Following the addition of former Duke guard, Rasheed Sulaimon, many college basketball analysts seat the Maryland Terrapins as their favorite to win the national title in 2016. That is a phrase Maryland fans haven’t heard in over a decade.
After climbing the ladder with stars like Joe Smith and Keith Booth in the late 1990s, Maryland put its name on the map at the turn of the century. The 2001-02 season is one that Terrapin fans will never forget. Just like now, Maryland was one of the preseason favorites to make a title run under Coach Gary Williams – and they did not disappoint.
Maryland’s 2002 starting five (Juan Dixon, Steve Blake, Lonny Baxter, Chris Wilcox, and Byron Mouton) was out of this world. Although none of those names went on to be NBA All-Stars, they meshed well and competed better than any other team at the time.
In 2002, the Terps were ranked No. 2 coming into the season and never fell below a No. 8 seed that season. Ironically, Maryland has not reached higher than No. 8 (which they did last season) in the AP Rankings since that ’02 season. Yet their fortunes may change this season.
Maryland lost Dez Wells, Evan Smotrycz, Richaud Pack and Jon Graham but will return stars like Melo Trimble, Jake Layman, and Damonte Dodd.
The difference maker, though, will be the new recruits. Big men Robert Carter and Diamond Stone will help Dodd create an inside presence that will open up options for outside players like Trimble and Layman. Juco transfer Jaylen Brantley will backup Trimble as point guard, which Maryland lacked last season (debatably resulting in their fall to West Virginia).
Rasheed Sulaimon is the newest addition to Mark Turgeon’s team. Sulaimon was dismissed from Duke last season for failing to meet team standards set by Coach Mike Krzyzewski. The senior guard will simply add depth to Maryland’s squad. Like he showed at Duke, Sulaimon is able to come off the bench and create a spark with his shooting and floor spacing. Although he has declined in almost every offensive category, Sulaimon has the ability to light it up at any moment.
Mark Turgeon has done a fabulous job since he rolled into College Park. With four career conference Coach of the Year awards under his belt, he enters his fifth year as head coach at Maryland. He brought in top recruits and has taken Maryland back to the national stage.
Now that the supporting crew is set up, all eyes will be on two key players: Melo Trimble and Jake Layman. Trimble turned heads last season as he led the Terrapins as a freshman, averaging 16.2 points per game while adding 3.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists per contest. Layman, on the other hand, is a 6’8″ senior who can practically play every position. He is a threat from 3-point land but can dunk on you and even post up.
These two players seem to get better every day. Now with some experience under their belt, Trimble and Layman could be the best duo in the Big 10. They both have the ability to shoot, attack, and pass efficiently while maintaining their tempo.
Turgeon will run his offense around these two but will have other options when the defense adjusts. The attack will open up spot-up shooters like Jared Nickens and Dion Wiley. When the defense spreads along the perimeter, Dodd, Carter, Stone, and Michal Cekovsky will beat up the inside.
Maryland has every piece to the puzzle: Depth, coaching, offense, experience, and speed. If everything goes according to plan, the Terps will punch a ticket to the Final Four in Houston next April.