The look ahead continues today for BT Powerhouse as we take a look at the Maryland Terrapins and the questions around that program as it enters year one of the Kevin Willard era.
What is success for UMD in 2022-23?
Maryland has posted a losing record in conference play for the past two seasons and posted a losing record overall in 2021-22 as well. The Terps have failed to advance to the Sweet 16 more than once since 2003 and have missed out on the NCAA Tournament entirely twice since 2017, including last season. Combine this with a new coaching staff and roster turnover at some key positions, and the question certainly arises wondering what success should look like for Maryland in year one of the Kevin Willard era.
UMD isn’t helped much by its conference pairings, either. While Minnesota, Nebraska, and Penn State are all on the schedule twice, so are Michigan, Purdue, Ohio State, and Wisconsin. Michigan State, Iowa, and Rutgers are also all on the road. Combine that with a slate in the non-conference schedule, and that is a tough hill to climb for a tournament resume NET ranking, a trip to the NCAA Tournament is probably aiming too high for Maryland this year. What about the NIT, though? Should fans expect a surprise come March despite the daunting challenges ahead for the team this year?
Who will step up?
Eric Ayala and Fatts Russell, the No. 1 and 2 players in scoring and assists last season, are both gone for 2022-23. The two leave big holes to fill on the roster for the Terps to have any hope for the season ahead. To that end, graduate transfer Jahmir Young is going to play a vital role in replacing Fatts Russell at point guard this season. At Charlotte, Young averaged 19.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game while shooting 46.8 percent from the field and 34.1 percent from three-point range. Russel was just behind Young’s stats last season, but did so at the Power-Six level in posting 15.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.7 and apg. If Young can play to the task in getting numbers similar to Russell, then Maryland should be able to breathe a sigh of relief at point guard, at least.
As for replacing Ayala, Donta Scott will look to improve upon back-to-back seasons that saw him post 12.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, and 2.1 apg in 2021-22 and hit double figures in scoring in 2020-21 as well. However, Maryland needs other players to step up as well, whether that be Hakim Hart, Qudus Wahab, Julian Reese, or another player.
What are the key Games in 2022-23?
Maryland has an easy opening stretch to figure out its pieces before facing Saint Louis and either Miami or Providence in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off. After that, Louisville (road), Tennessee (neutral), and UCLA all post a tough challenge. Should the Terps pull off more than one win in that collection of games, however, it could go a long way toward a bid come March.
As for Big Ten play, sweeps of programs like Nebraska, Minnesota, and Penn State are a big time focus for the Terps in order to help the NET rankings and Big Ten standings. However, home games against Illinois and Indiana also should help as these are must win upsets for the Terps to show a strong opening season under Willard.
Road games at Iowa, Michigan State, and Rutgers also all offer a potential road win that could really help Maryland and its resume. While all a tall task, these programs should be less daunting opportunities for road wins this year than Wisconsin, Purdue, and Michigan at least, who are all home-and-away pairings.