The University of Maryland basketball program has experienced quite a revival since its four year doldrums with zero NCAA tournament appearances. A once proud program that qualified for every NCAA tournament from 1994 to 2004 and was the home of a national championship in 2002 went through almost half a decade of irrelevance from 2011 to 2014.
But head coach Mark Turgeon, with major help from one of the nation’s best point guards in Melo Trimble, has turned Maryland basketball around and into an up-and-coming national power. Losing four out of five starters in one season hinders that quest a bit but the return of Melo Trimble has kept the excitement in College Park from being too tempered.
We’re getting closer and closer to the season opener, so here at BTPowerhouse we’re examining the biggest questions in need of answers on this Maryland squad.
How will they handle the departure of 4 starters?
The cons of having a starting lineup filled with potential pros is that when they leave, your team will look pretty bare. Jake Layman, Robert Carter, Rasheed Sulaimon, and Diamond Stone all left College Park for the pro leagues and all that’s left from last season’s championship caliber starting squad is point guard Melo Trimble.
Dion Wiley’s return from a knee injury should be a huge boost to the team. He’s a guy with a big frame that is also a good shooter and can bring a lot to the offense. If he’s healthy, he will play a very key role in a very deep Maryland backcourt.
Alongside Wiley as one of the team’s best shooting guards is Kevin Huerter, who comes in as a four star recruit. The lanky freshman is known as a knock down shooter and will help a Maryland team that struggled to shoot many times last year. L.G. Gill is another newcomer that can bolster the offense. The forward transfer is a solid addition coming from Duquesne where he averaged 10.1 points per game and 6.5 rebounds.
They have the depth but will they produce?
There are still pieces from the last year’s rotation though that will provide the Terps with depth. Damonte Dodd and Michal Cekovsky return to help anchor the frontcourt while Jared Nickens will be back on the wing. Along with Trimble, Wiley and Huerter will be point guards Jaylen Brantley and freshman guard Anthony Cowan, making this a group with plenty of bodies.
Incoming freshmen Justin Jackson and Joshua Tomaic will also help bolster the frontcourt behind Dodd, Cekovsky and Gill as these highly touted forwards are coming to College Park.
This year’s group has a lot more depth than last year’s squad, and that lack of viable options was a major reason why the Terps had a bit of a disappointing season in relation to preseason expectations. Maryland has got plenty of bodies in 2016 but when a lot of them are freshman, it could prove problematic this season.
Will depth and chemistry be better than talent?
The Terps of last season had possibly the most talented starting five in America, which showed in their preseason top 5 ranking. They had a starting five full of pro potential, but the problem was that group just could not put it all together. On the court they did not gel and in the end it hurt them as a preseason title contender got dominated in the Sweet Sixteen.
This year’s group is not in the same area code talent-wise, but with a lot of last year’s backup guys now back and looking to take leading roles, this team is deep and should have the chemistry needed to make noise in the Big Ten and in March. There’s that old cliche about hard work beating talent but we’ll see if this year’s depth and chemistry can go farther than last season’s all-star starting five.