LAST SEASON – Until March came, it was a great debut Big Ten campaign for the Maryland Terrapins. They entered the year with a ton of questions due to heavy roster turnover in both directions. Yet, early on it became obvious that Mark Turgeon had his best team yet in College Park, led by the dynamic backcourt of Dez Wells and Melo Trimble. The Terps were a force in the conference largely down to the performance of their guards, their ability to draw contact and get to the line, and a solid defensive effort across the board. The Terps finished second in the conference and appeared to be a good candidate to get to the second weekend of the TOurnament after earning a bid for the first time in several years.

Once they got to post season play, however, some of the flaws which had been papered over began to manifest. Michigan State finally beat them in the BTT semifinal after losing both regular season meetings, as the Spartans locked down Trimble after a hot start. The Terps then won their opening NCAA game a week later before getting run by West Virginia in a Round of 32 game, one where Trimble’s injury issues limited their ability to handle pressure. In the end, for a team which appeared so strong throughout the season, the Terps were more dependent upon one guy than anyone had fully realized and when it went badly for him, so it went for Maryland as a whole.

Yet, despite the somewhat sour end, there’s no denying 14-15 was a great season for Maryland basketball. For the first time since Gary Williams’ prime, the Terps seemed relevant on a national level, and they handled their first trip around the Big Ten extremely well. It’ll be a different team once again but one that, on paper at least, looks to be improved. Maryland made some big additions and may not be done yet, but getting Trimble to return for a second year was perhaps the biggest. His presence gives Maryland an elite point guard and thus a chance to compete for everything…Big Ten championships, Final Fours and maybe even a national title.

RETURNING PLAYERS

Melo Trimble is a 6’3″ sophomore point guard who will once again be among the best at his position anywhere in the country. He showed a remarkable ability to get into the lane and draw fouls, and when you shoot 86% at the line, that becomes a huge weapon. Yet, that’s not the only thing he did well. He shot 41% on threes and grabbed almost 4 rebounds per game and also led his team in steals. The one area where he needs to improve is an important one, though..he had 86 turnovers to just 106 assists. That’s not even close to a good ratio for a guy at his position. I don’t doubt he has it in him to improve significantly, but his decision making definitely needs to take an uptick for this team to reach its potential.

Jake Layman is a 6’9″ senior forward who got off to a tremendous start in Dez Wells’ absence but saw his production slip a bit after Wells’ return. Still, it was a good overall season for the versatile forward, as he averaged 12.5 ppg and 5.8 rpg (tops on the team), showing a nice combination of ball skills and ability to use his size to exploit mismatches. Layman also displayed a knack for drawing fouls and like many of his teammates was effective once he got to the line. For him, it’s going to be about maintaining aggressiveness for 40 minutes as much as anything…he has the tools necessary to be a fine player and perhaps an NBA one after his Terp career is over.

Jared Nickens is a 6’7″ sophmore wing who is mostly a three point specialist at this stage, and a good one at that as he hit 39% from deep in his freshman campaign. Maryland is likely going to need more from him than that this season, as he stands a good chance of being a starter off the ball for the Terps. His length and decent athleticism suggest that he’s capable of more than just being a spot up shooter, and with Wells and Pack gone, Turgeon is going to need to find contributions at the wing.

Dion Wiley is a 6’4″ sophomore who will also be a candidate for an expanded role in his second year in the program. Wiley was very highly regarded coming into Maryland but didn’t make the transition quite as smoothly as Trimble or even Nickens did. He wasn’t bad, per se…shot 38/33% from the floor and showed potential to be at least a decent secondary ballhandlilng option. He’s also got the size and handle to perhaps be a guy who could take a page from Wells’ book as a physical off guard, finishing in traffic and drawing contact. He averaged 13.5 mpg and I don’t see any way that number doesn’t climb to somewhere north of 20 this season.

Damonte Dodd is a 6’11” junior who started 31 games last year for the Terps but only averaged around 16 minutes of playing time per game. He showed flashes of being an impact player but for the most part his contributions came as a shotblocker and physical presence in the lane. Dodd needs to continue to work on expanding his post game…if he can do that, he can be a solid all around player at this level. With Maryland’s additions, it’s unlikely that Dodd retains his starting role but I can see him as a significant reserve, though he’s going to likely have to prove he can show some mobility.

Michael Cekovsky is a 7’1″ sophomore who showed potential in flashes last season but needs to continue to develop his game in order to make more than a token impact. I like his long term prognosis because he’s big and also reasonably athletic, so those elements normally lead to production once the player settles in and gets comfortable and confident with the speed and physicality of the game at this level. With Maryland’s roster reorienting toward much more of a post focus, it’s possible that Cekovsky’s mintues slip a little bit this season but I suspect Turgeon will still find some time for him…first because he has obvious potential and second because Maryland is going to need him on the back end of his career.

Robert Carter is a 6’9″ 240lbs transfer from Georgia Tech who has two years of eligibility left for the Terps. He was a major catch as a transfer last season and now is set to slip into a major role at the power forward spot. Carter was very productive at Tech, averaging 11.4ppg and 8.4 rpg for Brian Gregory’s bunch. He has the physical tools and athleticism to be a major impact addition for Maryland but one thing they may need to do is rein him in a bit on the deep game…he only shot 26% from three as a sophomore but he took almost 2 and a half attempts per game. If he’s added consistency with the jumper, fine, but it probably would be better if he reoriented his game a bit and stuck to the interior.

Ivan Bender is a 6’9″ 230lbs redshirt freshman who joined Maryland’s team midseason but didn’t end up seeing the court. He’s a native of Bosnia who has had some injury issues but appears to be healthy at this point and capable of pushing for minutes in a suddenly crowded Terp frontcourt. He’s described as a typically “Euro” style big man, more of a shooter than banger.