Maryland made the most of a transitional season with a far-from-ideal roster, earning an NCAA Tournament berth and reaching the second round. It attacked the transfer market and appeared to have built a tested lineup.
But the Terrapins will have to make do without wing Aaron Wiggins, who opted to forgo his remaining eligibility in July after a strong finish to his junior year.
"I thought Wiggs had a chance to be one of the top two or three players in the league," head coach Mark Turgeon says. "But we have a lot of good pieces and a lot of good young players that will get their opportunity to step up and be a part of it.
"We're probably not as experienced as we would have been, but we'll still have talent and should have a good basketball team."
At a Glance
HEAD COACH: Mark Turgeon
2020-21 RECORD (BIG TEN): 17-14 (9-11)
2020-21 POSTSEASON: NCAA: Lost to Alabama 96-77 in the second round
F Jairus Hamilton (6.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg)
G Darryl Morsell (9.0 ppg, 2.8 apg)
G Aaron Wiggins (14.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
The Terps picked a bad year to be undersized in the Big Ten given the league's plethora of imposing big men last season. That shouldn't be an issue this winter after adding 6'11" Georgetown transfer Qudus Wahab (12.7 ppg, 8.2 rpg).
Wahab will allow Maryland to put a more conventional lineup on the floor, although he's far from the only frontcourt factor. Fellow junior Donta Scott led the team in both rebounding (5.9 rpg) and 3-point percentage (43.8) last season and will spend much of his time as a stretch-4.
"He has to be an everyday guy," Turgeon says. "He's been an every-third-day guy, and we've been on him about that. He's been much better here in the summer putting back-to-back days and weeks together. He's going to be a big part of our success. If we're going to be good, Donta's going to have to be a big part of it offensively and defensively."
Look for top-50 recruit Julian Reese to immediately contend for a spot in the rotation. Maryland signed Pavlo Dziuba, who played in eight games at age 17 last season for Arizona State, in the middle of the summer. He and sophomore Arnaud Revaz will provide depth in the post.
With Wiggins and Darryl Morsell (who transferred to Marquette) gone, senior Eric Ayala is the remaining backcourt mainstay after investigating his own NBA prospects before opting to remain in College Park. Ayala led Maryland in scoring last season (15.1 ppg) and can play multiple spots on the perimeter.
"He's leading by example and he's really locked in," Turgeon says. "He's probably disappointed with the way the NBA stuff went for him, so he's got a nice chip on his shoulder."
The Terps didn't have a natural point guard last season, a problem that Turgeon solved by snagging Fatts Russell (14.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.5 apg at Rhode Island) as a graduate transfer. The Rams' career steals leader, Russell will be more of a facilitator than a scorer at Maryland.
Hakim Hart made solid progress last year, and Russell's arrival means that Hart probably won't have to play the point as much as a junior. James Graham III enrolled a semester early, and the extra six months on campus were critical for his development. He should fill a larger role this year, as should sophomore Marcus Dockery. The backcourt depth should allow freshman Ike Cornish time to develop.
Utah transfer Ian Martinez is a wild card after missing most of the summer with a torn meniscus.
Considering Maryland was sitting at 10–10 in early February, earning a postseason trip was an impressive feat. These Terps should be better, especially on offense. It just might take longer to get a sense of their peak as they adjust to life without Wiggins, who averaged 17.9 points over the final 12 games.
"I think we feel pretty comfortable at the point, at the 2 with Eric, Donta at the 4 and [Wahab at] the center position," Turgeon says. "It's that big wing position — who's going to step up? What kind of depth will we have? With so many new faces, how are we going to jell together?"
Postseason Prediction: NCAA Tournament Round of 32
Big Ten Prediction: 5