Five Things To Watch For In Terps Hoops

Here are five things to watch for in Terps men's hoops this year:

We probably said this last October: This is a crucial year for Maryland men's hoops. Well, it's even more critical now. After three straight years with no Dance, Maryland basketball has reached a crossroads. After a rough year on the court, and perhaps even a rougher year off it, head coach Mark Turgeon has a revamped roster ready, and Terps fans hope, able to make some noise in 2014-15. Here are five questions whose answers could very well determine any success this group achieves.

1. What will the "Trimble effect" be?

It's not an ideal situation when the first critical element of the season could revolve around the success of a freshman point guard. But there's little doubt that Melo Trimble will be under enormous pressure to produce positive results from day one. Keep in mind, Trimble, a graduate of Bishop O'Connell HS in Arlington, Va., has played the position for one year. Truth be told, Trimble had some rocky outings last year in the WCAC, mainly with turnovers and withstanding ball pressure. To think it will be an easy ride in the Big Ten is fool's gold. He'll have to navigate the position while coordinating his efforts with a whole new cast of characters. Be prepared for some scintillating moments from Trimble, and others that might be tough to watch.

That said, the good news for UMD is that Trimble has played against the very best high school competition out there, both at O'Connell and in AAU ball. The guy is a winner, strong mentally and physically, and not afraid of a challenge. He'll struggle against the quick athletes in the Big Ten, but also has plenty of skills and polish to his game. Finally, you simply hope and pray Trimble stays healthy; an injury at the point guard position would be catastrophic.

2. Who controls the paint?

I'd love to be able to give you one name that could dominate the frontcourt, but that doesn't appear to be the case at this point. It looks like it will take a joint effort to patrol the inside and keep things from getting out of hand.

Damonte Dodd looks like the best shot blocker and intimidator. Can he be a force at all on the offensive end of the court? It's a legit question, and the answer is probably "no," but he'll have to convert dunks and "chippies" in order to stay in the game and be a positive factor.

Jon Graham will play, just based on the hustle, toughness and heart he displayed last year. As a senior, he'll also have to provide leadership to a program which desperately needs it.

Michal Cekovsky, from the little we've seen in the summer, has far and away the best offensive talent of the bigs, so he too can have an impact. With him, it's a question of how quickly he picks up the system, and will he be strong enough to bang inside with the big boys?

3. Style of play?

Turgeon mentioned something over the summer about "playing like the Spurs." That's easier said than done. In order to do that, ball movement is a requisite. Do the Terps have enough guards and perimeter players to keep the rock moving and to find open shooters? Trimble is a willing passer, and fellow freshman Dion Wiley is as well, despite both being primarily known as shooters. Fifth year senior Robert Pack is also known as a smart player who knows how to play the game.

Last year gave us countless examples of poor shot-clock management, poor ball movement, and lots of one-on-one play. Terps fans hope hope they have seen the last of that. The positive news is that if the ball is moving, the Terps have shooters. Trimble, Wiley, Pack, Jake Layman, Evan Smotrycz and Jared Nickens can all stroke it, and Dez Wells has shown he can score as well.

4. What about team chemistry?

We don't need to go over the attrition issues any longer. But it's not exactly a national secret that there were some "me first" attitudes on last year's squad. If this group blends together, both on and off the court, there's enough talent to have a successful season. Wells, Smotrycz, Graham and Pack provide outstanding senior leadership, and it will be their responsibility to hold things together, especially during a tough road game in January in the Big Ten. There will be trials and tribulations along the way, and those guys must step up when things go south.

But again, it might again go back to item No. 1: When things get dicey, you look to the point guard to keep running the sets, calling out the plays, and being a true floor general.

As it looks right now, a lot of that pressure will fall on Trimble, a freshman. How he handles it will go a long way in determining success or failure. What we do feel good about, though, is the closeness this group seems to have acquired during the summer. That positive chemistry is a definite plus.

5. Who's the "man," the true team leader, the key to success in '14-'15?

It's Wells, no doubt about it. While Layman and Smotrycz have had their moments, Wells is the one given, the one proven scorer, the one who has shown he can deliver in the clutch on a fairly regular basis. The guy has been a warrior since his arrival here, he has been a solid teammate and seems to have a strong affinity for the university, which gave him a chance after leaving Xavier.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you he's a surefire NBA guy, or a Big Ten first team selection, but if anyone is going to get this program to the Dance, it will likely be Wells. A huge year from the Raleigh, N.C., native will go a long way towards achieving that goal.

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