This offseason’s approach to the Maryland basketball team is slightly different than last year’s.
Last year, the the Terps landed five-star, super-recruit Diamond Stone, retained Melo Trimble for another season and welcome grad-transfer Rasheed Sulaimon from Duke. They added the talents of transfer Robert Carter after a season of watching from the bench. The expectations were lofty, to say the least.
Now that the Terps have lost four starters to either graduation, the NBA or overseas basketball, the expectations have certainly been tamped down. However, this Maryland team has a fresh opportunity to actually exceed preseason predictions, for a change.
As talented as last year’s team was, it couldn’t seem to put the right ingredients together.
Past the starting lineup, there really wasn’t much else to the team. Sure, Damonte Dodd played his role as a rim protector well. And while it was a disappointing season from behind the three-point line, Jared Nickens did shine on occasion. But Mark Turgeon didn’t have much to work with. This year will be different. Assuming the starting lineup goes a little something like this ...
Melo Trimble, Dion Wiley, Justin Jackson, LG Gill, Damonte Dodd
...Turgeon will have much more on his bench to throw in when he needs a spark. Jared Nickens has a lot on the line, and with one more year of maturity under his belt, he will probably improve his 34.7 percent clip from three. The addition of four-star recruits Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter will bolster the backcourt unit. Jaylen Brantley, Michal Cekovsky, and Ivan Bender will also be options for Turgeon, but they won’t be make-or-break players (not that they have been). This bench unit offers more viable choices and adds the depth that the Terps needed last year.
Where there is depth, there are choices.
Turgeon can work out multiple lineups for the multiple situations he is bound to face.
If he wants to open up the floor for Trimble, he can sub in Cowan and Huerter, place Jackson at the 5 with his 7’3’ wingspan and torture defenses with space, driving, and shooting. Melo Trimble’s expectations fell short last season because he was forced to rely on his shooting too much. Now that he is healthy, he will be able to work with players who can spread the floor, allowing Trimble to drive, draw a foul, or kick out to a shooter, which we saw during his freshman season.
Another prominent pro that the Terps will use to their advantage is basketball IQ. All three of Maryland’s four-star recruits have been commended for their ability to read a situation and perform accordingly. Huerter and Jackson were fantastic passers in high school and Cowan thrived at pull-up jump shots.
The 2016-17 roster does not come close to the talent level that the 2015-16 team held, but depth and chemistry are valuable areas in which this team could be better.
This season’s Terps will be fast, fluid, and torturous if Turgeon can sculpt the right lineups. It helps that the team is made up of players who can be placed at multiple positions.
The flexibility is endless with the Terps, which is why they will exceed expectations. They are too deep and too talented to be average.
I don’t expect a crazy run in the NCAA Tournament, but I do believe the Terps will make a splash in the Big Ten once again and continue strengthening Maryland basketball’s reputation as a powerhouse in the making.