As the regular season winds down and as the conference and NCAA tournament approach, the Terrapins are sitting at the top of the Big Ten with five games left in the regular season. Expectations were at an all-time high with a loaded roster that boasts five potential 2016 NBA Draft picks in its starting lineup.
The two biggest questions entering the season were whether or not former Duke guard Rasheed Sulaimon would be able to mesh with the returning nucleus that led Maryland to a third round appearance in the 2015 NCAA tournament and if Maryland had enough ball-handlers to complement Melo Trimble when he needed a spell. The Terps are setting their sights for Houston, but will need more consistency from sophomore guard Jaylen Brantley to help ease the ball-handing abilities as March Madness approaches.
Last season's final game against West Virginia exposed one glaring weakness heading into the 2015-16 season. The need for additional facilitators was pressing if the Terrapins were going to take the next step towards becoming one of the elite programs.
The addition of former Marshall point guard Jaylen Brantley was recognized as one that would help alleviate the pressure off Melo Trimble and keep the offense flowing should Trimble leave the court. The transition to College Park hasn't been as smooth as Terps fans expected, and with only a handful of games left, there could be reason for concern towards the end of the season.
Perhaps Trimble's best friend on the court this season is Sulaimon, as he has proven to be the capable secondary ball-handler Maryland was seeking. Putting Sulaimon at the point has been a blessing for Trimble as it allows him to come off screens and spot up for his always-dangerous three point attempts. The versatility Sulaimon possesses is tremendous for Trimble's offensive repertoire, but with stingy defense and scoring responsibilities, Sulaimon will also need help.
Brantley had a tremendous showing against Bowie State -- grain of salt -- but the young guard will need to build confidence off that game and help alleviate the turnover problem that has plagued the Terps dating back to last season.
Maryland's downfall could come at the hands of a program that plays a high octane press or stifling half court defense, and with the continuing turnover problems throughout the 2015 season, the Terrapins could be derailed from a historical season if there aren't enough capable ball-handlers on the court. Every opponent Maryland could face in the big dance will present a unique approach that could schematically challenge them. A team like Duke could cause for Sulaimon to be more of a defensive stopper to help combat the perimeter attack of the Blue Devils. If Maryland happens to play a team like Butler, Trimble and Sulaimon could look to exploit the perimeter defense of Tyler Lewis and Kellen Dunham. If North Carolina, West Virginia or any team that plays an intense brand of defense, Maryland will need all of the help they can get in order to take care of the ball and limit turnovers. Maryland has been able to become one of the country's most prominent teams this season without a major impact from Brantley, but with post season play looming, it's not too late for guys to step up and play meaningful minutes against quality competition, and Brantley leads the list of players who need to step up.