Last year, Maryland had an impressive 13-game winning streak after an opening-night three point loss to the defending champions, Kentucky. Most of that run can be attributed to soft scheduling by head coach Mark Turgeon, but nonetheless it showed promise. Maryland finished out the regular season with a solid record of 20-11 and was rewarded with an NIT bid for its troubles. In addition to a run to the NIT semifinals (losing to Iowa), the Terps had a couple of signature wins on their résumé over #2 Duke late in the season. After the season was finished, they lost Ukrainian center Alex Len to the NBA Draft, but he struggled with inconsistency under Turgeon and never quite lived up to his potential.
This season the Terps will be bolstered on the interior by Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz, a versatile 6’8” junior who can play as a stretch-four for this athletic Maryland team. They also have a powerful 260-pound tandem of interior sophomores in Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell, who are expected to shoulder the majority of the rebounding and post defense responsibilities this season. How they are able to perform as two of the biggest players on the Maryland roster will go a long way in determining this team’s ultimate success. This may also speak to Maryland’s lack of frontcourt height, seeing as Cleare is 6’9” and Mitchell is only 6’8”. Going against larger ACC frontcourts, some with legitimate seven-footers, may prove to be a problem for this relatively inexperienced duo. Another particularly relevant story surrounding this year’s Terps will be their pending move to the Big Ten, which will show up in press conference quotes and in the form of cheers (and jeers) from opposing fan bases. Maryland will want to leave the ACC on a positive note, and this team certainly has the requisite talent to make an NCAA run in its ACC finale. If last season proves as any indicator, Maryland’s fate is inextricably tied with Dez Wells‘ output and performance.