Smart-aleck answer: with 8 scholarship players, dummy.
Longer answer: Palsson's random declaration of leaving the program to pursue a pro career in Europe does indeed leave Maryland rather short-handed and is a pretty big blow for the short-term, but there might be a long-term silver lining.
Let's tackle the short-term first. Yes, Maryland has a lonely eight scholarship players, five below the normal number of 13. Of them, two are Berend Weijs and Mychal Parker, players in their second year with the program who received almost no playing time last season. Another is Ashton Pankey, who hasn't played a game of basketball the last two seasons.
So, yeah, not a particularly enviable position.
Palsson leaving probably doesn't radically change the way Maryland will play. It'll just make it more difficult to pull off. I imagine Mark Turgeon will continue to go with a guard-heavy lineup, but instead of being able to plug Palsson in as a swing 3/4 to guard some PFs for 25 minutes, he'll have to either keep in Sean Mosley - who, I have a feeling, might be an Iron Man of sorts for the Terps this year - or Parker (putting Nick Faust up against a 4 would be an exercise in futility), or play two of Weijs, Pankey, and James Padgett at the same time.
And as the bench thins, I'm guessing that putting two big men on the floor is something that Maryland's going to have to do more and more. We keep hearing about the four-guard set that Turgeon wants to run, but it's tough to remember that that's probably not the default here, but instead an alternative lineup that will be used with regularity. Considering there are now only five perimeter players on the team at all now, sticking four on the floor consistently is not only a gamble, it's probably impossible.
And that might not be a terrible thing. While playing Pankey (a giant human-shaped question mark and/or walking stress fracture) or Weijs (who still might not top 200 pounds) against Tyler Zeller hardly sounds appetizing, I like it a bit more than the thought of Sean Mosley trying to check John Henson. While I'd obviously prefer the guards to be on the floor as much as possible, Maryland will have to play some two-post-player sets occasionally, based simply on the necessity of the situation. They'll certainly have to do it more now that Palsson is gone.
The good news is that Maryland is still not without scoring ability, and I imagine offense is probably where they're going to have to win their games. (After all, rebounding is a lost cause and there's going to be a fair number of matchup problems defensively.) Terrell Stoglin is a prototypical scoring point guard - undersized, quick, a good outside shot, and absolutely no conscience whatsoever. He'll be doing a lot of shooting this year, much like he did in his high school in which he was the best player on the team, and Maryland might win a few games solely on the virtue of a couple of John Gilchristian performances.
The key for Maryland will probably be to find a secondary and tertiary scorer, neither of which really exist right now, to take some pressure off Stoglin. The obvious front-runners, based on experience, are Pe'Shon Howard and Mosley. I'm sure some think Mosley is a lost cause, but I remember too well the freshman and early sophomore days of Sugar Sean to write him off entirely. He'll never be a volume scorer, but there's absolutely no reason (except perhaps a mental block) he shouldn't be able to get 12 points a game off elbow jumpers, putbacks, and fast-break buckets.
But there's high-level scoring potential elsewhere, particularly from Nick Faust, who is an offensive dream. I've been reluctant to pencil him in as a starter, or even as a consistent scorer off the bench, but there's no more choice now despite his true freshman status. It's a good thing, then, that Faust possesses every offensive weapon possible in his arsenal: he's a sniper who has developed a dribble-drive game, a nightmare for defenders. Faust will have his share of bumps in the road, simply because he's a freshman, but he's too good not to show out for a few nights and make people salivate over what's to come.
In fact, if Stoglin, Mosley, and Faust are all clicking, Maryland should be able to match most any team in the ACC point-for-point. Strong, consistent performances out of Faust and Mosley would be huge for this team.
Mychal Parker is much in the same boat as Faust, for what it's worth: he'll have to get major minutes now, if only because no one else is there to take them up. And despite Parker's supposed mental trouble last season, his physical tools are undeniable. Actually, Parker and Faust are the only two players on the team who will be able to match up with most of their ACC counterparts, physically speaking.
In fact, Faust and Parker are probably the big winners out of this, along with Ashton Pankey - all three will get heavily increased opportunities they wouldn't have seen otherwise. (Everyone else is probably a loser.) Oh, and throw into the winner category: recruitniks and some lucky 2013 player who wouldn't otherwise have a scholarship waiting for him.
Because the open door to this closed window is the extra scholarship Palsson vacated to share to between the 2012 and 2013 classes. Depending on how Mark Turgeon & Staff make use of it, that extra scholly could be more important than anything Palsson could've brought.
Before Palsson left, Maryland had six scholarships to give out in the 2012 class, and another two in the 2013 class. That put them in a bit of an uncomfortable situation: they obviously need reinforcements right away, but leaving only two open scholarships for the talent-laden 2013 class seems ... short-sighted. Remember, Maryland's in the top tier of five top-25 2013 prospects: the Harrison twins, Nate Britt, BeeJay Anya, and Kennedy Meeks. Limiting that group to two - especially if they're the twins, who are a package deal - would hurt, particularly because they'll need a big man or a wing in addition to a top-flight PG.
So the two choices available to Mark Turgeon were: hand out five scholarships in 2012 and leave three for 2013, or hand out six in 2012 and leave just two for 2013, assuming no extra attrition. It's a tough choice between immediate assistance and long-term program-building. Now, he can have both (or overload on one).
Palsson adds an extra scholarship to the 2013 class, bumping it to seven open slots, but it will likely be banked for the 2013 class. Here's an example of what it could mean: say, hypothetically of course, Maryland adds Shaq Cleare, Prince Ibeh, Jake Layman, and Amile Jefferson for the rest of the 2012 class, and secures early commitments from the Harrison twins in 2013. Yeah, yeah, yeah, National Champion 2014, cartwheels, champagne, blah blah blah. Palsson's vacated scholarship is the difference between having to pick between A) choosing between in Elijah Macon for 2012 or Kennedy Meeks for 2013, or B) getting both. And I know which of those I choose.
But, of course, that sort of glass-half-full mentality requires some level of optimism about Turgeon's ability to recruit. If you don't have that, then the extra scholarship is worth probably no more than another Palsson, only two years younger. That's not a camp I fall into personally - he's done too much too well so far - but to each his own.
Long-term, Palsson's loss (and gained scholarship) could, potentially, be a boon. Short-term, it's a pretty big hit for a team that was already pretty down on its luck. Maryland was never going to be good and Palsson wasn't single-handedly going to make them good, but he was a nice asset for a team that desperately needed them. Next year is a lost cause for Maryland - a Wake Forest-like season isn't entirely out of the running. If they can avoid the ignominy of that type of year, I'll have hope for all Mark Turgeon-coached teams in the future.
Really, if Maryland and their fans can gain anything out of this year, it's hope for the future. (That, and a few treasured upset wins.) If Turgeon can keep this team competing, then imagine what he can do when he has actual talent and depth.