Team Chemistry the Only Issue that Can Sink Maryland

Posted by Alex Moscoso on October 21st, 2015

Maryland hosted its version of Midnight Madness at the Xfinity Center last Saturday. There is much to celebrate in College Park this preseason as the Terrapins, flush with talent with as many as five future NBA players taking the court, are the favorite to win the Big Ten. With so much professional talent on the roster, it’s no wonder that the smart money is on Mark Turgeon‘s squad to make a significant postseason run next March. This October’s situation is in stark contrast from where this program was just a short 12 months ago. Plenty of stories have already been written about that turnaround, but less has been written about the one issue that can undo all of the hype. Team chemistry among a group still learning to succeed is the one thing that can trip up this Maryland team’s aspirations of conference and national banners.

Melo Trimble looks to lead preseason favorite Maryland to a Big Ten title and Final Four. (David J. Philip/AP)

Melo Trimble looks to lead preseason favorite Maryland to a Big Ten title and Final Four. (David J. Philip/AP)

We can’t talk about potential issues with team chemistry without first talking about the individual players — an incredibly talented group of players, mind you. Maryland returns Melo Trimble, Jake Layman and Damonte Dodd from last year’s conference second place squad. Trimble was the breakout star, leading the team in scoring (16.2 PPG) and assists (3.0 APG) as a freshman. Layman is a lanky, athletic scorer with tremendous upside, coming in third on the team in scoring and minutes a year ago. And Dodd has proven himself as a capable defensive presence in the post, showing even more signs of improvement this season. Additional returnees Michal Cekovsky, Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens make up a deep bench for Turgeon.

Had it just been this returning cast, the Terps would have still been considered a legitimate conference title contender. But the new additions of transfers Robert Carter and Rasheed Sulaimon along with freshman Diamond Stone make this year’s Terrapins a cut above the rest of the Big Ten. Carter is a skilled big man who averaged 11.4 PPG and 8.4 RPG in his last season at Georgia Tech. Sulaimon is a former blue chip recruit who transferred after his dismissal from Duke last January. The former Blue Devil brings elite athleticism to the wing position, a niche that was previously missing on Turgeon’s roster. Rounding out the newcomers is Stone, a consensus top 10 freshman and McDonald’s All-American who will give the Terps their second offensively gifted big man on the blocks. There are only a couple of teams in the country on paper that can match the collection of talent currently residing in College Park (see: Kentucky and UNC).

All of this talent on the same roster also makes Maryland vulnerable to potential team chemistry issues. Most recent preseason Big Ten favorites were veteran teams that had played together for years. The Terps, on the other hand, will have three newcomers playing significant minutes ahead of other players who’ve put in their time with the program. It usually pays to have a senior leader who can keep everyone focused on team goals, but the unquestioned leader of the team, Dez Wells, has graduated. This leaves a vacuum in leadership on the roster, one of which most people expect will be filled by the sophomore Trimble. Can he get the new upperclassmen like Sulaimon — a player with the dubious honor of being the only player Mike Krzyzewski has dismissed in his 40-year career — and Carter to follow his lead?

Finally, there is the issue of the coach himself. Prior to last season, Turgeon had experienced five players transferring from his program in only three seasons. Last season’s performance was a breakthrough, but the team came into the year with relatively low expectations. That certainly isn’t the case this season, so if things go south at Maryland, we know it won’t be from a lack of talent but rather how Turgeon manages his team to allow that talent to come together.

Alex Moscoso (170 Posts)

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