Big Ten Previews: Maryland Terrapins


Jan 29, 2014; College Park, MD, USA; Maryland Terrapins head coach Mark Turgeon looks up at the clock during a time out during the second half at Comcast Center. Maryland Terrapins defeated Miami Hurricanes 74-71. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

2013-14 Result: 17-15 (9-9 ACC)

Postseason Result: N/A

Head Coach: Mark Turgeon, 59-43 at Maryland in fourth season

After a frustrating, inconsistent season in their final year as a member of the ACC, Maryland looks to bounce back and make the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 2009-10 season. Maryland is one of two newcomers to the Big Ten this season and Mark Turgeon will rely on freshman to make up for the five transfers that left the program over the offseason.

With some question marks, will Maryland answer the call and make that highly anticipated jump to the top of the Big Ten? Will Maryland be able to gel early and improve their on-court chemistry? We break down the 2014-15 Maryland team here.

Key Returning Players

  • G/F Dez Wells (Sr)
  • F Jake Layman (Jr)
  • F Evan Smotrycz (Sr)
  • F Damonte Dodd (So)

Maryland returns their most explosive player in Dez Wells. The only knock on Wells is his ability to knock down the mid-range shot consistently. Nonetheless, he is physical, uses his strong frame to body down defenders, and does a good job drawing defenders out of position. Jake Layman has an opportunity to break out this year, especially with the injury to senior power forward Evan Smotrycz for the first month of the season. Layman can shoot outside exceptionally well, but endured a long cold stretch last season that brought his average down. In order to build confidence, Turgeon advised Layman to go inside more and be physical. This year, Layman will need to maintain that physicality, and everything else will fall into place.

Evan Smotrycz is a stretch four for Maryland that can hit the outside shot well, forcing occasional mismatches for his defender. He will be sidelined for 6 weeks after fracturing his foot, missing almost the first month of the season for Maryland. In his place, sophomore Damonte Dodd and Jake Layman have the biggest opportunity to step up and make an impact in Smotrycz’s absence.

Last year, it was fairly evident that Dodd was much more sound defensively than offensively. A good shot blocker, his long arms and improving instincts makes him an interesting prospect moving forward. Turgeon has raved about his growth this offseason, but after shooting 12.5% last year from the free throw line–2/16 shooting– and 36.8% from the field, his offensive game leaves a lot to be desired. Dodd will be a constant topic of debate this season as the spotlight shines bright on the young man from Centreville, Maryland.

Key Incomers

  • G Melo Trimble (Fr)
  • G/F Dion Wiley (Fr)
  • F Jared Nickens (Fr)
  • F Michal Cekovsky
  • G Richaud Pack (Graduate/Sr)

Maryland’s most talented recruiting class in ages, Melo Trimble is the key to this team’s success. A ton of pressure for a freshman, Trimble will be given the keys to offense as he starts at point guard this season for Maryland. One of the top combo guards in the 2014 class, Trimble’s game resembles Seth Allen from last year. Trimble is more talented and dynamic than Allen was as a freshman, but its his poise and patience that’s always stood out to me. He’s a dynamic scorer that can shoot from outside, hit the mid-range exceptionally or blow by his defender and finish inside with contact.

Wiley and Nickens will battle for minutes this year, but both bring slightly different games to the offense. Wiley’s game has always been most lethal outside, but his ability to get in the lane and score makes him dynamic. Wiley is my pick for the sixth man this year, but I question his motor. Sometimes, he seems to take off plays and not play with 100% effort. That’s his biggest drawback, but if Turgeon can push Wiley to get the most out of himself, he will be scary good by the end of the year.

Nickens’s thin frame makes him an interesting prospect. A wing with a lot of potential, he’s drastically improved his ability to slash and finish at the rim. Already an established shooter, Nickens aimed to improve defensively and add muscle heading into this year. According to Daniel Martin of Comcast Sports Net, he’s done just that, adding 26 pounds of muscle to get to 203 pounds.

This is a good sign for Nickens moving forward. Turgeon will expect a lot of him this year, and these young Terps will have to grow up quickly this season for Maryland to remain competitive.

Pack is a transfer from North Carolina A&T where he averaged 17 points per game for the Aggies. Pack received high praise about his maturity and ball-handling from Turgeon over the summer. Pack will be heavily relied on this year and will likely backup Trimble at point guard since the Terrapins don’t have a legitimate backup.

When Cekovsky came to Maryland, he immediately drew Alex Len comparisons. Nonetheless, Cekovksy has the chance to become Maryland’s next great big man. His ability to run the floor well, ability to finish around the rim and his seven-foot frame is a perfect fit for Turgeon’s offense. He will need to round out his defensive game, but he is a special talent for this team.

Frontcourt Outlook

When freshman center Trayvon Reed was kicked off by Turgeon, depth became a concern. When Smotrycz went down with an injury, who starts became an even bigger concern. To me, Maryland’s best chance to win is to slide Layman to power forward and either Dodd or Cekovsky at center, which makes one wonder: where will rebounding come from?

Last year, Maryland received just 23% of the team’s average rebounds per game from Dodd, Layman and senior Jon Graham. Dodd’s stats will certainly improve as he will play more than 7.5 minutes per game, thus giving himself a chance to vastly improve his statistics. But rebounding is certainly a concern in those three. Luckily, Smotrycz will return and likely be close to 100% by Big Ten play. Smo averaged six rebounds per game last year, good for second-highest on the team.

Onto scoring, Michal Cekovsky will make the biggest impact here. Between Layman and Smotrycz, Maryland will be able to stretch the floor well and knock down some threes. Their biggest issue will be the back-to-the-basket scoring as Graham is the only player from last year’s team that was able to do that well. I anticipate Smotrycz to struggle consistently scoring down low against the traditional Big Ten power forward; it’s just not his game. He was able to do a good job last year against Duke down low, but that was mainly because Duke used a small lineup. I’m not saying he can’t do it, but don’t expect that out of him.

This is Maryland’s biggest weakness. Again, Turgeon has praised Dodd for his offseason progression, but practice is different than games. How will he adjust to a starting role against more experienced and stronger big men in the Big Ten? Lots of question marks in this group.

Backcourt Outlook

Maryland lost 37.9% of their scoring, 59.2% of their assists and 45% of their steals from the transfers of Seth Allen, Nick Faust and Roddy Peters. On the plus, they lose the third-worst shooter statistically in Nick Faust (38.4% field goal percentage) and hot-and-cold shooter in Seth Allen (40.6%). Maryland replaces them with Melo Trimble, Dion Wiley, Jared Nickens and Richaud Pack, who shot 44.1% from the field last year. While all of these young men, except Pack, are unproven, they were all good shooters in high school and are expected to be a big part of the season this year.

Dez Wells was Maryland’s fourth-best shooter last year, shooting 48.1%. Wells is a consistent jump-shot away from becoming a great all-around player. As I’ve previously mentioned, he is very aggressive and finishes tremendously well around the rim. Maryland also adds a good shooting backup point guard in Richaud Pack, which Roddy Peters did not provide last year. This gives Maryland an opportunity to rest Melo, or move him to shooting guard, without having to sacrifice offense for defense.

Despite lacking depth for their big men, Maryland has tremendous depth for the shooting guard and wing position. Turgeon will have an opportunity to rest Dez Wells for Layman, Wiley, Pack or Nickens. The talent is undoubtedly there. With the move to the Big Ten, however, defense must be a bigger focus. This is where losing Faust hurts because I’m not sure Maryland will be able to overcome lacking a true lock-down defender. Wells is an aggressive defender that puts pressure on his opponent, but he doesn’t have the instincts or length that Faust has. Turgeon has praised his team for their development on defense this summer, but we’ve also seen that what happens in practice doesn’t necessarily translate into in-game success.

Expected Finish: 8-10

Maryland’s depth at the 2/3 will show throughout this season. Melo will have his moments where he wows the fans, and his moments where he makes head-scratching decisions; he’s a freshman, he’s not going to be perfect. In a tough Big Ten, Maryland’s inexperience and lack of depth will hurt them down low. I expect it to be a problem all year. What hasn’t been brought up is that Maryland loses 57.7% of their turnovers from last year in the five transfers. Maryland will need to improve their ball-handling, especially Dez Wells and his 2.5 turnovers from last year. That means stop the “Dez Wells at point guard” experiment.

It comes down to execution and ability to defend. Turgeon has said all the right things this offseason, but will he do all the right things during the season? Will Turgeon be able to overcome losing Scott Spinelli, Maryland’s biggest loss this offseason, and his ability to create scoring plays during games?

I predict Maryland will have two signature wins at home this year as well as one or two letdowns on the road. The Big Ten’s depth from top to bottom is a lot better than the ACC. Will Maryland’s wins be enough to get them into the tournament? Or will it be another season of “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” in College Park?