Maryland men’s basketball is ranked No. 21 in the Associated Press preseason Top 25 poll that was released Monday.
The Terps are ranked behind fellow Big Ten teams No. 6 Michigan, No. 7 Purdue, No. 11 Illinois and No. 17 Ohio State. Michigan State is unofficially No. 26, receiving 87 votes, while Indiana had 41 votes and Rutgers had 11.
The Big Ten and Southeastern Conference have a national-high five ranked teams. Gonzaga is ranked No. 1 ahead of UCLA, Kansas, Villanova and Texas.
This is the 22nd time in program history the Terps earned a ranking in the AP preseason poll. Maryland’s ranking in the AP is slightly lower than the KenPom preseason ranking, which has the Terps at No. 18.
Maryland is entering the 2021-22 season with hefty expectations after finishing 17-14 (9-11 in Big Ten) and losing to Alabama in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The Terps will be led by senior guard Eric Ayala, who averaged a career-best 15.1 points per game on 43.7% shooting. Ayala scored 23 points in the Terps victory over Connecticut in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season.
After losing Aaron Wiggins via the NBA draft and Darryl Morsell, who transferred to Marquette, coach Mark Turgeon relied on the transfer portal to provide the Terps the size and depth they need to compete in a loaded Big Ten. Guard Fatts Russell and center Qudus Wahab are two of Maryland’s six transfers that are expected to make an immediate impact.
Russell, a graduate transfer from Rhode Island, is a speedy guard with defensive upside that will provide the Terps a primary option at point guard after Ayala and junior Hakim Hart shared time at the position last year.
Meanwhile, Wahab, a junior transfer from Georgetown, gives Maryland a low-post presence that can go against some of the top big men in the conference such as Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson and Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn.
The addition of Wahab will allow junior Donta Scott to play his natural position as a stretch four. Last season, Scott averaged 11 points while shooting 43.5% from behind the 3-point arc.
Freshman forward Julian Reese, a former St. Frances Academy standout and the brother of Maryland women’s basketball player Angel Reese, is also expected to provide size in the frontcourt, which was lacking last year.
Maryland will open the season at home on Nov. 9 against Quinnipiac.