Maryland Basketball Faces Key Stretch
The Maryland Terrapins are 20-2 and tied for first in the Big Ten with Wisconsin, each two games ahead of the field. Yet the Terps aren’t getting a lot of respect, be it from the pollsters or the bookmakers. They’ve spent much of the year unranked and even now are only #17 in the polls. Las Vegas has Maryland priced at 52-1 to win the NCAA title. By comparison, Wisconsin is 27-1. Purdue is 40-1 while trailing the Terps by two games. Maryland’s price is closer to that of underachieving Indiana at 65-1, then it is to Wisconsin, much less any of the national favorites.
A closer evaluation of Maryland at least gives some insight into the views of the skeptics. The schedule hasn’t been fantastic—a road win at Minnesota is the highwater mark in league play. Close wins over Richmond and Kansas State were the best part of December. The losses, at home to Pitt and Nebraska are true blots on a resume.
There’s also reasonable questions that can be raised about the Terps ability to hit the three-ball. Melo Trimble takes the most three-point shots of anyone on the team and only hits 35 percent. There can be further concern about the lack of a dominating player inside. And if you want to talk inexperience...three freshmen get significant minutes for head coach Mark Turgeon.
So the doubt isn’t without foundation, but as Maryland begins the most critical two weeks of their season on Saturday against Purdue, maybe we should point out all the things this team does do well and what they have the capacity to do moving forward.
How about we start with Trimble? He might not be a great three-point shooter, but he still averages 17ppg and the junior guard is still the kind of explosive player that we’ve seen control tempo and win NCAA Tournament games, seemingly by himself. Think Shabazz Napier for Connecticut in 2014 as the most obvious comparison.
Those freshmen are also pretty good and it starts with 6’7” forward Justin Jackson, a consistent scorer and rebounder. Anthony Cowan is in the backcourt and helps take the pressure off of Trimble, both balhandling and scoring. Kevin Huerter is a consistent rebounder.
The lack of strong post play is an issue, but there is a potential solution. Senior Damonte Dodd goes 6’11”, is already a nice shotblocker and is capable of getting more than the five rebounds a game he’s currently averaging. If Dodd can’t get it done, increase the minutes of another freshman, the 7-footer from Serbia, Michal Cekovsky. The latter is a potential X-factor down the stretch, as is the oft-injured, but talented wing player, Dion Wiley.
The Purdue game on Saturday begins a two-week stretch that includes a road game at Northwestern and ends on February 19 in Wisconsin with what looks like the Big Ten’s game of the year. Watch the Terps carefully. Even if they play well, their value on the futures market probably won’t tank and a strong showing could indicate some opportunity for March moneymaking.
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