MARYLAND BASKETBALL SEASON PREVIEW

This season for the Terps will look very different from the past few years. Guard Melo Trimble, arguably the best player Turgeon has had, is gone. The team has a young core without much experience, so the range of possibilities is large.

The Coach: Mark Turgeon

Entering his 7th season at the helm of Maryland’s basketball team, Mark Turgeon has a 138-68 record in his tenure. He has quite the challenge ahead of him, although his recruiting set he and the team up pretty well.  Turgeon’s incoming freshmen include big man Bruno Fernando and guard Darryl Morsell, both of whom are four-star recruits. Although his teams have reached the NCAA tournament in three straight years, Turgeon has been maligned by fans due to the team’s perceived inability to win big games, not advancing out of the first weekend of the tournament.

The Backcourt: Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter

This is obviously where the loss of Trimble will be most evident. For three years he was the leader who ran the offense. If the times when Trimble was on the bench are any indication, this year could be tough to watch. Thankfully, Cowan and Huerter have another offseason under their belts and reportedly have a firmer handle on the play-calling.

Cowan was great at using his elite speed last year but was usually lost around the rim due to his height. These possessions often ended in errant shots that were blocked or missed. Look for him to improve on that with better passing out of the post.

Huerter was phenomenal last year, hitting game-winning shots against Ohio St. and Towson after making a last-second block against Georgetown. He’ll need to penetrate the defense more if he wants them to continue to give him space from 3, as they’ll want to decrease his 37% 3-point percentage from last year.

The starting duo will be backed up by dion Wiley, a senior who has had trouble staying on the court with injuries, and Darryl Morsell. Morsell looked fantastic in  the exhibition game against lowly Randolph Macon, and seems to be in prime position to get lots of minutes if his point guard abilities live up to the hype.

The Frontcourt: Bruno Fernando, Michal Cekovsky, and Justin Jackson

The loss of Damonte Dodd won’t be felt that much, as his replacements more than make up for him given the gaping holes in his game.

Cekovsky will anchor the defense and serve as the post man for the Terps. If he can stay healthy, and believe me that’s a big if, he’ll be one of the more versatile big men in the Big 10.

Bruno Fernando is the lone freshman projected for Maryland’s starting lineup. He dealt with an ankle sprain that sidelined him for the exhibition, but is expected to start the season on time. He brings a toughness that Maryland centers have been lacking in recent memory and should be able to take some games over with his defensive ability. His potential is immense, and hopefully he live up.

Justin Jackson was arguably the best of the trio of freshmen last year, and NBA draft scouts are taking notice. He is currently projected to go in the late first round next June in the draft due to his incredible versatility. Jackson has the ability to play every position on the court thanks to being a rare specimen of height and athleticism. He will mainly get work on the wing, so the three-ball will need to improve. Thankfully he showed knock-down ability at times last year.

The frontcourt will be backed up by Ivan Bender. Bender is seasoned, as he got quality minutes in a few starts last year with Ceko out. He really doesn’t have any offensive ability to speak of, save for layups off the pick-and-roll. This was a common occurrence for the Trimble-led teams so look for Cowan to continue it with Bender. Defensively, he’s much more competent, and that’s mostly where he’ll be used.

Predictions:

A 21-9 overall record with a 11-7 conference record seems right although anything is possible with such a young, inexperienced team. This record likely indicates an NCAA tournament berth with a high single-digit seed. I see maybe winning a tourney game but expectations to get past the first weekend might be a bit too high. either way, Maryland basketball is back and we should all rejoice!

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