After a disappointing finish to the 2007-2008 basketball season that began with so much promise, the Maryland Terrapins look to rebound with a new look team. Last season, which saw the Terps fail to make the NCAA tournament for the second time in three seasons, and a second-round loss to Syracuse in the NIT tournament, has left this year’s team hungry and thirsting for success.
Head Coach Gary Williams may have his deepest squad in years. Though the team lost a few players due to graduation, a talented group of freshman and sophomores will be leading this 2008-2009 Terrapin basketball team.
The Terps, who are unranked at the beginning of the season, could find themselves in prime position to fly under the radar and surprise a lot of teams. With the graduation of forward James Gist and center Bambale Osby, the Maryland front court will have a different look to it. Junior forward Landon Milbourne and sophomore center Braxton Dupree should see significant minutes in the absence of Gist and Osby.
Last season, Milbourne averaged 8.5 ppg along with 3.6 rebounds per game. Also, younger players such as Cliff Tucker and freshman sensations Jin-Soo Kim and Sean Mosley should add extra fire power and punch to the Maryland offense. Kim is a freshman from South Kent, CT. He originally hails from South Korea.
In his first preseason game, Kim scored 20 points against Northwood University and established himself as an offensive and defensive threat. He showed the ability to hit the jump shot as well as an array of offensive moves around the basket. He should become a very productive and important player for the Terrapins in his freshman season.
While a host of new players will have an impact on this year Terrapins, the key to success for this season Terrapin squad is going to be the guard play of junior Eric Hayes and sophomore Greivis Vasquez.
Vasquez in his first season at Maryland has shown the ability to create an array of shots off the dribble as well as the propensity to create opportunities for others as well. He is going to have to continue to develop and cut back on the turnovers if Maryland is going to make a run at the NCAA tournament, let alone strike fear into Duke and North Carolina.
The Terps also face a difficult schedule this season as the ACC is much improved from top to bottom. The heavy favorites, Duke and North Carolina, are clearly the best two teams within the conference.
But, schools like the University of Miami, Virginia Tech, and Georgia Tech, bring an athletic ballclub to the conference and should not be over looked. Maryland will also play a tough out of conference schedule, as they will be participating in the Old Spice Classic as well as the ACC/Big-10 challenge.
The matchup against seventh ranked Michigan State in the Old Spice Classic on Nov. 27 should be an interesting early-season test for the young Terrapin squad. If they can play well and even win, it should give them confidence for the remainder of the season. After the Old Spice Classic, on Dec. 3, the Terps will play an improved Michigan basketball team in the ACC/Big-10 Challenge.
If the Terps are going to rebound and make it to the NCAA tournament this season, they are going to have to win the games they are favored to win as well as put up a good showing and steal a couple games in which they are underdogs.
Though the Terrapins may have the talent to win the ACC and be very competitive against the top teams in the country, they must bring their “A” game every night. If they play up to their potential they will surprise a lot of experts and a lot teams around the country.
The Terps have a lot to prove this season and they have a great deal of motivation. With no one outside of College Park believing in them, the Terps can only believe in themselves. That in itself makes them a dangerous basketball team in an already difficult and dangerous conference.