Melo Trimble is a very good basketball player. He's probably going to be an NBA point guard in the near future. He's made a name for himself with nifty layups and cold-blooded three-pointers. When he drained this shot to lift the Terps past Wisconsin on the road, he was firmly entrenched in the "best point guard in the country" conversation.
But in 11 games since, Trimble hasn't been himself. Since Jan. 9, he is shooting just 35.6 percent from the field. He has cracked 50 percent in just two of those games (three if you count going 1-of-1 against Bowie State). His last three conference games were a 2-of-12 performance against Purdue, 1-of-14 against Wisconsin, and 3-of-11 against Minnesota. In a related story, the Terps went 1-2 in those contests.
Call it a slump, funk, cold streak, downswing, or whatever you want—Trimble's performance hasn't been what his team needs it to be. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Trimble's last six weeks is that there's really no explanation for his performance. Players and coaches have hinted that he could be injured; if he is, the severity is unclear. Maybe his confidence has slipped, Drew Storen-style (D.C. sports reference!). There are a ton of "maybes" surrounding this situation, and no amount of probing will bring about concrete answers.
His cold shooting has coincided with a slight uptick in turnovers. Trimble had 5 giveaways against Wisconsin and 6 at Minnesota. He had 4 in losses against Michigan and Michigan State, as well as the near-upset at Nebraska. His ball control is clearly integral to the team's success, and this will continue to be the case going forward.
Of course, Trimble hasn't completely forgotten how to play basketball. Once or twice per game at minimum, he'll do something that makes you stop what you're doing and shake your head. During the Terps' comeback against Minnesota, he knifed through the lane and made a layup that would be impossible for about 340 Division I point guards. His foul shooting hasn't slipped, either; his 85.2 percent clip on just under 5 attempts per game is fantastic. He kept the Terps in the Michigan State game, refusing to be outshined by Denzel Valentine and Bryn Forbes.
That version of Trimble still exists, even if the current version is routinely playing 35 or more minutes a night for a very good Maryland team. It's important to remember that the loss to Minnesota does not torpedo the Terps' chances of winning the Big Ten, although it doesn't help. It's also important to remember that Trimble, 21, is a sophomore in college. He just happens to be a brilliant point guard, and because of that he has assumed a leadership role on a top-10 team despite being an incredibly reserved person.
Maryland has four games remaining in the regular season. Next comes the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis, and then the NCAA Tournament. The latter will inevitably define the 2015-16 season. Maryland probably won't be as high a seed as some may have expected, but if this college basketball season has taught us anything, it's that seeds and rankings mean next to nothing. Success will be predicated on good matchups and well-executed game plans.
If Melo Trimble and Maryland play like they did Thursday night in four weeks' time, they'll go home early. But a month is long enough for a talented team to figure something out. The Minnesota loss is many things: inexplicable, disheartening and certainly embarrassing. But it is not the end of the world.