On Friday night, the Maryland Terrapins begin the 2013-14 college hoops season against 18th-ranked UConn at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. For head coach Mark Turgeon, this a big year because the talent seems to be in place for his Terps to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010.
With the exception of NBA first-round pick Alex Len, Turgeon returns all of his key players. Add to the mix Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz and touted freshman guard Roddy Peters, and Maryland has the pieces to make their last year in the ACC a successful one.
Because of Seth Allen’s broken foot, junior Dez Wells will start the season as Maryland’s point guard. Wells had turnover problems as a sophomore, but he seems up to the task of running the offense. Since Wells is also an explosive offensive player, it will be interesting to see if he can multi-task. Peters will see minutes at the point and he will have to mature quickly.
Junior swingman Nick Faust will now get to play off the ball and not have to worry about being the lead-guard. Turgeon is counting on Faust to be his defensive stopper. A job that Faust is certainly athletic enough to handle.
Sophomore forward Jake Layman is a player that is expected to take his game to another level. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman tabbed Layman as one of the 25 breakout performers for 2013-14. Smotrycz , who is considered a stretch-four, will combine with Layman to give Maryland some firepower from outside. Smotrycz, a junior, also can play with his back to the basket making him a versatile weapon.
Charles Mitchell and Shaq Cleare are two sophomores who will provide the beef in the paint for Turgeon. Mitchell has lost weight and Cleare appears to be over some back woes. Both of these guys are big and have talent. Their play will be huge in the Terps quest for a Dance ticket.
Freshman forward/center Demonte Dodd may be the sleeper of the team. With Len gone to the Phoenix Suns, Maryland is going to need someone to protect the rim. At 6-9, Dodd may be that player. He can run and jump and is much more advanced than he was when Turgeon recruited him a couple of years ago.
Jonathan Graham–Ernie’s son–has been cleared to play and he provides even more depth up front.
And let’s not forget Allen. The sophomore flash is expected back from his broken foot in time for conference play.
I think this squad is getting overlooked nationally. They barely missed a tournament berth in 2012-13 and are better on paper than they were a year ago.
Turgeon wants to exit the ACC in style. If Maryland can avoid any more significant injuries and take care of the basketball, I see them exceeding every expectation in 2013-14.
This is an NCAA Tournament team for sure.
They may be even better than that.
Let’s tip it off.