
Last season, Dodd's best game came in late November against the Illinois State Redbirds with 13 points. Dodd seems to be a player that plays well offensively when Maryland is running a fast break because with his effort to run the floor, he can take advantage of the opponents before they get into their half court defense.But in his last six games, Dodd has only scored nine points and has found himself getting in foul trouble early and often.
With Cekovsky, he is a bit of an enigma because he has shown that he has talent. He has the size at 7'1 and he has shown athleticism with alley-oops. Last season against the Wisconsin Badgers, Cekovsky did a good job defending Frank Kaminsky. But for whatever reason, we don't see that kind of performance often. Over the last two seasons with Maryland overall, Cekovsky has not looked like he feels comfortable on offense or on defense. And recently, like Dodd, Cekovsky has only scored nine points in the last six games as well.
Before the season started, one of the biggest reasons why I had a lot of high hopes for Maryland's journey to a national championship had to do with the fact that there were reports that Cekovsky was improving in practice. Maybe he has improved and it just hasn't translated into a game yet, but Cekovsky still struggles far too often on defense and he can't catch the ball with confidence on offense when Turgeon tries to get him involved. It just seems like whenever the ball is fed to him, it turns into a Maryland turnover.
Maybe this is a bit too critical, but you have to take expectations into account. Maryland's goal is to win the national championship and these two stepping is a big part of reaching that goal. From Trimble, Sulaimon, Layman, Carter and Stone, this team is dangerous when all five players are on their game. But it isn't realistic to believe that all five players will play consistently from now through the NCAA tournament.
There's going to be a game where Stone and/or Carter are struggling in the front court and Dodd as well as Cekovsky are going to have to do their part for this team to stay steady and not be one dimensional offensively with jump shots. I'm not saying they need to be completely efficient on offense, but Maryland needs production from both of them. And if Dodd and Cekovsky can't do that, Turgeon may have to look at giving center/power forward Ivan Bender more minutes.
Dodd and Cekovsky right now know their roles and they have been good enough to help the Terps be the number three team in the country at the moment. But at the end of the day, this team needs more from them if a national championship is on their minds. I think that if you are the Terps coaching staff or if you are a Terps fan, you have to be worried a little bit despite the progress we have seen Stone and Carter deliver in the front court.