The University of Maryland will begin its second season in the Big 10 (previously played in the ACC) as the consensus favorite to win the conference. These expectations come as a result of Maryland’s surprising success during its inaugural Big 10 campaign, in which the team was the runner-up in the regular season conference standings and advanced to the semi-finals of the conference tournament. For the ‘Terps basketball program, conference titles have been sparse. The last time Maryland finished atop the conference standings was in 2010, when the team tied with the eventual national champions–Duke. 2002–the year the ‘Terps won the national championship– was the last time they did not tie as regular season champions. You would have to go back to 2006 to find a Maryland team winning a conference tournament. If Maryland is to end these streaks, this is the year to do it.
Are these expectations fair?
Given Maryland’s incoming talent, eligible transfers, and returning star players, these expectations are definitely warranted. Improving the roster from an already solid team should affect the predictions, even for the cautiously optimistic crowd. The ‘Terps aren’t just locally regarded, they’re also expected to one of the better teams on the national stage–a championship contender at that. As Scott Phillips of NBC sports pointed out the other day, the last Big 10 to win a championship was 15 years ago, and Maryland could definitely end that streak. Make no mistake, the players and coaching staff aren’t afraid of heightened scrutiny; they’re ready for something special.
Who can pose a challenge to the ‘Terps?
While most, including myself, feel Maryland will win the Big 10 championship, I wouldn’t exactly consider them as a prohibitive favorite who won’t be challenged. The Big 10 schedule is always a bear, and winning doesn’t come easy no matter how much talent a team has. Michigan State will definitely push the ‘Terps, as they return Denzel Valentine, Tum Tum Nairn, Bryn Forbes, Alvin Ellis, and a slew of talented big men. Tom Izzo will undoubtebly get his guys to defend and gel at just the right time.
Another team I feel will give Maryland a run for its money is Indiana, which has roster filled with a lot of returning talent and a raucous arena atmosphere. This may be one of Tom Creen’s best teams in a little while, particularly because of the scoring punch of its guards. You can never count out Bo Ryan and his efficient Wisconson team, even after losing Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker. Purdue and its monstrous frontcourt with A.J. Hammons, Isaac Haas and incoming freshman Caleb Swanigan will definitely test Maryland’s front line.
There will be tests for Maryland, and we’ll see if they can pass them.
Will any ‘Terps win conference accolades?
You can expect Melo Trimble to be atop the rankings of Big Ten Player of the Year and on the first team all-conference. Diamond Stone will definitely get consideration as newcomer (or freshman) of the year, and depending on how he plays, join Trimble in the race for the aforementioned awards. Jake Layman, Rasheed Sulaimon, and Robert Carter Jr. may be in the hunt for the various all-conference teams as well.
Maryland ranked #3 in Coaches Poll
When the USA Today published its first installment of the 2015-16 Pre-Season Men’s College Basketball Coaches Poll, Maryland (behind UNC and UK ) was ranked 3rd and received 5 first place votes. Clearly the coaches think highly of the ‘Terps and share the same high expectations for the team.
Who votes in the Coaches Poll?
The list of voters is made up of 32 Division I coaches, including the likes of Jim Boheim (Syracuse), Scott Drew (Baylor), Steve Fisher (San Diego State), Greg McDermott (Creighton), Matt Painter (Purdue), and so on. The AP Top 25 poll (voted on by media memebers) is usually released a bit later than the Coaches Poll, and will provide an interesting comparison factor in the coming weeks.
Report: Maryland to play Villanova in a “secret scrimmage”
Jeff Goodman reported that Maryland will play fellow top-10 team Villanova in a secret scrimmage on Oct. 31. It seems like Coach Turgeon wants to get an early look at how his team can fare against some quality competition. A couple years back these two teams played a secret scrimmage with the ‘Terps coming out on top. This match-up may very well foreshadow a NCAA tournament meeting between these two strong teams.