Ranked inside the AP top 25 for the first time in several seasons, this Terrapin squad led by G Anthony Cowan and F Jalen Smith is ready to make noise come February and March.
The team has some improving to do — notoriously slow starts (no points in the first six minutes against No. 11 Ohio State, amongst others) and streaky shooting have kept the team from reaching their true potential. Improvements in those areas along with the continued development of former 5-star recruit Chol Marial, a 7’ 2” big man with a 7’8” wingspan, should propel the team deeper than Head Coach Mark Turgeon has ever taken them before.
Strong ball handling from Anthony Cowan and Eric Ayala has been the centerpiece of the team when things aren’t going right. At least one of the two is on the floor at all times, leading the transition-heavy offense to high-flying dunks and numerous three-pointers. When this offense is clicking, it’s due to the floor general-ship of Cowan and Ayala, so look for the two to continue driving the team’s offense.
And no transition team can succeed without wings willing to buckle down on defense, hustle for a steal, and electrify the crowd with a thunderous dunk. The combination of Darryl Morsell and Aaron Wiggins have done exactly that. Check out Wiggins’ dunk from earlier this season, to end the half against Notre Dame.
Completing the main rotation are two monstrous big men causing havoc in the paint. Starting at the center spot is Jalen Smith, who can dominate almost any post matchup with overpowering strength and finesses that would make his predecessor and former teammate, Bruno Fernando, proud. Smith’s energy on the court is another reason why this team has been so much fun to watch during certain stretches, and his defense has been crucial for keeping opposing stars like Kaleb Wesson from Ohio State from taking over.
Backing him up is the newly healthy Marial, somewhat rusty after missing several seasons due to several injuries including stress fractures in both legs. But he’s already impressed in only a few games of action, showing flashes of a quick-witted rim protector and paint beast. He has the skill to back down players often far smaller than his massive height and wingspan, and his enthusiasm for emphatic blocks perfectly plays into Maryland’s style this season.
While the Terrapins have at times been one of the most electrifying teams in the country, at other points, they go through painstaking dry spells. It’s going to be up to Cowan, Ayala, and Smith to keep the engine running in those times. If those three can figure out how to manufacture buckets at any given moment, there are very few teams in the nation that will be able to run with this Terrapin squad. Strap in for a fun few months, Terrapin fans.