Maryland’s Postseason Goals Require Supporting Upperclassmen to Step Up

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 21st, 2017

Despite losing four starters from last year’s Sweet Sixteen squad, Maryland has bounced back with a surprisingly strong 22-5 (10-4 Big Ten) record and appears poised to earn its third consecutive NCAA Tournament bid. The Terrapins’ this season are once again led by junior star Melo Trimble, who excels in his role as leader and best player, as well as a precocious freshman class that has already produced three new starters (Anthony Cowan, Justin Jackson and Kevin Huerter). For this year’s unit to make a run into the second weekend of March Madness, however, head coach Mark Turgeon needs better contributions down the stretch from his supporting upperclassmen.

Maryland needs upperclassmen like Damonte Dodd to thrive as the calendar turns to March. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Turgeon uses the services of five upperclassmen who contribute between 11 to 20 minutes per game. Seniors Damonte Dodd and LG Gill, along with juniors Jaylen Brantley, Jared Nickens and Michal Cekovsky have all had good moments at some point this year. In the Terrapins’ most recent loss to Wisconsin on Sunday, however, the quintet managed only 15 combined points, seven rebounds and three assists. Their lack of rebounding was especially troublesome because Wisconsin logged a +17 advantage on the glass, including a robust 18 that came on the offensive end of the floor. The Badgers’ frontcourt of Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes combined for 41 points and 17 rebounds, while reserve Terrapin bigs Dodd, Cekovsky and Gill did nearly as much fouling (13) as scoring and rebounding. As a contrasting example, these five supporting players contributed an average of 24.5 PPG in recent road wins against Ohio State and Northwestern.

Still, Maryland is only one game behind Purdue and Wisconsin in the Big Ten standings and in decent position with a good stretch run to play its way to a #4 or #5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Trimble is in the middle of a five-game stretch where he’s averaging 20.4 PPG, and the freshman trio of Cowan, Huerter and Jackson have all shown great consistency throughout the season. But what will shield Maryland from an early round upset and allow the Terps to play well into March will depend on those upperclassmen.

At their best, Dodd and Cekovsky offer rim protection, rebounding and a ball screen option for Trimble to get to the rim or dish the ball inside. Gill provides athleticism in the frontcourt along with scoring from the post or mid-range. Brantley as a combo guard provides valuable depth behind Trimble and Cowan, while Nickens has proven to occasionally provide an offensive boost from the perimeter. For Maryland to close out the season in peak form, each member of the Terrapins’ supporting cast must contribute. As outstanding as Trimble and the freshmen have been, the seasoned veterans will determine whether Maryland faces a brief appearance in the Big Dance or can put together something more substantial.

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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