The Maryland Basketball 2014 Preview
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Coach Turgeon, Maryland’s head coach, has yet to make a tournament while at the University. He’s won nearly 58% of his games at 59-43, but he hasn’t won a single meaningful game (at least in the eyes of fans) in the postseason, in large part because he hasn’t gotten there.
Turgeon has had an NBA lottery pick (Len), an overseas success (Stoglin), a five-star (Peters), and a diamond in the rough (Allen) run through his system, but the elephant in the room is the lack of postseason appearances. Nothing Turgeon does will look good without one, and the fan base gets hungrier with every appearance while the optimism around his tenure at Maryland diminishes. If they miss the tournament this year — the fifth straight — it would be the longest gap in over the past 40 years.
But Coach Turgeon actually happens to have one of his most well assembled, dynamic, rosters to date. With an infusion of youth to supplement already-developed senior talent, Turgeon will no longer need to see who will mature into a great player; he knows how good his team can be, he just needs to coach it out of them. There is more talent on this roster than Maryland has had in at least six years, believe it or not.
Gone are the knuckleheads, the selfish players, the ones who don’t fit roles due to height or weight limitations. Turgeon has a team of guys who know how to play a couple positions and play them well. There’s size up front, depth in the back, and his boys are balanced, healthy, and ready to work.
Whether Turgeon can coax a tournament berth out of that incredible talent is another thing.
G Seth Allen
G Nick Faust
G Roddy Peters
F Charles Mitchell
F Shaquille Cleare
As shown above, the Terrapins lose quite a bit of depth this season after an unprecedented amount of players transferred from the program this off-season. But perhaps none will have a more drastic impact than PG Seth Allen. Allen may have only played in 20 games, but he was the team’s second best scorer over that same period of time and Maryland played much better with him on the court.
Losing Allen’s scoring at the point guard position will have more impact than any other loss, but the others contributed as well. Nick Faust was a very solid wing defender (despite having a barren cupboard scoring-wise); Charles Mitchell was one of the best rebounders in the country last season; Roddy Peters was a borderline five-star PG who represented the future.
These aren’t massive losses separately, but all at once? We’ll see.
G-F Dez Wells
F Jake Layman
F Evan Smotrycz
F Damonte Dodd
F Jonathan Graham
Maryland may have lost a solid amount of talent, but they brought back a group with tons of ability as well. That begins and ends, of course, with Dezmine Wells, Maryland’s unlikely senior leader. With Wells sticking around for his senior year, Maryland retains one of the best shooting guard’s in his class as well as the team’s leading scorer. Wells averaged just shy of 15 points per game last season, and was the most consistent player game-in and game-out for Maryland. His expectations for this year are higher than they’ve ever been, and rightly so.
Maryland also brings back two of the best stretch forwards in the Big Ten in Evan Smotrycz and Jake Layman. Smotrycz offers not only senior leadership, but a player who is familiar with the Big Ten already; he transferred from Michigan two years ago. Layman is a solid wing defender who can heat up and torch teams with his length. Both players should be due for bigger roles and bigger season’s.
Finally, Graham and Dodd offer both veteran leadership (for the former) and youthful exuberance (for the latter). The two are going to have to have made some big strides though if they want to be big impact guys.
G Melo Trimble
G Dion Wiley
G Richaud Pack
F Jared Nickens
F Michal Cekovsky
Again, and we’ll have more on this later, the Terps bring in a whole lot of talent this year to help offset all those losses via transfer. The coup de gras of this recruiting class is of course Melo Trimble, the five-star McDonald’s All-American guard who is easily Maryland’s most talented recruit since Mike Jones back in 2004.
In Trimble, the Terrapins get a local guard who represents someone that should develop into a superstar within a year or two, but can play point guard right away. Trimble will most definitely soften the blow of losing Allen pretty quickly, as he’s much further along in his development than Allen at the same point.
Dion Wiley is another local guard who is extremely versatile and should be able to come off the bench and play well early on. Both he and Jared Nickens are some of the better shooters in the 2014 class, and will make an immediate impact offensively right away.
The most underrated of all might be Richaud Pack, the North Carolina A&T transfer who opted to play his graduate season at Maryland. Pack was an elite scorer against inferior competition, but will definitely still retain some of that ability on the Terrapins with his crafty veteran game.
Finally, the X-Factor remains Slovakian import Michal Cekovsky. The highly regarded import big man is a real question mark, but scouts have regarded him as another stretch 4 (and distinct from Alex Len).
Maryland’s front-court is the biggest question mark, although all the entities are pretty well known. Evan Smotrycz and his 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 1.7 assists come back, and Maryland is going to need him to improve his efficiency numbers if they want to have success. Smotrycz was great at times, but his body broke down as the season progressed and his workload increased.
Smotrycz shot 40% from the floor last season, and while he hit 37% of his three pointers, Maryland needs him to raise those percentages. Smotrycz found himself doing to much at times and eventually relegated to coming off he bench, but expect a major increase this year as he returns to a familiar foe in the Big Ten.
Damonte Dodd, Michal Cekovsky, and Jonathan Graham represent the known unknowns for the front-court. Dodd looked nowhere near ready to become a starter last year when he played in scant minutes; his foul rate was off the charts and he didn’t score or rebound well. But his length and athleticism are representative of a player who could turn into a force in the front-court depending on how much better he’s gotten in the off-season.
Graham is what he is: a hard-worker without much natural ability and a non-factor offensively. He can stay on the court, but if he is starting for your team, you’re probably losing games.
Cekovsky has scouts raving about his skill level, and while not a lot is known about him right now, if he can impress early on he may start quickly. As a hybrid 4/5, Cekovsky figures into a lot of Maryland’s lineups alongside Smotrycz at the center spot, off the bench in place of Smotrycz, or in a center-by-committee look with Graham and Dodd.
Addition by subtraction is just a cliché that actually has no basis in reality, but darned if it doesn’t apply to the Terps back-court situation. Dez Wells is a guy with NBA potential and a proven track record of really good-to-star potential, and he’ll be the undisputed alpha dog on this team. He’s motivated, he’s a fantastic teammate, and he should anchor this offense.
But he’s got more help than he’s ever had now. Funnily enough, losing Seth Allen isn’t as impactful when you have a Burger Boy replacing him in Trimble. That’s not a knock on Allen as much as it is the praise Trimble has gotten. He may not be a point guard, but he’s a winner and a leader by example whose work ethic should rub off on the entire team.
Richaud Pack and Dion Wiley will solidify the backup shooting guard spot with ease, and because neither of these guys has expectations of being an immediate superstar right away, it might be better for the team. Nick Faust had a touch of megalomania, and rather than play for the team tended to do things for himself. Neither of these guys have that mentality and Maryland is better for it. They’re also both decidedly more efficient shooters off the bench than Faust and Peters ever were.
At the small forward spot, Maryland has nothing but shooting ability and length. Jared Nickens is a star in the making, and they won’t lose a ton of Layman’s deep stroke when he’s on the court. Fortunately, both Nickens and Wiley can and will be able to shoulder the minute load for Layman. Part of Layman’s biggest problem was that his legs got tired playing more basketball than he ever had before as Maryland had no backup for him. For a jump shooter that’s a death sentence. He won’t have to worry about that now, so expect the numbers to rise.
Emotions aside, if I were to say you could have a team with a McDonald’s All-American, a top 15 senior, a double-digit scoring senior stretch 4 with deadly accuracy from three, a junior year NBA prospect, a top 40 European 7-footer, and a top 60 elite shooter…wouldn’t you take it?
Is it that hard to envision a team like that making the tournament? Much worse teams have made the tournament than this 2014 Terrapins squad, at least on paper. Getting the results to come out the way you envision them is never easy work, but this is Mark Turgeon’s most talented roster to date. It’s also his brightest.