There are only eight days until the start of the season for No. 7 Maryland men’s basketball, and as the season approaches, the hype around this year’s team continues to build.
With some much buzz, I decided to take a look at what college basketball experts around the country are saying about the 2019-20 Terps. Here is what they had to say.
CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander ranked the Terps as a national championship contender, with the following description: “At 40-1, you’d best try to get a ticket on Maryland now if you can because that’s a bargain. While it might seem like it’s been 15 years since the Terrapins were this lauded in the preseason, let me remind you that in 2015 Maryland was the preseason No. 3 team in the AP Top 25. That Terps troupe had Melo Trimble, Diamond Stone, Jake Layman, Rasheed Sulaimon and Robert Carter. It finished 27-9 with a Sweet 16 loss to Kansas as a No. 5 seed.
I expect this year’s team to be better. Potentially No. 2 seed material. The biggest reason why is a dual breakout season. Anthony Cowan has been flirting at the fringes of meaningful, consistent point guard play for three seasons. I’m all in on him unlocking his potential at the same time Jalen Smith turns into one of the five or six best big men in college basketball. The Terps return four starters from a 23-win team that was good-or-better in almost every significant tempo-free statistical category except one: turning teams over. Maryland forced opponents into TOs only 14.1% of the time, second-worst in college hoops. I predict a huge jump there and expect Maryland to be in the mold of a Final Four team for most of the season.”
ESPN’s Seth Greenberg sees this squad with Elite Eight potential: “The key word to me is versatility. I think that the versatility of this team will be really interesting. They can play big, they can play small, they can shoot it. Aaron Wiggins, every time the ball comes out of his hands, it looks like it’s going in. We obviously know about Stix Smith, you know he’s developed. He’s gotten bigger, he’s gotten stronger, he’s running the court consistently, he can protect the rim, extremely skilled. Ricky Lindo plays as hard as any guy that I’ve seen in a while. Now look, the deal is real simple: you’ve got to take care of the basketball. If Maryland takes care of the basketball, I like [its] versatility, I like [its] depth. I think [the Terps] potentially could play some zone. The Mitchell twins look like very interesting prospects. This Maryland team is for real. Take care of the ball. They’ve got shot-makers. Morsell, a Baltimore guard looks like he’s improved shooting the basketball and shooting with confidence. Maryland, a potential Elite Eight team.”
ESPN’s John Gassaway says will Maryland will make biggest jump of any team in Big Ten: “Sure, Maryland made the tournament last season, and the Terrapins even earned a pretty nice (No. 6) seed. That’s not the typical profile of the teams being forecast for a jump here, granted. The thing with the Terps, though, is that significant improvement is just sitting there right in front of them. All Mark Turgeon’s guys have to do to is achieve parity in turnovers with respect to their opponents. Even achieving something close to parity could be sufficient.
Everything else is, apparently, in place. Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith were named preseason All-Big Ten. Maryland’s nucleus shows, on paper, the ability to hit 3s, play defense and crash the glass at both ends of the floor. All this group requires is what it so rarely managed to pull off last year, getting as many chances to score as the opponent earns. There have been few teams for whom traditional X’s and O’s videos of half-court possessions ending in shots were less illuminating than they were for the 2018-19 version of Maryland.”
The Athletic’s Seth Davis has Maryland as the No. 5 team in the nation. He explains why: “By the end of last season, Anthony Cowan was as effective as any point guard in America. The 6-foot senior has started every game during his first three years in College Park, and he led the squad in scoring, assists and minutes the last two. Now Cowan is one of four starters returning from the team that finished fifth in the Big Ten and came within 1.6 seconds of reaching the Sweet 16. Mark Turgeon takes a lot of heat from Terps fans, but he has proven himself to be a solid teacher, so I look for last year’s freshman class of 6-10 forward Jalen Smith, 6-5 guard Eric Ayala, 6-6 wing Aaron Wiggins and 6-8 forward Ricky Lindo to make significant progress.”
Stadium’s Andy Wittry on the Terps: “In a Big Ten that could be wide open after Michigan State, Maryland — and its roster that includes two potential All-American-caliber players in Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith — has the chance to win the most games of any season in Turgeon’s tenure, earn the highest tournament seed and make the deepest tournament run.”