The first Maryland men's basketball exhibition game is less than a week away, so let's do one final Q&A prior to the opening tip:
What's the effect of the Smotrycz injury?
It hurts, because Smotrycz is a senior, knows the system and would have been a starter. Plus, he can really stretch the defense. That said, it affords others, like Michael Cekovsky, and even Richaud Pack, a better chance to show their stuff. It's also better to have him go down now than in January. He should be back by early December barring any setbacks.
How important was the Jaylen Brantley commitment?
It was huge, because now you have margin for error for next year in the event Melo Trimble struggles running the point, or if he, or another guard, goes down with an injury. Brantley isn't going to wow anyone, but he has plenty of subtle skills, and knows how to play. The kid's a winner, he wants to be here and he has three years to contribute to the program. Kudos to Mark Turgeon and Dustin Clark for getting this done ... quickly.
Will Ivan Bender be a Terp?
We still think so, and it appears he was on campus this past weekend. Everything is very hush-hush on the 6-foot-9 forward from Croatia. When things are that quiet, it usually indicates something is "up." Regardless of how quickly this plays out, I do not expect to see Bender on the court this year. You have decent depth up front, and Bender would be way behind in learning the system, even if he has recovered from his knee injury, and that's still unknown at this time. But it does look like he will be part of the 2015 class at this point.
What's the latest on Diamond Stone?
Stone (Dominion/Whitefish Bay, Wisc.) just completed his Wisconsin official visit, and now has UConn coming up this weekend. There are conflicting reports as to whether or not he will announce his college intentions on November 12, but in any event we don't see this recruitment dragging on too much longer. As I've stated before, I still have UConn as the presumed leader. Maryland has made it interesting, and stranger things have happened, but I'd be surprised -- no, I'd be shocked -- if Maryland gets the nod.
Are there any other official visits scheduled for this Fall?
None that I am aware of. Maurice O'Field (Midland College/Midland, Texas) may well visit in the spring. O'Field, or perhaps another wing, could be the third piece of the recruiting class, along with Brantley and Bender.
Do we see any other 2015 recruiting priorities at this time?
Luis Montero (Westchester CC/Westchester, N.Y.) is down to five or six schools, and the 6-8 wing is no longer showing interest in the Terps. Yankuba Sima (Arlington Country Day/Jacksonville, Fla.) is interested in the Terps, but also seems infatuated with Louisville. We'll have to wait and see if Sima (6-11) pops in the fall or waits until the spring to decide. He could become more of a priority in the weeks and months ahead, as the Terps have offered. It's a given that Maryland will continue to scour the country for anyone who can help next year, but, overall, things seem pretty quiet with the '15 class, and more emphasis seems to be placed on the '16 and '17 classes.
How's the 2016 class shaping up?
We've talked often about all the '16 point guards under consideration. We'll have to wait and see how the Brantley commitment affects that. The need for another point guard isn't quiet as urgent, but then again, both Trimble and Brantley will be juniors by the time another floor leader might be added, so there will still be minutes available. Things change, but I'd see a point guard, wing and another big man in the '16 class. Some players who are seemingly getting plenty of attention now are Anthony Cowan (St. John's/Washington, D.C.); Brandon Robinson (Douglas County/Douglasville, Ga.); Bryce Aiken (Patrick School/Newark, N.J.); Markelle Fultz (DeMatha Catholic/Hyattsville, Md.); Corey Manigault (Paul VI/Fairfax, Va.); Sedee Keita (22 Feet Academy/Greenville, S.C.); DeAndre Hunter (Friends School/Wynnewood, Pa.); Alterique Gilbert (Miller Grove/Lithonia, Ga.); and Devonte Green (Long Island Lutheran/Long Island, N.Y.).
Who's the backup point guard on this year's team?
It looks like it will be Richaud Pack. He doesn't have much experience running the point, but does know the game very well, plays with poise and looks like an excellent teammate. The question is, Does he have the handle to withstand ball pressure? We should know that answer before the end of November.
Are the expectations on freshman Melo Trimble unreasonable?
Yes, because though Trimble is a talent, he's in the unenviable position of having to run the show from Day One. Trimble simply doesn't have the luxury of "easing" into his role like most freshmen. I've tried to temper the fans enthusiasm a bit. I saw Trimble perhaps 10 times last year, and it was an uneven ride at times, particularly in terms of ball-handling and forcing the issue offensively. At O'Connell (Arlington, Va.), Trimble simply had to score and do it all for the Knights to compete. There will be enormous pressure on the freshman, but the good thing is he knows that and is a seasoned, hard-nosed competitor who should be able to handle the ups and downs that will inevitably occur. But I would still stress patience from the fan base.
Can this team handle injuries?
We'll know soon, since Smotrycz is already on the shelf. You've got adequate depth, but let's be honest, injuries to Trimble or Dez Wells would be catastrophic. No one else can do the things those two can. But for a program which has seen its fair share of adversity in the past couple years, the Terps seem due for some good fortune on the injury front.
What are the key non-conference games ?
You have Virginia, Arizona State, Oklahoma State, Fordham and either Iowa State or Alabama. The way we see it, the Terps have to win three of these games to have a realistic chance of dancing. Virginia at home and Oklahoma State on the road are awfully tough challenges. I'd feel OK going against the Crimson Tide, but Iowa State is a high octane program with tons of athletes.
What's a realistic "window" for this program going forward?
After the recent exodus of players who didn't really seem to be on the same page as the coaching staff, it appears Turgeon has a group of committed, dedicated players all pointing towards a common goal. The dilemma is this: I am not sure there's enough experienced talent, top to bottom, for this year's team to make the tournament. Some have pointed towards next year as the time where it all comes together, when transfer Robert Carter is eligible and this year's freshmen are a year older.
Perhaps, but losing Wells, Pack, Jonathan Graham and Smotrycz is a significant hit. There are some nice pieces here in the next couple years, but are there enough of them? The next two years will go a long ways towards establishing the direction and future of this program, but for now Terps fans should concentrate on Wagner Nov. 14, and then go from there.
We'll take a stab at Big Ten predictions in next week's Dish. Once you get past Wisconsin, it's kind of a free for all, where injuries and luck will be huge factors in how the standings will look come next March. So, I'll run the teams down 1-14. Feel free to comment on how wrong I will turn out to be.
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