17-18 Season Preview: Maryland

Melo Trimble might have saved Maryland basketball.

That seems like odd praise for someone who never got past the Sweet Sixteen, or won a conference Player of the Year award. The Terps went 3-3 in NCAA Tournament games while Trimble was on the floor. And this is a program that's won a national championship, just 15 years ago.

But just prior to the arrival of Trimble, the program was in disarray. In its last season in the ACC, the Terps went 17-15, and did not make the NIT field. The team then lost several players to transfer. And while Trimble headlined a nice incoming class, it was probably optimistic to expect him to put up all-conference numbers as a freshman.

But he did just that. And the Terps won 28 games, some of them very close, and that was the first of a three-year run in which Maryland went 79-25.

There was help along the way of course (Diamond Stone, Dez Wells, Jake Layman, etc.), but Trimble was very clearly Maryland's best player over that span. And now he's gone, and it's time to see if the Melo Era was an aberration within a long decline, or the beginning of the resurgent program.

The good news is that the foundation appears to be in much better shape than it was three seasons ago. Trimble won't be easily replaced, but aside from him, you have Damonte Dodd—who offered defense and inconsistency, role player LG Gill, and spot-up shooter Jaylen Brantley. Coming back is the trio of last year's better-than-expected freshmen. Anthony Cowan figures to slide into the full-time point guard role, where he played capably when tasked last year. Kevin Huerter is something like a combo guard with forward length, and Justin Jackson appears to be custom-made for the "three and D" NBA archetype.

The question marks for this team revolve around the interior. The Terrapins have options (Ivan Bender, Michal Cekovsky, transfer Sean Obi, and incoming freshman Bruno Fernando), so it's likely Mark Turgeon will patch together some kind of solution. And paired with the offensive firepower from the perimeter, there should be ample opportunity for production. Obi might be the most intriguing—after a strong freshman season at Rice, Obi transferred to Duke where injuries contributed to almost a total lack of playing time. He could be anything from non-factor to better than average power conference center.

I don't expect Maryland to slip all that much, if at all, in the first post-Melo season. And, depending on how the roster holds together over the next couple of seasons, there could be very big things ahead for this group. Who knows what would have happened, had Trimble opted to go somewhere else.