Now that Maryland is considered one of the top teams in the country with a legitimate chance of making the 2016 Final Four, it's going to be interesting to compare the Terps to the other teams in the top five. As the Terps get ready to start the season Friday against Mount St. Mary's, we will take a look at how Mark Turgeon's team stacks up.
We already examined how Maryland matches up against No. 1 North Carolina; now, let's take a look at No. 2 Kentucky.
Frontcourt: After losing first-round NBA draft choices Karl Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley Stein, as well as Dakari Johnson, the Wildcats are hoping that Skal Labissiere, the No. 2 recruit in the country last year, does what Towns and Anthony Davis were able to do as freshman. Kentucky also will be counting heavily on senior forward Alex Poythress, who averaged more than 11 points and six rebounds as a freshman but is coming off knee surgery that limited his junior year to eight games, as well as Marcus Lee, who will finally get a shot at being a fulltime starter. On paper, it seems that Labissiere is a lock to be an immediate star, even more so than Diamond Stone is in College Park. Poythress' stats went down as a sophomore and was averaging just 5.3 points and 3.8 rebounds before he was injured last season. Lee has had only one memorable game in his otherwise lackluster career, 10 points off the bench against Michigan two years ago in the NCAA tournament. Robert Carter Jr. had 10 double doubles in his two seasons at Georgia Tech. Again, the Terps have the luxury of moving Jake Layman to the 3 and using him to spell Carter at the 4 as well. The depth behind Stone and Carter of Damonte Dodd and Michal Cekovsky also helps Maryland in case of foul trouble.
Backcourt: The departure of first-round pick Devin Booker and the Harrison twins gives plenty of opportunity for point guard Tyler Ulis as well as freshmen Isaiah Briscoe and Jamal Murray to show off their skills. Ulis is being heralded for his basketball IQ and has been compared to everyone from Jason Kidd to Sam Cassell as a point guard who is more a savant than a freak athlete. Murray demonstrated his maturity as one of the stars of the Canadian national team in last summer's Pan Am Games and his talent as the MVP of the Nike Hoop Summit. Briscoe was rated the No. 1 high school point guard in the country last year after Ulis was No. 4 the year before. There's a chance that John Calipari might play the three of them together at times, along with Labissiere and one of the forwards. The Wildcats might have more NBA talent in the backcourt – at least potential NBA talent – but the Terps could have the advantage in terms of numbers, even with the recent injury to backup shooting guard Dion Wiley. Melo Trimble is similar to Ulis in not being considered a world-class athlete, and might not be as true a point as his Kentucky counterpart, but has an advantage in terms of strength and shooting ability. The rotation of Duke transfer Rasheed Sulaimon and sophomore wing Jared Nickens, as well as sophomore transfer Jaylen Brantley, might not have the hype of Murray and Briscoe, but for now they are more experienced.
Assessment: Since this is not a matchup that can occur until late March – and maybe even early April – the Wildcats are certainly going to be a more mature and probably cohesive team by then than they are going into the season after losing their top seven players from last year's near-unbeaten team. The most intriguing matchups then would be at point guard between Trimble and Ulis (and Briscoe) as well as in the paint between Labissiere, who is being projected to be one of the top two picks (along with fellow freshman Ben Simmons of LSU) and Stone, who is thought be somewhere between a lower lottery pick and a low first-round choice. A lot will depend on how Poythress recovers from knee surgery and whether Carter will be a more dominant player at Maryland than he was at Georgia Tech.