Maryland is a very good basketball team. They are deserving of their lofty preseason ranking, and have a chance to win the Big Ten and NCAA tournament. I can already hear my co-blogger's blood beginning to boil as he is a Maryland hater, so I'll explain a bit.
Preseason ranking are stupid. They exist only to make money for websites and newspapers/magazines because they know college basketball starved fans will read anything after months of no basketball. With that in mind, Maryland is as deserving of a ridiculous preseason rank as any team. Enough with that rant.
In college basketball there are often one or two great teams a year that stand out as better than the others. Last year we were fortunate to be able to watch four: UK, Duke, UW, and AZ. This year I believe there are none. Time will tell if a team grows into that, but having seen several very good teams play so far I just don't see it. This is the kind of year where a 12-seed like George Mason can make the final four, and a team like 7-seeded UConn can win it all. With that in mind, Maryland is capable of winning the Big Ten and NCAA championship.
On to Maryland. They are like Indiana if IU had size and didn't have Tom Crean. They score the ball well and in different ways, but they aren't as good as they could be defensively. If the defense comes around as the season goes on, and they stay healthy, this team can contend.
Health has already been a problem for this team's backcourt as they lost Dion Wiley before the season started. Wiley got good experience as a freshman and was penciled in as the starting 2-guard before blowing out his knee. He will be replaced by Duke transfer Rasheed Sulaiman. Sulaiman is a very good all-around guard. He shoots the 3, he can create his own shot, and he distributes well. He will do the ball handling when Trimble is out of the game. Trimble should be all Big Ten. He has not shot the 3 well this year, but after shooting 41% last year this is probably just a blip. Dez Wells ate up some of the ball handling last year but Trimble should be the man all the time this year. Jaylen Brantley is a backup point but he looks shaky, so I think he only gets minutes when Sulaiman is there to help.
Maryland has 2 wings in Layman and Nickens. Layman will be allowed to play the 3 this year more than the 4 he was forced to play last year. I expect this to benefit Maryland much as moving Dekker from the 4 to 3 benefited UW last year. He is a good enough shooter to stretch defenses at the 3 while giving Maryland elite size at the position. Nickens will play some 2 and some 3. He is mostly a spot up shooter, but again gives them good size at 6'7" for the position.
Maryland has 3 guys that can play center. That size will give them a chance to compete with the best teams in the country. The 3 are all pretty similar. None are very versatile or stretch a defense. They are all bangers, at least so far in this young season. Dodd and Cekovsky look pretty much the same as last year, but perhaps more confident in what they do. Diamond Stone is a better post scorer then the others, but still just a post scorer. Stone has the pedigree to be great, but will he be this year? Probably not. Robert Carter is more versatile than the other 3 and slightly smaller, although many teams play a guy his size at center. He can play inside and out and can drive as well as post.
What does this all add up to? A team that looks good on paper. They haven't blown anyone away with their play so far but they keep on winning. When a team has this much size and talent they usually win a lot. I don't see any reason to think this team will be different. I'm not ready to decide if they are better than MSU, or even Purdue, but I think they have a chance to be the best.