Mar 9, 2014; College Park, MD, USA; Maryland Terrapins forward Evan Smotrycz (1) works for a shot against the Virginia Cavaliers at Comcast Center. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
Maryland men’s basketball is set to tip off their 2014-2015 season on Friday. Expectations are unknown for this year’s Terrapins after a rocky offseason. Despite the transfers during the summer months, coach Mark Turgeon remains optimistic that his team can succeed this season.
The Big Ten is one of the top conferences in the country, and it will take consistent high-level play to finish with a winning record. It is certainly a tough task to ask a team with several new players to finish in the upper half of a new league, but it isn’t impossible. Of course, with the amount of new players Maryland has, it does become possible for Maryland to struggle every night and finish near the bottom.
For Maryland to succeed it will take several players reaching their best-case scenario or some form of it, but it is also likely for players to reach their worst-case scenario. What are those scenarios for each player?
Dez Wells: Best Case – He continues to improve his shooting and ball handling to show scouts that he is a first round draft pick. Dez’s shooting percentages decreased last season, but he also looked more comfortable shooting. With a pass first point guard, Dez is able to get better shots in the flow of the offense instead of in isolation situations.
Worst Case – In an attempt to impress NBA scouts, he is too focused on showing off his ability that it hurts the team. In trying to do too much his shooting percentages continue decrease and the turnovers go over 3.0 per game.
Evan Smotrycz: Best Case – Smotrycz comes back from his injury and experiences little nagging. Turgeon is able to limit his minutes in cupcake games, and in conference play he is 100% healthy. Being fully healthy allows him to get back to his freshman year shooting percentages of 48% FG and 44% 3PT, while shouldering a bigger load on offense.
Worst Case – After having a back injury last year and a foot injury this year, Smotrycz never fully recovers and is inconsistent. The injuries hold him back from being an every game starter and this limits Maryland on offense. When he does play, the injuries limit his ability on defense, which puts more pressure on Dodd, Graham, and Cheko to cover for him.
Richaud Pack: Best Case – His scoring translates from low major to high-major ability. He develops into an instant offense sixth man and becomes more efficient on a team with more scoring options. Pack improves his ball handling and is able to take on back-up point guard duty, which allows Dez to stay at his more natural position off the ball.
Worst Case – The transition proves to be too much for Pack, and he struggles to score and with shooting. He efficiency doesn’t improve and he borders Nick Faust level shot selection.
Jonathan Graham: Best Case – The high-energy play continues and his IQ improves, which limit his fouls. Having better guard play allows the team to better utilize his energy in the post and he scores around 7-9 ppg. Defensively he is able to hold his own against the low post players of the Big Ten, which allows Cheko to play on the perimeter more.
Worst Case – Foul trouble continues to plague his play, which puts more pressure on Dodd and Cheko. In limited minutes he isn’t able to build a connection with the guards and doesn’t find a role. He becomes this year’s Shaq Cleare, where the coaches love him but his play doesn’t translate from practice to games.
Jacob Susskind: Best Case – His talk show with Spencer Barks in picked up by ESPN, and after the season ends he becomes the next SVP
Worst Case – His talk show is only picked up on public access.
Varun Ram: Best Case – He finds a cure for turnovers similar to what the Monstars used, and passes this along to Melo and Dez.
Worst Case – No cure for turnovers is found, and instead Varun only cures a major disease to save thousands of people.
Spencer Barks: Best Case – He joins Susskind in Bristol.
Worst Case – He is on public access with Susskind, but at least he provided one of the best GIFS in Maryland history.
Jake Layman: Best Case – Last year was a transition from bench player to primary scorer. This year he fills the role of a primary scoring option and leads the team in points per game. The added muscle and improved ball handling allow him to play outside and inside. With improved confidence and consistency, Turgeon is able to run more of the offense through Jake, which also helps Dez Wells. Adding muscle allows Jake to become a better defender who can frustrate three guards with his length and not be shoved around by power forwards.
Worst Case – The struggle with consistency continues, and he maintains the “Cupcake Jake” nickname. Handling the ball more proves to be too much and he racks up turnovers, while struggling to be confident with his shot. Turgeon continues to use him more to get him out of slump, but it never happens.
Damonte Dodd: Best Case – His athletic ability helps him make a leap to becoming a top rim protector by his senior year. The improved defense keeps him on the court for a majority of games, and teams struggle to score at the rim against Maryland. On offense he finds a role with scoring off of put backs and the occasional alley-oop. His scoring improves to 5-8 ppg, but his rim protection helps to cover for defensive mistakes by Smotrycz and keeps Cheko playing on the perimeter.
Worst Case – Defensive improvements never happen and he struggles with foul trouble. When on the court, he tries to block too many shots, which allows teams to outrebound Maryland and get second chance baskets. On offense he becomes similar to Pe’Shon Howard, where he is completely out of plays and can’t find a way to help with anything.
Melo Trimble: Best Case – Better version of Tyler Ennis. He is capable of handling 35+ minutes per game while running the offense successfully. Dez, Layman, and Smotrycz get easy baskets in the flow of the offense, and Maryland becomes one of the most efficient teams in the Big Ten. Melo is able to play at his pace and limits turnovers, which then leads to Maryland leading the Big Ten in scoring.
Worst Case – Pace and confidence lack, which limit Melo’s ability to run the offense. Dez, Smotrycz, and Layman don’t see the ball much, and Maryland becomes more of an isolation-based team. The Terps are one of the most inefficient teams and score less than 70 points per game, and can’t compete with the rest of the Big Ten.
Dion Wiley: Best Case – On the defensive end Wiley’s frame and size make him a lockdown defender. He is able to force turnovers and get the team into transition. The feel he has for the game make him a valuable bench player who can have the offense run through him at times. Wiley shoots as well as advertised and becomes an instant offense player off of the bench.
Worst Case – His shooting is inconsistent and he becomes a trick-or-treat player. Turgeon never knows what he will get out of him, which limits the bench rotation. Wiley has games that remind you why he was highly rated, but then he has head scratching games where he forces too many shots. The physical play on the defensive end leads to too many fouls.
Jared Nickens: Best Case – With great size and shooting he develops into a hybrid two/three guard. He improves his ball handling enough to help Pack when Melo is resting. Nicken’s doesn’t become a point guard, but handles the ball well enough to keep the motion offense moving without Melo and Dez in the game. Playing alongside Wiley, gives Turgeon one of the best shooting duos that take advantage of playing against non-starters to help Maryland build leads. He becomes similar to Jake Layman as a freshman, where he can come in and take advantage of weaker defenses and hit three pointers
Worst Case – Shooting doesn’t translate into games and his lack of muscle leaves him struggling against Big Ten players. He isn’t able to find enough space to shoot and on the defensive end is a liability. Without muscle he struggles to fight through screens and teammates need to cover for him too much.
Michal Chekovsky: Best Case – He is somewhere between Alex Len as a freshman and Len as a sophomore. He protects the rim enough to play some minutes at the five, and alongside Dodd they become a good rim-protecting duo for not just this season but next season as well. This prompts a twin towers poster that is blasted by Keith Olbermann. Cheko is able to shoot as well as advertised, which leaves Big Ten coaches scratching their head about how to play him. While he doesn’t start, he finishes games out for Maryland, and is able to keep the lane open enough for Dez, Layman, and Melo.
Worst Case – Similar to Alex Len as a freshman, we see some flashes of good play, but he struggles most of the time. The adjustment in game speed and language barrier hold him back especially on defense. The shooting isn’t as advertised right away, and mixed with defensive struggles he doesn’t see the court much behind Dood, Graham, and Smotrycz.
Realistically, we will get some mixes of all of the above. Especially with the freshman, who will provide highlights, but will also make freshman mistakes. The more intriguing scenarios are with Jake Layman and Evan Smotrycz. Layman has the potential to be the best player on the team, but that comes if the improvements he mentioned in the offseason translate. Smotrycz is coming off of two injuries, which could limit how much and how well he plays this season. If he recovers quickly and Turgeon can limit his minutes in the non-conference, it could set him up to have a big return to the Big Ten.