(photo courtesy of http://www.testudotimes.com/)
It has finally happened. Maryland has been ranked as an AP top 10 team in college basketball. The last time Maryland cracked the top 10 was in 2002. In 2002, “Complicated” by Avril Lavine was the top song on the radio, Tom Brady just won his first Super Bowl, Lilo and Stitch was the top Disney movie, and I was 4 years old.
Let that sink in really quick. Now add the fact that 2002 was also the last time Maryland won a National Championship.
This is a HUGE deal for the Terps. After coming off a big home win over Wisconsin (6) and a double digit win over a solid Michigan team, the Terps have been playing fantastic team basketball. This ranking may simply be a moral victory for college park —what do week 17 rankings really mean? — but it is recognition that there is something special going on in College Park. Senior Dez Wells has been playing at a phenomenal level. He is the most dominant player on the court on any given night. He averages a 15.0 ppg, 4.8 reb, and 2.8 ast, but watching the game makes you feel like he averages 30, 15, and 10. He plays with so much passion that you know the game is in his control. He can do it all and I have yet to see someone totally shut him down.
Obviously, we can’t look over standout freshmen point guard Melo Trimble. He’s an obvious difference between this Maryland team from last year’s (look at what happens when you recruit within the area!). He’s averaging 16 ppg and 3.1 ast as a freshmen point guard in a very talented conference of guards. I want to publically apologize to Melo. I have doubted his skill as a “true point guard” and a perimeter defender all season. I was wrong. Melo has convinced me over the past few games that he is something special. He has a poise and awareness at the point guard position that is hard to find at any level. I can’t wait to see the skills he will develop throughout the rest of his career. If he stays all four years at Maryland, there is a good chance his jersey will be hanging in the rafters of the Xfinity Center one day
Aside from the two stars, Maryland has a very balanced attack. Jake Layman is averaging 13.2 ppg and 6.2 reb and is the only other player averaging double figures. Evan Smotrycz (his defense has gotten a LOT better), Dion Wiley, Michal Chekovsky, Damonte Dodd, Jared Nickens, and Richaud Pack have all played significant roles within this team. The offensive attack of Coach Turgeon’s team is incredibly balanced. Between the shooters, the guys that can drive the lane, and the big-men who can post you up, defenses become lost in who to defend.
No team is perfect, and they are going to have their skids throughout the season. Ohio State and Iowa are really the only “bad” losses this team has, and those are two very respectable teams. Even so, this Maryland team doesn’t feel like what it was a month ago or even 2 weeks ago. They are playing an elite brand of basketball with a lot of ball movement and strong defense.
This team is one to watch out for as tournament season begins. They are getting hot when it counts, and I don’t know of a team that they could not at least hang with for 48 minutes of basketball.
There is a special feeling in College Park right now. The students have made the Xfinity Center arguably the best home court in college basketball. Everyone is behind this team.
Nothing has actually been accomplished yet, but there is reason to get excited. Coach Turgeon has an incredibly talented team, and he’s looking like Garry Williams the way he is sweating in his suit (perhaps the greatest compliment I could give a coach). He has brought this team together and finally has a team that is playing his style of basketball.
There is a lot of work still to be done, but Terps fans should be excited and looking forward to an eventful March.