The 2016-’17 ‘BTPowerhouse Season Preview' series will take an in-depth look at all 14 teams in the Big Ten heading into the 2016-’17 season with analysis on each program's previous season, offseason departures, new additions, strengths, weakness, top player, and top storylines. Each post will also include predictions on each team's starting lineup, season performance and commentary from a local "insider" who covers said team.
When things are going well, it’s not something most sports fans want to think about. A team is rolling and the last thing on most fans minds is what could be coming down the road.
During last season, Maryland entered the year with exceptionally high expectations. The team was the clear Big Ten favorite and was projected by many to make the Final Four or be in serious contention to make it. This was a team stacked with future NBA players that was supposed to change the face of Maryland basketball for years to come.
Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out that way.
Maryland did race out to a 15-1 start and ended up making the NCAA Tournament, but the Terps failed to win the Big Ten regular season title, failed to make the Big Ten Tournament final, and was eliminated the Sweet 16 by Kansas. While it wasn’t a bad year, it was a disappointing one for fans who had built their expectations on lofty preseason rankings and projections.
Then, the offseason departures took their toll.
With four starters leaving the roster for the NBA, Maryland quickly went from one of the nation’s most loaded rosters to one of the nation’s most unknown. Melo Trimble returned, but everything else looked like a question mark. Although fans didn’t want to think about the future last season, it’s here. For better or worse.
Now, the biggest question will be whether Mark Turgeon can find a way to get this incredibly young team to gel together this season. There’s enough talent on the roster and in the lineup to make some noise, but nobody is sure whether this will be a transitional year or another good one in College Park.
And with that uncertainty in mind, here’s a look at what to expect this year.
BTPowerhouse Season Preview Podcast
Along with reading BTPowerhouse's season preview post for the Maryland Terrapins, make sure to check out the site's podcast preview of the Terps, featuring BTPowerhouse Manager Thomas Beindit and Testudo Times’ Matt Ellentuck breaking down Maryland's roster, incoming recruits, schedule, and season outlook.
1. 2015-’16 Season Performance
- Record: 27-9 (12-6)
- KenPom Team Rating: #23
- RPI Rating: #13
- Postseason Appearance: NCAA Tournament (Sweet 16)
By any general measure, Maryland had an outstanding 2015-’16 season. The team won 27 games, lost just one game (a road game against an elite North Carolina team) before mid-January, and made the Sweet 16 for the first time in 13 years. That’s not a national title, but it’s still a hell of a lot to accomplish for any team.
Unfortunately, Maryland wasn’t a normal team last year.
When those accomplishments are considered in light of preseason expectations, the 2015-’16 season was a significant disappointment for Maryland. This was a team full of NBA talent that should have been in the title hunt. It got close, but rarely performed like a top five team. For instance, despite racking up a ton of wins, most came by small margins at home or against mixed competition. In fact, Maryland had just two wins against top 25 KenPom teams all year.
It was a nice season, but far below the team’s expectations.
Highlights of the season included non-conference wins over Connecticut and Georgetown and Big Ten wins over Iowa, Purdue, and Wisconsin. Low points of the season included road losses to Michigan and Minnesota.
Individual statistical leaders were Robert Carter, Diamond Stone, Rasheed Sulaimon, and Melo Trimble. Carter led the team in rebounds. Stone led the team in blocks and usage. Sulaimon led the team in minutes. Trimble led the team in points, assists, steals, and total win shares.
2. Offseason Exits
Maryland is set to lose a massive amount of contributors heading into this season. The team will be losing four starters and two senior walk-ons. These players were Trevor Anzmann, Robert Carter, Jake Layman, Varun Ram, Diamond Stone, and Rasheed Sulaimon. All four except Anzmann and Ram are massive losses.
Aside from Carter, Layman, Stone, and Sulaimon all occupying starting roles, these were also four of the team’s top five players in minutes, two of its top three in three-point field goals, its top three rebounders, and three of its top four in assists. That’s a massive, massive number of contributions. Even if those numbers were ballooned by an unusual short bench for Maryland, replacing those numbers won’t be easy.
The biggest area that will be impacted by these losses will be the frontcourt. Carter and Stone started at the four and five respectively and Layman was a key reserve at the four position. Even with some returning depth upfront and a talented backcourt, those losses alone make the frontcourt Maryland’s biggest question this season.
Along with the loss of those four players, Maryland will also be losing two senior leaders in Anzmann and Ram. Neither of these departures will be significant from a statistical perspective considering that neither averaged even five minutes a game last season. Their departures will be primarily felt in the leadership aspect.
3. New Additions
This season, the Terrapins will be adding five new recruits and one transfer. These recruits are Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter, Justin Jackson, Micah Thomas, and Joshua Tomaic. Cowan, Huerter, and Jackson were rated as four-stars, Thomas is rated as a three-star, and Tomaic is unranked by 247Sports. Cowan is listed as a point guard, Hurter as a shooting guard, Jackson and Thomas as small forward, and Tomaic as a power forward.
The two prospects who have received most of the attention in this group are Cowan and Jackson. While Jackson is technically rated as just Maryland’s third best recruit this year, many believe he has the most upside and is a potential star long-term. Cowan is a player that should be ready from day one and figures to push for major minutes either in the starting lineup or off the bench.
Of the three other prospects, Huerter and Tomaic are the ones raising eyebrows. Huerter is a player with an excellent handle that can shoot from long range. Tomaic is an international wildcard, but has a raw skillset that could turn him into a legitimate NBA prospect. However, he could just as easily turn into a tweener stuck on the bench. Finally, Thomas is a player that will likely take a year or two to become a legitimate option for Maryland.
Along with the recruiting additions, Maryland is also adding a graduate transfer in LG Gill. He is transferring in from Duquesne and brings plenty of experience with him to College Park. During last season, Gill was efficient (108.3 offensive rating) and was a respectable rebounder (13.1 defensive rebounding rate) and three-point shooter (34.2 percent). He projects to the starter at the four and should be a productive option as Maryland’s youth develops.
This is a deep and immensely talented group of newcomers for Maryland this season. Whether they’re ready to make massive contributions in year one remains a question, but these players should make an impact long-term.
4. Team Strengths
With so much transition this offseason, it’s admittedly pretty difficult to get a gauge as to where Maryland will have its strengths this season. The team was consistent across the board last year, but with four starters now gone, those numbers won’t resemble what fans see this season. However, two areas that do project as strengths will be the team’s long range shooting and its ability to get to the free throw line.
Perhaps one of the areas that should be solid this season for Maryland will be the team’s three-point shooting. Maryland ranked an underwhelming no. 103 nationally in long distance shooting last season, but endured pretty unreliable shooting from three of the team’s starters (Robert Carter, Diamond Stone, and Melo Trimble). While Trimble will return this fall, both Carter and Stone are gone.
While it’s difficult to project Maryland as an elite three-point shooting team, if frontcourt players like LG Gill can offer a little more shooting and Trimble can get closer to his freshman numbers (41.2 percent), there’s plenty of room for growth outside the arc. Plus, freshmen like Kevin Huerter could make a splash here as well.
Maryland should also remain one of the better units in the conference at getting to the free throw line. Much of that success should be due to Melo Trimble. He did regress in this area last season, but he remains one of the best guards in the country at getting to the free throw line. If the team can find a reliable frontcourt, this should be a major strength.
One other general strength that should be noted here is Maryland’s backcourt. The loss of Rasheed Sulaimon should be significant, but the team still returns Melo Trimble and some interesting depth options like Jaylen Brantley, Jared Nickens, and Dion Wiley, and is adding two major recruits in Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter. Not only is that a plethora of options, but it also includes proven players and elite prospects. As such, it’s hard not to think that Maryland’s backcourt will be loaded this season and beyond.
5. Team Red Flags
Even with these projected strengths, Maryland will have some major concerns heading into this season. These will primarily relate to the team’s frontcourt. With so much offseason attrition, it’s going to be difficult for Maryland to find quality frontcourt options. This will likely show up on the boards and around the rim defensively.
Although some of this has already been mentioned, it’s worth bringing up again. Maryland saw a tremendous number of contributions leave its frontcourt to head to the pros. Both starters (Robert Carter and Diamond Stone) are gone and one of the key reserves (Jake Layman) is also gone. Even with returners like Michal Cekovsky and Damonte Dodd and the addition of LG Gill, there’s going to be uncertainty.
The area where the losses will likely show up the most is on the boards. Although Maryland only sat at 180th in defensive rebounding last season, that was with Carter, Layman, and Stone. Perhaps someone like Cekovsky can improve his production, but barring a massive surprise from the roster, this projects as a major concern. No area on the court could derail Maryland’s season faster than its rebounding.
These losses also leave Maryland in an uncomfortable place on the defensive end. Maryland ranked no. 18 nationally in defensive block rate, but a massive part of that was Diamond Stone. HIs athleticism and size allowed him to be one of the Big Ten’s better rim protectors. Although Dodd was a decent shot blocker last season, trying to match the production from Carter and Stone looksl ike a nearly impossible task.
6. Top Player
Heading into last season, Melo Trimble was the easy pick to be Maryland’s best player. He was coming off an outstanding freshman campaign and was selected by most as the Big Ten’s Preseason Player of the Year. While Trimble did see some regression from his first year with the Terps, he still ended the season as one of the better players in the conference and likely Maryland’s top overall contributor.
And with every other Maryland starter now departing, Trimble remains the easy pick this year. Unless he regresses even further from his freshman numbers, it’s hard to imagine anyone else passing him. If anything, Trimble will likely trend up after a sophomore slump and turn into a legitimate All-American candidate.
Outside of Trimble, the top candidates to challenge for the role of Maryland’s best player should be LG Gill, Jared Nickens, and Dion Wiley. None of the three look like serious All-Big Ten candidates, but could be in position for stellar years with moderate improvement. Gill was a proven option before he transferred to Maryland both Nickens and Wiley have shown promise, despite limited playing time.
The wildcards for Maryland in this category will be Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter, and Justin Jackson. Although all three players figure to be stars for Maryland down the road, each is still a true freshman this season. Perhaps one or two can surprise and lock down a starting spot, but this will likely be a growing year for these three. Although the talent is there, it will take some time for it to develop.
7. 2015-16 Schedule Breakdown
- 11/5 - Catawba (Ex.)
- 11/11 - American
- 11/15 - at Georgetown
- 11/17 - St. Mary’s College (MD)
- 11/21 - Towson
- 11/22 - Stony Brook
- 11/25 - Richmond (Brooklyn, NY)
- 11/26 - Boston College/Kansas State (Brooklyn, NY)
- 11/29 - Pittsburgh
- 12/3 - Oklahoma State
- 12/7 - Howard
- 12/10 - Saint Peter’s
- 12/12 - Jacksonville State
- 12/20 - Charlotte (Baltimore, MD)
- 12/27 - Illinois
- 1/1 - Nebraska
- 1/7 - at Michigan
- 1/10 - Indiana
- 1/14 - at Illinois
- 1/19 - at Iowa
- 1/24 - Rutgers
- 1/28 - at Minnesota
- 1/31 - at Ohio State
- 2/4 - Purdue
- 2/7 - at Penn State
- 2/11 - Ohio State
- 2/15 - at Northwestern
- 2/19 - at Wisconsin
- 2/22 - Minnesota
- 2/25 - Iowa
- 2/28 - at Rutgers
- 3/2 - Michigan State
It’s always a dangerous proposition to judge a schedule before the season starts, but if Maryland’s schedule tells us anything about this season, it’s that things should come relatively easily for the Terps. Maryland drew an incredibly favorable slate this year and should coast through much of the year.
During non-conference play, Maryland’s success will largely depend on a set of five games. These are the road trip to Georgetown, neutral games against Richmond and Boston College or Kansas State, and home games against Pittsburgh and Oklahoma State. No other opponents are projected above no. 150 on KenPom’s preseason rankings and no other games will come on the road.
That favorable draw also continued into Big Ten play. Maryland drew Indiana, Michigan State, Purdue, and Wisconsin (the Big Ten’s top four projected teams) in single-plays and will face just one (!!!) of those four on the road. I certainly won’t claim Maryland’s schedule was “fixed” by the Big Ten office, but even if Delany tampered with the schedules to give Maryland a favorable draw, this slate would still make him blush.
To put this in perspective, just consider this. The Big Ten sent a nation’s best seven teams to the NCAA Tournament last season. Of Maryland’s nine conference road games this season, just three (!!!) will come against NCAA Tournament teams and one of those (Michigan) comes against a First Four team. If Maryland can’t use this schedule to put together at least 10 conference wins, it only has itself to blame.
However, this schedule also comes with a potential doomsday scenario. Since so much of Maryland’s schedule is composed of lackluster competition, grabbing marquee wins is going to be pretty difficult for the Terps. As such, if Maryland can’t cash in on those limited opportunities or suffers an upset or two, the team’s RPI could really suffer. This is an unlikely scenario, but it deserves mentioning.
Maryland will have some opportunities to prove itself this season with its schedule, but unless some teams thoroughly surprise, it looks like most of the team’s postseason implications will be determined by a handful of games late in the regular season.
8. Projected Starting Lineup
- PG: Anthony Cowan (Fr) - 75%
- SG: Melo Trimble (Jr.) - 95%
- SF: Jared Nickens (Jr.) - 60%
- PF: LG Gill (Sr.) - 90%
- C: Damonte Dodd (Sr.) - 85%
(Percentage likelihood of starting at season tip-off.)
Maryland’s backcourt figures to be the strength of the team heading into this season. Not only is Melo Trimble the best player on the roster, but the backcourt also has plenty of depth and talent behind him for the first time since he arrived on campus.
Trimble will start at one spot, but there should be an intriguing battle among the rest of the guards to see who can lock down another spot or two. The two top contenders here will be Dion Wiley and incoming freshman Anthony Cowan. Each will get serious minutes this season, so listing one as a “starter” probably isn’t all that important. However, based upon the hype Cowan has gotten all offseason and the first exhibition, look for him to get the nod early.
On the wing, Maryland figures to have a few players fighting for time. LG Gill is virtually a lock to start at the four after transferring in this offseason, but the three spot looks up for grabs among a pretty large group of players. Although Jared Nickens should be the favorite for the spot, Maryland has four freshmen that should fight for time behind him. The two to watch here will be Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson, who both come to campus with plenty of recruiting acclaim.
Despite the drama elsewhere, there won’t be much upfront. The second Diamond Stone went pro, Damonte Dodd became the de facto starter and nothing has happened to change that thought so far. His ceiling isn’t all that high, but he’s a reliable player with a lot of experience. If he can rebound and play defense, he should be more than good enough to hold down the starting job.
9. Team Perspective From Matthew Ellentuck of Testudo Times
"Nobody knows how good the Maryland Terrapins are or aren’t, and that’s the most exciting part about this season. With Melo Trimble returning for a junior year, most think the Terps are bound for a strong season and a tourney bid, but with a flurry of freshmen set to take on large responsibilities nobody can be sure of quite what Maryland has until the season start rolling.
The Terps can only be as good as their freshmen because of the departure of four starters from a season ago.
Anthony Cowan is expected to take on a big role in relieving Trimble at point, and in Maryland’s first exhibition game he started beside him as the two flipped roles on and off the ball. He’s known for his defensive abilities as well. Standing just 6’ tall (and probably even shorter than that), Cowan more than makes up for the height differential with his quickness on his feet and with his hands. He’ll pickpocket a ton of opposing guards this season.
Wing deep-ball threat Kevin Huerter will also get major minutes as a player useful both with and without the ball. He can shoot the lights out, and showed in the first exhibition game that he can also be a bit of a playmaker.
Justin Jackson is versatile as a shooter, slasher or a big man in a smaller lineup. The 6’7 freshman has a 7’3 wingspan and showed last weekend he’ll be a pain to score on down low. He’ll need to become a consistent rebounder and finisher around the rim to make full use of his talents.
Besides the freshmen, redshirt sophomore Dion Wiley has returned after tearing his meniscus a season ago, and should fill in a major role as a scorer when Trimble is off the floor. Before his injury last year he was slated to start over Rasheed Sulaimon. Duquesne transfer L.G. Gill will also be a strong presence to bang in the post.
The Terps return some contributors from last season too in starting center Damonte Dodd, junior wing Jared Nickens, backup guard Jaylen Brantley and backup big Michal Cekovsky.
Maryland has more depth than ever, despite not having the talent it did a year ago. Coach Mark Turgeon will be put to the test to quickly acclimate freshmen to the college game, as the Terrapins make their bid towards a third-straight tournament run." - Matthew Ellentuck.
10. Overall Season Outlook
The resurgence of Maryland basketball over the last few seasons has been impressive to watch. After languishing in the darkness of college basketball for much of the last decade, the Terps are finally back. Mark Turgeon has turned Maryland into one of the more consistent programs in the country and one of the more dynamic recruiting machines anywhere in the country.
Unfortunately, this is going to be a transitional season. With four starters off to the pros, there’s just no way Maryland fans can reasonably hope for a dynamic year. Even if the recruits hit the ground running and Melo Trimble gets back to his freshman production, there are just too much holes on the roster to hope for too much.
However, that doesn’t mean this is a bad team. A transitional year for most programs means a year without an NCAA Tournament appearance, but not so for Maryland. This team has more than enough talent to remain in the top 25 conversation and make the Big Dance. It won’t be easy, but with a forgiving schedule and time for players to develop, don’t be surprised if this team is red hot going into March.
Last season was a disappointment for fans and the team alike, but with new faces and plenty of talent, this could be the start of the next chapter of Maryland basketball. And if the past was any indication of what’s to come, strap in for an exciting few years.