What a difference a year makes for the University of Maryland men’s basketball team.
At this time last year, the team was ranked No. 3 in the preseason AP Poll, and were at the top of ESPN’s preseason power rankings. With Melo Trimble back and the addition of five-star freshman center Diamond Stone, fans and experts alike thought the team had national championship potential.
But this year, Mark Turgeon’s team is harder to figure out. After finishing last year with a 27-9 record and a Sweet 16 loss to the University of Kansas, Jake Layman and Rasheed Suliamon graduated, while Robert Carter Jr. and Diamond Stone left for the NBA. Trimble is the only starter returning, but he only decided to return after a poor showing at the NBA combine.
The Terps are ranked 21st in the coaches poll and 25th in the AP poll, but expert predictions have had them finishing as low as seventh in the conference. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has tempered his expectations for the Terps as well, putting them as a nine seed in his most recent NCAA tournament projections after he had them as a one seed before last season.
Expectations are also down among University of Maryland students as well. Freshman biochemistry major Thomas Zarachowicz doesn’t expect the team to do as well because it lost so many contributors from last year, but does see a sliver of hope with Trimble returning.
As for whether the junior will break the shooting slump he was in in the second half of last season, Zarachowicz said Trimble should be more consistent because he’s the main focus on offense.
“He couldn’t shoot as much because he had other good teammates,” Zarachowicz said. “Because he was a point guard he had to pass the ball more, and I feel like that was the reason his shot was off.”
Freshman letters and sciences major Justin Armstrong also said its great to have Trimble back, especially because of he sets an example for the younger players.
“He’s been in the tournament two times, he’s got the experience and leadership the young guys will look up too,” Armstrong said.
Maryland has six freshmen on this year’s team and welcomed the No. 12 recruiting class in the nation, according to the 247 Sports Composite. Kevin Huerter, Anthony Cowan, and Justin Jackson are all top 100 recruits, and at media day Turgeon said they are ready to contribute immediately. Despite the youth on the team, Armstrong thinks Maryland will make their third consecutive NCAA Tournament.
According to freshman finance major Chris Hannigan, having so many new players means the team has a lot of potential. He also said he thinks that the team will need to have better chemistry this year, which it lacked last season.
“Last year not all the guys were stars, but we’re trying to be stars,” Hannigan said. “There could have been a lot of ego battles on the team.”
Hannigan is also excited that Trimble is back, and thinks he will be better than last year now that he is healthy.
“I really think he was hurt last year, and no one knew. I think he can come back this year with a bang and have a good year.” Hannigan said.
According to Comcast SportsNet, Trimble suffered a hamstring injury after the Terps win over Rutgers on Jan.5. Despite Turgeon saying he would be fine, Trimble shot just 36 percent after the injury, compared to 49 percent before it.
Despite all the new faces, Hannigan thinks the Terps have a chance to finish near the top of what some analysts are calling a wide open Big Ten. Of all the teams that finished in the top half of the conference last year, only Wisconsin did not lose a player from their starting lineup.
“I think Maryland has a chance to make a move this year,” Hannigan said. “Wisconsin is powerful, but I think we still have a chance to win the conference.
The Terps open up their season Friday Nov. 11 against American University.