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Can Maryland’s Backcourt Make Up For Melo Trimble?

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What should Maryland fans be watching for in the weeks to come?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Maryland vs Xavier Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With North Carolina’s win over Gonzaga earlier this month, the 2016-’17 college basketball season officially came to a close. And with that development, attention quickly turned to next season and, for our site, next year’s Big Ten.

In an effort to help with that transition, we are taking a look at some of the biggest offseason storylines for each team. Here’s a look at the previous editions:

As such, here are the three most important things for the Maryland Terrapins this offseason.

Three Key Offseason Storylines For Maryland:

1. What happens with Justin Jackson?

With the NBA’s new Draft declaration rules, May has quickly become one of the wildest months across college basketball. Teams are often caught in a “no man’s land” where coaches are forced into the uncomfortable position of waiting out the NBA decisions of their best players without having the ability to recruit replacements.

For better or worse, it’s college basketball’s new reality.

Naturally, things are no different for Maryland this spring. With Melo Trimble and Justin Jackson both declaring for the 2017 NBA Draft, everyone knew that Mark Turgeon and his staff would be sitting on pins and needles until the end of May. And while Trimble has already opted to hire an agent and make his exit official, Jackson has not formalized his decision, leaving Turgeon with a lot of uncertainty for next season.

Jackson wasn’t Maryland’s best player last season (that honor goes to Trimble), but he had a remarkable freshman campaign. He averaged 10.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game and had some impressive single-game showings, earning five KenPom MVP honors for Maryland during the season.

Needless to say, if Jackson did leave, the Terps would feel it.

However, Jackson’s departure wouldn’t only hurt because of what he did last season, but, more importantly, because of what he was set to do next season. On paper, Jackson projected to be the most proven and reliable option in an uncertain frontcourt situation next season. That’s a crucially important role.

At this point, nobody can be sure if Jackson will come back or head to the NBA next season, but there’s no denying that the decision will have a massive impact on how the Terps look next season. As such, any discussion of next year’s Maryland team needs to start with whether Jackson returns to College Park.

2. Can Maryland’s guards take the next step?

There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about Maryland’s chances next season. Not only has Turgeon turned the program into a consistent winner, but he’s also managed to stock the roster with athleticism, talent, and experience.

And no place may look more encouraging than the backcourt. Although Melo Trimble’s departure for the NBA is a significant one for the program, there’s a lot to like about next year’s backcourt group.

To start, Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter return after stellar freshmen campaigns. Cowan averaged 10.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game and Huerter averaged 9.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game. Each averaged at least 29 minutes a game on an NCAA Tournament team.

Not bad for a couple of freshmen.

Along with the primary options, Maryland is also adding four-star guard Darryl Morsell and returns an intriguing depth piece in Dion Wiley. Neither of those two project to be starters next season, but both will see real minutes. The Terps will also likely add at least one more backcourt piece in the weeks to come.

However, even with those four (likely to become five) players, the major question will be whether the backcourt can find its star player. Simply put, Maryland needs to find a player who can take over at the end of games like Trimble did the last few seasons.

Cowan and Huerter should both be capable starters, but can either move into All-Big Ten contention? That question alone could very well decide whether Maryland can meet and/or exceed expectations next season.

3. Will there be any late additions to the roster?

As mentioned above, there’s little doubt that Maryland will continue to pursue late additions to the roster. In particular, the Terps will likely be looking for at least one more transfer addition with eligibility for the upcoming season.

However, who and how many additions Maryland could see in the next few weeks is entirely uncertain. With two scholarships currently open and one player (Jackson) still considering his professional options, Turgeon could have the potential to add as many as three more players in the coming weeks. Obviously, that’s pretty significant.

Perhaps the most important area where Maryland will need to add some depth is in the backcourt. With Jaylen Brantley transferring and Melo Trimble heading to the NBA, Maryland will now have to rely on some uncertain options.

As mentioned, Cowan and Huerter should lock down starting roles, but there are no proven options beyond those two, which makes the team’s depth a major concern, especially if injuries occur. Simply put, Maryland needs to find 15-20 minutes of quality bench play and adding a transfer could solve that problem.

This transfer pursuit will also become far more intriguing if Jackson opts to remain in the Draft and forego his remaining eligibility. Obviously, that would put much more emphasis on finding some frontcourt help as well.

Overall

Maryland fans should have quite a bit of hope heading into next season, but as the calendar turns in the weeks to come, there will be some important questions for the team and Mark Turgeon to answer.