For old time's sake, some idle thoughts on hoops:
1. Are the Terps good, resilient or just lucky?
I'll go with "resilient," because despite obvious flaws, and plenty of youth, the boys seem to hold it together in the clutch, thanks mainly to one of the game's great closers in Melo Trimble. They've gotten some breaks, and they have some talent, but the poise down the stretch has been impressive. They're finding ways to win.
2. Biggest surprise?
I might give the nod to Ivan Bender. No, he hasn't put up Chamberlain-esque numbers, but given the low expectations for him coming into the season, he's been a solid contributor. He'll never be a great post defender, but he scores when in position, passes the ball very well, and given his wrist injury, he gets major props to this point.
3. Biggest disappointment?
That goes to Dion Wiley, unfortunately. Some rust was expected given his long layoff, but a lot was expected from a guy who supposedly was going to start last year over Rasheed Sulaimon. My take on Wiley has always been the same: He has some talent, but he's never seemed to have confidence in his game. If you don't believe you can do it, chances are you won't. I sincerely hope he snaps out of it -- and soon.
4. Maryland’s chances against Pitt and Oklahoma State?
Mike Young, a 6-foot-9 forward, is going to be a problem for Maryland versus the Panthers, but I do think it's a winnable game. Oklahoma State has a killer backcourt (Juwan Evans is a pro), and athletes everywhere. Their full-court pressure against Anthony Cowan and Trimble is going to be a difficult challenge. I'll take a split and be happy if the Terps can get to the Big Ten schedule at 12-1.
5. What about the revolving door in the pivot?
At this point, if he's healthy, I am hoping the lion's share of the minutes go to Michal Cekovsky. The worst thing that happened to Cekovsky was Diamond Stone. All it did was slow his development, and it was done at the expense of a one year rental, who I believe is now in the D-League. Damonte Dodd can provide some defense, and Bender, while not being a stellar defender, doesn't hurt you offensively, and there's much better ball movement when he's on the court.
It's a three-headed monster I guess, and again, I am hoping Cekovsky breaks out and claims the job as his.
6. How will the Terps fare in the Big Ten?
I've seen every Big Ten team in action, and there are going to be some hiccups along the way for the Terps. Purdue, Indiana, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Iowa are all tough, and Northwestern looks solid as well. That said, Maryland could get out of the gates at 3-0 with Illinois, Nebraska, and Michigan as their first three games.
I wouldn't put the Terps in the top four or five teams right now, but let's see if the freshmen continue to grow or hit a wall. The one constant is Trimble. If he's at the top of his game, you give yourself a chance in most of these contests.
7. What impact will Bruno Fernando and Darryl Morsell have as freshmen?
I've seen Morsell twice in the past week; he's a warrior. His jump shot is shaky at best, but he's an excellent passer, defender and rebounder. He makes plays that help you win.
I am told Fernando has expanded his game, extended his range, and has always been known as a tough guy and impressive athlete. I would think, given the roster, both will play -- and play a lot as freshmen. The Terps are not a particularly tough team, and both these young men are physically ready for the Big Ten wars.
8. Thoughts on local juniors on the recruiting radar?
Jalen Smith (Mount St. Joseph/Baltimore, Md.) is progressing nicely. At the moment , he is not strong enough to dominate in the paint, but he projects as a stretch 4-man regardless, who runs the floor well and can disrupt defensively with his long arms.
I saw Prentiss Hubb (Gonzaga/Washington, D.C.) over the weekend. He lets the game come to him, never forces the issue and has an exceptional knowledge of the game. Despite a somewhat low release, Hubb can stroke it deep, he finds open shooters, and has a solid handle. He's not an elite athlete, but is very crafty and effective. I expect Maryland, Villanova, and Virginia to be heavily in the mix.
Brandon Slater (Paul VI/Fairfax, Va.) is the ultimate wing slasher, and a player with immense upside. Slater has range, and has improved his floor game. A very good athlete, Slater also has Maryland after him, along with Louisville, Virginia and others.
At this point, I wouldn't favor the Terps for Immanuel Quickley (John Carroll/Bel Air, Md.) or Kiyon Boyd (Woodson/Washington, D.C.), but Maryland should still get some consideration from both. One sleeper to keep an eye on: 6-6 wing Mezie Offurum (Georgetown Prep/Bethesda, Md.). I am told he's drastically elevated his game over the summer and one coach said, "he's better than D.J. Harvey" (the DeMatha product who popped to Notre Dame). We'll be scouting Offurum in December.
9. Biggest need in 2018 recruiting?
Dodd will be gone and Cekovsky will be a senior. So unless the Terps find a late '17 big man in the spring, I'd say signing a big (or two) is critical. Moses Brown (Archbishop Molloy/Jamaica, N.Y.) and Dave McCormack (Oak Hill/Herndon, Va.) are the main targets. Maryland has to sign at least one of them. I'd also like to see them find a forward who can flat out "get buckets." Someone is going to have to replace the points that Trimble is currently producing.
10. What about 2017 recruiting?
At the moment, the Terps are booked solid. Clearly, its a safe bet that Trimble, assuming he stays healthy and continues to play at a high rate, will be gone. I don't see Ikey Obiagu (Greenforest McCalep/Decatur, Ga.) choosing the Terps in the Spring, but he'd be a wonderful addition from a defensive and rebounding standpoint. I would expect the staff to scour the prep-school ranks to see if a late-blooming big still emerges.
11. Will Mark Turgeon shorten the bench?
He probably has to. Wiley and Jared Nickens are giving the team very little at the moment, and neither has the defensive skills to contribute when their shots are not falling. It's going to be awfully hard to keep rotating 11 players in and out. I feel bad in a way for Wiley and Nickens, but Turgeon has certainly given both plenty of chances to get out of their collective funks.
That's a tough call. I'd love to see this team run and press more, but until it starts to do a better job on the boards, it's a tall task. I don't think a little "chaos" on both ends of the court would be a bad thing at all. The Terps have got enough depth to keep everyone fresh.
13. Overall state of the program?
I'm not sure how the Terps are 7-0, but there's a nice foundation to go forward with . You've got three talented freshmen to build around. Fernando and Morsell will be nice additions, and one has to hope Michal Cekovsky emerges as a semi-dominant big man later this year, or as a senior.
Stands to reason that the 2018 recruiting class has to be a monster, however, as the program goes forward. That should be a 4 or 5 man class, and has to include some prospects ready to roll from Day One.