The 2023-’24 ‘BTPowerhouse Season Preview’ series will take an in-depth look at all 14 teams in the Big Ten heading into the 2023-’24 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 postseason potential.
Last season was a transitory year for Maryland. After roughly a decade with Mark Turgeon at the helm, the program replaced its head man after Turgeon’s surprising exit. They eventually opted for Kevin Willard, who brought with him a history of success dating back to Seton Hall and Iona. However, given the coaching and roster turnover, expectations were moderate. Fans were hoping to get back to competitiveness, but nobody knew quite what to expect in Willard’s first campaign.
Fortunately for fans, the early results were promising.
Willard not only got Maryland back to a solid level in the Big Ten, but he got the Terps back to the NCAA Tournament, a top 25 ranking on KenPom, and even won a game in the Big Dance, besting a tough West Virginia team in the Round of 64. It was a terrific effort and showed Willard’s potential in College Park if he can get the right pieces around him.
The question is now whether Willard can build on that. Most of last year’s key contributors return, including star guard Jahmir Young and key pieces like Julian Reese and Donta Scott. However, the losses of Don Carey and Hakim Hart are significant and Willard faces the monumental task of elevating a team from good to great, which is easier said than done.
So, what can Willard accomplish in year one? Let’s take a look.
1. 2022-’23 Season Performance
- Record: 22-13 (11-9)
- KenPom Team Rating: #23
- NET Rating: #32
- Postseason Appearance: NCAA Tournament (R32)
Last season was unquestionably a successful one for the program. After posting a losing record under Dan Manning, Maryland needed to rebound and get back to competitiveness in the Big Ten. And Willard did just that, posting a 22-win season with plenty of substance and multiple wins in March. Young also looked like a star for the Terps, posting impressive numbers and routinely leading the squad to pivotal wins.
Unfortunately, “solid” or “good” are probably your best descriptions of last year’s Maryland squad. That’s because while the team showed progress and got back to respectability, Maryland was also far from elite. The Terps let a variety of games slip away last season and had a largely underwhelming finish to the season, going 2-4 over the team’s final six games and 4-5 over its last nine, including rough losses to Nebraska and Ohio State. Those missteps prevented Maryland from reaching the highest tiers of college basketball.
Highlights of the season included non-conference wins over Louisville and Miami (FL), conference wins over Indiana, Northwestern, and Purdue, and the postseason wins over Minnesota and West Virginia. Low points included the blowout loss to UCLA in December, rough losses to Michigan, Nebraska, and Ohio State in league play, and the losses against Indiana and Alabama in postseason play.
Individual statistical leaders were Hakim Hart, Julian Reese, and Jahmir Young. Hart led the team in minutes and total win shares. Reese led the team in blocks and rebounds. Young led the team in points, assists, steals.
2. Offseason Exits
Maryland loses 10 players off of last year’s roster, which is obviously a massive number. However, few of them were significant contributors. In fact, Maryland finished 312th nationally in bench minutes last year, so the team generally relied on only a few players to get them to the finish line. That will significantly lessen the impact of these losses. The departures are Donald Carey, Ike Cornish, Carson Dick, Pavlo Dziuba, Patrick Emilien, RJ Floyd, Hakim Hart, Brett Karkus, Ian Martinez, and Arnaud Revaz.
The most significant departures are certainly Carey and Hart. Both were starters and Hart was arguably the team’s biggest contributor, leading the roster in minutes and win shares. Hart didn’t dominate the ball offensively, but he was efficient, didn’t foul, and did enough on both sides of the court to excel. Carey was unquestionably a role player in the starting lineup, but shot respectably from long range and finished with a 107.5 offensive rating. Both also played similar positions on the team, meaning their losses are somewhat magnified.
Maryland will also be losing two key reserves in Emilien and Martinez. Both played just shy of half of Maryland’s minutes and contributed significantly. Martinez shot an impressive 40.3 percent from three-point range and Emilien was similarly efficient with a 119.6 offensive rating. Martinez was also a decent defensive rebounder and Emilien was one of the team’s better offensive rebounders and had a solid block rate.
The remaining departures are unremarkable, at least from an on-court perspective. Dick, Dziuba, Floyd, Karkus, and Revaz all finished with less than 100 minutes last season and while Cornish met that cutoff, he barely did it with 101 total minutes. They certainly provided leadership and team support, but they didn’t contribute much on the court.
All told, Maryland is losing two starters, two reserves, and a handful of bench riders. That’s a pretty ordinary level of attrition, especially in 2023. It gives Willard a real chance to build off last year’s campaign.
3. New Additions
This season, the Terps will be adding four new recruits and three transfers. The recruits are DeShawn Harris-Smith, Jamie Kaiser, Jahnathan Lamothe, and Braden Pierce. Lamothe is listed as a combo guard, Harris-Smith and Kaiser are listed as shooting guards, and Pierce is listed as a center. According to 247Sports, Harris-Smith and Kaiser are listed as four-star recruits and Lamothe and Pierce are three-stars.
The recruits receiving the most attention are certainly Harris-Smith and Kaiser. Both are top 100 prospects and Harris-Smith finished narrowly outside the top 25. Harris-Smith is lengthy, athletic, and should be a fantastic off ball player to accompany Young and get in the lane and convert at the line. Kaiser is a decent shooter and could grow into a lethal wing from long range if he can work on getting his shot off and taking contested opportunities.
The incoming transfers are Jordan Geronimo, Chance Stephens, and Mady Traore. Geronimo is a forward from Indiana, Stephens is a guard from Loyola (Marymount), and Traore is a center from New Mexico State. None of the three have exceptional histories. Geronimo spent three years in Bloomington on the bench, topping out at around 30 percent of team minutes, Stephens spent one year at Loyola and only played limited minutes at the close of the season, and Traore barely played at all at New Mexico State. Geronimo and Stephens probably have an easier path to playing time positionally, but all three look like bench options.
Overall, this is a great group of additions. Four exciting high school prospects and three transfers to fill out the roster. Several players in this group look ready to contribute early and often. Added on top of what Maryland already has on the roster, that has to be exciting for fans.
4. Points of Optimism
There’s a lot to be excited about for the Terps this season. Maryland returns key contributors from a productive roster, adds a handful of talented newcomers, and the culture seems to be progressing well. It all sets up for Maryland to not only compete for another NCAA bid, but potentially even a Big Ten title.
At the onset, Maryland returns most of its key players from last season. Young returns in the backcourt, Scott returns on the wing, and Reese is back upfront. And while most of the depth around them is gone, those three accounted for a massive portion of Maryland’s contributions. Young led the team in usage (by a decent margin), Scott was second, and Reese was third in particular categories.
In short, much of last year’s production is back.
And Maryland adds plenty on top of that as well. The program is bringing in seven new players, including two top 100 prospects and three transfers who should provide immediate depth. If even one or two of those players are starter level quality, the Terps would instantly have one of the more dynamic groups in the league. And that’s probably the low end of this group’s potential. Harris-Smith looks like someone capable of starting immediately and Kaiser and Lamothe should provide depth in the backcourt as well. There’s just a ton of potential here.
The pieces fit together as well. This isn’t like some of the Maryland teams of the Turgeon era, where the talent was overwhelming, but often limited positionally. This time around, the lineup feels natural, with Young and the talented newcomers in the backcourt, Scott on the wing, Reese in the frontcourt, and the transfers filling in behind them. And if anyone breaks out and surprises, things look even better.
5. Points of Concern
Unfortunately, there are also areas of concern as well. Maryland needs to navigate some tricky departures, plenty of newcomers, and the potential of a “hard ceiling” situation. It all leaves the Terps with the potential to underachieve on what figure to be pretty lofty preseason expectations.
To start, while Maryland returns many of its key players from last season, the Terps don’t return everyone. Hart is the biggest departure, but Carey and Martinez are also notable. And with all three overlapping positionally, it only increases the significance of their loss. It leaves the two and three spots of the lineup essentially wide open. That puts a ton of pressure on the newcomers to hit the ground running.
Relying on newcomers is also always a risky endeavor. Even if Maryland’s additions look good on paper (they absolutely do here), that doesn’t guarantee much. We’ve seen plenty of elite prospects bust at the college level, take longer than expected to get rolling, or otherwise underachieve. And Maryland probably needs at least two of these players to hit to feel good about its chances this season. That’s a tall ask.
Additionally, it’s also important to recognize the positives and negatives about Maryland’s returners. While getting players like Young and Scott back is great, it also comes with inherent limitations. They dominated Maryland’s possessions last season and will likely do the same this time around, so there’s a chance Maryland hits a hard ceiling this season. Perhaps Willard’s most important challenge this season will be figuring out how to spread possessions out among the lineup.
6. Top Player
Maryland enters this season with a clear leader on its roster for top player. While there’s always some uncertainty between years, there’s little debating this time will live and die with Young’s play in the backcourt. He was Maryland’s most productive player last season and should be again. Scott is certainly the frontrunner behind him as he hopes to build off a productive campaign.
Other darkhorse contenders are Harris-Smith and Kaiser. Both arrive with impressive recruiting profiles and should have decent paths to playing time. The three transfers also arrive with some intrigue, though it seems like all three will occupy bench roles. Swanton-Rodger could also be a candidate for a breakout season given his size and athleticism.
7. 2023-’24 Schedule Breakdown
- 11/7 - Mount St. Mary’s
- 11/10 - Davidson (Asheville, NC)
- 11/12 - Clemson or UAB (Asheville, NC)
- 11/17 - at Villanova
- 11/21 - UMBC
- 11/25 - South Alabama
- 11/28 - Rider
- 12/1 - at Indiana
- 12/6 - Penn State
- 12/12 - Alcorn State
- 12/19 - Nicholls State
- 12/22 - at UCLA
- 12/28 - Coppin State
- 1/2 - Purdue
- 1/7 - at Minnesota
- 1/11 - Michigan
- 1/14 - at Illinois
- 1/17 - at Northwestern
- 1/21 - Michigan State
- 1/24 - at Iowa
- 1/27 - Nebraska
- 2/3 - at Michigan State
- 2/6 - Rutgers
- 2/10 - at Ohio State
- 2/14 - Iowa
- 2/17 - Illinois
- 2/20 - at Wisconsin
- 2/25 - at Rutgers
- 2/28 - Northwestern
- 3/3 - Indiana
- 3/10 - at Penn State
Maryland projects to have a mixed slate, highlighted by a litany of marquee matchups. In many ways, this looks like a top heavy schedule where Maryland’s season will ride on a handful of matchups against the nation’s elite. If the Terps can find a way to pull off some upsets, an elite seed in March is on the table.
Non-conference play will be highlighted by the road trips to Villanova and UCLA and the Asheville Championship Tournament. The Terps project as underdogs against the Wildcats and Bruins, but will almost certainly be favored in both games in Asheville. Terp fans should be hoping for at least a 3-1 performance in these matchups.
Naturally, Big Ten play will be difficult as well, though it could have been worse. Maryland gets double-plays against Illinois and Michigan State, but avoided them against the league’s other highest ranked teams on KenPom in Purdue, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. The matchup against the Boilermakers also comes in College Park.
Perhaps the most important stretch of the schedule comes in the following, with KenPom odds noted alongside each:
- 1/14 - at Illinois (35%)
- 1/17 - at Northwestern (46%)
- 1/21 - Michigan State (55%)
- 1/24 - at Iowa (51%)
- 1/27 - Nebraska (76%)
- 2/3 - at Michigan State (32%)
That’s a really challenging slate of six games, where the Terps are favored in three games and underdogs in the others. However, four of the games are between 35 and 51 percent odds, which puts them on the razor’s edge between winnable and loseable. Maryland has to find a way to survive this stretch to have a shot at its biggest goals.
8. Projected Starting Lineup
- PG: Jahmir Young (Sr.) - 95%
- SG: DeShawn Harris-Smith (Fr.) - 70%
- SF: Jamie Kaiser (Fr.) - 55%
- PF: Donta Scott (Sr.) - 95%
- C: Julian Reese (Jr.) - 90%
(Percentage likelihood of starting at season tip-off.)
The Terps enter this season with some uncertainty in the team’s starting lineup. Three of the spots look pretty predictable thanks to three returning starters. However, the other two positions are open for the taking. Expect to see Willard and his staff try out a few different players to see who fits best into the open positions.
In the backcourt, there’s little doubt Young will lock down a starting spot. The only question is who will play alongside him. Harris-Smith seems like the best bet to start, but he will compete with a few other newcomers for playing time. Stephens will probably get most of the reserve minutes, though Kaiser could see some time here as well.
On the wing, things look relatively similar. Scott is a lock to grab one of the starting spots, but there’s uncertainty next to him. Kaiser seems like the safest bet, but Indiana transfer Geronimo will certainly get a look as well. Maryland could also experiment with a bigger lineup and slide Scott to the three and move someone like Reese into the four spot. However, that seems relatively unlikely. Expect Kaiser and Geronimo to battle.
Upfront, expect to see Reese return to his starting role with Caelum Swanton-Rodger and Mady Traore grabbing the reserve minutes. Scott could also see some time here in the event of foul trouble or severe injuries, but that’s probably a “break the glass in case of emergency” situation. Otherwise, all the minutes are going to go to the three above with Swanton-Rodger and Traore battling it out for the top reserve position.
Maryland has a lot to like here. The team returns three proven starters and adds newcomers at the open positions who appear ready to start. Maryland needs the freshmen to hit the ground running for this to work, but things otherwise project very well for the Terps.
9. Realistic Team Goals
It’s been a bizarre few years for the Terps. The program has seen many of the highs and lows of college basketball. Over four seasons, Maryland not only saw the program range between 11th and 83rd on KenPom, but also saw a shocking head coach transition and a litany of roster turnover.
Despite all that, Maryland enters this season with a solid roster and relatively lofty expectations. The Terps project as an NCAA Tournament team and a dark horse Big Ten title contender. Accordingly, Maryland should set its sights on March. This is a roster good enough to make the Big Dance and make it beyond the first weekend.
10. Overall Season Outlook
It’s been a rough few years in College Park, highlighted by a shocking coaching transition and plenty of roster upheaval. However, the program finally seems to have things under control and enters this fall with plenty of promise. A handful of proven returners and a litany of incoming talent give the Terps more than enough potential.
By any reasonable measure, Maryland should be a competitive team and more than good enough to secure a solid NCAA Tournament bid. The only question is whether the Terps can keep pace with the league’s top teams. At this point, it seems Maryland will be close, but not quite there yet. Still, the team should do plenty of damage this season.