The upcoming 2018-2019 season is essentially Mark Turgeon’s “make or break” year. Turgeon and Maryland basketball have been on an uptick, going 79-25 in their first three seasons in the Big Ten after an underwhelming final year in the ACC.
With just one Sweet 16 appearance since the beginning of Mark Turgeon’s tenure, the pressure was on last season to make the leap all Maryland fans have patiently been waiting for. But the Terrapins did everything except deliver last season, going a meager 19-12 with an 8-10 Big Ten record. Turgeon attributed their poor conference play due to the fact that Maryland did not have a home stretch of games at all, going back and forth on the road all season.
Throughout Maryland’s presence in the Big Ten, their starting unit has been relatively star-studded with with NBA hopefuls such as Melo Trimble, Robert Carter Jr, Dez Wells, Diamond Stone, Kevin Huerter, and Justin Jackson. Turgeon has had plenty of talent- he has no excuse for the nightly product put out on the court, and he will need to find more success this season to be viewed as a viable coach for Maryland’s program heading forward.
According to 247Sports, Maryland boasts the #7 recruiting class in the nation, the top class in the Big Ten. Headlined by 6’10’’ 195 pound big man Jalen Smith, this recruiting class will have to contribute immediately. Fellow top-100 players Aaron Wiggins (42) and Eric Ayala (78) will also prove to be key pieces in Maryland’s rotation.
Three-star recruits Serrel Smith, Trace Ramsey, and Ricky Lindo round out the group, looking to prove to be vital pieces off the bench. Wiggins will take on a bigger role than expected, as Kevin Huerter departed for the NBA Draft, and Smith will most likely start contributing immediately as he will share the frontcourt with second-year big man Bruno Fernando.
With only two rising seniors on the roster this year (Andrew Terrell and Ivan Bender), incoming freshman will have more than a fair opportunity to prove they are worthy of a starting role. For the upcoming season, Turgeon and Co. only have two commits. Makhi and Makhel Mitchell, hailing from Woodrow Wilson High School, who committed to Maryland in the summer of 2017. Potential targets for next season include 4-star forward Patrick Williams (NC), 3-star forward Donta Scott (PA), and priority 4-star Akok Akok (CT). Turgeon has done well with his recruiting scheme in the past year and hopefully he can replicate his process in the upcoming year.
Switching gears and taking a look at the starting lineup, this unit looks like it’ll be able to compete with almost any team in the country. Junior Anthony Cowan will start in the backcourt along with Darryl Morsell. The frontcourt will be composed of a hungry tandem of Aaron Wiggins and Jalen Smith.
Anchoring down the center will be sophomore Bruno Fernando. Fernando surprised many last season even though he didn’t get the nod for the starting center position. Fernando started the season as a true freshman behind Junior Ivan Bender, but as the season wore on and Bender’s lack of versatility was exposed, Fernando got the nod for starting center duties so that Turgeon could develop his fiery talent. The starting lineup is not an area of concern, but the bench unit for the Terps raises a few red flags.
Aside from walk-ons, the bench will be made up of seniors Ivan Bender and Joshua Tomaic, while the remaining bench is made up of the previously mentioned freshmen. The only bench players that can remotely be seen as contributors are Bender, Tomaic, and possibly Ayala.
Maryland’s non-conference schedule seems very intriguing. They’ll host several mid-tier teams with plenty things to prove. The Terps will take part in the Veterans Classic when they play Navy at Alumni Hall in Annapolis.
The rest of their non-conference schedule is highlighted by home dates with Delaware, Marshall, UVA, the recently dangerous Loyola-Chicago, and Seton Hall. Maryland will have their work cut out for them.
Next, Maryland faces off against their former inner-conference rival Virginia on November 28th as part of the B1G/ACC Challenge. Maryland’s non-conference games will carry weight, as the results will indicate the success the Terrapins will have this season.
This conference season will be slightly altered from years past. Instead of the usual 18 games against Big Ten opponents, the Terps will play 20. During the first 10 games of the conference slate, Maryland will play four teams at home (Penn State, Nebraska, Indiana, and Wisconsin), five on the road (Purdue, Rutgers, Minnesota, Ohio State, and Michigan State), and finish the first half of the conference schedule in Madison Square Garden, NY when they will play Illinois as part of the B1G Super Saturday.
If Maryland can escape this buzzsaw of an opening schedule with a winning conference record, they will be in great shape. The second half of their conference schedule includes five games at home (Northwestern, Purdue, Ohio State, Michigan, and Minnesota) and five games on the road (Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan, Iowa, and Penn State). The second half of their conference schedule looks much more manageable as their road games seem more winnable on paper.
Projected Conference Record: 14-6
Turgeon will need to pick up steam in the opening slate of conference games to hear his team’s name called for a tournament bid. They will have to pick up much-needed home wins early against middling teams such as Penn State, Nebraska, and Indiana.
While it is way too early to be calling any teams tournament-caliber, Turgeon’s 2018-19 roster has the build to fair well in the Big Ten and possibly make a deep run in the conference tournament. This is a squad no team will be looking forward to facing during the home stretch of Big Ten conference play.
Projected Total Record: 24-7
Maryland will take care of business by running the table on almost all of their non-conference slate, except for losing a nailbiter to Virginia at home.
This Terrapins team looks very dangerous come conference play/tournament time and not a team you will want to see in March. The bench is still a bit of a question mark for Turgeon’s Terps, as they will need to depend on incoming freshman throughout the season.
Contributions from freshmen Jalen Smith and Aaron Wiggins will be a major key to success in the upcoming season. If Turgeon wants to keep his job in College Park, he must prove he is able to win and develop with a younger team on the court.