The Maryland men’s basketball team showed up first in CBS’ annual “One Shining Moment” montage after the NCAA tournament concluded Monday night with Baylor’s 86-70 rout of Gonzaga. Where it sits in the national landscape in the eyes of some experts isn’t too far behind.
In several “way-too-early” Top 25 rankings released this week, the Terps are closer to the top 10 — and in some cases, the top five — than might be expected for a team that finished below .500 in conference play and lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
However, with coach Mark Turgeon officially signing a three-year extension Wednesday and incoming transfers Qudus Wahab and Fatts Russell joining what could be a deep roster — especially if Aaron Wiggins, Eric Ayala and Darryl Morsell return — there is optimism about the team coming together in College Park.
Here’s a sampling of what experts are saying about the Terps’ prospects for the 2021-2022 season:
Stadium, No. 5: “The Terps could have everyone important back besides Morsell, and Mark Turgeon has addressed two glaring weaknesses from last season: a point guard in URI transfer Russell and a big man in Georgetown transfer Wahab. This is a Maryland team that could have all the pieces to make a deep run, especially if Russell becomes more of a pass-first guy with all the weapons he’ll have at his disposal.”
ESPN, No. 6: “Russell and Wahab should answer two of the bigger question marks I had about the Terps: point guard play and a consistent interior presence. I’m assuming senior Darryl Morsell leaves, but Turgeon brings back three full-time starters in Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins and Donta Scott — plus Hakim Hart, who was a key player down the stretch and started 10 of Maryland’s 11 games. There’s plenty of talent on this roster, and Turgeon did an impressive job with the Terps this past season, guiding them to the NCAA tournament despite limited preseason expectations. If Russell can regain his 2019-20 form and Wahab adapts quickly to the Big Ten, Maryland has a potential Final Four contender.”
NCAA.com, No. 8: “The biggest news came during the Final Four with transfers Fatts Russell (Rhode Island) and Qudus Wahab (Georgetown) choosing Maryland.”
The Athletic, No. 11: “No team outside of Kentucky has benefited more from the transfer portal. Russell, who came from Rhode Island, and Wahab, who is transferring from Georgetown, will bolster a roster that already includes four returning starters from an NCAA Tournament team. Both incoming freshmen are rated in the top 100 nationally by 247Sports, and Graham got a head start on his freshman season by enrolling in January. There’s also a chance that Morsell, the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year, could come back for another season.”
Sports Illustrated, No. 12: “The champions of the transfer portal so far have been the Terps and Mark Turgeon, who’ve added a pair of elite transfers in big man Qudus Wahab (Georgetown) and Fatts Russell (Rhode Island). Those additions filled the Terps’ two main holes from 2020–21: a true center and a point guard. Add those two talents to an experienced core that features Aaron Wiggins, Eric Ayala and Donta Scott, and you have a team capable of doing special things. Maryland’s ability to go big and play through Wahab in the post or play Scott/Jairus Hamilton at center and embrace spacing will make the Terps tough to prepare for in 2021–22.”
CBS Sports, No. 13: “Mark Turgeon has used the transfer market to add a quality guard (Fatts Russell) and big (Qudus Wahab). That should be enough to offset the loss of Darryl Morsell and get the Terrapins to the Big Dance for the sixth time in a span of seven NCAA Tournaments.”
The Washington Post, No. 18: “They don’t raise banners for winning the first week of the offseason, but the Terrapins would be in contention for that title after adding point guard Fatts Russell (Rhode Island) and center Qudus Wahab (Georgetown) to fill gaping holes in a roster that maxed out with a second-round NCAA appearance. A starting lineup with some combination of those two and Eric Ayala, Darryl Morsell (who is in the portal), Donta Scott and Aaron Wiggins would be the most experienced of Mark Turgeon’s tenure in College Park.”
247 Sports, No. 22: “Kudos to Mark Turgeon, who was able to make Maryland a tough team down the stretch by getting great buy-in defensively in an extremely switchable lineup. As many as four of those starters could return, though at least one of Aaron Wiggins or Eric Ayala might not make it back (which would take that number to three). To make up for those potential losses, Maryland has already added Rhode Island guard Fatts Russell to man the point and Georgetown shot-blocking center Qudus Wahab in the paint. A little bit more shooting would help.”