Mar 9, 2014; College Park, MD, USA; Maryland Terrapins head coach Mark Turgeon talks with his bench against the Virginia Cavaliers at Comcast Center. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
Maryland basketball head coach Mark Turgeon will be tipping off his fourth season in College Park on Friday. After an up and down three years at Maryland and a shaky offseason, Turgeon and company will be happy to be back on the court. Social media and Terps TV has helped cultivate excitement for this season through pictures of early morning workout sessions and the “We Will” show, but expectations for this team are still unknown.
There is nothing wrong with fans going into season with unknown expectations for the team. It might even help the fan base not overreact to wins and losses…
However, with a different team than last year’s it is difficult to say for sure where this team will end up. Could this year’s Maryland team make the tournament? Of course they could, but they could also just as easily miss the tournament for another season, which would tie the longest stretch yet.
The non-conference will test the Terrapins, but also give them time to figure themselves out. Coach Turgeon has plenty of shooters, athletic big men, and veteran leaders, which gives him pieces to work with. However he lacks an experienced point guard, an offensive weapon in the post, and a proven scorer behind Dez Wells. Fortunately in college basketball a team can win in a variety of ways. Last year’s Maryland team was flawed in too many ways to list, but with an extra basketball or two they would have beat Virginia, Duke, Syracuse, and UConn, and would have gone to the tournament.
While it is difficult to give a prediction for this team, we can still have some fun making bold predictions for the 2014-2015 Maryland basketball season as we gear up for Friday’s tipoff against Wagner!
Jake Layman Will Make Second Team All-Big Ten
Dez Wells is the leader of the team and the most proven player on the roster. However, Jake Layman has great size, great shooting, and has added muscle. Layman has struggled with turnovers in the two exhibition games, but we have seen him be more aggressive with the ball. Instead of settling on an outside jumper, Jake is looking to take advantage of his size at the rim. At media day, he spoke about improving his dribble, which will help him to be more aggressive. If Jake makes that jump and becomes a more aggressive player off the dribble then he will be one of the toughest covers in the Big Ten. His size and shooting already make him tough to match-up with, but with a more attacking mindset then Jake will lead Maryland in points and make the All-Big Ten Second Team.
Maryland Will Improve In Assists and Shooting From Last Year
This one isn’t as bold given that Maryland shot 43% from the field last season and only had 11.7 assists per game. If Maryland wants any hope of making the NCAA Tournament then both of these need to improve. Assists should improve with a true point guard playing, and a system that promotes passing. The motion offense that Turgeon is implementing with more of a focus players making reads instead of a focus on running set plays, should create more opportunities for passes leading to scores. In the two exhibition games, ball movement was one of the most noticeable differences between this year’s team and last year’s team. Increasing the assists numbers will lead to a higher field goal percentage in theory. When the passing improves it should lead to teammates setting each other up with higher percentage shots, instead of the low percentage shots that come from too much one-on-one play.
Damonte Dodd Will Start The Majority Of Games
Will Dodd make a jump and become an offensive threat? Absolutely not, but he has shown improvements on the defensive end. Last year, Maryland had no shot blocking or rim protection. Dodd will provide that shot blocking and rim protection that was missing last year. With Dez Wells, Jake Layman, and Evan Smotrycz starting, Maryland will not need Dodd to provide scoring. Instead, they will need Dodd’s size and athleticism to limit easy baskets for opposing teams. With the experience starting, I think we can see Dodd provide some scoring since the point guard play will be better and he is athletic. Ultimately though, even if Dodd isn’t scoring consistently he will still start because of his ability on defense. As Michael Chekovsky develops, he will provide Maryland with an instant offense seven-footer off the bench, which is something that no one else will have. Dodd can set the tone early on defense, and Checko can come in to provide more offense especially as Smotrycz works himself back into shape.
Melo Trimble Will Average Over 10ppg and 5apg
In the first exhibition game I was shocked by how well Melo ran the offense and got his points. Sure the competition was extremely weak, but Melo scored 19 points and hardly ever did it look like he was forcing his offense. In the flow of the game Melo was able to get his shots and he took advantage when the opportunity presented itself. Throughout the offseason it has been said that for Maryland to succeed it would take Melo having a freshman campaign similar to former Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis. It is a tall task to expect Melo to play like Ennis did, but in the two exhibition games his confidence and pace resembled Ennis. Melo has shown confidence in himself and the offense, along with the ability to play at his pace. If Melo can show that level of maturity and confidence then he should be able to score over ten points per game while dishing over five assists per game. Melo will see a lot of minutes and has plenty of weapons to use on the offensive end.
Dion Wiley Will Prove To Be One Of The Top Defenders On Maryland
Wiley has a good frame and has shown good hustle through the exhibition season. At 6’4” 210 lbs., Wiley is comparable to Marcus Smart who was listed at 6’4” 220 lbs. his sophomore year at Oklahoma State. Smart was known for being a physical defender who broke the freshman record for steals in the Big 12, and averaged 2.9 steals per game in his two seasons. I don’t think Wiley will have the same impact defensively that Smart did as a freshman, but I do believe that he will prove to be one of the top defenders on Maryland this season. Coach Turgeon emphasizes the defensive end and the size of Wiley will provide coach with the ability to turn him into a top defender. We will see that Wiley begin to make the leap this year to becoming one of the top defenders in the Big Ten by the time he becomes an upper classman. Smart’s motor, work ethic, and frame led to him becoming one of the top defenders in college basketball, with a similar mindset then Wiley could become a similar type two guard to Marcus Smart.
All of this sounds great before the season tips-off but we won’t know for sure where this team is until the end of December. The Evan Smotrycz injury hurts this team because he has proven to be a good scorer and rebounder, and it also moves Jake Layman to the four. We will learn a lot about this team at the CBE Classic and in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but until they are 100% and playing at Oklahoma State, it will be difficult to know for sure if they have a shot at the NCAA Tournament or not.
Even if this team doesn’t make the tournament, this season can still be successful. Coach Turgeon is building a new environment at Maryland, and with that there will be successes and failures. If this year’s team is committed to the goals set forth in their “We Will” mantra then they will give Maryland fans a team to proud of and a foundation for the future. Building a foundation of hard work, passion, and dedication will serve to help Maryland become the program we as fans envision. Be proud of the successes of this team, but when they fail look to see how they respond and bounce back, that will be most telling trait of how successful the future can be.