Maryland basketball leader Eric Ayala

Maryland basketball puts forth one of the most exciting backcourts in the nation with as high preseason expectations in years.

Mark Turgeon went out and added possibly the best duo of transfers in Fatts Russell and Qudus Wahab. Maryland basketball is already blessed with an All-Big Ten performer in Eric Ayala and a sweet shooting forward in Donta Scott. The ceiling is pretty darn high.

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Projected Rotation

PG: Fatts Russell (5-11, 165, Gr.-Sr.)

2021 stats: 17.7 points, 5.4 assists, 5.4 rebounds, 2.3 steals, 23.5 3P% (Rhode Island)

Projected stats: 13.9 points, 5.1 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 2.0 steals, 27.5 3P%

SG: Eric Ayala (6-5, 205, Sr.)

2021 stats: 15.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 33.7 3P%

Projected stats: 17.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.4 steals, 36.3 3P%

SF: Julian Reese (6-9, 230, Fr.)

247Sports #59 overall rated recruit

Projected stats: 5.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.8 steals

PF: Donta Scott (6-8, 230, Jr.)

2021 stats: 11.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.8 blocks, 43.8 3P%

Projected stats: 12.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.9 blocks, 40.4 3P%

C: Qudus Wahab (6-11, 240, Jr.)

2021 stats: 12.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.6 blocks (Georgetown)

Projected stats: 14.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.9 blocks

6: Hakim Hart (6-8, 205, Jr.)

2021 stats: 7.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.8 steals, 33.0 3P%

Projected stats: 8.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.9 steals, 34.2 3P%

7: Xavier Green (6-6, 205, Gr.-Sr.)

2021 stats: 6.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.8 steals, 28.8 3P% (Old Dominion)

Projected stats: 7.4 points, 2.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.7 steals, 28.2 3P%

8: Simon Wright (6-7, 225, Gr.-Sr.)

2021 stats: 5.1 points, 2.9 rebounds, 37.5 3P% (Elon)

Projected stats: 3.6 points, 1.5 rebounds, 38.8 3P%

9: Ian Martinez (6-3, 185, So.)

2021 stats: 5.2 points, 1.9 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 32.4 3P% (Utah)

Projected stats: 4.4 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 33.7 3P%

10: James Graham III (6-8, 205, Fr.)

247Sports 4-star rated recruit

Projected stats: 3.9 points, 1.1 rebounds, 0.7 assists

11: Ike Cornish (6-6, 190, Fr.)

247Sports 4-star rated recruit

Projected stats: 3.3 points, 1.2 rebounds, 0.9 assists

12: Marcus Dockery (6-2, 180, So.)

2021 stats: 1.4 points, 0.3 rebounds, 3.6 minutes, 14 GP

Projected stats: 2.8 points, 0.6 rebounds

Team MVP: Eric Ayala

Eric Ayala could explode for Maryland basketball this season. It’s going to be his ball to score with two dynamic players around him in Fatts Russell and Qudus Wahab. That means that defenses can’t just try and shut down Ayala – they’ll have to guard the whole floor.

The physical guard has underrated handles and is a menace in transition. When Ayala goes downhill, good luck. He’s also an above-average jump shot shooter and can play the point guard position when needed. Ayala could be a Big Ten first-teamer.

Make-or-Break Player: Xavier Green

Normally I don’t go with a transfer coming off the bench, but Green was more than just a seven PPG player at Old Dominion. During his junior season, he racked up almost 13 points per game. His usage went down and, it’s not like he’s going to be the guy again with Maryland basketball.

For Green, it will be about finding a rhythm off the bench to complement the two talented starters. He’s a good scorer of the basketball and if he fits in well could be a big piece of one of the best scoring offenses in the conference. Green is also a great defender which adds to his overall value if it shines through in the Big Ten.

Bench Rating: 8/10

I’ve tended to be harsh when giving out bench ratings but this Maryland basketball second unit passes most of the tests.

Hakim Hart and Green should put forth a lot of points scored and both can guard multiple positions which certainly helps out if Reese, a highly touted freshman, is to start.

Simon Wright comes in as an experienced forward from Elon and Ian Martinez looks for a fresh start after spending one year in Utah. After them, it’ll be up to a few younger and less proven guys to get on coach Turgeon’s good side. But the fact that the Terps have a real solid four bench players is huge in the deep Big Ten. I wish they had one more great big man, but given Donta Scott and Wahab are both some of the best, I’ll take a chill pill.

Analytic to Know: OppD

Last season, Maryland basketball got stuck playing the second-hardest schedule against opposing defenses. They still managed to finish 37th in adjusted offense and average just shy of 70 points per game.

This season, the additions of Russell and Wahab have Terps fans drooling over what the offense might look like. KenPom projected Maryland as 20th in adjusted offense and 15th in adjusted defense. Expect a lot of transition points and an up-tempo attack in the halfcourt. Fear the turtle.

Team Outlook

Mark Turgeon sure doesn’t mess around with non-conference tests for his Maryland basketball teams. There are so many tough games, I’m better off listing them:

  • November 13 vs Vermont
  • November 25 vs Richmond
  • November 27 vs Louisville / Mississippi State
  • December 1 vs Virginia Tech
  • December 12 vs Florida

Don’t forget Maryland also plays in arguably the toughest conference in college hoops. Turgeon’s squad is going to be ready for whoever they face and will probably have close to the NCAA lead in quadrant I games played.

I see Maryland basketball having one of its best years in a long time and could end up saving Turgeon’s job. He’s got to do it with this bunch because they’re that good.

Projected Conference Finish: 4th in Big Ten

Projected Postseason Finish: NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

Ceiling: NCAA Tournament Final Four Exit


Featured image from Baltimore Sun