The Mark Turgeon era has been one of long-term decency, mixed with disappointments as it feels that Turgeon’s teams never exceed expectations. While the not exceeding expectations part is one of the more disappointing parts of his tenure, Maryland has been consistently good every year and this year should be no different. Turgeon won the early portion of the offseason by getting transfers Qudes Wahab (Georgetown) and Fatts Russell (Rhode Island), who will start at the 1 and the 5 for this team, while the departures of Aaron Wiggins and Darryl Morsell limit the upside of this team, the core is still intact and ready to make this Maryland team one of the good teams in College Basketball.
Let’s start this out with the transfers of Qudus Wahab and Fatts Russell as they will make the biggest difference for this team. Wahab comes into Maryland looking for a role on what is a better team in Maryland, Wahab is a 6’11 big man that is a monster up front. Wahab is a perfect modern-day big in that he is a good shot-blocker, rebounder, and great at scoring in the post. Wahab will look to improve upon his overall scoring ability in the post and hope to be one of the great bigs in the Big Ten. Fatts Russell will run the show at the point, while Russell’s inefficiency on offense and bad shot selection, leave a bitter taste, there’s definitely upside with taking a player like Fatts. He is a terrific defender, who will ball-hawk opponents’ guards, he also has the ability to score in bunches and can play a role as a true point guard. Ideally, Fatts just plays the role of facilitator and defensive specialist, while only shooting when open and if that is the case, Maryland will exceed my expectations.
Eric Ayala will look to continue to be the go-to scorer for this Terrapin team, Ayala took a big jump a season ago and should continue to be a true go-to scorer. Ayala is a good but not elite three-point shooter, while he excels at getting to and scoring around the rim as well. Expect Ayala to lead the Terrapins in scoring, while in a Big Ten that is heavily big man-oriented, Ayala could push for First-Team All-Conference honors. Donta Scott is a 6’7 forward that is a good shooter, while he is tough and physical on the defensive end. Scott played out of position and while that may have led to his long-range shooting efficiency rising, he will do well moving back to playing at the four where he is able to play his natural position.
Hakim Hart rounds out the starting-5 for this team, Hart is a 6’6 guard that had some major performances for this team, he still needs to improve as a shooter to be a great option at the 3. Xavier Green looks to push Hart for minutes at the 3, Green is a great, tough defender, who has shown an ability to knock down shots at a high level in the past, and should he do that, there’s a chance he moves into the starting-5 for this team as a 3-and-D option.
Julian Reese will play reserve minutes at the 5 for this Maryland team, the 6’9 freshman is a dynamic athlete, who will play with a high motor and should eventually carve out a role as a starting big man once Wahab leaves for what should be the NBA after this season. Ike Cornish projects as a wing that can knock shots down from distance, while Cornish has good athleticism, he will probably need time to develop. Ian Martinez looks to come in and fill a bench role for this team in a 10-15 minute per game setting.
For Maryland to have the ultimate team success, the key will be Fatts Russell. If Russell plays in a pass-first role, that unlocks both Ayala and Wahab to get better looks offensively while in turn, might also create open shots for Russell, Scott, Hart, and Green on the perimeter. Offensively this team has very high upside, with the amount of shooting at the guard spots, plus a dominant big man in Wahab, there should be no reason for this offense running anything but smoothly.
Defensively this team will be very good, Wahab brings in a level of shot-blocking that wasn’t there a season ago, while the rest of the roster is filled with great defenders. Russell is a great on-ball defender, Donta Scott and Xavier Green are tough to score against and the rest of the roster will defend as well. At a bare minimum, this team should be at least in the second round of the NCAA Tournament and if everything goes right, this team could make a Final Four. The one question that remains is whether or not a Mark Turgeon team can elevate themselves to that potential.
PG: Fatts Russell
SG: Eric Ayala
SF: Hakim Hart
PF: Donta Scott
C: Qudus Wahab
B1: Xavier Green
B2: Julian Reese
B3: Ike Cornish
B4: Ian Martinez