Tricky Terps: The frustrating case of Maryland basketball

Navigate Left
Navigate Right
  • Maryland's Melo Trimble (2) is trapped by North Carolina's Kennedy Meeks (3) and Joel Berry II (2) during the first half on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C. The host Tar Heels won, 89-81. (Robert Willett/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS)

  • Maryland's Melo Trimble (2) is trapped by North Carolina's Kennedy Meeks (3) and Joel Berry II (2) during the first half on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C. The host Tar Heels won, 89-81. (Robert Willett/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS)

Navigate Left
Navigate Right

By Dan Escalona

Tweet: Missing Melo: The absent ghost in the Maryland machine

Attempting to decode the 2016 Maryland Terrapins is a lot like learning HTML for the first time. The basic structure looks great, yet upon further inspection one small but important piece is missing, sabotaging the entire design.

The problem with Maryland’s code is not a missing endpoint, though. The problem with their code is a missing Melo Trimble.

Until about one week ago, Trimble was one of the Big Ten’s most consistent scores and passers, averaging 14 points and five assists per game.CH

His steadiness on the court was a major reason why the Terrapins ranked second in the country and tied for first in the conference two weeks ago. Maryland was well on its way to a possible No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and a run to the Final Four.

On Feb. 13, the momentum Maryland built up over the season was stunted and questions invariably began to swirl about how far the team could actually go in March.

Two Saturdays ago, the Terrapins suffered their first home defeat as a Big Ten team in a 13-point loss to Wisconsin. They followed that up with a disastrous road loss against winless Minnesota.

By far the most glaring similarity between both of these losses was the play of Melo Trimble. He scored 10 points in each game, shooting a combined 4-25 with 11 turnovers. In the team’s first conference loss of the season on January 12, Trimble only scored two points and had four turnovers against Michigan.

As Maryland’s focal point, the effectiveness and productivity of the offense rests on his ability to score from the outside and utilize his driving ability to involve players in the offense. Likewise, opposing defenses seek to limit Trimble’s effectiveness by forcing him into low-percentage shots and turnovers.

Three of the Terrapins’ four conference losses were largely a product of limiting his scoring and assisting, leaving Trimble as a nonfactor.

When Trimble is not in rhythm, it is difficult for the team to consistently rely on other players to produce enough offensively. Talented scorers like Robert Carter and Rasheed Sulaimon CHhave the ability to erupt on a given night, but often struggle with consistency. Sulaimon in particular has games where he can score 28 (against Minnesota) or games where he only scores eight points (against Michigan State). He has scored four points or less in three other Big Ten games.

The talent is there for Maryland, it is just a matter for three of its top scores to remain consistent.

This is why completely writing off the Terrapins on the basis of two bad losses is much of an overreaction. Trimble has been one of the Big Ten’s most versatile guards this season, and he easily can get back to himself in no time.

But Maryland fans should not assume the team will get back to their usual dominant selves in time for a strong tournament run. The model to force the Terrapins into stagnation is to push Trimble into replicating his bad habits.

If the Big Ten is to continue its Final Four streak for the fifth consecutive year, the Terrapins may not be the best bet.

Last week’s surprising losses exposed the most pressing error in the Maryland code – one that College Park programmers must fix to avoid back-to-back Terrapin second round exits.

Dan is a senior in Media.

[email protected]

@danescalona77