By Harrison Cann
For Unwind magazine
Coming off of a trip to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2003, Melo Trimble and company are looking to advance even further this time around. The Maryland men’s basketball team finished the season ranked No. 25 in the nation with a 24-8 record. The Terps earned a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
ESPN college basketball analyst Joe Lunardi had correctly projected the team as a No. 6 seed, but also felt the Terps are not likely to get past the second round. With a loss in their first game of the Big Ten tournament, the team was unable to bolster their resume. Some big wins over ranked teams like Wisconsin or Purdue would certainly have helped their national standing but, as it was, Maryland was lucky to have secured a No. 6 seed following their 2-3 finish over the last five games.
The freshmen have played a vital role this season compared to the last. After the departure of key players like Jake Layman, Diamond Stone, Rasheed Sulaimon and Robert Carter Jr., the freshmen of the team had big shoes to fill.
“The difference between this year’s team and last year’s is chemistry versus star power,” said Ethan Navarre, a sophomore economics and government and politics major. “This year the team is much more of a cohesive unit.”
Although this year’s team doesn’t have as many big names, it doesn’t mean they don’t have the same potential. Alongside junior star Melo Trimble, the freshmen trio comprised of Justin Jackson, Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter led the Terps to many victories.
Even with the success of the freshmen, returning players like Trimble, Damonte Dodd, Jared Nickens and Jaylen Brantley have stepped up as well. With less of a spotlight on the team this year, they’ve been able to approach this season differently.
“We don’t have a lot of pressure so we are able to just go in and play our game,” said Dodd, a senior majoring in African-American studies.
The freshmen and role players have led the team to wins on multiple occasions, but the question remains if they are able to do so under pressure.
“I have a good enough team that if Melo’s not on top of his game we can still win,” Head Coach Mark Turgeon told Big Ten Network on Feb. 15.
If the team isn’t having the offensive production from their stars as usual, they have to rely on defense to keep them in games.
“We need to make sure our defense is where it needs to be,” Dodd said. “If we play great defense we will win most games.”
In terms of postseason play, the Terps have potential. Navarre said he expects that another Sweet 16 berth in the NCAA tournament is a definite possibility.
Dodd said the team has the same mindset. “We want to try to win it all, but most importantly just give it our all.”