The Maryland Terrapins won the Barclays Center Classic with a thrilling win over Kansas State on Saturday night.
The win pushed the Terps to a perfect 7-0 start, but the team still has many questions surrounding them. The weakness of their early season schedule has made observers skeptical about this team’s place among the Big Ten’s elite.
One thing that is not a question, though, is their star player, Melo Trimble.
Trimble has been showing the potential that was on display during his stellar freshman campaign. Now a junior, Trimble is averaging 21.1 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists per game on a career-best 47% field-goal percentage, thus far.
Maryland does have a bonafide Big Ten Player of the Year candidate in Trimble. But the largely unknown supporting cast around him leaves a lot of uncertainty. They have shown promise, but can it be sustained?
The Terps lost a terrific frontcourt trio from a year ago in Jake Layman, Robert Carter and Diamond Stone, leaving a big void to be filled. But two players have stepped up thus far as great compliments to Trimble.
Junior Michal Cekovsky and Freshman Justin Jackson have emerged as those two guys.
Jackson, at 6-7, lacks elite size but has played well and has the ability to stretch the floor, as he is hitting his perimeter shots at a 52% clip. He looks to, potentially, have the ability to take on Layman’s old role one day at Maryland. He is the team’s second leading scorer and leading rebounder, making his role a crucial one in taking pressure off of their star.
Cekovsky has only played in three games, but has been wildly efficient. In only 17 minutes per game, he is posting 10.3 points and 5.3 rebounds, while shooting 64% from the floor. At 7-1, the Slovakian big man has a high ceiling if he can get more minutes, and can fill the low post scoring void left by Stone.
But can this play be held up against stiffer competition?
When looking at Maryland’s wins, they only have two over Power Five Conference competition. Both of those wins came by a point each over Georgetown and Kansas State.
The Terps have also had some very close calls against mid-major opposition also, as they were pushed to overtime by Richmond and played close by both Towson and American.
But we will learn a little bit more about Maryland soon. Their next two games come against Oklahoma State and Pittsburgh and while those teams are not world-beaters by any stretch of the imagination, they are much stronger competition than they have been facing.
Those two games are the only games against Power Five Conference teams remaining until the Terps open up Big Ten play on December 27th. So if they can get by those two clubs, it is reasonable to expect Maryland to be undefeated at the start of conference play.
Maryland has become a very good program under their coach Mark Turgeon, who has done a terrific job in building Maryland to sustain success in the post-Gary Williams era. They also have one of the best guards in college basketball in Trimble, who has shown the ability to carry a team and hit big shots so far this season.
But can they keep up their winning ways against better foes? And can their supporting cast be good enough to give them more options beyond Trimble?
We will not know until their bigger games are played, but Maryland is winning nonetheless. And all we can do now is ask questions.