Few teams from around the country received worse news over the past couple weeks than the Maryland Terrapins.
First was the news that star forward Justin Jackson would be sidelined for the season with a torn labrum. Jackson was struggling this season averaging just 9.8 points per game, but his rebounding and defense had improved.
Less than a week after that, forward Ivan Bender tore his meniscus in his right knee in a game against UMBC. Bender was averaging 3.4 points and 2.9 rebounds per game.
Losing two rotational players in less than a week is devastating. Let’s take a look at where the Terrapins can turn in the wake of their difficult week.
Take Stock In What You Have
Maryland needs to double-down on their stars. You saw some of this in their second half against UMBC when the Terrapins came out and played an uninspired first half against UMBC and trailed at the break 24-18.
In the second half the Terps got going with the play from sophomore Kevin Huerter. The 6-foot-7 sophomore scored 16 points in the second half and helped Maryland blow the game open and win 66-45.
Even with Bender and Jackson out for the season, Maryland still has a starting lineup that can score in multiple ways.
Huerter can rain three’s from anywhere on the court. Anthony Cowan is now the true first scoring option on offense, but could stand to improve his overall field goal efficiency (42% right now). If Maryland needs a bucket in the lost post Bruno Fernando and Michal Cekovsky can provide that. There’s also the energy and athleticism plays from freshman Darryl Morsell.
Defense and rebounding might be a different story (though they have to excited that Cowan and Huerter grabbed 15 combined rebounds in their last win), but Maryland can still be a dangerous team, especially in a weak Big Ten.
The thing that changes is their margin for error. More first halves like the last one against UMBC, and the Terps are going to struggle the rest of the year.
See What You Have With The Young Guys
With Bender and Jackson out, Maryland will need to rely on some younger faces to produce this Big Ten season.
Already mentioned, but Darryl Morsell will continue to play a big role this Big Ten season.
The 6-foot-4 guard is electrifying and athletic, but prone to freshmen mistakes (2.7 turnovers per game). His minutes were already increasing over the last three games (32.2 minutes) and those numbers stand to remain consistent if he produces. Expect Turgeon to roll with more four guard lineups with the depletion of front court depth, so the opportunity is there for Morsell to cut down turnovers and rebound at a higher rate.
The other player who could stand to see his minutes increase could be Joshua Tomaic.
With the Maryland frontcourt down two players, minutes could be there for the athletic redshirt freshman.
In limited minutes this season, Tomaic has shown flashes. In 16 minutes against Gardner-Webb, Tomaic scored nine points and grabbed eight rebounds. He followed that up with 17 minutes of play against Catholic University where he scored seven points and grabbed eight rebounds. These types of minutes would go a long way in improving Maryland’s changes for a successful Big Ten season.
This one might be the most difficult for fans.
At the start of the season, the Terrapins were expected to compete for an NCAA Tournament spot and a top four Big Ten finish. Those expectations might have to change with the losses of Jackson and Bender.
Currently, the Terps are firmly on the bubble after its non-conference slate of games. They probably could have used one more quality win, but there is opportunity to play their way in during Big Ten play with wins over teams in a similar position (Ohio State, Minnesota, and to a less extent, Michigan). One win over Michigan State or Purdue would help too.
Still, fans need to prepare themselves for an NIT trip. That result, while disappointing, is not the end of the world.
The Terps are still young and the extra practices and games against decent teams in a tournament style format could pay dividends down the road. This is true especially when you consider the recruiting Turgeon has done in 2018.
It might not be what fans want to hear, but this still can be an enjoyable season watching young players grow and following two of the best scorers in the Big Ten continue to improve. With the Big Ten in its current state, things can still get interesting in College Park this season.