Happy State of the Union Day everyone. And as soon as that annual event concludes, flip over to your favorite sports network, ESPN2, for some Big Ten basketball, the perfect dessert to some political grandstanding. MSU hosts the Maryland Terrapins at 9 PM tonight. To help us get a closer look at this team, we sat down with Sam Oshtry from ‘Testudo Times’ for a little Q&A.
The Only Colors: This is season #9 for Maryland in the Big Ten. What was the general attitude among Terrapin fans when the move was first announced? Has that sentiment changed at all over the years? Are most people happy to be a part of the Big Ten or are there still people who wish you were still in the ACC?
Sam Oshtry: When Maryland made the move to the Big Ten, fans were livid. Most people understood the monetary reasoning for doing it, but Maryland was a basketball school and leaving the ACC and the vicious rivalries that existed were hard for people to swallow. As the years have passed, there is way less outrage, and more nostalgia among alumni. Most alum probably still wish Maryland was in the ACC, but it’s been almost a decade and with a now blossoming football program, fans understand the move. The conversation comes up often when discussing rivalries, because Maryland does not have a true rival in the Big Ten. For students, it means nothing but certain alum still hold on to their love of the ACC.
TOC: 2 of your top 5 are transfers in their first year in the program, including your leading scorer. Were Jahmir Young and Don Carey brought in knowing they would be such vital parts of the lineup or were they brought in to help fill out a roster and they have outperformed expectations?
SO: It’s a little bit of both. Willard had to build a competitive roster quickly when he was hired in late March, and he brought in highly touted guard transfers from the area. Given his restraints in year one, those two pickups were impressive, but no one thought Jahmir Young would be as dominant as he has. He came over from a mid-major and the physicality of the Big Ten has been no adjustment, so he has certainly outperformed expectations. Carey, on the other hand, came from Georgetown as a prolific 3-point shooter, but is struggling from deep and has not lived up to expectations.
TOC: You also have a first year head coach. Was Kevin Willard a welcomed hire or was there someone else that was more desired by Terrapin fans? What are the thoughts on him so far?
SO: Kevin Willard was a welcomed hire. I think Maryland fans were more indifferent about him when he was hired but wanted to give him a chance. So far, Maryland fans love him. Not just because his team has outperformed expectations this season, but because his first recruiting class is top 15 in the country and full of local DMV (writer’s note: DMV = D.C., Maryland, Virginia) kids. Part of the love for Willard in year one is slightly due to how much Maryland fans disliked his predecessor, Mark Turgeon. Willard has brought life back to Maryland basketball, which was the first step to reviving the program.
TOC: Maryland has won 4 in a row, the closest of which was an 11-point game, and before that you had a 3-point loss against Purdue. It seems like things are clicking for the Terrapins right now. Did a switch go off or has there been steady improvement from the beginning of the year. What is this team’s strength?
SO: As is the case for many Big Ten teams, Maryland has had a roller-coaster season. After an 8-0 start with wins over Miami, St. Louis and Illinois, Maryland came back down to earth. Maryland is 1-6 in conference road games, but three of its last four games have been at home, with the lone road game at Minnesota. That has helped boost Maryland’s record, along with improved defensive intensity that makes it challenging for opposing teams to score.
TOC: What is Maryland’s weakness? How can they be exposed and defeated?
SO: Maryland’s biggest weakness is its 3-point shooting. It is the second-worst 3-point shooting team in the Big Ten. Maryland certainly has nights where they are hot, but for the most part have struggled from long range. Maryland’s offense is at its best when its limiting its 3-point attempts and attacking the basket. But if Maryland has a bad shooting night, it certainly can be defeated.
TOC would like to thank Sam for his contribution to this article.