The Maryland men’s basketball team has an overall record of 11-10 and is now entering the home stretch of the regular season. The Terps have had a mixture of big wins and tough losses against a bevy of ranked opponents thanks to the strength of the Big Ten this year.
The Big Ten has been arguably the most competitive conference in the country, with seven teams currently ranked in the top 25 and nine teams projected to make the NCAA Tournament by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi — the most among any conference in Lunardi’s latest projection. Maryland is currently considered to be on the bubble.
“Other than [Nebraska], there isn’t an easy out in this league. It depends on your overall performance on that particular day,” Fox Sports college basketball analyst Bill Raftery said on Glenn Clark Radio Feb. 8, adding that “nothing is easy or given. Fans don’t understand that other teams want to win, too. That’s the problem particularly in this league this year.”
Maryland has struggled some to keep up with the league and currently sits at 5-9 in Big Ten play. Some fans have placed blame on head coach Mark Turgeon for the team’s play and wonder about the long-term status of Turgeon, who is under contract for two more years after the conclusion of the 2020-21 season.
However, Raftery is not worried about the 10th-year head coach’s standing with the program during a pandemic-riddled season.
“It’s not my job to evaluate, but 23 or more wins five out of the last six years sounds pretty impressive to me,” Raftery said. “You are in a heavyweight division. You are replacing a rock star in Gary [Williams], and that’s the hard part for anybody.”
After taking over for the legendary Williams in 2011, Turgeon has gradually gained his footing in College Park, Md. Had last season not been shut down in mid-March, it would’ve marked the fifth time in six years that Turgeon had taken the Terps to the NCAA Tournament.
The Terps are now one year removed from a 24-7 pandemic-shortened season in which the team, behind Jalen Smith and Anthony Cowan Jr. — now in the NBA and G League, respectively — won a share of the Big Ten regular-season title and ended the season No. 12 in the AP poll.
The Terps looked poised to make a deep tournament run that year before the tournament was canceled due to COVID-19.
With the loss of those stars, a new core of Eric Ayala, Hakim Hart, Darryl Morsell, Donta Scott and Aaron Wiggins took over. Ayala has stepped up to lead the team in scoring with a career-high 14.2 points per game. Scott leads the team in rebounding (6.6). Morsell and Wiggins lead the squad in assists (2.8 each).
“It’s not the most talented Maryland team, but on different nights they are pretty darn good,” Raftery said.
Morsell is the Terrapins’ most experienced veteran leader on the team. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound senior guard is fourth on the team in scoring (8.6 points per game), though he also leads the team in turnovers (2.1). Most recently, Morsell had 13 points in a 72-59 win against Minnesota. The past two seasons, the Terps are 21-2 when Morsell scores 10 or more points.
Raftery said a lot of Maryland’s success depends on if “Morsell is coming with one of his driving, physical kinds of games. I love that kid because he’s playing so darn hard and making some shots now.”
All statistics are entering Maryland’s back-to-back games against Nebraska Feb. 16-17.
For more from Raftery, listen to the full interview here:
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