The 2022-’23 ‘BTPowerhouse Season Preview’ series will take an in-depth look at all 14 teams in the Big Ten heading into the 2022-’23 season with analysis on each program’s previous season, offseason departures, new additions, strengths, weakness, top player, and top storylines. Each post will also include predictions on each team’s starting lineup, season performance and commentary from a local “insider” who covers said team.
For the first time since 2011, Maryland enters a season with a fresh face at the helm.
After a tumultuous final few seasons with the program, Mark Turgeon stepped down last fall and the Terps hired Kevin Willard in the offseason. Willard arrives after more than a decade at Seton Hall, where he built the Pirates into a respectable Big East program. The question will now be whether he can elevate a solid Maryland program into nationally elite status, as fans expect in College Park. Turgeon did a nice job of getting consistent production, but could never elevate things from there.
It will be Willard’s problem now.
Unfortunately, Willard begins that journey with a young roster and a plethora of new faces. Maryland’s most productive players walked out the door after last season and Willard has a mixed group of replacements. There are plenty of signs that will improve in the years ahead, as Willard can recruit. However, that won’t be an instant transition. It’ll take time for it to play out.
That leaves Willard in an interesting spot in his first season. Expectations won’t be extremely high, but Willard has delivered with “less talented” rosters before. And if he can get a few of the new additions to contribute early, a lane to a respectable season exists, particularly in what should be a weaker Big Ten.
So, what can Willard accomplish in year one? Let’s take a look.
1. 2021-’22 Season Performance
- Record: 15-17 (7-13)
- KenPom Team Rating: #83
- NET Rating: #90
- Postseason Appearance: None
Last season was a rough one in College Park. While Terp fans didn’t enter the season with lofty expectations, most were hoping for a serious NCAA push and a few upset wins along the way. The roster seemed decent enough and Maryland had shown some renewed consistency. Unfortunately, those hopes went off the rails with an early loss to George Mason at home and the surprising in-season resignation of Mark Turgeon, who had coached the program for nearly a decade and to a Big Ten regular season title.
Perhaps the most disappointing part of last season was how quickly things spiraled. We mentioned the loss to George Mason above, but it was more than that. The Terps also blew a winnable game against Louisville in late November and opened up at 1-6 in Big Ten play. It’s possible to overcome those kinds of missteps, but it certainly isn’t easy. It basically meant the season was over by mid-January, which was an abject failure.
The only real good news was that Maryland didn’t totally write off its season from there. The Terps notched a few upsets down the stretch and actually built some momentum heading into the Big Ten Tournament, winning four of five games at one point. It didn’t end up meaning much, but at least it was something. And that’s really what last season was for Maryland – a forgettable run.
Highlights of the season included non-conference wins over Vermont and Florida, conference wins over Illinois and Ohio State, and the late run. Low points included the losses to George Mason and Louisville, and blown games against Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Michigan State.
Individual statistical leaders were Hakim Hart, Fatts Russell, and Donta Scott. Hart led the team in steals and total win shares. Russell led the team in points and assists. Scott led the team in minutes, rebounds, blocks
2. Offseason Exits
Evaluating Maryland’s offseason departures depends a lot on perspective. From an objective standpoint, the Terps got hit pretty hard. The team lost seven players in Eric Ayala, Marcus Dockery, Xavier Green, Aidan McCool, Fatts Russell, Qudus Wahab, and Simon Wright. Add in that a few of those players were team leaders and it looks even sort. In a sport where you generally play eight players, losing seven is certainly a big hit. However, with all that said, the fact Maryland brings back anything at all is a win considering the coaching transition. In today’s world, you’re lucky to convince anyone to stick around and Willard did that here.
The most significant departures are certainly Ayala and Russell. Both averaged over 30 minutes per game and led the team in usage. In fact, these two alone combined for over 43 percent of Maryland’s field goal attempts last season. In short, Maryland is looking at losing nearly half of its offense in just these two. That’s a massive hunk to replace this season.
None of the other five by themselves are massive departures. Wahab and Green both played starter level minutes, but were closer to just “guys” than anything special. They each played a smidge over 19 minutes a game and combined to start 35 games last season. Wahab was arguably the team’s best rebounder last season and Green offered valuable depth minutes at the two and three spots. Dockery, McCool, and Wright barely played, though they did help provide depth and experience for the roster.
So, all told, Maryland is looking at losing three starters and a key reserve. Not bad for a program going through a coaching transition, but still some substantial losses. Willard will have his work cut out to replace them.
3. New Additions
This season, the Terps will be adding two new recruits and four transfers. The recruits are Noah Batchelor and Caleb Santon-Rodger. Batchelor is listed as a small forward and Santon-Rodger as a power forward. According to 247Sports, Batchelor is a three-star and Santon-Rodger is unrated as an international prospect.
Both of the incoming recruits have a decent amount of potential. Batchelor finished just outside the top 200 and played in a competitive program in Florida. Meanwhile, Santon-Rodger arrives with the mystery of an international prospect. He hasn’t been scouted much, but has impressive natural size at 6-foot-10. Each will also have time to develop behind Maryland’s returners and transfer additions, which we’ll touch on next.
The incoming transfers are Donald Carey, Patrick Emilien, Jahari Long, and Jahmir Young. Carey is a point guard from Georgetown, Emilien is a forward with a few prior stops, Long is a guard from Seton Hall, and Young is a point guard from Charlotte. All four are expected to play this season and a few will likely start.
The most significant of this group are Carey and Young. Not only because they were the most productive of the four at their prior stops, but also because of their roster fit. Maryland’s backcourt lost both starters and a reliable depth piece in Russell, Ayala, and Green this offseason. There are minutes for the taking and Carey and Young are probably going to take most of them. Emilien is also a notable addition and should be a key reserve.
All told, this is a nice group of additions. It’s hard to see anyone here becoming a star this season, but they should provide a nice base for Willard to build on moving forward. Fans will hope a major influx of talent follows next year.
4. Points of Optimism
Given everything that’s gone sideways over the last 12 months, Maryland enters this season with underwhelming expectations. Because of that, this section is a little bit lighter than fans might hope. However, there are some reasons to believe the Terps will be able to improve this year. Namely, the returning wing group and roster fit. The energy of a new coaching staff could also help things.
The place to begin is on the wing. While Maryland had a lot of issues last season, one area where things went pretty smoothly was on the wing. The Terps had a great group of contributors there, led by Hart and Scott. They were two of the more productive forwards in the league and really grew as the season went on. And their return should boost the Terps’ hopes tremendously heading into this season. It gives Willard a place to build around and should give Maryland a floor of respectability.
The newcomers also fit pretty well with that wing group. Carey and Young will likely start alongside them and Emillien should provide depth behind them. Young is a good passer and should find Hart and Scott often and Carey is a solid shooter who should help space the floor. It all makes for a good fit. Guys aren’t going to have to shuffle for playing time or play out of position. Everyone should fit pretty naturally alongside one another and that’s often an underrated factor in team success.
Additionally, it’s also worth mentioning the coaching transition here. Transitions are often viewed negatively, especially at the onset, but we can’t underrate the energy that accompanies such a move. Teams often get an initial boost and play differently with a new voice in the locker room. Expect some of that here, particularly given the awkwardness of Turgeon’s exit. Willard is a solid coach that will make Maryland a physical team. That’s a great start for a program that desperately needs an identity.
5. Points of Concern
Unfortunately, Maryland also has plenty of areas of concern as well. The Terps enter this season with few accolades and rightfully so. The team was vastly overmatched in the Big Ten last season, loses its two most productive players, and doesn’t add a single proven commodity to address those departures. Willard and his staff are good enough to avoid the worst case scenario, but there’s little debating things could go disastrously if things turn sour.
At the onset, it’s important to recognize where Maryland begins this transition. Even if you think the Terps underperformed the team’s roster last season, Maryland finished the season under .500 and 83rd on KenPom. To get where fans want the program to be, Maryland can’t just maintain what it was last year. There needs to be drastic improvement because the Terps were nowhere close.
Unfortunately, improving will also be particularly difficult given Maryland’s significant offseason departures. While Hart and Scott project as solid returners, don’t forget the only Terps to receive All-Big Ten honors last season were Ayala and Russell, who left the program this offseason. Add in Green’s exit and Maryland’s looking at a total reboot for its backcourt. And that’s not exactly an easy thing to do over a single offseason.
The newcomers also aren’t proven commodities. Carey and Young had decent numbers, but all four played for bad teams and none project as elite level contributors. Three of them are also expected to carry the team’s backcourt, meaning Maryland is either going to feast or famine on this group. That’s a scary thought, even if you believe in this group. Odds are, you’re going to see a step back here. And that’s not good news given where the team started and who’s walking out the door.
6. Top Player
Maryland enters this season without a clear leader on its roster in this category. There are a few potential candidates, but no clear cut selection. The leaders will likely be Hart and Scott. They’re the team’s most productive returners and should be in line for starting roles yet again. Scott is probably a hair ahead given long-term potential, but both are relatively comparable.
Other darkhorse contenders have to be Carey and Young. Both are likely going to start this year and will have more than their fair share of opportunities. Neither projects as an All-Big Ten contributor, but we’ve seen transfers surprise before. If they can overachieve a bit, they’d at least be in the discussion.
7. 2022-’23 Schedule Breakdown
- 11/7 - Niagara
- 11/10 - Western Carolina
- 11/15 - Binghamton
- 11/19 - Saint Louis (Uncasville, CT)
- 11/23 - Miami (FL)/Providence (Uncasville, CT)
- 11/25 - Coppin State
- 11/30 - at Louisville
- 12/2 - Illinois
- 12/6 - at Wisconsin
- 12/11 - Tennessee (New York, NY)
- 12/14 - UCLA
- 12/22 - Saint Peter’s
- 12/29 - UMBC
- 1/1 - at Michigan
- 1/5 - at Rutgers
- 1/8 - Ohio State
- 1/15 - at Iowa
- 1/19 - Michigan
- 1/22 - at Purdue
- 1/25 - Wisconsin
- 1/28 - Nebraska
- 1/31 - Indiana
- 2/4 - at Minnesota
- 2/7 - at Michigan State
- 2/11 - Penn State
- 2/16 - Purdue
- 2/19 - at Nebraska
- 2/22 - Minnesota
- 2/26 - Northwestern
- 3/1 - at Ohio State
- 3/5 - at Penn State
Maryland projects to have a pretty tricky slate this season. The Terps have a handful of marquee matchups in non-conference play and have a challenging Big Ten slate as well. Much will depend on two difficult stretches in late November to early December and in January when conference play really gets rolling.
Non-conference play will be highlighted by the trip to Connecticut in November, the road trip to Louisville, and the neutral site tip against Tennessee. It seems unlikely Maryland will come even close to sweeping these four. However, if the Terps can hold their own and go 2-2, it would be a huge boost to the team’s postseason hopes. The game against UCLA also offers the program a chance to stamp their position as a better squad than last year.
Naturally, Big Ten play will be difficult as well, though it could have been much worse. Maryland gets double-plays against Michigan and Purdue, but avoided them against Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan State. The games against Illinois and Indiana also come in College Park. This gives Maryland a real opportunity at grabbing a few upsets.
Perhaps the most important stretch of the schedule comes in the following, with KenPom odds noted alongside each:
- 1/1 - at Michigan (27%)
- 1/5 - at Rutgers (36%)
- 1/8 - Ohio State (52%)
- 1/15 - at Iowa (26%)
- 1/19 - Michigan (49%)
- 1/22 - at Purdue (27%)
That’s an incredibly difficult slate of games and they come right at the beginning of Big Ten play. There’s a chance some of those opponents disappoint or Maryland is better than expected, but the Terps are genuinely looking at a 2-4 performance in that stretch, which could really hurt the team’s momentum and confidence. Surviving here will be vital and could easily carry over into subsequent games.
8. Projected Starting Lineup
- PG: Jahmir Young (Jr.) - 60%
- SG: Don Carey (Rs. Sr.) - 65%
- SF: Hakim Hart (Jr.) - 90%
- PF: Donta Scott (Jr.) - 90%
- C: Julian Reese (So.) - 55%
(Percentage likelihood of starting at season tip-off.)
The Terps enter this season with plenty of uncertainty surrounding the team’s starting lineup. While Maryland returns two starters from last season, it lost three others and some depth pieces as well. It makes for a relatively uncertain group as we prepare to enter the season. Expect a lot of transfers to get time and plenty of rotation. Fans will hope a few players will emerge as things move on.
In the backcourt, Maryland’s newcomers figure to control most of the minutes. Carey and Young arrive with decent profiles and should be able to get starting minutes. The two will rotate heavily and fans will likely see different minute combinations based on opposing lineups. However, both will see plenty of action. Behind them, it’s anyone’s guess who will be featured. Ian Martinez should provide depth, but it’s more likely you’ll see Hart absorb some of the minutes given Maryland’s depth on the wing. If Willard and his staff stay on top of it, they can minimize having to go too deep on the bench by relying on the diversity of Carey, Young, and Hart.
On the wing, things look pretty stable. Hart and Scott were starters last season and should fill the same role this time around. Both are not only proven commodities, but have upward potential as well. If they can play to their potential, both could be in some All-Big Ten discussions by season’s end. Behind them, expect to see the newcomers featured pretty heavily. Transfer forward Emilien will get some time and freshmen Batchelor and Santon-Rodger will get an opportunity as well. Carey and Martinez could also play off ball, if things really go sideways. Willard will certainly work to prevent that.
Upfront, it’s anyone’s guess how things will turn out. Maryland has a few bodies to play, but nobody is anything close to a proven option. While Julian Reese seems to have the lead, Maryland could just as easily turn to Arnaud Revaz or Santon-Rodger. All three have the skills, they’re just inexperienced options. This presently projects as Maryland’s weakest and thinnest starting position. Fans will hope they can overachieve here and some of the youth can outperform expectations. If so, it would significantly boost Maryland’s postseason hopes.
Overall, there are some things to like here. Maryland has a deep and experienced wing group, reasonable starting options in the backcourt, and at least a few options to fill in upfront. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see all of those things working out well. Maryland will have its work cut out.
9. Realistic Team Goals
It’s been a wild last couple of years for Terp fans. They’ve seen the heights and the lows of the sport and most things in between. Unfortunately, that drama left the program with a new head coach and a diminished roster heading into this season. Willard and his staff have a history of making more with less, but it figures to be a tall task this season.
Most simply, this season will depend on the transfers. If they hit the ground running, this team should be good enough to compete in the Big Ten. However, depending so much on newcomers is always a risky proposition. As such, Terp fans should simply be hoping for improved depth, quality recruiting, and a few young players to emerge.
10. Overall Season Outlook
Not much has gone right for the Terps over the last few years. Since winning the Big Ten immediately prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, it’s been a heck of a ride. The program has drifted back toward the bottom of the Big Ten and gone through a coaching transition.
That drama leaves Maryland in a tough spot entering the season. While the Terps bring back some key contributors, the roster has some major flaws and particularly upfront. Even if the wings are good, it’s going to take quite an effort to overcome those issues.
The good news is that the team has talent. Hart and Scott should be dynamic contributors and many of the transfers could contribute early and often. If Willard can find a surprising contributor or two, the team could be pretty solid. Unfortunately, and all told, that still probably means an underwhelming finish in the league.