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The Testudo Times early-summer mailbag

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Answering your questions as Maryland sports look ahead to the fall.

Barclays Center Classic Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Welcome to June. The college sports season is all but over, and with the exception of a program-record six athletes at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Maryland teams are all done. It’ll be August before the team sports are counting wins and losses again.

This summer still has the NBA Draft, where Maryland could have a first-round pick for the first time since 2013, and the men’s basketball team taking a foreign trip. We’ll spend a lot of our time writing about football, with opening kickoff less than three months away. And at some point, Maryland will probably hire an athletic director.

This seemed like a great time to answer whatever burning questions our Twitter followers had for us. Here’s what we were asked, and here’s what we have to say.

Unfortunately, I’m gonna have to start this off with a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

When Maryland announced it had hired a search firm and put together a committee for this search, the school also expressed the intention to run a “confidential” search, with nothing leaking out during the process. That’s exactly what’s happened so far. Nothing is being reported, but that doesn’t mean nothing is happening.

I can’t tell you anything about candidates or a timeline because I don’t know much of anything about either. The school told reporters that Damon Evans would be a candidate, and Wallace Loh seems to like him, and the committee seems to be filled with people who like him. But I truly have no idea what his chances are, or to what extent the whole “DUI with a mistress in the passenger’s seat” thing that ended his tenure at Georgia in 2010 continues to be held against him. I’m also not sure how much interest the position has garnered from high-profile candidates.

I’d still expect to see Maryland make an official choice within the next month or so, and by the end of July at the latest. This might be the kind of story where we learn more after the fact. Let’s hope so.

In basketball questions...

Two similar questions, so we’ll address these together.

When discussing Maryland basketball, it’s important to remember that the Terps were a top-three team in the Big Ten for three straight years before faltering to ninth this past season. I think it’s safe to say the baseline expectation should be a return to the top quarter or third of the conference and an NCAA Tournament berth. It’ll probably take more for a substantial portion of the fan base to be satisfied, but Maryland at the very least has to prove that 2017-18 was an aberration and the program is heading in the right direction.

So be ecstatic if the Terps capture one of the Big Ten titles or reach the second weekend of the dance. Be disappointed if they decisively miss the Tournament again. These things seem equally possible.

Assuming the actual outcome lies somewhere in between them, it’s hard to guess where Turgeon will stand. He’s not getting fired after an NCAA appearance. Even if the Terps don’t make it back, [insert new AD here] might not be comfortable canning him with four years left on his contract. Still, attendance went down and vocal opposition from fans went up last season; if both those trends continue, he’ll be in an unenviable position no matter the record.

Favored? Nah. In the discussion? Absolutely.

Maryland returns three starters and brings in the top recruiting class in the conference. The Terps finished eighth in the standings last year but were sixth in KenPom’s rankings; four of the five teams ahead of them lost their leading scorers, and the other (Purdue) lost four starters. The Maryland hype train would be a lot stronger had Kevin Huerter returned, but in looking at projected starting fives around the league, the Terps have the talent to match anyone. But in what looks like a wide-open Big Ten, pretty much anything is possible.

On the women’s side...

My guess right now: Channise Lewis, Eleanna Christinaki, Blair Watson, Kaila Charles, Shakira Austin.

That leaves a bench of Brianna Fraser, Stephanie Jones, Olivia Owens, Taylor Mikesell, Sara Vujacic and Sarah Myers.

While Austin isn’t a traditional center, she’s listed at 6’5, and I think she’ll be simply too good not to start. Brenda Frese has gotten some incredible performances from freshmen at Maryland, but Austin is the best prospect she’s ever landed. The roles of Mikesell and Vujacic will depend largely on Watson’s health as she rehabs from a torn ACL in January. If she has to miss time, those two will be Maryland’s most potent shooting threats. The “sixth player” will probably be one of the veteran forwards (Fraser or Jones), but either Vujacic or Mikesell could very easily become the first guard off the bench.

Let’s talk about football.

I’m not sure any one game is more vital than the rest, but there’s an important cluster of three: Minnesota, Rutgers and Indiana. Each of these teams is 1-1 against Maryland in the last two seasons. Two of these three games will be at Maryland Stadium, so it’s reasonable to expect the Terps to go 2-1 against this trio. But if they go 3-0, then a bowl bid is pretty much a certainty. And if they go 1-2, they’ll be in a pretty big hole.

As far as upsets go, the two matchups that stick out to me are Texas and Michigan State. One game is in College Park and the other is at FedExField, and Maryland has beaten both teams under DJ Durkin, but it’s still more likely than not that the Terps will be clear underdogs in both matchups. If your standards for “upsets” are higher and only include the Big Ten East powers of Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan ... don’t hold your breath.

It seems almost certain that these two signal callers will have to compete with each other again in fall camp. The staff always emphasizes the importance of competition, and neither of these two has enough of a track record—both have exactly two career starts—to separate himself. However, if both are healthy, I like Hill’s chances just a little better.

Yes.

(I spent an entire shower trying to come up with a good over/under for the number of starting quarterbacks this year. I think the safest bet is two, so setting this at 1.5 is too low and 2.5 is probably too high.)

(Right?)

(Right???)