There are a number of descriptors that could be applied to the 2019-2020 Maryland Terrapins basketball team as it navigates through the meat of this college basketball season; Resilient…Inconsistent…Frustrating…Potential…Etc.
For all of the angst exhibited by Terrapin fans and College Basketball pundits at the midway point of the season, there’s one thing that this year’s edition of the squad does extremely well.
They win tough games.
The Terps are on an 9-game winning streak in arguably the toughest college basketball conference on the planet this year, The Big 10. Eight straight wins in a conference where winning on the road this particular season has been historically difficult. The squad has won in a myriad of ways during this run, but the victory on the road at perennial Big 10 powerhouse Michigan State was particularly impressive. Though Sparty had dropped out of the top 25 for the first time anybody worth their salt as a hoophead can remember, this was the same squad that was pre-season #1 in the country. They also had arguably one of the best two-man tandems in College Basketball in all-everything guard Cassius Winston and big man Xavier Tillman. The Breslin Center isn’t Xfinity, but it’s one of the hardest places in the Big 10 to play at on the road. Enter Maryland’s own dynamic duo of Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen Smith, both of whom have elevated their level of play during this 8 game run. Both of them were instrumental in pulling a win out at the Breslin Center, with Anthony Cowan putting the squad on his back for the last 2 minutes of the game. Cowan led all scorers with 24 points and Jalen Smith tallied 17 points and 10 rebounds for another double-double. Not only did the Terps win in a place that’s traditionally been a house of horrors for them since coming to the league, but they did so in a way that reminiscent of some of the tough-as-nails terrapin teams from the programs’ recent past. Tough is tough, and that final stretch to silence Sparty fans in their own digs was about as tough as it gets.
In particular, there’s a collective grit about this squad that we haven’t seen since Gary Williams was prowling sidelines and the Terps were still locked down in the ACC. There are a LOT of great terrapin guards of seasons past in Anthony Cowan’s floor game; A little bit of Romelo Trimble’s moxie, a bit of Steve Blake’s savvy, a dash of Greivis Vasquez’s…huevos. You get the picture. There also a HUGE charm city presence on this roster that’s contributed to it’s ability to grind out positive results during this stretch of good form.
Everybody knows about Jalen Smith. ‘Sticks’ is arguably the best post player we’ve seen in a terrapin uniform since Mark Turgeon took over the Maryland program. Players like Joe Smith, Lonny Baxter and the like are the standard, but Jalen is definitely there in terms of raw ability. Daryll Morsell, Aaron Wiggins, Eric Ayala, and frosh Donta Scott are all complementary pieces that have the potential to morph into players that can make the difference between a good showing in the NCAA tourney, and a potential national championship run. Can these young terps realize their potential? Who knows? There definitely a buzz around the ceiling of this team that we haven’t seen in a good while, though.
As a lifelong Terrapins fan, it’s gonna be fun seeing this team navigate that road. The road to the final four ends in the ATL this year. The last time the terps made a final four and played for a championship?
2002…Atlanta, Ga…Food for thought.