Terps basketball is on a roll. Against Michigan State Melo Trimble resembled his high school highlight videos, and Jake Layman continues to improve each game. What is the realistic ceiling for this team?
Todd: Well, from what I've seen of them thus far, they're pretty good right now and their coach (who knows a bit more about his team and basketball, for that matter, than I) says they can get better. If that's accurate and if they do get better, the ceiling is B1G Champions and at least a run to the Sweet 16 and possibly the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament.
Noah: Sweet 16 looks like a definite possibility, but it also depends on two things, rebounding/inside presence and three-point shooting. If a team can mask their weakness inside and are a streaky three-point shooting team, they can get a very high seed in the tournament, but just ask Duke what can happen when the threes stop falling.
Andrew K.: My bar keeps rising as the team keeps outperforming my expectations. Right now I see the Terps finishing as one of the top three teams in the B1G, with a 13-5 conference record and a 25-6 overall mark. That would get us a #4 seed in The Dance. I fully expect the Terrapins to then advance to the Sweet 16, with an outside shot at the Final Four. All of the above assumes no major injuries.
David W.: At the start of Big Ten play, I looked at Maryland's favorable conference schedule and said the team should be expected to contend for the league title. Six games into the conference season that ceiling remains the same. Obviously, the NCAA Tournament expectations would change depending on the region, but an Elite Eight berth should definitely be considered in play.
There is a big disparity between Maryland's ranking in the Coach's Poll (#8) and Maryland's ranking in the AP Poll (#13). Are there any rational reasons for this disparity?
Noah: I think it's the eye test. If you win, the coaches will put you up there. Oklahoma State and Iowa State are perhaps their best wins. The Terps need to continue to avoid games like Illinois and play their style of basketball. The gap will close the more we see this team play.
Andrew K.: Some AP writers won't "believe in" Maryland until it wins a few more road games in the B1G. They have their preconceptions and it's difficult to completely erase Maryland's performance in recent years from their minds. Meanwhile, word has probably spread amongst coaches that this Terrapin team is for real. Plus, there's probably only one ACC coach's vote.
David W.: The discrepancy seems big, but really it's closer than the numbers indicate. Less than 100 points separate the No. 9 team and the No. 13 team in the AP Top 25 and the Terrapins are only six points behind No. 11 Kansas. There are inherent biases in all polls, too, and the Coaches Poll usually seems to lean more heavily on blind resume comparisons.
Winning on the road is never easy in college basketball, and Maryland travels to Assembly Hall tonight to face Indiana. What is your confidence level in a Terps victory?
Todd: Let's see. Indiana is 11-1 at home. Their RPI is 44. I'll go with 41.8.
Noah: Maryland goes for another conference win in another very hard place to play. Luckily, this Indiana team isn't as good as the Oladipo teams of the past. I'm going 50%.
Andrew K.: Assembly Hall will be rocking now that Indiana has got a legitimate shot at the B1G title. They're a surprise team in the conference, just like the Terps. But that's where the similarity ends. The makeup of Indiana's team is a bit strange for a B1G squad: lots of guards running around wreaking havoc. The Terps match up well against Indiana in terms of athleticism. I'm feeling cautiously optimistic, say 65% chance of Maryland notching another B1G road victory.
David W.: At this point, I expect UMD to win every game - that's what happens when you get up near the Top 10. That said, this is arguably the toughest game left on the schedule since the Terps don't go to Wisconsin. I'll go with 60 percent.
Pete wrote an excellent article on Maryland football in 2015. What does Randy Edsall have to accomplish in 2015 to impress you?
Todd: First, let me say that I was impressed by Pete's article and equally impressed with the general civility, focus, and lack of devolution into old debates in the comments. Now, as to your interestingly phrased question. First, I want to see the addition of one or two high level signees (four- or five-star) on February 4. Next, eight regular season wins will impress me (in the positive way that I think was the intent of your question). These will impress me because they will exceed my expectations. (Note: On the advice of my attorney, I am answering only the question as asked. I therefore decline to comment on verbal commitments that may occur in 2015 because verbal commitments are only worth the paper they're not written on.)
Noah: Some blue chippers need to switch on signing day and Edsall needs to win eight games. The Big Ten doesn't get easier next year. Maryland will have a new quarterback and loses a bunch of pieces on defense. Diggs is gone. Meanwhile, Jim Harbaugh is going to have Michigan back on track, Wisconsin is still tough as nails, Michigan State still has Connor Cook, and Ohio State just won a national title (in case you didn't hear). Penn State will continue to get better under James Franklin and West Virginia and Iowa will always be tricky games. Maryland could be looking at six or seven wins, so eight wins would impress me.
Andrew K.: Based on the criteria that Pete set (# wins, recruiting rankings) and number of blue chips, my minimum is the following: 9 wins or [8 wins + top 25 recruit in 2016 + 4 blue chips]. If neither of those two scenarios are met, then we're not going forward. In that case, it's time to cut bait.
David W.: I'll say the win totals can hold steady as long as Edsall locks down the locals in the Class of 2016. Dwayne Haskins is a must, and he has to get a few of Trevon Diggs, Rahshaun Smith, Jauan Williams, Tino Ellis, Ellison Jordan, etc. If he can't, Maryland needs to get up to eight or nine wins.