There is only 32 days until the NBA season tips off, meaning college basketball is right around the corner. The Maryland Terrapins look to make the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight season. The Terps have gone to the Big Dance in all three seasons since moving to the Big Ten conference and there are high hopes that the 2017-18 team can do it again. Maryland kicks off their season on Friday, November 10th against Stony Brook at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum after their exhibition contest against D3 Randolph Macon College at the XFINITY Center on Thursday, November 2nd. The Terps are a new look team as star guard Melo Trimble declared for the NBA Draft following his Junior campaign last season. Trimble went undrafted but has signed a deal landing him with a rising team in the West, the Minnesota Timberwolves. Many people have wondered how this years team will perfom and who will be “that guy” since Trimble is now in the NBA. The answer to everyone’s question relies on the production from the three Sophomores, guards Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter, and forward Justin Jackson. All three players started for the Terps in their Freshman seasons alongside Trimble and a mixture of bigs mainly due to injuries. Damonte Dodd, Ivan Bender, and Michal Cekovsky all got starts at the center spot throughout the 2016-17 season. This years team will not have one superstar, but a potential three.
- Cowan won the starting point guard role last season, not only as the primary ball handler, but to help Trimble work off the ball more. Cowan averaged 10.3 points per game, 3.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists. He has a lot of explosiveness, but got out of control at times and turned the ball over trying to get to the basket. He is the quickest guard on the team and showed his ability to get to the cup and score when he took his time and waited for his moment. Standing at only 6’0, Cowan’s on ball defense and ability to run the floor really shined during his Freshman season, meaning he can only improve as he gets older. Look for Cowan to be more of a scoring threat with the ball in his hands without Trimble with him in the backcourt.
- Huerter was the biggest surprise for the Terrapins last season. He took the starting guard/forward role next to Cowan and Trimble, over Junior Jared Nickens. His basketball IQ was very impressive and he showed signs of eventually becoming a big time scorer for the Terrapins. Huerter became the sixth different Terp in history, and the first ever Freshman to hit seven three pointers in a game. He scored his career-high 26 points in the win against Nebraska. Huerter averaged 9.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists and showed his defensive skills being able to shut down some of the top guards in the powerhouse conference known as the Big Ten. Huerter could be the leading scorer for the Terps this season but he needs to be more aggressive and take more shots down the stretch.
- Justin Jackson didn’t even want to be a starter for head coach Mark Turgeon to start his collegiate career. Jared Nickens started for the Terps over Jackson and after Maryland’s win over American, Turgeon knew he had to put Jackson in the starting lineup. Jackson averaged 10.5 points and 6 rebounds. He got a lot of notice in his Freshman year, as he was invited to the Draft Combine to workout in front of multiple NBA teams and scouts. Fans got a little nervous, but Jackson ended up coming back to College Park for his Sophomore season. Jackson will have to become a better ball handler and be quicker on defense to elevate his game to the professional level. Jackson could play more of a small forward role for the Terps this year as former Duke big man, Sean Obi has transferred to Maryland for his Senior season. Either way, Justin Jackson will have to have a big year if the Terrapins hope to not only make the tournament, but to go further than last years loss against Xavier in the second round.
Graduate transfer Sean Obi, 6’9 250 pounds from Duke. Obi’s best season was in 2013-14 for Rice, averaging 11.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. At Duke, Obi battled through injuries but is back to full health and looks to be pivotal for the Terps in their big man depth.
Maryland got another big man, Bruno Fernando. Standing at 6’10, 245 pounds, Fernando will be fighting with Senior Michal Cekovsky for the starting center position. Darryl Morsell from Mount St. Joseph’s is a hometown kid who will be big for the Terrapins in the guard depth in his first season. Morsell is a 6’4, 200 pound guard. His athleticism and defensive ability will earn him playing time over Senior Jared Nickens and RSJr Dion Wiley. After Junior Jaylen Brantley left, the Terps are in need of a backup point guard and Morsell will have to help to solve that situation. Even though he was an off-ball scorer in high school, Morsell will need to handle the ball a bit more often and run the offense when Cowan and Hurter get their breaks.
The Terrapins have a fairly easy non-conference schedule with only Syracuse in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, and Butler visiting XFINITY. With Melo Trimble leaving the Terps, Sophomores Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter, and Justin Jackson will need to have big seasons if the Terps hope to go dancing for their fourth straight season.