The University of Maryland Terrapins are 9-6 through 15 games, and are one of the weakest looking Terps teams of the past 30 years.

Had this season been flipped with last year’s results, there would be a different feeling amongst the Maryland fanbase.
There would be talk about the year-to-year growth, and upward trajectory of the program under second-year Head Coach Kevin Willard.
Instead what we have here in reality is fading memories of last year’s feel good season, and growing concern about where things are going.

Before getting back to the present issues; some reminders of what led to this point: 

  • Since the program won the title in ’01-’02, Maryland has been to just two Sweet 16s.
  • I’ve written many times that Gary Williams is my favorite person in sports, but he has responsibility for not capitalizing more immediately after the title.  The ACC Tournament Title run was sweet, and the 2009-10 team had a real chance to do damage, but lost to MSU on that buzzer beater… ugh, still hurts.
  • Mark Turgeon took over in ’11-’12.  He had a decade. He holds the job until early ’21-’22.  He put the program back on solid footing, but with MD not doing more with the ’15-’16 team, and with the ’19-’20 team not getting the tournament opportunity; Maryland never did enough in the post-season to get more people to buy in.
  • MD moved to the Big Ten in ’14-’15.   Since joining the Big Ten, I’m pretty sure MD has the 3rd most conference wins in that time. That means they’ve been consistently pretty good since joining the conference. Annually one of the best regular season conferences, even if the conference seems to collectively underachieve / choke in March.  The lack of post-season success has largely made MD fans feel like the program has become irrelevant, but there does have to be some acknowledgement that MD has continued to be a solid regular season team. Not elite. Not horrible. Generally solid.
  • Being 3rd or so in conference wins without the post-season success wasn’t enough for the fanbase by ’21-’22. Turgeon walked, and the fans were collectively happy about the change. Me included.  I never liked Turgeon’s style of play, but I did respect that he had MD typically in the conference fight.  Did think it was possible he could have post-season success.   But I was ready to move on too.
  • Turgeon leaves mid-season and that team goes 7-13 in conference play.  Willard is hired April 2022.  Willard wasn’t my first choice, but he was certainly a reasonable choice.  He did have his supporters. He generally won me over last year.  His first team goes 22-13, 11-9 in Conference play, and he won a game in the NCAAT.   Not a great year, but a fine first year.

This year has been a step back: 

  • 9-6 overall, 1-3 in the Big Ten.  Out-of-Conference losses to Davidson, and UAB (UAB at-least currently tied for the lead in the AAC). An uncomfortable blowout loss at Villanova. The only OOC win of note vs. a down UCLA team.  There are 16 Regular Season Big Ten games remaining. In those 16 remaining games, ESPN’s Match-up Predictor has MD the favorite in just 6 of those games. If those predicted outcomes hold, MD would be 15-16, 7-13 overall entering the Big Ten Tournament.  Let’s say MD overachieves based on those predictions and manages to go 9-7 over those 16 games – that would have MD finishing 18-13, 10-10 overall prior to the BTT.  Even in that scenario, MD would likely need at-least 2, and probably 3 wins in the BTT to have a chance at seeing their name called on Selection Sunday.
  • Maryland is currently 81st overall in the KenPom Rankings, 28th in Adjusted Defense, 168th in Adjusted Offense, and 296th in Adjusted Tempo.
  • Hakim Hart (Villanova), and Ian Martinez (Utah State) could have been back for this season. Both players gave MD length, and athleticism on the perimeter. Both players moved on.
  • Maryland needed True Freshman Deshawn Harris-Smith, and Jamie Kaiser to hit the ground running.  That seemed like a reasonable expectation with Harris-Smith being the 27th ranked prospect Nationally according to 247 Sports, and Kaiser being 75th overall.  Unfortunately that didn’t happen, and there has to be a reminder that development isn’t linear. I like both players. They play hard. Harris-Smith shows up in the box scores most games getting assists, boards, and steals. In recent games, he’s been getting additional time with the ball in his hands. He just wasn’t ready to score consistently from the opening game, and that’s just the way it goes. Asking a Freshman – even a very talented one – like Harris-Smith to put up a lot of points as a Frosh is tough ask. Still, he’s shooting just 18.4% from 3 (2.5 attempts per), and making just 60% of his Free Throws (3.7 per). The way this team has been put together, it only worked if Harris-Smith was lights out right away.  Similar story with Kaiser.  His footwork isn’t exceptional, but he moves well at 6’6. I like how his shot looks even though he has yet to have great results (24% from 3, 3.9 attempts per). Do think he needs to get to the line more.
  • The Terps spent some time last Spring trying to recruit Hunter Dickenson who was transferring from Michigan, and ultimately landed at Kansas. After Dickenson ended up at Kansas, MD seemingly had no answer of adding another significant big.  Either a starting Center that would have moved Julian Reese to the 4, or a competent experienced reserve like Patrick Emilien who could at-least give you defense, and rebounding. Sophomore Mady Traore (transfer from New Mexico State), and Freshman Braden Pierce are complete projects. Sophomore Caelum Swanton-Rodger has played more than 12 minutes just once this year as the primary bench big. I think there is something there. Enough that I can believe he could contribute for plenty of the 365 Division 1 teams that exist. I’m not sure he’s good enough for the high-major level. Against Minnesota, Purdue, UCLA, Indiana, and Villanova; he has a combined 37 minutes, 2 rebounds, and 14 fouls.
  • It’s Year 3 for Reese. Everyone sees he has talent. A lot of times you can see him fighting and giving effort. And then there are entire halves where he’s completely invisible. Some of that is not completely on him. Sometimes his teammates don’t find him. Sometimes the lack of shooting from outside, has more guys collapsing on him. But sometimes, he’s just not assertive enough demanding the ball. Last year he made 63.2% of his FG attempts on 7.4 attempts. This year, his FG % is 50.8 on 8.7 attempts. He’s doing a better job of getting to the line (7.7 attempts per game), but he hasn’t improved his shooting enough (58.6%). It’s crazy to think he made 80% of his attempts as Freshman. Do want to give him credit for his rebounding, and blocks being up.  Again, he’s a talented guy. He’s just yet to take the star-turn this team needed from him.
  • Donta Scott is back this year for Season #5 as a Terp.  When his career concludes in a couple of months, he’s going to be all over the all-time records for MD.  He was never a star.  On a very good team, he would be a role player. I personally think the 6’8, 230 lb Scott is at his best, when he’s playing like an undersized 4 and attacking the basket vs. playing more like a 3.  What happens too often is that he gets beat by quicker guys outside, and outsized by larger guys inside. His 3 point shooting is up this year, but his rebounds, assists, and blocks are down. Some of that due to a minutes decrease, some of it being he’s had too many games where he’s not effective. He doesn’t have to be a star to have value. He was a Honorable Mention All Big-Ten last year. It feels like he has taken a step back. If MD is going to surprise at all down the stretch, he has to consistently show up.  Jordan Geronimo transferred in from Indiana for Senior year.  Before College, he was a Top 100 recruit. He’s playing the most minutes of his career, and he’s one of the more athletic players on the roster. He’s also 2 of 24 from 3. He has to give MD defense and rebounding.
  • If Jahmir Young was not back this year, it’s hard to imagine how bad MD would be.
  • The biggest issue by far is the lack of shooting.  We talked about Harris-Smith, and Kaiser above.  MD had brought in transfer Chance Stephens, and he was expected to be a shot maker; but was lost to injury before the year began. Senior Jahari Long is under 30% from outside.  Sophomore Noah Batchelor, and Freshman Jahnathan Lamothe were similar type recruits.  Batchelor a 3 star according to 247, ranked 207th overall in his class. Lamothe also a 3 star, and ranked 137th in his class. Batchelor played the prestigious IMG Academy. Lamothe the local Baltimore recruit, who was the MIAA Player of the Year at St. Frances. These are solid recruits, that have the potential to be developed. But you didn’t go into this year saying you needed them to make shots. Now here in January, you are looking at the roster, and it feels like Willard has to find more minutes and shots for this duo. No idea what Willard thinks about their defense at this point.

Bigger picture wise, where is MD beyond this year?

  • When MD is good, the fanbase still cares. The crowd was plenty enthusiastic in ’19-’20.  Even a number of moments last year.
  • When MD isn’t good, the fanbase is apathetic. It’s a pro market. There are other things to do.  If you aren’t good enough consistently, apathy could set in, and that’s a real concern.
  • There is always a ton of talent within 2 hours of College Park.  The NIL certainly factors, but MD can load up talent just from their own backyard.  That’s an advantage over most programs.
  • The XFINITY Center is still one of the best college arenas.  The new practice facility was apparently needed and will be among the best Nationally.
  • Will MD figure out the NIL?  I don’t know.
  • I think Willard indicated this past off-season he wanted to avoid having lots of incoming transfers annually. That he wanted a more cohesive program. I think that is going to have to be rethought.  It’s basketball. You can drastically change a roster quickly. And this roster is going to have to change quickly before the ’24-’25 season.
  • Any regression in Year 2 of a coach definitely / understandably puts everyone on edge.
  • For me, the rest of this year is seeing if Willard can get this team to claw back to respectability, and develop the players who figure to return.

Next Year: 

After this season, you lose Young, Scott, Long, Geronimo…

Can Return: Reese, Harris-Smith, Kaiser, Lamothe, Batchelor, Stephens, Swanton-Rodger, Traore, and Pierce.

Committed: Malachi Palmer (G)

So you’ve got at-least 3 scholarships. It seems likely that some of those can return options won’t be back.
Conservatively, MD should have 4-5 scholarships available.
We will see what can get done in the portal.
Here were the portal rankings heading into this ’23-’24 season.

One thing that stood out in recent years for Maryland (particularly the NCAA 2nd round losses in ’19 to LSU, and ’21 and ’23 losses to Alabama) is that Maryland’s athleticism is not good enough.
For years, MD sometimes lacked as much pure talent or skill; but they could match-up with anyone athletically, and often beat teams with effort.
There needs to be a concerted effort in my opinion to improve the size and athleticism of the roster.

Final Thoughts / Expectations: 

I think on an annual basis, my expectation for MD is a Top 5 finish within the Big Ten, and winning a game in the NCAAT.
Maryland should quickly get back to the point where they are a regular Sweet 16 team (7 Sweet 16s between ’93-’94 and ’02-’03).

Regression this year makes me a little nervous.

Over the next 10 years, MD needs to win the conference (regular season or BTT) a couple of times.
There also should be at-least a couple of runs beyond the S16.

That’s not too much to ask.
That really should be the minimal ask for this program.
Even if MD can not do enough during the remainder of this ’23-’24 season to get back to the NCAA Tournament; there is plenty that can be accomplished to better position MD for the ’24-’25 season.

Chris Stoner
Chris Stoner

Owner

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.

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