With the men’s basketball season just four months away, I break down Maryland’s biggest strengths and weaknesses on their roster. A large part of their weaknesses are due to the five transfers over the offseason. But does Maryland have enough on their bench to overcome the latest adversity?
Leadership: This is the first time since 2009-10 that Maryland has scholarship seniors on the roster that can help lead this team in the right direction. Dez Wells, Evan Smotrycz, Richaud Pack and Jon Graham are all seniors that know what it takes to win and will look to get back into the tournament. Smotrycz and Wells are the only two on the roster that have NCAA tournament experience, and I think that this is one of those aspects that is often overlooked. The past two years, senior leadership was nonexistent and it showed. One game in a big Maryland loss, former Terps Seth Allen and Mitchell were caught on the bench laughing. Obviously, the roster is filled with guys that should be able to enjoy themselves throughout their four years, but things like that are evident when leadership is nonexistent.
Outside shooting: Maryland’s lack of point guard depth is because there are so many shooters on the roster. With Melo Trimble, Richaud Pack, Dion Wiley, Jared Nickens, Jake Layman and Evan Smotrycz all able to make solid contributions from long-range, Turgeon has the ability to consistently have lethal offensive lineups on the floor, forcing defenders to play more honest. With the outside game so strong, this will open up the paint for slashers such as Wells and even Jake Layman and Smotrycz as both look to take their game to the next level. What Maryland may lack in defense, they’ll certainly make up for in offense.
Low post scoring: When Mitchell decided to transfer in the offseason, Maryland lost a big part of their post game. Although Mitchell consistently made errors offensively, he was Maryland’s only option down low. Now with him gone, that leaves Maryland with only Damonte Dodd and Jonathan Graham as returning big men. While Jon Rothstein visited Maryland’s practice last week, he wrote how Michal Cekovsky looked very impressive. While Cekovsky is more polished now as Len was as a freshman, who does Maryland have when Cekovsky isn’t in? Their bigs consist of Graham, Dodd and potentially Ivan Bender. They are much better defensively than offensively, so it’s certainly concerning that there is only one true big that can score down low. Yes, Smotrycz is the starting power forward, but he’s a stretch forward that is much more reliable outside than inside.
Depth: Notably at the point guard position, but overall there isn’t much proven depth on the bench, which is due to the offseason transfers. At point guard, Turgeon said when Richaud Pack was signed, he didn’t expect Pack to have the ball-handling skills that he possesses. Although he does provide a lot more scoring and would ideally become a shooting guard, Pack can backup freshman Melo Trimble at the one. But if either goes down, who replaces him? Putting Wells back at the one wouldn’t be the smartest move strategically, but it may be Maryland’s best option. At the two and three, Maryland is in a good position with Dion Wiley, Jared Nickens, Dez Wells and Jake Layman. Layman and Dez will be able to give Wiley and Nickens time to adjust and won’t force them into big minutes early on. I think both incoming freshman can be big for this program, as Nickens has progressed much further than I have expected. Nonetheless, games are much different from practice. The adjustment will take time.
Lockdown defender: Look, I wasn’t the biggest Faust fan, but this is what Maryland is going to miss most from him. Faust’s longs arm and big frame allowed him to take on the opposing team’s best offensive player and force him to alter his shots. As Faust will suit up for Long Beach State this year, who does Maryland have that can replace him? Wells is a good defender that plays so hard, so I can see him elevating defensively this year, but he doesn’t provide the same length that Faust did. Layman is the guy that most resembles Faust due to his long arms and big size, but Layman seemed to struggle a lot last year on defense. Maryland will need him to step up on the defensive side of the ball this year, so I think it’s a stretch to say right now he is the most likely to replace Faust’s role on defense. But Layman is the most likely to take on this new role.