The Maryland Terrapins men’s basketball team endured a complete and utter capitulation at the end of the 2016/17 season. Opening the campaign 20-2, the Terps finished 24-9.
February and March, not good months.
There were many contributing factors in the downfall of the somewhat over-performing team but none bigger than, well, the lack of bigs.
When Michal Cekovsky went down with a season-ending injury, the Terps were left bare. Damonte Dodd, whose career came to an end last Thursday, had no help. He had to play tentative, afraid to foul and leave Maryland with just Ivan Bender to play the five position.
Bender is a natural four, and even playing small doesn’t hide the fact that Maryland couldn’t keep up with other teams and their bigs. In their Big Ten Tournament loss to Northwestern, the Terps were out-rebounded by the Wildcats, 32-24. It got even worse against Xavier—34-24. Maryland already wasn’t a great rebounding team. The loss of Cekovsky gave them even more trouble.
While Cekovsky should be healthy come next fall, and Bender is returning, Dodd is graduating. He was by no means a top-tier big man, but he did the job, and Maryland now has a big hole to fill.
The Terps are set to bring in Bruno Fernando for next season, a four-star from IMG Academy. The 6-foot-10, 225-pound center is a great coup, but could take some time to develop into a consistent center. He may play a role in College Park next season, but there can’t be too much put on his shoulders.
Cekovsky should be the one coach Mark Turgeon turns to, but the Terps are alarmingly thin behind him. Given his injury troubles over the first three years he’s spent at Maryland, that is cause for some concern.
It is still possible to bring in recruits for next season, but as of right now, the trio of Cekovsky, Bender, and Fernando appears to be what the Terps will have in the front court. If that is the case, it’s not ideal.
Should one or more go down, the Terps will face a situation similar to this season’s. It doesn’t matter if Melo Trimble returns, and it doesn’t matter how much last season’s freshmen progress. If the Terps don’t have depth for their big guys, they’ll run into plenty of trouble next season.