“I love my team.  I got eleven guys on scholarship that are all really good players and want to be here.  So, we expect to have a great year.”

Regardless of what coach Mark Turgeon said on media day multiple times, the 2014-15 Maryland mens basketball team will operate in the shadow last spring’s mass exodus:  Seth Allen, Charles Mitchell, Roddy Peters, Shaquille Cleare and Nick Faust left a major vacuum on a roster for a program that hasn’t reached the NCAA Tournament since 2010.  But what was he supposed to say?  “This program will be irreparably damaged for some time”?  “Is ESPN8 the Ocho hiring?”  Add in the fact that Evan Smotrycz begins the season with a broken foot, fans will definitely need a scorecard to tell the players apart.

“I love my team…”

The theory of addition by subtraction on a basketball team is that the players who remain benefit by not having locker room cancers around–and when that many players bolt when given the opportunity, it’s probably best that they’re no longer around.  Those who have stayed have either been brought into the situation by the coach or have already bought into his program.  Returning leading scorer Dez Wells looks to put it together for his senior season…and it wasn’t as though Jake Layman and Smotrycz weren’t effective in spots last year;  Layman led the team in minutes played and the Michigan transfer was second on the team in 3-pointers and rebounds.

“I got eleven guys on scholarship…”

Coach Turgeon expects the team to play better defense than last year’s hot mess that coughed up 91 to a subpar Oregon State in November.  For some reason last year the whole team never matched the sum of the players’ parts–and lineups you thought would lock things down left floodgates wide open.  Turgeon intimates that the bunch he has here might not be as talented as previous group, but has a better collective basketball IQ.

“All are really good players…”

Perhaps to balance the five departures, five freshmen come to College Park this fall–none more highly anticipated than point guard Melo Trimble.  The Upper Marlboro product notched 19 points and 5 assists in an exhibition against San Francisco State– and has the tools to become a solid if not impact Division I player.  Will there be growing pains this year?  Of course–I can only imagine the first time Trimble runs into trouble in East Lansing December 30th.  It might not be pretty.  But he has a nice balance in the backcourt with graduate transfer Richaud Pack (17ppg last year at North Carolina A&T)–whose true contribution might not be points or minutes but a steady hand to mentor a young roster.  At the other end of the spectrum is 7-foot-1 Slovakian center Michal Cekovsky…more than just an Alex Len 2.0.  “Ceko” comes to Maryland two years older than Len and already has a better grasp of English (Turgeon said all Alex could say originally was “chicken and gatorade”).  The 18-minute exhibition snapshot (0-1 FG, 2 rebounds and 2 turnovers) was a start…will it be something special?  I’m just glad I have the alliteration of “Slovakian center” available.

“Who want to be here…”

The motion offense comes to Maryland–even though coach Turgeon says it won’t be a true motion.  As if the savvy fans at XFinity Center don’t have enough to get used to…the flex offense takes a backseat to one that might be better suited to the personnel on campus.  Does Damonte Dodd make the leap from the freshman who watched to the sophomore who contributes?  Will Jon Graham take advantage of increased minutes or serve as a holding pattern until Jared Nickens proves he can contribute over the long haul?  Shooting guard Dion Wiley’s another intriguing piece to the puzzle…one that will be fun to watch piece itself together over the next few months.

“So, we expect to have a great year.”

Prepare yourself for the culture shock of not being able to say “we got hosed!” at Duke and North Carolina…as well as no annual day trip to Charlottesville.  The Terps leave a top-heavy ACC (3 teams ranked in the top ten but just 4 in the top 25) for a Big Ten that has one elite (Wisconsin’s ranked 3rd) squad but boasts plenty of depth:  four schools from #18 to 24th…and two more just missing the cut.  Will there be an adjustment to the “Big Ten style of basketball”?  Certainly…but it’s not as drastic as one might think.  Yes– the league might be more physical than the Atlantic Coast Conference, but it’s not like they’re wearing shoulderpads and helmets–I think.  Former coach Gary Williams often remarked that Maryland was basically the “Siberia of the ACC”…now they’ve become the “South Beach of the Big Ten”.  Somehow, even with the new league and vastly changed roster the Terps received three votes in the Associated Press Preseason Poll.  The season begins Friday, November 14th against Wagner.