Before everybody freaks out – there are plenty of teams in college basketball I like. It seems like the more and more years of watching I have under my belt, the better I am at giving unbiased analysis. My pre-season pick is Maryland, for various reasons. I’m aware that the regular season is kind of long; preseason hype is meaningless and that success can really depend on the bracket formation, so please, chill if you disagree. The Terps are my pick for personal and basketball reasons.
Note: I’m a fan of lots of college basketball teams. Or well, I at least can fairly say I root for a lot of teams. My biggest goal is to watch good, smart, and intense basketball. I think those are the factors that comprise likability for a team. Last year, I liked tons of teams and seeing as my radical bias continues to shrink, I like what I’ve seen from those teams, regardless of the preseason hype. Frankly, I’m probably only going to watch no more than five non-conference games on Maryland’s schedule (which I will dive into later). That being said, the Big Ten is generally a strong conference and I’ll be watching the squad in College Park, seeing if they can pull through my very early title pick.
Yes, I did say I was unbiased. When I say I’m not biased, I mean that I don’t put crazy ridiculous claim without some basis. Kobe is my favorite player ever and the Lakers are my favorite team. That being said, I’m not picking the Lakers to win the title next year. I’m not afraid to speak my mind and voice my own opinion based on what I’ve seen and what I think. I’m realistic with my picks. The truth is nobody is 100% unbiased. Fans develop natural “likes” and “dislikes.” Even the analysts do it, so don’t whack me on the head or call me a hypocrite.
So, when it comes strictly to rooting for a team, I can have personal interests in mind. I was born in Rockville, Maryland. While the Wizards are the home-team for pro-basketball, Maryland is in some ways a home-team when it comes to college hoops.
College Bud Bias
Furthermore, my good friend and pick-up buddy, Sid, is a student at Maryland. I have a few friends in college, and I pull for their squads to do well while they’re students and I can’t help but root for their teams against teams I don’t like. I was happy that my man Vivek (who I’ve jokingly called Notorious V.i.V) was in Dallas to see his Ohio State Buckeyes win a national title in football. I was also psyched to see his basketball squad have a couple entertaining games with D’Angelo Russell last year (R.I.P VCU Defender). Sid’s a family member to our staff and to our pick-up basketball camaraderie, so of course I want to see his squad win a national title while he’s there.
I want Sid to experience a national title while he’s on campus, and one reason I pull for Maryland is because I think this window is limited. Like I said, I love college basketball. Year-to-year, I generally watch lots of teams like Kentucky and Duke: teams that are pretty solid all the time. It’s rare for Duke to have true down-years, and Kentucky hasn’t had too many lately (they were in the NIT when Nerlens tore his ACL, but those fans in Lexington don’t get mad when they think about their recent Final Fours). Maryland likely doesn’t have an extended window. They’re not going to fall off the radar after this season, but it would take another Trimble-esque recruit to keep their title as favorites. This is the best chance they may have in years to win it. I’ll dive into the specific basketball reasons a little more, but Trimble is likely gone after this year. Plus, they have many seniors, and I don’t expect freshman Diamond Stone to be a 4-year player. While Maryland could soon be a household name on the map, there are no guarantees in college basketball. I’m sure they’ll continue to be players in the Big Ten and a tournament team, but I don’t see them consistently being a top-5 preseason pick on a yearly basis. That’s not a dis, few teams stay in the top-5 all the time. Not even Kentucky or Duke.
Aren’t Duke and Maryland rivals? How can you root for both?
The answer is yes. I’ve rooted for Duke basically since I’ve started watching college basketball. My first closely-watched tournament was the 2011 one, which was essentially when the Maryland-Duke rivalry started to die out. 2010 was the year Maryland had Vasquez and Duke won the national title. Then, Maryland slipped in the ACC, moved to the Big Ten, and Coach K said he would never put Maryland on the schedule. I’m aware that the rivalry was very real, but right now, I think Duke has its ACC rivals old (Carolina, NC State) and new (Louisville, Syracuse). I could even say the same about Maryland once they’ve played more games in the Big Ten (Wisconsin maybe?). So, I think the rivalry is dormant at the moment and rooting for both should totally be allowed. But hey, if you’re one of those people that wants to see that old-school rivalry, why not root for a Duke-Maryland Final Four matchup?
As a Duke fan too, I always liked Rasheed Sulaimon. He showed flashes of being a great athletic wing that can play defense, but he got pushed aside by talented freshman like Jabari Parker and Justise Winslow. Now that he’s with Maryland, it’s his last chance to prove he can ball with the best of them (and make it to the league). I don’t ever root for any draft stock to plummet, especially not Sulaimon given how much it already has. Don’t have any hard feelings toward him.
Basketball reasons to pick Maryland
OKAY, enough about me and my personal reasons to root for Maryland. Let’s dive into the basketball reasons for why Maryland should be a good team. Let’s take a look at the roster and personnel.
Melo Trimble: It all starts with the point guard, especially when the point guard is a former McDonalds All-America who decided to return to school after surpassing expectations his freshman year. Trimble is going to get a lot of preseason love for Big Ten Player of the Year along with the National Player of the Year. He’ll probably get buzz for the Bob Cousy award, which is given to the best point guard in college hoops. Trimble attacks the rack fearlessly and can make free throws. He was one of the top-players last year in terms of drawing contact and getting to the charity stripe. He was 8th in the nation in free throw attempts, and 1st among players on a power conference or NCAA tournament team. He was also 3rd in made free throws, and 1st among power conference/tournament team players. He’s a quiet guy, so maybe he won’t be an off-the-floor leader, but he’ll be the undoubted leader on the court. His decision making and poise will lead the team in tight games, and his slashing paired with his above average shooting will be key to Maryland’s offense. Trimble also had a great offseason – he got to work with Stephen Curry at Curry’s camp (Trimble was one of a few college guards invited), and he got to play in the Pan-Am games. Even though he didn’t play much in the latter, going up against pros and other good college players in practice must have been a good experience.
So people are going to talk about Trimble’s ability to get to the hoop, draw fouls, and get to the free throw line. That is absolutely his forte and what makes him a top-player. However, don’t sleep on his defense and shooting. There were times where he got hot last year and would drain 5 or more threes. He shot 40% last year on 3s. His defense is also above average, and I think that will improve again this year. If he can finish well and draw fouls, defenses are more likely to give him a little breathing room. Don’t sleep on the possibility that he may have heat check moments where defenders give him too much room. Once they inch back on him when he’s hot, he’s smart enough to take it straight to the hole again. I expect teams like Michigan State or Wisconsin to be very physical with him and pack-in on him. That’s okay – last year he showed that he was an above-average decision maker and he’ll make the right passes. He is more of a scoring-guard, but he’s certainly not a ball-hog. He only averaged 3 assists a game (so did a freshman Shabazz Napier!), but I expect that number to go up as the team is deeper and more talented now. If Trimble averages more than 5 assists a game without giving up his aggressive slashing, there’s a good chance that the Terps are tearing it up.
Rasheed Sulaimon: I saw a good amount of Sulaimon from his Duke days. During his freshman year, he showed a lot of promise and was actually a projected 1st round pick. Then he decided to stay in school and things went downhill. Even though he started to slide back in the rotation his sophomore and junior years, a lot of people forget that he actually got hot late in his sophomore year and started over Quinn Cook in the NCAA tournament alongside other talented wings like Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood. That clutch three against Syracuse is also going to go down in history. I think going up against so many good players in practice and also playing against some of the best in the ACC will allow him to thrive at Maryland. Furthermore, he brings a bit of leadership and experience with him. He’s poised and he’s done it in crunch-time before. The Jabari Parker Duke team got hot when Sulaimon played a lot of minutes at point guard and let guys play off the ball. He’s also a guy that’s been in those intense games. He hit that crazy improvised 3 to send the first Duke-Syracuse game into overtime.
Jake Layman: Like Sulaimon, Layman should also provide leadership. I have a gut feeling he will be the glue-guy. As a versatile small-forward, he will be asked to guard more than one position, and he’ll be asked to do more than one thing. He reminds me a little bit of Chandler Parsons. He’ll be part of pick-and-rolls, pick-and-pop, but he’ll also be asked to shoot 3s, run the floor, defend, pass, and use his all-around game to fill certain holes for the team.
Robert Carter: Carter is a transfer from Georgia Tech who averaged 11 and 8 his sophomore year. Although he sat out a year, he got to practice with the Terps and get acclimated to the culture and system. I’ll be honest – I haven’t seen him play (never got around to watching much Georgia Tech). But, he’s not going to be asked to be the go-to-guy. He’s also not an unknown quantity. He’s able to rebound the ball and give a bucket here and there.
Diamond Stone: This guy is the All-American freshman who spurned his in-state “home” teams of Marquette and Wisconsin. I know not all All-Americans pan-out, but Stone will probably start right off the bat. He’ll give Maryland a post-presence they haven’t seen since Alex Len, if he doesn’t bust. He can run and moves pretty well for a guy his size (he looked cumbersome in some pictures but turns out he’s not slow). He also has the low-post game and ability to back a guy down that you would like. He won’t be THE focal point of the offense, which should help him develop and break some bad habits from high school. There’s one deadly sequence I could see happening a lot: Trimble drives, help defender comes to stop him, dumps off to an open Stone on the other side. If that becomes a thing (as in Trimble’s penetration is lethal), Maryland’s ceiling goes up even more. Oh, and what’s up with the 2015 McDonalds All-Americans having awesome names? Outside of Diamond Stone, there is Check Diallo, Ben Simmons (fake-son of Bill Simmons) and Dwayne Bacon.
The video below of Diamond Stone with a nice fake, dribble and lay-in is not ours. We got it on YouTube courtesty of Midwest Ballers.
The Bench: Dion Wiley was a solid recruit coming out of high school. He’s still young, and he had a solid freshman year. Who says he won’t get better? The same goes for Jared Nickens. He’ll probably fill in that 6th man/spark off the bench role for the Terps. Michal Cekovsky has played pro basketball before, so I think he’ll improve upon his freshman year. Damonte Dodd started at center last year. Jaylen Brantley was a solid JUCO player too.
Mark Turgeon: A year ago, Turgeon was on the hot seat and many thought he would lose his job. They surprised everybody, finished 2nd in the Big Ten, and were a 4-seed. Who would have thought last year the Turgeon would be the B1G coach of the year? Coaching for your job to coaching to meet insane amounts of hype is definitely an interesting change, but it’s a good problem to have. Outside of coaching basketball, it’s going to be on Turgeon to make sure the guys are still humble, hungry and focused. If the outside scrutiny and attention gets to the team, Turgeon’s best opportunity to win a title in his career will go down the drain. I’m knocking on wood and hoping that doesn’t happen.
Basketball concerns for Maryland
I have to be realistic and talk about a few of the concerns I have. I don’t think any concerns are glaring. I’m just hoping that none of these truly become issues.
Inexperience: Last year, Maryland made the tournament for the first time since 2010. That means for most players on the roster (that weren’t transfers), that was their first tournament experience. They got a little taste of the Big Dance, but unfortunately Trimble got hurt and they lost in the Round of 32. The only player that has been beyond the Round of 32 is Sulaimon, who went to the Elite Eight as a freshman. A lot of teams that build upon previously-great years also have the tournament experience. Don’t get me wrong, last year Maryland had a successful season. I’m a believer in the tournament experience carrying on though. If Wisconsin doesn’t get hot and Frank Kaminsky doesn’t have his coming-out-party in 2014, does Wisconsin knock off the undefeated Kentucky in 2015? It’s possible, but that experience from the previous year didn’t hurt. It’s not impossible to be a true-contender with little experience, but it’s something that I’ll have to be cautionary about. Some teams recently have made the Final Four with little real NCAA tournament experience and loads of talent like the 2014 Kentucky Wildcats. Then again, that’s Kentucky. I have faith that Maryland can do it, but I want their regular season to be a good run and learning experience for the squad so they don’t fold in March. I’ll have to watch how Maryland plays some of its better opponents and how they handle those tight-meaningful games.
The solution to this can be found in one question – who is the leader on and off the court and how will they handle adversity, pressure, and tight games? The lead senior from last year, Dez Wells, is gone and whoever fills in for him will need to keep this team motivated and focused. That senior leadership, urgency, and experience I think will go to Layman and Sulaimon. Layman and Trimble are quiet guys, so I’d imagine they’ll be the on-court leaders. Like I said earlier, Trimble is the floor general and will have the ball in his hands when the games on the line. I see him as the leader of the team and Layman as the glue-guy.
The Fish Bowl of Hype
I touched upon this a bit earlier, but I’ll talk about it more. Chris Bosh once called the whole hype, attention, expectation, and the long grind that comes with pressure a “fish-bowl.” He cited that as a reason why he didn’t take the max-offer to join Houston after LeBron left Miami, and I’ve been using that term ever since. Sometimes, teams aren’t ready for the media, opponent, and internal hype and expectations. Whether it’s that the teams are overrated or the constant attention takes a psychological toll, there have always been teams that get caught on the wrong side of the fish bowl. When you’re the favorite, you can’t take nights off because every team is trying to play their A-Game and make a statement. The media is also constantly going to ride the favorites when they do well, but lambaste them when they do poorly. So, it’s up to the coach to make sure everybody is humble, grounded, and plays hard for the right reasons. This team should absolutely look at themselves at title contenders, but Turgeon needs to make sure their heads are straight and they are trying to take it one game at a time, trying to get better each game, trying to learn from their mistakes, enjoy the season, and not do things out of anger/to prove doubters wrong.
Now of course, many teams with pre-season hype HAVE lived up to it. That being said, many teams jump into mind that had “bust” years given what they were expected to do. Plenty of teams have been ranked in the preseason top-10 and missed the tournament, like Florida this past year, but I’m now referring to those teams. I mean top-5 teams new to the spotlight that are expected to win their league and final-four or bust expectations. These teams still make the tournament, but aren’t title contenders, get a low seed, and get bounced early. 2012-13 NC State comes to mind and along with 2013-14 Oklahoma State. I won’t say 2013-14 Kentucky, because they weren’t “new” to the hype plus they made it to the title game. That being said, ideally I wouldn’t want Maryland to hit the lows that Kentucky team did during the regular season (remember when Calipari got ejected and they lost to South Carolina? I almost cried).
There have been teams that came off good years with early-exits that lived up to the expectation to some extent. One team that comes to my mind is the 2012-13 Wolverines. After getting bounced by a 13-seed in 2012, they had a great point guard return for his sophomore year in Trey Burke, who wound up being player of the year. Even that team though limped to the finish line before returning to elite form during the tournament. I hope the growing pains aren’t too painful.
So, what will make Maryland different than those teams? I think this team is a quiet and a “lead-by-example” type of team. Trimble is more reserved and leads by example. Layman even got labeled his freshman year as “painfully shy.” These guys play hard but you don’t see intense or aggressive body language, they just do it. They are still intense and locked in to win, but you don’t see too many obnoxious celebrations, chest thumps, or trash talking. They just kind of go out there and play, the way guys like Tim Duncan and Steph Curry do. Being humble and keeping your ground is going to be important not only in the national spotlight, but also in the Big Ten, when they will have to play gritty teams like Michigan State and well-coached teams like Wisconsin. That being said, I hope that Maryland has some growing “pains.” I don’t want them to slide too much, but I hope they can develop good chemistry and poise over the year. Also, it’d be nice if they weren’t the pre-season number one. In fact, it wouldn’t be all that bad if they weren’t the overall #1 seed.
I think it’s extremely very important that Mark Turgeon and the players can handle the fish bowl. With Maryland as the favorites for the Big Ten, they need to play hard night in and night out without getting too caught onto the media attention. Trimble can’t get flustered by small mistakes.
The Year of the Terp
The game to circle is the December 1st matchup with another top-5 preseason team in North Carolina with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. This will probably be the most talented team they will face in the non-conference slate, and that can be a good gauge of how the team has been developing. However, the schedule as a whole will have some games with good potential and chances for Maryland to see how good they can be.
For purposes of being in chronological order, the first game of note is the game against Georgetown on November 17th. The Gavitt Tipoff Games (essentially the Big East-Big Ten Challenge) will be a good first test for Maryland. It’s only the 2nd game of the season, so I won’t overreact to anything. However, the reason I may not watch this game in entirety is because that night is also the Champions Classic, which is always a great night of basketball. Kansas-Michigan State and Duke-Kentucky are definitely sexier games to watch. But hey, maybe the Kansas-MSU game won’t be close and I’ll stop watching. Georgetown-Maryland is a great consolation prize.
The matchup against Rhode Island/TCU in the Cancun Challenge could be something to tune into. Rhode Island could be a tournament team, and the game will be played in a neutral site. I also might tune into the Princeton game, but that’s because I have friends at Princeton (I don’t think Princeton is a tournament team).
Now, let’s dive into the biggest game on the non-conference schedule. Maryland will go to Chapel Hill to face another team that has title aspirations and is the favorite to win the ACC. While it would have been cooler to see a Duke-Maryland ACC-Big Ten Challenge (Sulaimon vs his old team, rekindle an old rivalry), I’m not complaining. North Carolina certainly has talent and depth. Marcus Paige vs Melo Trimble will be a litmus test of a few things. Will Marcus Paige be a more consistent version of the sophomore-year player he was, or will he have another down and sporadic year a la his junior year? How will Trimble fair against some of the best guards in the nation? Going up against Paige, Nate Britt and other talented guards will be good for Melo Trimble. Sulaimon will also be tested, because he may have to guard the point guard tandem along with some of the bigger wings. Oh, and he’s a former Duke Player, so that’ll be a cool subplot of the game. Another great potential takeaway is the frontcourt. Like I said, the frontcourt depth isn’t a strong point for Maryland, especially down low. This will be a good test to see if Carter and Stone and hold their own against quality big-men and stay out of foul trouble. If Marcus Paige can forget about his junior year and go back to what he did as a sophomore, that won’t be good for the Terps.
The last of the interesting nonconference games is the game on December 8th against Connecticut. The game is being played at Madison Square Garden, a neutral site. The Georgetown game is a home game and the Carolina game is a road game. Looking at performance on a neutral site doesn’t do a whole lot, but certainly helps a little bit with seeing what could happen in the tournament, when games are played on a neutral court. Plus, Connecticut has a talented plethora of guards and a shot-blocking rim protector in Brimah, so I’d love to see how they fare against a team that’s not necessarily a title contender on paper but definitely a good team.
Big Ten Battle
The Big Ten will be a deep conference this year, but I don’t see any potential title favorites/contenders outside of Maryland and Michigan State. Let’s break down this conference.
I expect Maryland to win all the home-only conference games, but there’s a chance they could slip up one. They will play Iowa, Illinois, Rutgers, and Penn State one time and those will be at home. This is a great opportunity for them, because by playing these teams once and playing them at home, they’ll be able to play better teams twice or on the road in a chance to bolster their resume for the tournament. I expect these games to be 4-0 Maryland, as Iowa is in for a rebuilding year, Illinois’ offseason doesn’t help them, and Penn State and Rutgers are the cellar dwellers of the Big Ten.
The home and away pairings will give Maryland a chance to play Michigan, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin. I think Michigan will bounce-back from last year and could be a real sleeper, so playing them twice will give Maryland a chance to make sure Michigan doesn’t surprisingly win the regular season title like they did in 2014. Ohio State and Wisconsin will probably regress, but those teams are always well-coached and should make the tournament. So, Maryland will need to handle business, and getting two road wins in Columbus and Madison will make me a little more confident in their ability to win on the road. Purdue returns AJ Hammons and gets Swanigan. They will have a terrifying front-line, so watching that game will either make me feel good about Maryland’s starting frontcourt or have me concerned about the post depth which I’ve already discussed. Northwestern won’t be making too much noise (sigh, that’s my dad’s school and they have never made an NCAA tournament). But, they are well-coached (their head coach is Doug Collins’ son) and Maryland shouldn’t take them lightly.
The away matchups are going to be awesome. Aside from being tested on the road, there are some great matchups that will be fun to watch. They will play Indiana, Michigan State, Nebraska, and Minnesota on the road. Nebraska and Minnesota shouldn’t make too much noise, and I expect those to be wins for Maryland. I mentioned that I think Michigan State is the other potential title contender I see in the Big Ten (in other words, I see them as 2nd in the Big Ten to Maryland). They are fresh off a Final Four, Denzel Valentine has that all-around intangible versatility that Draymond Green had, there’s a solid incoming freshman class, and West Virginia transfer Eron Harris will have a major impact. Indiana has what is in the running for best backcourt in the nation with Ferrell and Blackmon Jr. Sulaimon and Trimble obviously doesn’t agree with that. Indiana also added an All-American big man just like Maryland did.
So, here’s a good timeline of what to watch, when, and what to watch for. I’ve basically put everything I’ve written above into a shorter timeline with succinct headlines. If you’re interested in a summary or you didn’t feel like reading all those paragraphs, this is a better visual encapsulation of Maryland’s schedule. If you want to only catch the hyped up games along with some of the formidable opponents, use this guide. Also, just because a game isn’t on here that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be notable. But, if you’re a student or you’re compressed on time, these games should have priority.
November 17th vs Georgetown – Can Maryland beat a solid (unlikely national title contender but solid NCAA tournament team) on their home floor? Can Maryland embrace their status as favorites?
November 20th, 24th, 25th and 28th – Cancun Challenge. Will Maryland lose to a lesser-favored opponent? Can they handle okay but not great teams on a neutral court? Don’t watch all the Cancun Challenge games. Maybe tune in if it’s close in the clutch – it’d be great to see how Maryland responds (hopefully, with a win).
December 1st vs North Carolina – WATCH THIS GAME. This is the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. This is a matchup of two preseason favorites. Can Maryland beat a loaded team on the road? Is Melo Trimble better than Marcus Paige?
December 8th vs Connecticut – This game is going to be played at Madison Square Garden. These conditions are as close to a non-first round NCAA tournament game. This is a matchup with a worthy high-major opponent on neutral court with a hyped up crowd (MSG is going to be packed). Maryland might even play their first round NCAA tournament games in Brooklyn, so Madison Square Garden isn’t a bad super-early preview. Maryland has a talented guard trio, but how will they handle UConn’s bevvy of above-average and quality guards?
January 9th at Wisconsin – Maryland beat the Badgers in their lone matchup last year. Wisconsin won the Big Ten regular season, tournament, and wound up being the national runner-ups. Frank the Tank and Sam Dekker are gone, but Nigel Hayes will be ready. This is the first big road test for Maryland in conference play.
January 12th at Michigan – This is another road test. Michigan looks to bounce back after getting hit with the injury bug and underachieving last year. LeVert and Trimble will be frontrunners for Big Ten Player of the Year.
January 16th vs Ohio State – Finally, a good home game and it’s on Saturday! Even though I don’t think OSU will be a title contender, Thad Matta teams should never be underestimated. Sure, they lost D-Loading (Mr. Russell), but they have a talented freshman JaQuan Lyle to replace whatever you can replace of D’Angelo Russell. If Maryland loses this game, that won’t send a good message about their status in the Big Ten (a loss won’t screw over their season, but it’s going to hurt their resume more than a win would help their resume). To me, this is Sid’s squad vs Vivek’s squad. For purposes of making you read less, Maryland goes up to Columbus for a rematch January 31st.
January 23rd at Michigan State – The best road test for Maryland and their lone regular-season matchup with the team I think is the 2nd best in the Big Ten. Man, this should be on Valentine’s Day. How fitting would that be if they faced Denzel Valentine’s squad on February 14th? Izzo is one of the best coaches in the game, and so whether or not this team lives up to the hype, expect this to be a physical and well-coached game from Michigan State. Michigan State last year lost in double-overtime in Lansing very early in the Big Ten schedule. Trimble struggled from the field, but he made 12 of 14 free throws. Despite his poor shooting (2 for 13 from field, 1 for 8 from 3), Michigan State’s physicality put Trimble at the line and they paid for it. In their 2nd meeting, Michigan State let Trimble shoot. So, he only went 2-for-2 from the free throw line, but he made 6 threes on 11 attempts as they blew out MSU in College Park. Then, MSU narrowly beat Maryland in the conference tournament. As Maryland lost by 4, Trimble had a mixed bag. He went to the free throw line 6 times, shot above 40% from the field and from three, and finished with 22 points, but they lost. Too bad they only play once in the regular season (hopefully they’ll meet again in the postseason).
February 6th vs Purdue (and rematch on February 27th at Purdue) – Like I said earlier, that Purdue front line is tall and talented. This is a formidable foe and good test for Maryland’s frontcourt. Purdue is a likely tournament team, but they’ll be hungry to beat Maryland and try to be the best in the Big Ten. If the February 6th showdown is close, that’d make the 27th game interesting – who will make the better adjustments?
February 13th vs Wisconsin – This is the re-match from the January matchup. This time it’s a Saturday game in College Park. I’m sure there will be maybe a revenge storyline or maybe the first game will be so good we’ll salivate for more Wisconsin-Maryland.
February 21st vs Michigan – During February, Maryland has a lot of nice weekend home games that are against formidable conference opponents. This will be a good chance to gauge how they stack with the Big Ten and how they are heading into March.
March 5th or 6th at Indiana – In their lone matchup with Indiana late in the season, we’ll be able to see how Maryland can stack up against high-scoring and potent offenses along with one of the best backcourts in the Big Ten. This game may decide who has the best backcourt in the Big Ten and maybe the nation. If Maryland needs a quality resume booster for seeding late in the season, this is their last regular-season opportunity.
March (and hopefully April): The Big Ten Tournament will be right after the Big Ten regular and should end on March 13th, which is selection Sunday. Where will Maryland be seeded? Will they have lived up to expectations? Who is in their region? Will they extend their season to April and be playing in Houston? Will they cut down the nets, maybe more than once? So many questions, and we’ll have to wait and see how this plays out. The casual fan probably only cares about this last part of the calendar, but the build up from November to early March does add a bit of drama – opinions will formulate and there will most likely be ups and downs.
I’m knocking on so much wood right as I make these predictions. Luck is such a big part of college basketball. If you want to argue with me, feel free to shoot us an email and maybe your questions and concerns can make another column or podcast! But yeah, as you already know, Maryland is my pre-season title pick. I actually hope they don’t have the assertive-favorite status/title all year and that they aren’t the number one overall seed. I want them to learn their weaknesses and maybe hit some small downs early on (I don’t want their season to go totally downhill though). As I root for Maryland, I’m looking at the finish line and not the regular-season fame and glory. Let’s go Terps!