The Maryland basketball came into the 2016-17 season as an extremely young group.
After an impressive 16-2 start, the Terrapins finally find themselves ranked as the No. 25 team in the country.
If you think about it, Maryland is right back where they started.
Coming into the season, the Terps were ranked No. 25 in the Associated Press poll. Then an underwhelming season opening win over American caused them to drop out completely.
Nonconference play offered quite a few less-than-stellar opponents. However, after beating Kansas State and Richmond to win the Barclays Center Classic, becoming ranked seemed like it had a real possibility of happening.
On that Monday (Nov. 28), the Terps were ranked in the USA Today Coaches poll but not the AP poll. In the AP poll, Maryland had the most votes (126) of any team not in the Top 25.
With a week ahead in which they would face Pittsburgh and Oklahoma State, a ranking definitely was within reach. However, the Terps lost to the Panthers in their ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup.
Maryland did manage to beat a very talented Oklahoma State squad to salvage the week. They were still passed over for a ranking yet again.
Following the Oklahoma State triumph, Maryland won their next six games, including a dominant win over Illinois to start off the Big Ten schedule.
Maryland did fall to Nebraska at home on New Year’s Day, but has rebounded quite nicely. The Terps are currently riding a three-game win streak after victories over Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois.
Maryland was rewarded with the No. 25 ranking after Minnesota (No. 24) and USC (No. 25) both lost this past week. It also didn’t hurt that the Terps topped both the Hoosiers and Fighting Illini during the week.
Coming into the season, Maryland was an unknown in the eyes of most national pundits. After all, when you lose four of your five starters off an NCAA Tournament team, you are usually bound to have a letdown the next season.
Coach Mark Turgeon was well-equipped to absorb the loss of the likes of Robert Carter Jr., Jake Layman, Diamond Stone, and Rasheed Sulaimon He brought in a trio of freshmen that certainly haven’t disappointed thus far.
The group of Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter, and Justin Jackson has played about as well as a trio of freshmen possibly can. Cowan has taken a ton of pressure off of Melo Trimble as the team’s primary ball-handler.
He gets to the rim, runs the offense, plays phenomenal on-the-ball defense, and clogs the passing lanes. While he’s not a great shooter, Cowan has been one of the top freshmen in the entire Big Ten.
Jackson is the team’s leading rebounder (5.8 per contest) and also is third on the team in scoring (10.2 points). He’s provided tremendous length that has helped both on the glass and even on the perimeter.
He’s also shooting a team-high 42.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Huerter’s play has been up-and-down through the majority of the season. However, the potential is still through the roof for the former New York Player of the Year.
He is a true marksman that can hit his shot from just about anywhere on the court. That was evident in his 26-point performance against Nebraska.
He’s shooting 36.9 percent on the season, which is a good clip but could improve even more.
Maryland has seen their team develop into one of the more dangerous units in the conference. With that being said, this ranking is definitely deserved and it could improve in the coming weeks.
The Terps will travel to Iowa for a date with the Hawkeyes on Thursday. Iowa may be 3-3 in the Big Ten, but they’re coming off wins over Rutgers and a very talented Purdue team.
Time will tell, but this Maryland team has overcome a lot this season and deserves to be where they are.