Story By: Marc Goldstein
College Park, MD–
Immediately after the final buzzer sounded in Indianapolis, ending the Maryland Terrapins’ season in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament, the wheels were set in motion. Mark Turgeon was fresh off a season where he took a team that looked dead to rights and steered them to the Big Dance. He defied the odds to bring the Terps to March. However, the first question was concerning his job status. At the same time the Terps reached their valley, rumors surfaced that Turgeon was on the way out whether due to his own decision or that of the athletics department. In the end, he remained in College Park after being rumored to have been linked to the openings at Oklahoma and Wichita State. The team in 2021-22 is certainly different. Whether or not it is for the better remains unseen.
Turgeon experienced one of the biggest roster turnover in his tenure. Three of his five starters’ statuses got thrown up in the air. Darryl Morsell, reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, entered his name into both the NBA Draft and transfer portal. Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins, the top two scorers, both entered the NBA Draft, however they did not immediately hire an agent, retaining their college eligibility. In the end, Morsell withdrew from the Draft, but transferred to Marquette. Ayala decided to use his final season of eligibility to run it back with the Terps.
Outside of Ayala, returning starters include Hakim Hart and Donta Scott. The two Philly natives are both looking to cement themselves as vital rotation players for the Terps. Hart struggled with inconsistency with his jump shot last season, but played stellar defense. If he can stabilize his shot, he can fill the voids left by Morsell and Wiggins. With Scott, he is a pure scoring threat, but he still is a work in progress. Scott had a tendency to get himself into foul trouble at times last season, thus hampering his ability to play late in games. Half of the battle for Scott was keeping him on the floor.
Mark Turgeon has reconstructed a lot of the roster, however. He used the transfer portal mainly. Transfers include Fatts Russell from Rhode Island, Xavier Green from Old Dominion, Ian Martinez from Utah, and Qudus Wahab from Georgetown. Russell is a player that should excite Terps fans. His play style is very similar to that of Melo Trimble and Anthony Cowan. Russell is a play maker and should add a level of stability to the Maryland offense. Green and Martinez are both players who do not have defined roles at this point. Wahab, though, has a very defined role. He is the center that the Terps wished they had last season. He is a beast on the boards and a defensive anchor. Much like Bruno Fernando or Jalen Smith, Wahab is going to be a huge piece for the team in the middle of the paint.
Youth on the Roster:
Playing in the Big Ten, it is very rare to encounter a team with a glut of youth on their roster. Simply put, veteran teams consistently win in the Big Ten whereas youthful teams have success in the SEC or ACC. Contrary to that idea, Turgeon has a lot of intriguing young players on the roster. While it remains unseen how much these players will play, they still offer a lot of possibilities for not only this season, but future seasons as well.
Two guards that will be huge pieces moving forward are Marcus Dockery and James Graham III. Dockery got sparse minutes as a freshman, but looks to be able to take over the backup role to Ayala and Russell. Graham, on the other hand, is still a freshman. He enrolled early, joining the team in the middle of the season last year. He studied the playbook and knows the schemes better than any freshman. The former four star recruit hopes to take the next steps towards being the next great Maryland guard.
Another pair of freshmen, Julian Reese and Ike Cornish are the two best recruits from the Terps’ latest class. Reese is possibly a bit undersized for a forward, but he can make up for it with speed and elite athleticism. Cornish is a combo guard, much like Hakim Hart. These two will most likely not get many minutes, but this season should be about developing them for the future.
To state the obvious, the Big Ten is loaded. There is no question that it is the best conference in the country. The league as a whole can actually make the claim that double digit NCAA Tournament berths is attainable. The giants in the conference include teams like Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan State, among others. These teams all have one thing in common: elite coaching. The Terps will really need to take down some big time teams on their way to the Big Dance.
Games to Note:
November 25-27: Bahamas Invitational:
This is not one game, but more of a group of games. The Terps make their first trip to the Bahamas in a long time. The Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship is a massive tournament that features men’s and women’s teams (The Lady Terps will also make the trip). Including the Terps, four teams will compete: Richmond, Louisville, Mississippi State, and Maryland. The Terps will first face the Spiders from Richmond. They are a very experienced team and can give any team fits. They will then face either Louisville or Mississippi State depending on the results. Regardless, the Terps will face a pair of talented teams before they jump into conference play.
December 1: Big Ten/ACC Challenge vs. Virginia Tech:
Rekindling an old rivalry in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, the Terps will look to avenge their loss in last season’s challenge against Clemson. The Hokies, like Maryland, made the NCAA Tournament last season and will be looking to emerge as a second weekend team. This game will be in College Park, giving Maryland a huge boost. The Terps will be coming off the Bahamas Invitational, so it should be a good measuring stick game for them.
December 12: Hall of Fame Invitational vs Florida in Brooklyn, NY:
The Terps will face yet another NCAA Tournament team from the past season, this time at a neutral site. The Gators are very talented and a popular dark horse in the SEC. They have a lot of size and strength down low, so the Terps should have their hands full with Keyontae Johnson and Colin Castleton. More than anything, the Gators are much more on par with the type of team the Terps will see in conference play, so it will serve as a great matchup.
January 6: @Illinois:
The Terps notably knocked off the Fighting Illini in their lone meeting last season. On the road, the Terps were able to beat the team that went on to win the Big Ten Tournament. This year, the teams not only play twice, but the first of which is at the beginning of the Big Ten slate for the Terps. This will be a massive road test for Maryland not only because of the quality opponent, but because of the environment. Maryland will have to learn to play on the road in the Big Ten, and there is arguably no better way for them to become acclimated with it.
January 18: @Michigan:
Analyzing this particular matchup is a layered process. The first layer is the one on the surface. The Terps and Wolverines are both talented programs with a long history. Both of them are looking to win the same conference. The second layer is one filled with a lot of animosity. Maryland and Michigan faced off multiple times last season, with Michigan taking two of the three games. In those games, however, there were multiple fireworks. The Wolverines’ Hunter Dickinson, Maryland native, called out the Terps about how he was not even offered by the program despite being a five star recruit and being in the same state. He made sure to give the Terps an earful on the court. Even the coaches are not particularly fond of one another. In the Big Ten Tournament, the coaches had to be separated as they nearly started a brawl. There is no question that this game will feature some raw emotions on both sides. It is simply a shame that the teams only play once.
February 27: vs Ohio State:
The Terps and Buckeyes are two teams that are very similar on paper. They both have a lot of returning talent in addition to the newcomers. The teams locked horns last season, and the Terps did not fare well, losing the single game. The Terps will be looking to complete their revenge tour this season in conference play. One of those big games will certainly be against Ohio State.
March 6: @Michigan State:
The final game of the regular season is one that has the potential to be an instant classic. The Terps and Spartans always seem to play great, evenly matched games when they meet in East Lansing. After sweeping the Spartans last year, the Terps will look to continue their dominance against Tom Izzo’s squad.
The Terps enter the season as the #21 ranked team. Only time will tell if that is a fair or unfair ranking, but the Terps certainly have a lot to prove this year. If the Terps were to flame out , there would be a lot of questions about Mark Turgeon and his future with the program. Success could look like many different things, but for the Terps, it most likely means making it to the Sweet 16 at minimum. The program has not made it that far in years despite having loaded rosters. Nonetheless, the team will only go as far as players like Ayala, Scott, and Russell can take them. The Maryland Terrapins are certainly going to be a team that will be able to generate a lot of buzz in March, whether for better or worse.