COLLEGE PARK — Less than a month stands between the Maryland men’s basketball team and a season in which the program carries a great deal of hype.
But the Terps’ 2019-20 campaign unofficially tipped off Tuesday at the Xfinity Center, where ninth-year coach Mark Turgeon fielded questions for more than 20 minutes at the team’s media day.
Here are three takeaways from Turgeon’s news conference:
Last year’s finish made the Terps ‘hungry’
With plenty of returning talent, Maryland is likely to begin the season as a top-10 team. That’s coming off a season in which they were the fifth-least experienced team in the nation, per KenPom, and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament before losing in the final seconds to LSU.
That ending, though, seems to have inspired the Terps.
“We had a terrific year, but because of the way the season ended at the buzzer to go to the Sweet 16 and have a chance to come back home and play in D.C., it’s made our guys really hungry,” Turgeon said. "I don’t know if I’ve ever had a team work as hard as this team did from April until the start of practice, and it shows.”
Cowan can make being a senior ‘cool again’
Senior guard Anthony Cowan was fully cleared to rejoin the Terps for practice Tuesday after missing about a week with a concussion. It’s another return Turgeon and Maryland are certainly pleased about.
Cowan has already expressed that part of the reason he returned to Maryland for his senior season after testing the NBA waters was to “hang a banner” in the Xfinity Center. Turgeon echoed as much Tuesday, noting the rarity of four-year players in the modern college basketball landscape.
“In a world where it’s not great to become a senior, I’m really proud of Anthony," Turgeon said. "Maybe he can make it cool again to do it.
“Anthony came back to win. Anthony’s done a lot of things with scoring points and steals and assists, but he wants his legacy to be winning and winning at a high level, and he knows he’ll be remembered more if our team wins at a high level. That’s why Anthony came back.”
Cowan ranked in the top five in the Big Ten last season in assists per game, minutes per game and free-throw percentage.
This preseason in some ways evokes the 2015-16 Maryland campaign, when the Terps were coming off a second-round tournament exit and were viewed among the nation’s top teams.
That year, they were No. 3 in the Associated Press preseason poll. This season’s group likely won’t be that high, but Turgeon said he thinks this year’s team is better prepared to handle expectations.
“It’s two totally different teams," Turgeon said. "I think we’re embracing the expectations much better than that team did. ... It comes down to coachability and chemistry and guys just being selfless because if we do that, then we’re continuing to get better. If we’re playing for each other, we’re going to be really good, and if egos get in the way, then we’re not gonna be quite as good as we should be.”