COLLEGE PARK, Maryland — Although it took a little longer than he would have preferred, Mark Turgeon has made Maryland basketball relevant again.
In his first three years after replacing esteemed coach Gary Williams, Turgeon failed to take the team to the NCAA Tournament. The Terrapins finally achieved that objective last season, going 28-7 and finishing second in the Big Ten before advancing to the round of 32.
That was merely a precursor to this season. Turgeon has a team loaded with talent and very capable of reaching the Final Four for the first time since 2002, when Maryland won its only national championship.
Expectations are high for this team, which has come a long way since going 17-15 in Turgeon's first year at the helm and 17-15 in 2013-14.
"I don't think about where we are. I think about the way it should be," Turgeon said. "And last year, breaking the (school) record for regular-season wins is where it should be. That's what I envisioned."
That squad was very good. This one has the potential to be even better. Returning guard Melo Trimble is the Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year and forward Jake Layman added bulk to his 6-foot-9 frame after leading the team in rebounding. Transfers Robert Carter Jr. (Georgia Tech) and Rasheed Sulaimon (Duke) add experience and scoring potential, and 6-11 freshman Diamond Stone has the potential to be an immediate contributor.
"This team has got a lot of talent," Turgeon said. "Guys stayed, recruiting went well. We'll see. We've got an opportunity to do some nice things, so we'll see if we can handle it."
Some things to know about the 2015-165 Terrapins:
CHEMISTRY CLASS: There is no shortage of talent on this squad, but with only one basketball it is incumbent upon Turgeon to make sure the chemistry is right. The players insist their goal is only to win, and that playing time isn't nearly as important. "If everyone has that one common goal of winning the game each night," Layman said, "I don't think sharing the ball will be a problem for us."
FEELING MELO: Trimble had an outstanding freshman season, leading the Terps in scoring, assists and steals. He was first-team Big Ten, too. Fans are waiting for the encore. "What we're working on is trying to become a better defender — on-ball defender and team defender," Turgeon said. "I didn't ask him to do a lot of that last year because he just couldn't foul. Defensively, he's got to get better." A year ago, Trimble was Maryland's only effective point guard. When he left with an injury against West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament, the Terps were helpless without him. Now, Sulaimon and Jaylen Brantley can run the offense when Trimble isn't on the floor.
DIAMOND IN ROUGH: Much has been made about Turgeon landing Stone, a McDonald's All-American out of Milwaukee. The highly recruited star averaged 24.4 points and 11.7 rebounds as a senior at Dominican High. In an effort to temper expectations, Turgeon said, "There's a lot of things that he has to do better and he knows that." Asked to assess the difference between performing in high school and at Maryland, Stone quickly answered: "The competition level. Each and every day I have to play 100 percent in practice."
WELCOME BACK CARTER: After sitting out a year because of NCAA transfer rules, Carter is ready to roll. He was arguably the most impressive player on the floor at Maryland Madness earlier this month, and should contribute heavily on both ends of the court. "I think last year was a major jump for me, especially in terms of learning about the game," he said. "I'm a basketball fanatic, so not being able to play just helped me dive in to the ins and outs of basketball."