Whatever you might make of the on-court results in Mark Turgeon's first five years as Maryland's head basketball coach, there's good reason to think the next five will be a lot better.
The Terrapins basketball program has emerged under Turgeon as one of the country's better recruiting operations, and it's gotten there in a fairly unique way.
Five years ago, Turgeon and his staff inherited an extremely barren roster but got to work quickly on adding talent to it. Yet, it was logistically tricky, because Turgeon's administration didn't arrive in College Park until May 2011 -- too late in the traditional recruiting cycle to make much of an immediate dent for the 2011-12 season.
Anyway, the Terps pressed on. They got a late-cycle commitment from Ukrainian center Alex Len, who turned into a solid two-year performer and then jumped to the NBA. And after Len, Maryland's recruiting has mostly climbed upward. This is where it's been since 2012, according to the 247Sports Composite:
Unless you've expected Maryland to recruit at a consistently Dukian or Kentuckian level, the Terps' average class ranking of No. 26 over Turgeon's first five full classes has to look pretty good.
It should look even better in light of Maryland's transfer recruiting, which doesn't show up in standard class rankings, and when you consider that in the 2013 and 2015, Maryland's lower rankings were purely the product of having two-man classes to stay within scholarship limits. Transfers accounted for, Maryland's been one of the best recruiting teams in all of college basketball.
(Maryland's five recruiting class rankings before 2012, in reverse chronological order: 90th, 31st, 47th, 42nd and 34th, for an average of 49th in the country).
Since he's been at Maryland, Turgeon's added dozens of stars worth of onetime high school recruits who'd started their college careers elsewhere.
The Terps have landed solid graduate transfers who didn't get big-time offers out of high school (Logan Aronhalt, Richaud Pack, L.G. Gill), and they've landed outright, blue-chip stars whose careers didn't work out at their first colleges (Dez Wells, Robert Carter Jr., Rasheed Sulaimon.) They've found several players in the middle, who have contributed a lot in spurts (Evan Smotrycz, Jon Graham.) They've found heart-and-soul bench guys, too (Varun Ram).
Turgeon's done a great job filling holes.
Under Turgeon, the Terps have demonstrated serious proficiency at adding talent late in the recruiting year. They added four-star small forward Justin Jackson, three-star small forward Micah Thomas and Spanish power forward Joshua Tomaic just under the wire this spring, and they landed Gill, from Duquesne, as grad transfer season was winding down.
All told, the Terps injected four players between Gill's commitment on May 9 and Tomaic's on June 1. That's three weeks for more than 25 percent of a roster.
It didn't always look like Maryland's roster would be this good in 2016-17. The Terps had a serious dearth of frontcourt talent after Diamond Stone and Robert Carter Jr. declared for the draft in April, and fans got antsy about it.
But Turgeon also left himself flexibility, and now Maryland has Gill (a true power forward with experience), Jackson (a small forward who can play the four position) and Tomaic (maybe a bit of a project, but a power forward in his own right).
In Maryland's basketball offices, the Terps' administration has sometimes been hesitant to use up all 13 of its NCAA-allowed scholarship slots, because roster-building is a puzzle whose pieces need to to fit together exactly right. It helps to have fluidity, and Maryland's used that to its advantage frequently in the past.
Len committed to Maryland in the August before his freshman season, then started at center and became the Terps' second-best player the next year. Wells committed in September after his expulsion from Xavier in 2012, then became their best player that same season. Gill, a May commit, will play a huge role in his only Maryland season.
Maryland now has recruiting advantages it didn't have before.
Gary Williams had a wonderful run at Maryland, but he didn't leave the program in its most ideal state when he left the job after 2010-11. The Terps didn't have much of an NBA presence, and Turgeon's first roster was a desert.
Some of Maryland's disadvantages persist, one of the biggest being that Maryland doesn't have a dedicated basketball practice facility or lavish basketball housing. (Most of Maryland's players live in a perfectly nice but not at all special apartment complex along Route 1 in College Park.) Xfinity Center is just about as good as it gets for on-campus arenas, but it doesn't do everything in the cutthroat recruiting world.
On the converse, Terps have a few things going for them now that they didn't when Turgeon got started. For one thing, they've strung together 55 wins in their last two seasons, a stretch that rivals any two-year run Maryland's ever had, postseason results notwithstanding.
They're also set to perhaps double their current population of NBA players, which should provide some sort of bump on the trail. Whether recruits are good enough for the NBA or not, most of them think they are. That Turgeon is establishing a track record for Maryland as a via point to the pros is a big deal.
This year's Maryland roster will be one of Turgeon's most talented, and it might work out to be his best.
Maryland had an outrageously talented starting lineup last year. All five players were former blue-chip recruits, and all could yet play in the NBA.
This year's team stacks up pretty well in its own right. The Terps' way-too-early projected starters (Melo Trimble, Dion Wiley, Jackson, Gill and Damonte Dodd) were all highly sought recruits once upon a time. Trimble, Wiley and Jackson were consensus four-star or better prospects. The bench should have two four-star freshman guards (Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter), plus talented shooter Jared Nickens and onetime top junior college recruit Jaylen Brantley.
There are plenty of possible explanations for why Maryland wasn't quite as good as its talent last year. Anyone inside the program will point to Wiley's preseason meniscus injury as a big problem, especially since Wiley had made real offseason progress after his freshman campaign in 2014-15. A simpler point is that Maryland had a bunch of jump-shooters last season, and sometimes jump-shooters go cold.
This year's Maryland team will, on the whole, be similarly talented, though it won't have as much veteran, proven skill as last year's. But if you believe Turgeon and his staff will take lessons from last year and make themselves better, it's not at all unreasonable to think the Terps will be better than last year's 27-9 record.
There are plenty of exceptions to this rule, but there's usually about a year of lag time between a player's verbal commitment and the time he gets to campus.
Maryland's had two good years now, so the program should be just about reaching the thick of the recruiting benefits that come with winning more games. If the Terps can stick a third good season on top of their last two, they'll entrench their heightened recruiting level as a sort of new normal.
Turgeon's first five years at Maryland haven't been perfect. But the Terps are in an unquestionably better talent acquisition spot than they were when Turgeon showed up, and that should keep paying dividends for a long time.