2019 Maryland Basketball Predictions: Terps will be in Big Ten Mix
Maryland went into the offseason last year looking like a team that could potentially make things at least a little interesting. But they inexplicably lost their Big Ten Tournament opener against a terrible Nebraska team. And then they narrowly beat Belmont in the NCAA Tournament opener, before falling just short of an upset against No. 3 LSU when the Tigers sunk a last-second shot to win. Opportunities were missed. But this year the Terrapins return all but one member of their rotation from last year and add some solid talent to the mix as well. Expectations are very high in College Park as the team enters the season ranked seventh overall, and they are the top team in the Big Ten in the rankings aside from top-ranked Michigan State . They will be dealing with a lot more pressure than they are used to. Can they handle it?
Maryland Terrapins Additions/Losses
The only rotation player of note to leave is sophomore forward Bruno Fernando, who was drafted 34th overall by Philadelphia and then traded to Atlanta. He has come off the bench in every game for the Hawks so far and has done enough to prove that he will clearly be missed by Maryland. His 13.6 points per game last year were second best on the team, and his 10.6 rebounds were tops. He leaves an obvious hole, but the team is not without options to replace him. The obvious choice is sophomore Jalen Smith, who started every game last year and averaged 11.7 and 6.8. He's a former McDonald's All-American, so the ceiling is much higher than that. He was a very slight player last year who got pushed around physically. He worked hard this offseason, though, and has come back noticeably bigger and stronger. If he can play sturdier, he can step in and take over Fernando's role. Ricky Lindo Jr. played off the bench last year and wasn't particularly noticeable, but the reports out of camp about him are truly glowing, and he could take a huge step forward.
It won't just be existing players that can help to strengthen the frontcourt. Big man Makhi Mitchell was a four-star recruit this year ranked 69th nationally. His twin brother Makhel is just a little bigger and a little less highly regarded. They will have obvious chemistry together - they have never not been teammates - and will have a chance to earn playing time right away. Donta Scott is a versatile forward ranked between the two Mitchell brothers. He is a wing who can stay in the backcourt or even slide to the 4 if he needs to. He should be able to find a role. And Chol Marial is a giant of a man from South Sudan, measuring more than 7-foot-2. He needs to add weight to his frame, and guys like that often don't jump out of the gate at the start of their playing careers, but as the overused saying goes, you can't teach height. He's a wild card this year. The fifth member of the recruiting class, and the lowest rated, is guard Hakim Hart. With both Anthony Cowan Jr. and Eric Ayala back, and both likely to eat a ton of minutes, there aren't going to be a lot of guard minutes available, and Hart will likely have to be very patient.
Maryland Terrapins Schedule
While several of the preseason Top 10 teams face a truly brutal start to the season, the same sure can't be said of Maryland. In fact, you could call this schedule soft - at least until Big Ten play rolls around. They have five easy games before their tournament. The head to Orlando for the AdvoCare Invitational, where they can face respectable teams like Marquette, Harvard and Davidson, but no team that is close to their caliber. They draw another very manageable opponent in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge in Notre Dame. Their only really interesting game on the nonconference schedule is a trip to Seton Hall, which opens the season ranked 12th. It's really quite possible that they could make it to the new year with one loss or less on their record, and it would be a major disappointment if they lost three games by then.
Maryland Terrapins Futures Odds and Trends
At +2800 to win the national title, Maryland finds themselves well behind the top contenders but still a long way from the realm of the long shots. They are tied with Purdue as the second choice to win the Big Ten at +600, behind only Michigan State at +150. The season win total is set aggressively at 28, but bettors aren't buying it - the under is very heavily favored at -170.
The team did some things well last year but was generally disappointing to bet on. They were just 17-16-1 ATS, so there was no real long-term money to make from either betting on them or against them. And they went under the total 18 times and over 16, so there weren't profits to be had there, either.
Maryland Terrapins Predictions
I like this team. It's hard not to given their experience. The biggest concern I have, though, is that they aren't going to be tested for a long while, so we can't know how they will react when they are inevitably punched in the face at some point. The season win total feels aggressive - as the bettors are indicating - and I would expect them to fall from this high preseason ranking. But they are going to be in the Big Ten mix and are going to be a postseason team to watch. I would target 25 wins as a target, with a couple more possible.
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