Blue Ribbon Yearbook projects Maryland basketball's results, reveals Willard's plans for personnel and style

Blue Ribbon Yearbook projects Maryland basketball’s results, reveals Willard’s plans for personnel and style

There are college basketball preview magazines, and then there’s the Blue Ribbon Yearbook, long-established as the bible for preseason college hoops breakdowns. The magazine is out in digital form, and Mike Ashley did an excellent job describing the transition from Mark Turgeon to Kevin Willardand getting candid comments from Willard on how he views his team for this season.

Ashley, a Maryland native who’s followed the program for decades, wrote: “Maryland is hard to figure. Even in and around Maryland. Last year after giving Mark Turgeon a contract extension in the offseason, the Terrapins parted ways with “Turg” in December, then installed Danny Manning as interim coach. Maryland slide to its first losing record since 1993,” he wrote.

“The Terrapins were an uneven blend of players, disillusioned fans and a veteran coach in Turgeon whose biggest fault was that he wasn’t Gary Williams. Everyone should have seen the parting coming.”

Some might argue Turgeon’s shortcomings went beyond not meeting Williams’ standards, but that’s old news.

“The 47-year-old hit the ground running this summer, saying all the right things. Doing the right things like shopping locally for recruits and getting his share of said recruits to make fans happier,” he wrote of Willard. “He’s also talking about running and extending his defense, things Maryland fanatics remember fondly from the good ole days. You know, three years ago when Turgeon’s team went 24-7 and won the Big Ten regular season crown.”

The magazine picks Maryland to finish 10th in the Big Ten, ahead of only Minnesota, Penn State, Northwestern and Nebraska. It has all nine teams ahead of the Terps making the NCAA Tournament, which could be viewed as a glass half-full scenario; if they’re that close to being a tourney team in a rebuilding year of sorts, there’s hope of dancing next spring. It projects the top five in the standings at Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Michigan State and Purdue.

Ashley got good stuff from Willard on his roster. Given the lack of depth, it should come as no surprise he’s looking for Donta Scott to take on a starring role in his final season. he could play some small-ball five alongside four guards.

He wrote: ‘He was in the weight room all summer to up the ante and Willard is counting on him for 34 minutes a game at forwards. Scott has also improved his shooting’

“We’re going to need him to be more of a scorer than he has been in the past,” Willard said.

Willard told Ashley likes sophomore center Julian Reese’s toughness, but he needs to cut down on the whistles. Reese averaged 2.7 fouls in 17 minutes per game last season, the latter of which was limited by the former.

“The biggest step he can take is being more consistent on the defensive end and making sure he doesn’t pick up hose ticky-tack fouls that make him go to the bench,” he said.

Willard on hakim hart: “hakim hart is very underrated. He can defend at a high level and he’s a very good passer.”

We Ian Martinez: “If he comes in, look for Maryland to press and ‘Get after people,’ as Willard likes to say.”

Willard told the magazine that unheralded LIU-Brooklyn transfer Patrick Emilien might be the first guy off the bench.

“He’s a smart player that can play three positions. Doesn’t do anything great but makes anything better,” he said.

He also noted that he was surprised by redshirt freshman guard Ike Cornish and his scoring knack, saying he had the best summer of anybody in the program.” You might recall reading something similar. He also said barely-used reserve Pavlo Dziuba will play some at the five and freshman noah batchelor will get minutes at the four to stretch out opposing defenses. He reports that 6-11 Canadian import Caleum Swanton-Rodger has a great attitude and great hands, and has added 20 pounds of muscle since arriving. Still, he might be a year away from contributing regularly.

In Maryland’s Blue Ribbon capsule, one string of numbers stands out. That’s the program’s KenPom rankings at the end of the past five years: No. 39, 24, 11, 35, 83. Clearly, that’s not up to standards, which Willard is tasked with fixing. He said he’s looking to go up-tempo.

“I have an idea how we can play,” Willard told the magazine. “We’ll have to play small at times, and we’re going to play faster and press more. The thing is just kind of seeing how much — it’s fun to say you’re going to play fast, but we’ll have to see the reality. We’re really focused on controlling tempo, especially in conference play against some bigger teams. We want to push the pace, get their bigs to guard us on the perimeter.”


Ashley summed up the coaching change well.

“It didn’t seem like anyone was having fun. Fans are ready to latch onto their team again and ready to make the Maryland home-court advantage what it once was in old Cole Field House and for years in big games at Xfinity,” he wrote.

“Take a deep breath. Enjoy, Terps.”

The magazine is a no-brainer purchase for any hardcore college basketball fan at less than $20 for a download here.

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