There hasn't been this much off-season buzz about a Maryland team since the Terps went to back-to-back Final Fours. Unfortunately for Mark Turgeon, most of the talk continues to surround the mass exodus of players in the aftermath of a disappointing 17-15 season.
But if you look at the players who left and those who will ultimately replace them, a few of Turgeon’s mushrooming list of detractors might find a moment to pause and take a deep breath.
If they still had the five scholarship players who have decided to transfer this offseason, the Terps would have had more depth and experience. But that also would have likely given Turgeon more headaches when it came to managing an unwieldy rotation.
Ultimately, it might have made the Terps even less cohesive than they appeared last season.
Let’s take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the five players who left compared to the six coming in:
Melo Trimble vs. Roddy Peters: Trimble is the most hyped incoming Maryland point guard since John Gilchrist, and given his status as a McDonald’s All-American, maybe since John Lucas. Living up to the hype will likely be more difficult with the scrutiny he will get in light of Seth Allen’s departure, but the fact that the coaches were confident enough in Trimble to move Allen to shooting guard had he stayed shows what they believe Melo can do. Even if Peters had stayed, he would have seen his playing time dwindle even more than it did for long stretches last season.
Edge: Trimble (both short term and long term).
Dion Wiley and Richaud Pack vs. Seth Allen: Obviously, Allen’s loss as a scorer will be a big issue heading into the season, but the addition of the experienced Pack, who averaged 17 points per game at North Carolina A&T last season, will ease some of the burden on Wiley and force him to fight for playing time behind Dez Wells. Wiley’s size (6-5 compared to Allen’s 6 foot) and range as a 3-point shooter -- plus Pack’s ability to get to the free throw line (where he is an 80 percent shooter) -- could make up for what the Terps would have lacked in Allen. If Wiley can play any defense, he will be ahead of where Allen was in his two years. If Pack can add leadership and maturity to a locker room badly in need of both, Maryland should be a better team for it.
Edge: Allen (short term); Even or Wiley (long term)
Jared Nickens vs. Nick Faust: As much as Faust had his detractors, there is no question that the 6-6 shooting guard from Baltimore will be missed for his defense and energy. But as long as Nickens shows the ability to take good shots and not turn the ball over – sometimes against barely any pressure – he will provide Turgeon with a steadier, headier player than Faust was for most of his three years. Nickens comes into College Park with a chip on his shoulder as the least heralded player in Maryland’s top 10 recruiting class. Based on how he looked at the recent Capital Classic, where he appeared to be bigger and stronger than when he first signed with the Terps, he might have an easier time adjusting to the physicality of the game than Faust did as a freshman. As long as he accepts his role as a complementary player, something Faust obviously struggled with, Nickens could prove to be a pretty valuable player off the bench.
Edge: Faust (short term, maybe very short term considering the addition of Wiley on the wing); Nickens (long term, four years vs. one)
Michal Cekovsky vs. Charles Mitchell: It’s hard to compare the 7-footer from the Slovakia to the barely 6-8 (or even 6-7) Mitchell, who made up what he lacked in height with bulk and a pretty good motor, especially on the offensive boards. Cekovsky is considered potentially a stretch 4, and he already possesses ball skills that several of his future teammates don’t have and will never get. One NBA general manager told me Cekovsky will likely be at Maryland for two years based on what scouts have already seen of him in Europe. The Terps will certainly have to find someone to take Mitchell’s spot as a voracious rebounder, but his deficiencies as a finisher (the memory of those shots against Duke won’t be erased any time soon) and free throw shooter (41 percent over two years) made him a late-game liability.
Edge: Mitchell (short term); Cekovsky (long term, maybe by the middle to end of his freshman year)
Trayvon Reed vs. Shaquille Cleare: Reed will be one of the tallest Maryland players ever, and Turgeon has said that he is further along defensively than Alex Len was coming in as a freshman. “He could be like a Mutombo,” Turgeon said of the 7-1 ½ Reed last fall. The Terps need a rim-protector in the worst way after a season in which Wells and Jake Layman led the team in blocked shots. Cleare never lived up to the hype that followed out of high school in Texas – where he now returns as a member of the Longhorns – but his “little bag of tricks” as the affable 6-9 center called it was limited to a baby hook. Reed has a long way to go offensively, but after playing his senior year for former No. 1 draft pick and Final Four MVP Pervis Ellison up in New Jersey, he could be to next season’s Maryland team what Connecticut’s Amida Brimah was for the national champion Huskies as a freshman last season.
Edge: Reed (short term and long term).