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How Good Can The Terps Be In 2019?

Tomorrow night the 2018 NCAA Tournament Bracket will be released and the University of Maryland Terrapins will be not invited to the Dance.

The Terps 2017-18 season does figure to continue with a invite to the book-club, otherwise known as the NIT.

(EDIT: Maryland was actually not selected for the NIT.)

I assume I’ll be one of the few locally who pays attention to the Terps fortunes there; and that is plenty understandable. 

(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)

Thinking about Maryland being part of some second-tier tournament is brutal to contemplate.

This is a proud program.

A program which has been part of the NCAA Tournament 27 times, and won 41 NCAA Tournament games.

It’s also a program which has had just one Sweet 16 appearance since 2004.

Even when you know that history, it’s one of those things which still make you shake your head when you say it out loud.

How is that possible?

Anyone that has ever read anything I’ve ever written about Maryland Basketball knows I’m Gary Williams’ biggest fan.

Gary’s my all-time favorite person in sports; but that doesn’t mean I thought he was perfect – who is?

The recruiting issues after the title were well documented.

To an apologist like myself, Gary didn’t want to play the AAU games which existed. (Williams himself gave credence to that recently, with some stated thoughts.)

To his detractors, he was simply lazy on the recruiting trail, and didn’t do enough to capitalize on the program reaching the top of the Mountain.

Let’s just agree that the truth lies somewhere in the middle and move on.

Which Coach Turgeon was hired, many believed he was exactly what Maryland needed.

An excellent Coach, who had built up programs at Wichita State and Texas A&M. A guy who understood recruiting to be the life-blood of any program.

We know that Turgeon inherited a limited roster when he took over as Maryland’s HC to begin the 2011-12 season.

Under Turgeon, MD spent their last three years as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) fighting undermanned. The highlight coming with an NIT birth in Year 2, behind Terrell Stoglin and his 17 shots per game.

In 2014-15 the Terps moved to the Big Ten Conference, and Freshman Melo Trimble made his way to College Park. With Trimble, the program got back to a level of respectability.

Three consecutive Top 3 finishes in Big Ten play. A 38-16 Conference record. Three straight trips back to the NCAA Tournament. The aforementioned lone Sweet 16 since 2004. Turgeon taking home Big Ten Coach of the Year honors in 2015.

Before this ’17-’18 season, Trimble left early to begin his professional career.  (He’s performed well enough in the G-League to believe he will get additional Training Camp opportunities with some NBA team next Summer.)

Without Trimble, and with season ending injuries during the year to Justin Jackson, and Ivan Bender; Maryland limped to a 19-13 overall record, including 8-10 in regular-season Big Ten play.

Let’s state the obvious:

- Building a College Basketball team is a different animal vs. building a College Football team based on numbers alone; due to the impact one or two players can have in basketball.

- While it’s fine to acknowledge that Turgeon inherited a pretty empty cabinet; he’s finishing his seventh year on the Maryland sidelines. For good or bad, this program is his.

- Turgeon has generally got MD back on solid ground, but the results are not good enough.  Maryland should enter every year with the minimum expectations being a Sweet 16 appearance.  The regular season Big Ten results (prior to ’17-’18) have been good, but even so – there were no banners. That has to change.

- If Turgeon wasn’t under contract through the 2022-23 season, the pressure to make a move now would be tremendous.

Take a pulse of the MD program, and listen to the fans. Turgeon is not loved.

My negative critiques of Turgeon?

His preferred style of play is just hard to watch.

His teams don’t score.

They play with limited pace.

They are sloppy with the ball.

They don’t create turnovers.

His out-of-conference scheduling is an annual embarrassment.

He’s often slow to adjust in-game.

He is too willing to point fingers elsewhere when things go wrong.

If Maryland’s Athletic Department was flush with cash, and Turgeon didn’t have five full seasons left on his contract – I think the Terps would be looking for a new Head Coach.

The reality though is that while MD’s Athletic Department’s financials are improving, things are still not great. They moved to the Big Ten for a reason ($). An example of the financial issues still faced, is that they are still looking to fully fund the new Cole Field House.

It just doesn’t seem realistic to casually dismiss the five years left on Turgeon’s contract.

Unless some huge donor steps up with a major cash infusion; does anyone think they are in position to pay Turgeon and his Assistants to go away, while hiring a new HC and that staff?

Even if MD could, would that be the right decision?

For all my negative critiques above, you’d have to be overly biased to say that Turgeon does not have MD on solid footing overall.

He works hard on the recruiting side, and seemingly is adding quality to the roster each year.

Even his biggest detractors would have to admit that had he had a healthy Jackson all year; this probably would have been a team that advanced to the NCAAs for a fourth straight year.

It’s not unreasonable at all to say that given the three previous years, and with Jackson’s injury; that Turgeon deserves another year at the helm.

It’s not unreasonable at all to say that one can envision a scenario where Maryland is very good next year.

Seemingly everyone expects Jackson, and Bruno Fernando to leave Maryland and attempt to begin their pro careers.

Maybe that happens.

Before the year started, Jackson was showing up in multiple mock drafts as a middle of the 1st round selection.

Between his performance on the court this season (likely due to playing through the injury) and the missed time; Jackson certainly didn’t up his profile. 

If he’s healthy enough to go work out for teams, there will be appeal. He’s got the long wing-span. He’s got good athleticism. He has the ability to step out with the shot, and shows a well-rounded game.

I’m not saying he can’t or won’t be a 1st round selection; I’m just questioning if it’s a foregone conclusion.

Fernando had an impressive Freshman year. You can’t teach size, or athleticism. His enthusiasm for the game, also bodes well for him I think. If he goes to individual workouts, someone will fall in love with his potential.

If he looks like a 1st round lock, I won’t question him at all for leaving.
I do think it’s fair to say he’s nowhere near a finished product though. 

What’s best for his future development?

Spending another year in College where he can be the man?
Spending next year in the G-League?

Guess the answer there depends on who you talk to.

I can be honest enough to acknowledge that my bias as a fan, has me hoping / advocating he returns to Maryland.

Ultimately we respect he has to do what is best for him.

If Jackson and Fernando both are Terps next year, the ceiling for the Maryland Terrapins is pretty high.

Jalen Smith, Aaron Wiggins, Eric Ayala, and Schnider Herard (Mississippi State transfer) is a nice talent infusion.

With Jackson & Fernando, the 2018-19 Terps would look like:

Guards: Cowan, Huerter, Morsell, Ayala
Wings: Jackson, Wiley, Wiggins
Bigs: Fernando, Smith, Bender, Tomaic, Herard

That’s a team which can do damage.

Enough damage for Turgeon to start to win back the Maryland fanbase.

That’s just a hypothetical though, and a long way away.

What do Jackson and Fernando officially decide to do?

Before we see what happens there, we have to watch an NCAA Tournament without the Terrapins.

Here’s to the dream of better days ahead for the Terps.

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Chris Stoner

Chris Stoner founded Baltimore Sports and Life in 2009. He has appeared as a radio guest with 1090 WBAL, 105.7 The Fan, CBS 1300, Q1370, WOYK 1350, WKAV 1400, and WNST 1570. He has also been interviewed by The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, and PressBox (TV). As Owner, his responsibilities include serving as the Managing Editor, Publicist, & Sales Director. You can reach him via email at [email protected].


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