TTDan's Hoops Dish

Dan Painter comments on the Maryland women's team, and gives a breakdown of how the men's team will wrap up 2014 recruiting and where they stand with 2015 targets.

We mentioned a few weeks ago that it would only be fitting if the Maryland women's basketball team would make a deep run in the tournament. Their early exit from the ACC Tournament was a disappointment, and the Dance was the last opportunity for superstar Alyssa Thomas to go out on a high note.

Fortunately for Maryland, that run now continues with Tuesday night's impressive, but gut wrenching, win over Louisville on the Cardinals' home court. Lots of individuals stood out. Katie Rutan with her four treys in the first half. Freshman Lexie Brown with 20 points in a pressure packed scenario. And, of course, Thomas, who chipped in her normal double-double with 22 points and 13 rebounds.

Next comes Notre Dame in the Final Four, a team that narrowly defeated the Terps several months ago. In that game, Maryland got down by 20 only to stage a furious rally and come within two points at the end of regulation. The Irish will be without star forward Natalie Achonwa, who tore her ACL, and that's definitely a major loss.

Notre Dame will still be favored, and top to bottom still is probably the better team, but Maryland is on a roll now, and I can't imagine anyone having more confidence than they do at the moment. The Terps have made this a special year, as they've reached the Final Four for the first time since they won the title in 2006. It's all gravy from here on out, and Maryland has absolutely nothing to lose.

As for Thomas, this is the way you want to finish your career in College Park. I never like to say a certain player is the "greatest" to play at Maryland, because there are different eras, different styles of play, different coaches, etc. But she certainly is in the discussion as the greatest women's basketball player ever to don a Terps' uniform. Malissa Coleman, Crystal Langhorne, Vicky Bullett, Deanna Tate, Kristi Toliver, and then going back a ways, Tara Heiss and Jaz Perazic come to mind. But the numbers don't lie. Thomas has been a superstar here for four years, both on and off the court.

You don't replace an Alyssa Thomas -- you just don't. But there's an awfully good junior forward in St. Louis right now that the Terps apparently want badly. That would be Napheesa Collier, 6-foot-1, from Incarnate Word Academy. Most services have her rated in the national top 10.

Some other quickie thoughts and nuggets:

Keep an eye on the transfer lists that are now expanding almost daily. I don't think the Terps would pass up a really good transfer that would have to sit out a year, but more likely they will be targeting a fifth year big who can play immediately, in my opinion. There won't be a ton of quality bigs available who fit that description, but it seems like that would be a priority if one surfaces.



Keep in mind, spring recruiting is really basically one weekend (April 25-27) this year, because of newly mandated NCAA rules. I don't really get their line of reasoning, but it's going to make evaluations more difficult, and delay some offers until the next open period in July. And yes, more mistakes will be made by staffs because of the limited viewings. More mistakes lead to more transfers, etc.

Great to hear that Romelo Trimble has been playing well at the McDonald's All American practices.

We're expecting Maryland to be back down before long to get another look at Chris Clarke (Cape Henry Collegiate/Virginia Beach, Va.) , who now has West Virginia recruiting him. I believe there are a few days where you can watch workouts at the player's school, though sill not being allowed to attend tournaments and the like. Clarke, who has a Maryland offer, falls squarely in that "glue guy/athlete" category along with Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.) swingman Josh Reaves, who could land an offer in July.

I was almost relieved to add Florida junior John Collins (Cardinal Newman/West Palm Beach, Fla.) to the list of bigs in 2015 that the Terps are looking at, because outside of Georgios Papagiannis (Westtown/West Chester, Pa.), I didn't really have any other realistic big man targets on the list.

We've not seen Collins, who definitely falls into the sleeper category, but the videos (which obviously show positive plays) look impressive. But again, it sounds like Terps assistant Bino Ranson was one of the first major college coaches to get in the mix with Collins, and head coach Mark Turgeon has already been down to see him, so no one can complain about the work ethic of this staff, and its ability to identify targets early.

As the transfer list grows, so too does the list of coaching changes. At this time, I've not heard any solid leads in terms of Terp coaches landing elsewhere, but normally a lot of those slots are filled around the Final Four, so let's see what happens then.

In terms of Terp transfers, my gut feel is that two players will be moving on. And no, speculating on who those might be at this time is not something I will delve into. It's not fair to the player, his family, or the program. But yes, Michal Cekovsky (Canarias Basketball Academy/Spain) is still a prime 2014 target, and I still believe a fifth year player is a possibility, so let's wait and see how it plays out in the next few weeks.

It's going to be interesting to see if the Terps can hang in there with Esa Ahmad (Shaker Heights, Ohio), whose list of suitors expands every week. At this point, I'd be surprised if he doesn't wind up in the Big Ten, though, as schools in that conference continue to offer him, along with Cincinnati just a few days ago.

Ahmad may wind up a national top 50 guy before it's all over, and landing him over traditional Big Ten powers (like Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan State, etc.) would be a major coup for the Terps. I am still not sure Maryland can pull this off, but from all reports, there's no one on their radar that they're going after any harder.

We expect Paul VI guard Franklin Howard to declare for Syracuse on April 14.

Not that Maryland will be a major factor, but it will be interesting to see big time center Diamond Stone (Dominican/Milwaukee, Wisc.) winds up. He'd been favored to pick Marquette, but with Buzz Williams gone, and Steve Wojciechowski now in, let's see if that changes the landscape. Supposedly North Carolina could be a factor, and at this point, Terps fans would probably prefer him there than Wisconsin for obvious reasons. Then again, the Badgers may wind up landing Josh Sharma (Mt. Hermon/Northfield, Mass.), another former target of the Terps.

One 2015 target I would like to see Maryland land is 6-2 guard Jalen Adams (Cushing Academy/Ashburnham, Mass). Yes, he's probably more of a two-guard than a point, but this kid has a lot of Shabazz Napier in him. The creativity, the explosiveness, the range and the knack for game winning plays are all in his DNA. An Adams/Trimble backcourt would be dynamite.

I talked to a nationally respected scouting associate this past weekend from Philadelphia who saw a lot of Maryland signees Jared Nickens and Trayvon Reed this year. His comments:

"Nickens had a very good year. His handle and creative ability really improved. He just needs to get stronger. Reed had a tremendous year, just got better as the year went along. He got more assertive offensively, and his length will give Maryland something they don't have now: a rim protector."

However, in the interest of full disclosure, lots of local scouts and media have some concerns about Terps incomer Dion Wiley, in terms of his play this year and also his physical condition. UMD fans have to hope the light comes on this summer for Wiley, who has loads of natural talent.

Again, I would expect a lot of Seth Allen at the two-guard slot next year, and Nickens could get some run there, so obviously guaranteed minutes for Wiley (or anyone really) should not be guaranteed.

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