Terps plan to reach NCAA Tournament's second weekend
Expectations are elevated at Maryland, where all but one regular from last year’s rotation is back after the Terrapins reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to LSU on a last-second shot.
Whether the Terrapins can make it beyond the first weekend for the second time since 2003 is unknown. Yet they shouldn’t hear constantly about inexperience like they did last year, when they leaned on just one upperclassman on a regular basis.
“It’s kind of nice going in for these summer workouts and you’ve got seven guys who have played in your rotation at some point,” coach Mark Turgeon says. “We look bigger and stronger.”
At a Glance
HEAD COACH: Mark Turgeon
2018-19 RECORD (BIG TEN): 23-11 (13-7)
2018-19 POSTSEASON: NCAA: Lost to LSU 69-67 in the second round
F Bruno Fernando (13.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg)
Maryland must replace a major piece in forward Bruno Fernando, who averaged a double-double last season and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors before turning pro.
Jalen Smith will have greater responsibility after averaging 11.7 points and 6.8 rebounds during a productive but inconsistent freshman year that ended with a stellar postseason showing. The lanky former McDonald’s All-American arrived in College Park with the nickname “Stix” and spent the offseason adding some bulk to his frame.
“Hopefully with added weight he can become a better post-up player to go with his perimeter game,” Turgeon says. “He’s working. There’s a lot of potential there. He’s key. He knows he needs to keep working and give us a lot on both ends of the floor.”
Joining Smith in the frontcourt is Ricky Lindo Jr., who reclassified last summer and established himself as a capable rebounder and defender off the bench. Turgeon says Lindo is the most improved player in the program since the end of last year, and he should again have a key role.
Twins Makhi and Makhel Mitchell were early cornerstones of the recruiting class. Junior Joshua Tomaic is back after playing in 20 games last year. Chol Marial, a 7'2" center, is a wild card.
Anthony Cowan Jr. referenced “unfinished business” in a splashy video released the day of the NBA Draft withdrawal deadline as a reason to remain at Maryland for his senior season. He’s started every game of his college career and led the Terps in scoring as a junior, but he also dealt with a prolonged slump during league play.
“At times, he tried to do too much, and he shouldn’t have to do that this year,” Turgeon says. “We have plenty of weapons and plenty of scorers. His shot selection will be much better.”
The rest of the Terps’ guards have grown up around Cowan — or will do so this season. Eric Ayala immediately became a calming influence as a freshman, and he should again have the ball in his hands plenty this winter.
Look for sophomore Aaron Wiggins, who shot 41.3 percent from 3-point range, to become an even greater part of the offense, particularly if he adopts a more aggressive approach. Maryland can also count on junior Darryl Morsell, who evolved into a more efficient scorer last season while also developing into a lock-down defender.
Serrel Smith Jr. distinguished himself as one of the program’s hardest workers as a freshman and has a chance to earn a greater role. Freshman Donta Scott is physically ready for the college game and could (like Morsell) slide to the 4 at times.
Maryland should be one of the top teams in the Big Ten and has the pieces to reach the Sweet 16 (or beyond) for the first time since 2016. That team was stitched together in part by transfers and one-and-done talent, and it had a shallow bench. These Terps were built more organically, and Turgeon has some options on how Maryland will approach different opponents. “Our biggest strength is going to be our numbers,” Turgeon says. “We’re going to be able to play multiple ways.”
Postseason Prediction: Elite Eight
Big Ten Prediction: 2nd