For the same reason I didn't wish Greivis Vasquez farewell right away after the Michigan State game, I didn't post my thoughts on next year's team right away, either. It simply couldn't have ended well, and any reaction would have to be classified as a snap judgment by both myself and others. Now, having thought about it and everyone else already having posted theirs, I'm good to go.
This will be a good team, probably not a great one. They simply lose far too much; it's nigh-impossible to lose one of the best players in program history, who also happens to be the team's mental and emotional leader, and remain a good team when the incoming freshman class isn't spectacular. Throw in the best outside shooter and #2 option at point guard with another team leader and second scoring option, and the rebound will be hard.
A rough early lineup:
Like I said, lots of questions.
The most important have to do with the progression of Sean Mosley and Jordan Williams. Role players only make a difference is the team is good to start with, and they get good by having two legitimate players. The hope is that Mosley and Williams can be them, and make the rest of the team relevant.
Mosley is The Man on the perimeter now, a prospect which scares some and nonplusses others. He has shown the ability to succeed in that role - Villanova game, anyone? - but he has equally shown that he can go on 10 game cold streaks. That simply can't happen next year - Jordan Williams is good, but he's not a world-beater yet, and will need someone to keep the sharks at bay.
Speaking of Williams, avoiding a sophomore slump and progressing at a solid trajectory will be hugely important. He doesn't need to become All-ACC overnight, but he does need to get smarter and slimmer, at the very least. If he can cut down on the occasional bad play (namely fouling) and show up with a new physique, I'll be happy. For him to carry Maryland next season, he'll probably need to do a little more.
We're not done. Can Adrian Bowie become an ACC level point guard? His final seven or so games were outstanding, but that was off the ball as a two. He has without a doubt proven he is an ACC level player, but he needs to show that he can be one while also running the show, because odds are that he gets a shot at it. He'll need to improve his ballhandling, for sure, in addition to acquiring a "point guard mentality", which he hasn't had to have yet. Otherwise, Maryland will have a true freshman running the point - not a disaster, but not ideal.
Likewise, where does Cliff Tucker stand? Tucker has proven that he can score in bunches, and Maryland will need his offense to compensate for the loss of the Big Three. But he's also shown, on many an occasion, that he has the ability to turn the ball over a ton and make poor decisions. If he expects to remain in the starting lineup, he'll need to cut down on those. If he's still starting by the end of the year, consider it a good thing: that means he played well enough to stay above Parker and Howard, who will be nipping at his heels.
As for the freshmen, I oscillate between thinking they'll have a big impact and thinking they'll have a minimal one. I tend to think they won't play a huge role simply because none of them are truly impact players. That's okay, but this team needs someone that can be an impact player right away, a big type of talent, and those are just guys Maryland doesn't get. I have no problem with that, and four year players are endearing, but for this year it'll hurt. Even if Parker does heavily exceed expectations, even to a Jordan Williams level - which would probably be around, what, 10 points a game? - will he be that much better than Cliff Tucker? Enough to account for five or six wins by himself?
I don't honestly know the answer to that question, but my expected answer is implied. At the same time, though, if Jordan Williams and Sean Mosley really step up, this team has NCAA tournament potential. And suddenly, those role players become the difference between the NCAAT and the NIT.
Right now, I'm not confident this is an NCAA tournament team. It's not pessimism or the like; it's just reality at this point. They're young, they're inexperienced, and they lack a star and a leader. There's a talent base there to make the NCAA tournament, but it would take a lot of those unknowns turning out favorably to happen.
They'll have many disappointing games (especially early in the year) and a few great ones. There's more than enough talent here to succeed down the road, especially if they can reel in a stud in the 2011 recruiting class, but it's probably not happening in 2010-11.
Of course, given my track record, I'll be singing a different tune in a week. Oh well.