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2019 Maryland Basketball Preview

You guys really didn’t think you were getting out of Maryland week without some basketball content, did you?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Maryland vs LSU John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

After losing on a last second four steps without a dribble buzzer beater in the NCAA Tournament to LSU, where does Maryland go in 2019? Bruno Fernando has left for the NBA, leaving a gaping hole in the middle of the paint on Maryland’s roster. Luckily, stretch four Jalen Smith is returning, hopefully putting on some weight while he’s at it, as is the rest of Maryland’s core lineup from 2018.

What does the roster look like now?

Luckily for Maryland, they haven’t lost much from last season. Turgeon loved to harp on how young his team was but now that will play to his advantage going into next season.

Key Departures

Bruno Fernando by far is the biggest departure, choosing to enter the NBA Draft where he is a projected 1st round pick. Fernando averaged a double double for most of the season last year and was able to, at times, carry the Maryland team. Reserve forward Ivan Bender, a favorite of Mark Turgeon’s that made fans cringe when he entered the game, also graduated after his senior season.

Key Additions

Maryland brings in yet another large recruiting class in 2019, which will really limit them in 2020 where it appears they are thinking that more than just graduating seniors will be leaving. Highlighting Maryland’s five man class is Makhi Mitchell, Donta Scott, and Chol Marial. Maryland also brought in Hakim Hart and Makhel Mitchell, both of which look like redshirt candidates that would spread this class out some. I would not be surprised if Hakim Hart ends up getting Creaned as Trace Ramsay was this year for MD but he has a much more impressive high school tape than what Ramsay brought to the table so there is better hopes for development.

Expect Makhi and Chol Marial to split minutes at center, alleviating the need for Jalen Smith to play out of position other than when Maryland goes small ball. That is, if Chol can play. He was once a five star, best in his class talent that has been hampered by shin splints the last 1.5 years in his lanky 7-2 frame. Donta Scott will make key contributions off the bench at both the 3 and 4, a well built frame that can both knock down outside shots and slash inside.

Here is the expected breakdown of contributions, by position:

PG - Anthony Cowan, Eric Ayala

SG - Darryl Morsell, Eric Ayala, Serrel Smith

SF - Aaron Wiggins, Donta Scott

PF - Jalen Smith, Ricky Lindo, Donta Scott

F/C - Makhi Mitchell, Chol Marial, Jalen Smith

It is widely expected that Turgeon is going to move Anthony Cowan back on the ball, ending the experiment of moving him off the ball for the a more pure PG in Eric Ayala. Ayala will see major minutes, especially if he continues to improve his outside shooting that was a pleasant surprise in 2018. Aargon Wiggins is expected to make a huge sophomore year leap, so much so that many NBA draft sites have him going in the first round as a fringe lottery pick in the mid teens. He’ll firmly have himself on the floor almost at all times.

The biggest question mark right now is the rotation at center. Makhi MItchell is likely to start but getting contributions from Chol Marial, even only ten minutes a game, will be key. If not, Makhel Mitchell is likely burning that redshirt to spell his brother and give him a breather. Other than that, I expect that Morsell and Ayala will battle it out to start and it comes down to whether or not Turgeon is going to value defense or offense on the floor to start the game. I’d expect Morsell to be on the floor if Wiggins is considering Wiggins biggest weakness is he looks like prominent mid-2000s PSU offensive linemen Turnstyle when playing defense.

What is the season outlook?

Many national analysts are really high on the Terps heading into the 2019 season. Maryland is a consensus pre-season Top 10 team, expected to finish 2nd in the Big Ten behind Michigan State (pre-season number 1). Me? Maryland had the talent to do this last year too but Mark Turgeon is a real thing you need to factor in. He no longer has Ivan Bender to substitute in, thank the lord, but Joshua Tomaic looks primed to grab that role of random dude off the bench Turgeon subs in for four minutes a game that is a straight negative contribution. His substitution patterns and lack of forcing pace when he recruits players that can play fast really hold his teams back. I’m skeptical until he proves me wrong there.

What’s 2020 recruiting look like?

Maryland already has a commitment from local 4 star combo guard Marcus Dockery, who is looking more like a two guard coming in than a point guard. Maryland is very high on Daishen Nix and Karim Mane, five and borderline five star PGs, as well as actively looking for a PF replacement for Jalen Smith, who should be departing for the NBA after this season. They have targets they’re in on but I’ll defer for now until the content is more publicly available and not on pay services.