The Maryland Terrapins qualified for the 2017 NCAA tournament after exceeding expectations in the Big Ten conference. Predicted to finish in the bottom half of the conference, Maryland ended the season tied for second with Wisconsin at 12-6.
The Terrapins ended the regular season losing three of five games and then disappointed in the Big Ten Tournament with a loss to Northwestern, 72-64. Despite that, the sixth seeded Terrapins were still expected to win their first round game against 11th seeded Xavier. The Musketeers struggled through an injury-filled season, and Maryland had a golden opportunity to earn a first round NCAA Tournament win.
Xavier and junior guard Trevon Bluiett (21 points) proved too much for Maryland, as the Musketeers earned the 76-65 upset.
Let’s look at the takeaways from this first round NCAA tournament game.
What We Learned:
1. Maryland’s future is very bright.
Maryland’s offense was driven by the youth of the Terrapins. The freshmen duo of Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson played like tournament veterans. They combined for 33 points and hit several key shots as Maryland fought to stayed in the game in the second half.
Freshman Anthony Cowan entered the game averaging 10.5 points per game, but had a an sub par game with just four points.
Regardless of tonight’s loss, Maryland freshmen proved that fans should be excited for the Terrapins’ future.
2. The Terrapins need get a post presence.
The Terrapins struggled on the boards all year long and were out rebounded by Xavier 34-24. Maryland gave up an average of 39 total rebounds to their opponents during their three game losing streak at the end of the regular season. Their two leading rebounders were actually freshmen, Jackson (6.1) and Huerter (5.0)
Senior Damonte Dodd was serviceable inside, but didn’t draw enough consistent defensive attention to create space for shooters.
With a strong young core returning, head coach Mark Turgeon will need to prioritize developing a big man in the summer.
3. Melo Trimble did wonders for the future of the Maryland program.
Most experts speculated that Melo Trimble would declare for the NBA draft after his freshman season. By returning to Maryland this year as a sophomore, he not only led the Terrapins to a great 24-9 record but also built the confidence of the freshman.
Trimble’s final seasonal averages? 17.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.
His best ability was being able to set up his teammates for easy baskets throughout the season. Trimble was indeed a special player for Maryland, and helped build a solid foundation for the immediate future.
After low preseason expectations, Maryland certainly should be proud of a 24-9 overall record and second place finish in the Big Ten. All indications are that Melo Trimble will declare for the NBA draft, but the Terrapins will return three freshman starters: Cowan, Huerter, and Jackson. If coach Turgeon brings in another top 20 recruiting class to College Park, the Terrapin fans will have every reason to believe that next year’s NCAA Tournament will feature a much deeper run.