Maryland Basketball: Impending player decisions leave Terps in limbo – Busting Brackets - Techy Hunters

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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Maryland Basketball: Impending player decisions leave Terps in limbo – Busting Brackets

Maryland Basketball had a surprisingly decent 2020-21 season, finishing 17-14 overall and 9-11 in a tough Big Ten conference. The Terps were selected for the 2020 NCAA Tournament as a No. 10 seed, defeating No. 7 UConn in the opening game before getting bounced by No. 2 Alabama. Considering that many pundits had written off Mark Turgeon’s squad after the losses of Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith, a Round of 32 appearance was certainly a success.

Throughout this offseason, 2021-22 preseason rankings have indicated the general expectation that the Terps will build off last year’s campaign. Andy Katz put Maryland Basketball at No. 8 in his Way-Too-Early Power 36 for next season. ESPN’s WTE preseason rankings opened with the Terrapins at No. 6, and they currently sit at No. 12. Various other outlets have put Maryland in their top 15 teams for next season. Are these rankings justified? Well, sort of.

Much of the preseason hype surrounding Maryland Basketball is based on their quick activity in the transfer portal. Turgeon landed Qudus Wahab from Georgetown and Fatts Russell from Rhode Island before most other programs had even bothered to check who was transferring.

Maryland’s transfer activity was a plus, but that’s only part of the equation when it comes to their preseason expectations. It seems that most of these rankings are heavily predicated on the return of their key players: Aaron Wiggins, Eric Ayala, and Darryl Morsell. All three of these veterans have yet to announce whether or not they will return to College Park next season.

Aaron Wiggins

Statistically, Wiggins was probably the Terrapins’ best player last season, ranking second on the team in points, assists, rebounds, and steals per game. At season’s end, he decided to test the NBA Draft waters as many expected. He received a vote to the G League Elite camp, impressing enough in the two games in which he played to secure an invite to the 2021 NBA Draft Combine.

The NBA invitation delays Aaron Wiggins‘ decision to leave or return to College Park by more than two weeks. His all-around play and veteran presence would be a huge piece in Maryland Basketball building on last season, especially given that he has made noticeable upgrades to his game in the offseason. Coach Turgeon insinuated that he expects Wiggins to return if the rising senior is not evaluated as a first-round talent.

Eric Ayala

Eric Ayala led the Terrapins in points and steals per game last season, taking the majority of the playmaking duties at the top of the key. He also entered his name in the NBA Draft process, but he did not receive an invitation to the Draft Combine or the G League Elite camp. Mark Turgeon had this to say about the rising senior:

“Eric’s realistic about his situation. I think it’s more about just trying to get a workout-type thing. He knows the best thing for him is, eventually, probably to come back to Maryland. He’s going to graduate next year.”

– Mark Turgeon, via 105.7 The Fan

It looks like the prevailing thought is that Ayala will once again find himself in Maryland’s starting lineup next season, barring unforeseen circumstances. Considering that many teams who make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament are composed of four-year players, Ayala’s return will be extremely beneficial.

Darryl Morsell

Morsell might be the biggest wild card for Maryland Basketball entering next season. After last year, the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year put his name in both the NBA Draft process and the transfer portal to examine all his options. Like Eric Ayala, Morsell did not receive an invitation to the Draft Combine or the G League Elite camp. That left the question of where he will use his fifth year of college eligibility.

Three weeks ago, Jeff Goodman reported that Darryl Morsell was inclined to return to College Park next season. The Baltimore native has received interest from Marquette, Providence, Arkansas, Duke, Miami, Florida, San Diego State, Butler, and Clemson. He still has not made any definitive indication of where he will play basketball for 2021-22.

While much of Morsell’s contributions may not show up on the stat sheet, he is arguably the most important player for the Terps as their high-energy leader and motor on the court.

While Maryland Basketball has received a great deal of fanfare ahead of the upcoming college basketball season, their stock is still very much in flux. The loss of Aaron Wiggins, Eric Ayala, and Darryl Morsell would leave Mark Turgeon’s squad in big trouble, but getting those players back would make the Terrapins a major threat in the Big Ten and beyond.



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