It’s almost unthinkable that a Big Ten team can have a 17-2 record and be flying under the radar. Yet that’s exactly what Maryland has done so far this year in building exactly that gaudy record.
The anonymity of the Terrapins can be summed up by the observation that Maryland may be as well known for one of its two losses this year (a home meltdown in the final minutes against Nebraska) as for its best win (a one-point squeaker over Kansas State). Regardless, the Terps just continue to win, as displayed Thursday night in an 84-76 win at Iowa.
Melo Trimble scored 20 points and hit two big three-pointers in the late going, and he helped save Maryland after it lost a 15-point lead. It wasn’t pretty, but it was third road win in the Big Ten and puts the Terps atop the conference standings after six games.
Part of the reason Maryland is so anonymous is because it is starting three freshmen-very good freshmen, but frosh without the hype of constant TV adulation as those at places like Kentucky and UCLA. Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson have been critical to the Terrapins’ success, serving as the team’s No. 2, 3 and 5 scorers, and it can easily be argued that they’re among the most valuable groups of first-year players in the country. Certainly it’s a group that deserves to be taken notice of, more than it has been so far.
Still, this is a team that has a preseason All-America candidate in Trimble, and one would think his leading such a young team to such a good start would be newsworthy and be considered a testament to him. Yet even that hasn’t materialized; as a college basketball veteran, it’s almost as if Trimble has been forgotten to a degree nationally because he hasn’t left for the pros early and because he isn’t being talked of as a lottery pick in mock drafts.
Of course, the other part of Maryland’s relative obscurity relates quite a bit to its schedule. Specifically, it has been solid, workmanlike, but not spectacular. Even with 17 wins, the Terrapins do not have a win over a surefire NCAA Tournament team yet, and it’s for that reason that they just moved into the Associated Press top 25 poll this week-at number 25. Big Ten credentials and all.
There is the win over Kansas State and another against Indiana, but after that the resume of wins is filled with maybes. Are wins against Michigan, Oklahoma State and Georgetown good wins? Maybe, maybe not. Thursday’s win fell right into that grouping; the Hawkeyes are a team good enough to beat Purdue and Iowa State, but mediocre enough to be barely above .500 and lose at Northwestern by 35 in its previous game.
We’ll find out very soon just how good the Terrapins are. Maybe. Upcoming games include road trips to Minnesota, Ohio State and Northwestern. Yet Maryland only plays league heavies Purdue and Wisconsin once each, and only plays Michigan State and Indiana at home, too. It’s entirely possible that we could enter the NCAA Tournament, and many still will be wondering just how good the Terps are.
- It was a night chock full of important early season conference contests, most in leagues typically outside the TV spotlight. A huge game in the Colonial Athletic Association saw UNC Wilmington win at College of Charleston 65-59 in a clash of league unbeatens. The Cougars won the stylistic battle, making this a low-scoring defensive affair, but the Seahawks won the war and are now 18-2.
- Dayton pinned Richmond with its first Atlantic 10 loss, pulling away late for a 75-59 win. Those two are tied with La Salle atop the league after the Explorers topped Davidson 91-83.
- A showdown between the top two expected contenders in the Summit League went to North Dakota State, which is now 1 1/2 games up on after an 89-83 win over Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne in which the Bison finished the game on a 15-3 run. Paul Miller scored 33 points for NDSU.
- Also in that state: North Dakota edged Weber State 80-77 to tighten up the Big Sky race.
- We mentioned South Carolina Upstate in our around the nation notes earlier this week, and the Spartans announced themselves as a contender in the Atlantic Sun with a 62-60 win at Florida Gulf Coast. Michael Buchanan scored the winning basket with a putback with two seconds left. Four games into the 14-game A-Sun schedule now, four teams (USC Upstate, FGCU, North Florida, Lipscomb) are tied for first at 3-1, while the remaining four teams are tied for fifth at 1-3.
- The Big South also had a showdown at the top, and the league put on a terrific show as it typically does in its rare national TV appearances. Winthrop held off UNC Asheville 76-73 in a game loaded with twists and turns and buoyed by a boisterous crowd at the Winthrop Coliseum. Very good show by two good teams.
- There was little drama in games involving top 25 teams on Thursday. The closest came in Los Angeles, where Arizona was pummeling USC early in the second half, but the Trojans came back and made the Wildcats sweat considerably before finishing off a 73-66 win.
- Oregon swamped California 86-63, but the win was clouded by the loss of Dillon Brooks again to a leg injury in the first half. Needless to say, the Ducks’ season could be riding on his status going forward; we saw how they struggled early on without him, and while this is a talented team, Brooks is the difference between them being a national title contender and having a ceiling considerably lower.
- More news from Thursday: Indiana’s O.G. Anunoby will be out indefinitely from the injured right knee he suffered Wednesday night in the Hoosiers’ narrow win over Penn State. IU hasn’t released much more information than that, and obviously as we saw with Duke and Grayson Allen earlier this year, “indefinitely” can wind up being any number of things.
- Also, very unfortunate news for Ohio University, where senior star forward Antonio Campbell will miss the rest of the year with a broken foot. Campbell is the reigning MAC player of the year and was averaging 16.4 points and 8.9 rebounds, and his loss threatens a potentially huge year for the Bobcats, who were among the very favorites in the league but have lost two straight since his injury.
- Start it off with a good one in the MAC, where the lone TV game of the night has Eastern Michigan at Akron (6:30 p.m., CBSSN).
- MAAC contests on the docket include Fairfield at Iona, Manhattan on the road to Monmouth and Canisius facing Quinnipiac.
- Horizon League games include Detroit Mercy at Wright State, suddenly struggling Oakland at Northern Kentucky, Cleveland State at Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Youngstown State facing Wisconsin-Green Bay.
- One game in the Ivy League also is an intriguing one with Yale at Brown.
Enjoy your Friday and have a wonderful weekend.