Kevin Willard Brings Back to Maryland Basketball, Will the Terps Be Ranked?

By the time the Big Ten game rolls around, Hall of Fame Tipoff’s basketball tournament at Maryland will be a distant memory with little impact on how the Terps watch. Their victories in the event, the anticipated NCAA championship blowout St. Louis and Miami, would be valuable resume boosters, but no one remembers their early season championship titles.

“That’s fine, but it’s not the big thing we’re betting on. We’re not happy. That’s a nice little prize for the office. We’re chasing the big trophy,” Maryland coach Kevin Willard He told his team amid a locker room splashdown celebration Sunday afternoon in Connecticut.

But for the team that was projected as an afterthought to rebuild, this was a huge problem right now. Willard’s players erupted as he walked into the locker room after their 88-70 win over Miami, screaming and throwing water at their first-year coach.

It was a well deserved celebration. It’s early, but Maryland (5-0), picked to be ranked 10th or lower in nearly every Big Ten preseason ranking, was a revelation. The Terps have won every game by at least 18 points, as they played a selfless and uncompromising style of basketball reminiscent of the Gary Williams days. That’s not to say Willard is Williams, of course — a Final Four is required to start any such comparisons — but the New York native has brought his swagger back to College Park.

It’s easy to see Willard’s players already love him, not just by watching the celebration, but by how hard they play him and their social media posts expressing their admiration for him.

Maryland opened the season ranked No. 58 by KenPom.com, the internationally cited college basketball analytics site. Among the site’s myriad advanced stats, a few about Maryland stand out: Willard’s team is 19th nationally in modified offensive efficiency, 14th in two-point shooting percentage, and 11th in stealing percentage. Frequently updated numbers on the site indicate a record of 22-to-9, and 12-to-8 in the Big Ten. These results would far exceed pre-existing expectations for the team, which almost no other NCAA Tournament team had.

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Individually, KenPom ranks as a great suite Sage Hart As the 46th most efficient player in the country offensively, the sophomore center Julian Reese 102 most efficient f Donta Scott 232 (Scott was sensational at Connecticut, scoring 24 points per game, but shooting 5-15 in the previous game). Reese’s numbers are amazing; He is 20th nationally in effective field goal percentage, 53rd in offensive rebounding percentage and 50th in two-point field goal percentage. Keep in mind, these rankings are out of approximately 4,500 college basketball players.

It was a huge jump for the former 50 recruits, who showed flashes of his massive potential last season as a skinny freshman, but he also struggled. He is older, more confident, and beginning to produce feelings for Jalen Smith.

“I think Julian has made some great improvements. It’s been nice having him. I haven’t had a center in about five years that can light, catch and play high-level basketball,” he said. Willard said on Sunday.

They also played a miserly defense with no fouls. guard point Jahmer Young Hart ranks 59th nationally in fewest errors committed per 40 minutes and Hart ranks 100th. Another nugget: Undisclosed transfer Patrick Emilian Ranked 113 nationally in mass percentage, providing edge protection off the bench and making Willard look too good to pass off the radar.

Offense balanced: Scott (16.8 PPG), Reese (13.2), Hart (12.4), Young (12.2) Donald Curry (8.4).

Now, the question every Maryland fan is asking is, will they be ranked in the AP Poll today? They have a good shot based on the few voters who tweeted their ballots: UConn beat writer Dave Borges (No. 11), Matt Berman (Roanoke Times, No. 19), Jerry Carino (Asbury Park Press, No. 19) and Clayton Collier (ABC Memphis, N. 21).

Of course, the early season ratings don’t mean much. Maryland has been ranked at some point in six of the past eight seasons Mark Turgeonbut has finished a season in the top twenty-five once in the past six years.

I think these guys understand that I also think it’s their personalities, you know, again we’ve got kids with incredibly high personalities who want to win and they understand what it takes to win and they bring it every night,” Willard said Sunday. “And they’re rewarding. They are rewarded for their hard work and efforts. That is what I care about.”

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