Success can be a relative term. While only one team will hoist the National Championship trophy at season’s end, every other team will have to judge whether its season was successful or not based on other criteria. 

You won’t find many (or probably any) predictions that pick Maryland to win the national championship this year. You’d be hard pressed to find one that even talks about the Terps as Big Ten title contenders. But there is reason to believe that the Terps can surprise their critics and contend on all fronts this season and here are some of them as we near Maryland’s season opener on Nov. 7. 

Jahmir Young returning 

Perhaps the biggest and most obvious reason for optimism in College Park this season is the return of starting point guard and leading scorer, Jahmir Young. Young averaged 15.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.3 steals per game for the Terps last year and his return gives Maryland a bonafide leader and a clutch scorer.  

Young proved last season — his first at Maryland after transferring from Charlotte last offseason — that not only can he play at the Big Ten level, he can thrive. The Upper Marlboro native turned into a Second Team All-Big Ten selection and was the guy the Terps wanted to have the ball with games on the line. Getting a player like that not only gives a team a solid foundation to build from, it also elevates the rest of the roster because Young can score and distribute. It’s also a good thing when a team knows who should have the ball in clutch situations. Some teams go a whole season and never answer that question; those teams typically have limited success. 

Young is likely to lead the Terps in scoring again and could very well work his way to being a First Team all-conference player. To be a league winner and/or a national title contender, you have to have a star. And Young is just that for the Terps. 

Jon Rothstein sees it 

If you follow college basketball, you know CBS Sports college basketball insider Jon Rothstein is one of the most tuned in and savvy analysts of the game. The guy lives and breathes ball. Take it from someone who has personally seen him at AAU events ranging the full spectrum in popularity. He simply loves scouting and has as informed of an opinion as anyone in the sport.  

So it made me happy to see Rothstein pick Maryland as one of his five teams that could overachieve this season. He also ranked the Terps No. 25 in his preseason rankings. Rothstein had this to say in his article where he named Maryland as a potential overachiever this year: 

“Challenging Purdue and Michigan State for a Big Ten regular season title isn’t out of the realm of possibility for the Terps. Three starters — Jahmir Young, Donta Scott, and Julian Reese — are back from last season’s team that won a game in the NCAA Tournament. Kevin Willard also adds a strong freshman class, headlined by a pair of potential starters in DeShawn Harris-Smith and Jamie Kaiser. The 6-5 Harris-Smith could wind up being the best newcomer in the Big Ten. Willard has experience, youth, and improved depth. After winning 21 games in his inaugural season in College Park, the 48-year old head coach feels primed to take another step.” 

I’m struggling to see where Rothstein is wrong here. This roster seems to have a nice balance of youth and experience, and Willard is coming off of what most consider to be a good first season at the helm.  

Willard’s got his guys 

To that point and Rothstein’s prediction, now that Willard is settled in at College Park and has had time to bring in a full recruiting class, he’s got a team that is built in his image. Willard’s core of leadership like Young, Scott, and Reese bought into his coaching immediately last year and it showed. Maryland had its ups and downs as a team, but the downs were never from a lack of effort or buy-in from the team. Bringing back those leaders and meshing them with freshmen Willard handpicked could be a recipe for bigger and better things this year.  

Not only does Willard have a team of guys who he should enjoy coaching and conversely will enjoy being coached by him, he also has a nice blend of skill sets that should complement each other on the court. A true point guard, a couple of experienced bigs in the frontcourt, and a plethora of wings that can shoot. The Terps seem to have a little bit of everything coming into the 2023-24 season. 

Julian Reese breakout 

It began toward the end of last season, but a breakout feels like it’s on the horizon for Reese. The Baltimore native was an All-Big Ten honorable mention last season, but his sight should be set on a first or second team All-Big Ten nomination this year. Reese was tied for second on the team with 11.4 points per game last season while leading the team with 7.2 rebounds per contest.  

The junior is a solid shot blocker (1.2 bpg) and can score efficiently around the rim (63.2 FG%), but he will have to improve drastically upon his 53.3% shooting from the free throw line to take the next step toward a breakout. If Reese can pull it all together and become an all-conference player for the Terps, the sky is the limit for Maryland this season because that would mean they have one of the best point guard-center combinations in college basketball. 

Pat Donohue
Pat Donohue

Terps Analyst

Pat has been covering sports in the DMV area since 2012. He is a former Washington Redskins beat reporter for PressBoxDC.com and has been covering University of Maryland football and basketball recruiting and daily beats for Rivals.com’s Terrapin Sports Report since 2013. Pat graduated from College Park with his master’s degree in journalism and has received bylines in publications such as USA TODAY Sports, The Philadelphia Inquirer, SB Nation, and Yahoo! Sports. A Philadelphia native, Pat enjoys fishing, golfing, and playing fantasy sports when he’s not covering or watching a game.

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