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Maryland Hitting Stride as Conference Play Approaches

At 11-1, the Maryland Terrapins are beginning to click as they approach conference play of the 2016-2017 season.

NCAA Basketball: Howard at Maryland Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Things have fallen well into place for the Maryland Terrapins so far this season.

Even though the team has faced a fairly weak non-conference schedule, the Terrapins have avoided major slip-ups early in the year and have put themselves in a terrific position with only one contest left before conference play begins.

Sitting at a very good record of 11-1, the Terps are have been a team that is subject to many criticisms and questions, due to their lack of schedule strength.

But regardless, they have escaped their non-conference schedule, relatively, unscathed, which is not something that other Big Ten teams can say (Hello, Michigan State).

At this moment, they are beginning to look like a very good basketball team that could find themselves in the top tier of the Big Ten conference come season’s end. They have several great pieces that make up a good roster and have a proven winner as a coach in Mark Turgeon.

But their show revolves around star junior guard Melo Trimble.

Trimble struggled in his sophomore season, after a tremendous freshman campaign, and is now having the best year of his career thus far.

The leader of the Terps is averaging 17.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game, while also being very efficient with a 47% shooting percentage. Trimble is also becoming a more consistent outside shooter, where he is hitting at a 35% clip.

But as the first 12 games have gone along, the team has developed a very solid supporting cast around Trimble in order to establish themselves as much more than a one-man show.

The freshman duo of Anthony Cowan and Justin Jackson are the two the come immediately to mind, as the team’s second and third leading scorers and Jackson also being the team’s leading rebounder.

Another freshman in Kevin Huerter has also proven to be a valuable contributor, with the ability to both score and rebound from the wing with great size at 6-foot-7. Junior big man Michal Cekovsky is a super efficient inside scorer and gives the team a needed scoring punch on the interior.

And once senior big man Damonte Dodd returns from injury, depth will not be an issue for Mark Turgeon’s squad.

But aside from a flashy 11-1 record, this team has shown some real composure and resilience late in games so far this year, as well as an ability to stay focused in what many would see as cupcake games.

The team has registered three wins by one point, each against solid competition in Oklahoma State, Kansas State, and Georgetown. Their only loss came at the hands of the Pittsburgh Panthers, who also have a very good record at 9-2.

Something that is promising, though, is that they have no really had great struggles against obscure opponents. The Terps have repeatedly gotten the job done and have not registered a bad loss on their record early on, which could pay dividends down the road when evaluating NCAA Tournament resumes.

That seems like a requirement for a big-time program, but we have seem really good teams slip up against against nobody opponents as Indiana did earlier this season against IPFW.

I don’t think anyone is labeling Maryland as a contender on the national stage, or even a threat to win the Big Ten regular season. But, they have a very good roster, coach, and ability to win games late, which might make them the fourth best team in the Big Ten behind Indiana, Wisconsin, and Purdue.

The fourth best team in most conferences is a middle-of-the-road squad. But in the Big Ten, that is a legitimate tournament team that no one wants to see in the postseason.

That is what Maryland is beginning to look like. And they should not be slept on as they head into the thick of their schedule.