Is Maryland Really a Top 25 Team?

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 8th, 2016

After making the NCAA Tournament twice in the last two years, Maryland must now replace four starters from a 27-9 unit that earned a #5 seed and lost to Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen. The lone holdover, junior guard Melo Trimble, returns along with the addition of some key recruits, causing voters in both the AP (#25) and Coaches (#21) polls to rank the Terrapins among their Top 25s. While Trimble is a known commodity, much of the rest of the team is not, leading to the key question of whether this edition of Maryland Basketball is actually as good as many people obviously think. Let’s examine that question from three different components.

Melo Trimble will have to shake off a sophomore slump that plagued him late last season. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Melo Trimble needs to shake off a sophomore slump that plagued him late last season. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

  1. Can Trimble Return to His Freshman Form? As a precocious freshman, Trimble burst onto the scene two seasons ago by pacing Maryland in scoring (16.2 PPG) and leading the Terps back into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years. With more talent surrounding him last season, his assist rate rose to 28.7 percent (from 21.2 percent) but his Offensive Rating (116.5 to 110.7) and shooting percentages (53.4% eFG to 48.2%) decreased. Will he regain the shooting form from a stellar freshman season when he converted 41.2 percent of his attempts from the three-point line? Or will he struggle carrying the load of his inexperienced supporting cast? Maryland needs the first scenario to come to fruition if the Terrapins want to be as good as they were during the last two seasons.
  2. Who are the Terps’ Secondary Scorers? Trimble had Dez Wells (15.1 PPG) and Jake Layman (12.5 PPG) around to assist with the scoring load two seasons ago. All five starters last season averaged over 11.0 PPG. The only player other than Trimble on this year’s roster who has ever averaged double figures in a single season is graduate transfer LG Gill. There will be opportunities for former role players like Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens to step in and become complementary scorers, but Wiley is coming off an injury where he missed all of last season and Nickens hasn’t proven he can do much more than shoot from the outside.
  3. Where Will Maryland Find Easy Buckets? Between living at the free throw line two years ago (#25 nationally) and logging the seventh-best two-point field goal percentage in college basketball last season, Maryland has enjoyed clear offensive advantages. At the outset of this season it appears as though the Terrapins will need to rely on perimeter scoring and/or transition offense. Freshmen Kevin Huerter and Anthony Cowan will need to provide a lift from day one. Huerter comes in with a reputation as a shooter, while Cowan will help the team push the pace.

Maryland has the tools to become a top five Big Ten team (and consequently, a Top 25 team) if some of the questions posed here can be adequately answered. With shot-blockers like Damonte Dodd and Michal Cekovsky getting more minutes inside, the Terps should remain a top 40 defensive team. Cowan and Jaylan Brantley have the requisite speed to create turnovers and opportunities to run, but head coach Mark Turgeon is going to need to unleash them more than he has in the last few years. With all the new roles, Maryland may not be a Top 25 team right now, but if Trimble can return to form and get sufficient help around him, the Terps certainly could be by the end of this season.

Brendan Brody (307 Posts)

Brendan Brody is in his fourth season covering the Big Ten for RTC. Email him at, or follow him on twitter @berndon4.

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