Maryland Basketball ranked in new AP Poll

Maryland Basketball ranked in new AP Poll

It didn’t take long for Maryland basketball to rise from a national afterthought to a top-25 team. The Terps landed at No. 23 in the college basketball AP Poll on Monday, the result of their surprisingly dominating 5-0 start.

It’s the first time Maryland’s been ranked since the preseason last year. That didn’t go well, of course, with Mark Turgeon leaving eight games into the season and the team finishing with its first losing record since 1992-1993. Goal first-year coach Kevin Willard has reinvigorated the program, his team winning all five of its games by at least 18 points, capped by an 88-70 win over Miami on Sunday in the Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic championship game.

Maryland is beating opponents by an average of 22.4 points per game and hasn’t been challenged yet, leading by double-digits at halftime of every game, including one-sided wins over a pair of projected NCAA Tournament teams that received votes in the poll last week, St. Louis and Miami.

“We’re still growing,” point guard Jahmir Young said Sunday after all five starters scored in double-digits. “We get after it in practice, which builds our chemistry a lot. We still have a lot to learn, but it’s good getting the first five wins. We just have to keep going from there.”

The Terps will be favored to be 7-0 when Illinois arrives on Dec. 2, after hosting Juan Dixon-coached Coppin State on Friday and visiting struggling Louisville next Tuesday. The visit from the Illini begins a brutal four-game stretch, preceding games against Wisconsin, Tennessee and UCLA. But they’re unlikely to be intimidated. Willard’s brought swagger and toughness to the program and it shows in the 57.8 points per game they’ve allowed so far. Their opponents are shooting 22.1 percent from 3-point range, the 10th-lowest number in the country, and Maryland is shooting 51.7 percent overall.

“These guys have a great feel. They’re all big-time players. When you have older guys who are smart and also big-time players, they get things a little quicker than a freshman would. I think they’ve all worked really hard to understand what we’re trying to do defensively and it’s helping us win games,” Willard said.

Maryland has appeared in the AP Poll

Donta Scott earned MVP honors in the tournament, scoring 25 points in two games and becoming Maryland’s leading scorer (16.8 PPG). He also became the 17th Terp to post 1,000 career points and 500 career rebounds, a group most recently joined by Darryl Morsel and Anthony Cowan. The senior forward has slimmed down and improved his quickness and efficiency, providing a tough matchup for opponents with his inside-outside offensive game. He’s shooting a blistering 47.4 percent from 3-point range and 52.5 percent overall.

sophomore center Julian Reese is averaging 13.2 points on 79.4 percent shooting, and No. 3 scorer hakim hart is averaging 12.4 points on 57.9 percent.

“It starts with everybody,” Scott said on Saturday. “Coaches, managers, players, we come in every day locked in and ready to get better. And not just that, but our history. There’s a great history around Maryland Basketball…It’s not just what we’re doing now, it’s bigger. We just have to show it and now we’re showing it.

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