NCAA basketball top middle and senior performers to start 2022-23
In the 2022 Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off championship game, Maryland Basketball led a balanced offense to an explosive victory over Miami.
The first year of Kevin Willard’s tenure with Maryland Basketball is off to a strong start. After opening 3-0, the Terrapins traveled to Connecticut for the 2022 Four-Team Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off. After a decisive 28-point win over Saint Louis, Maryland defeated Miami in the championship game of the event, 88-70. It was the Terps’ fifth straight victory by 18 or more points. Here are three takeaways from the victory over the Hurricanes.
1. A balanced attack
For the second straight game, Maryland saw five players reach double digits in scoring. Donta Scott led the effort with 24 points on 9-12 from the field. Opening the season shooting 47 percent from three-of-three attempts per game, Scott will be a nightmare for opposing defenses with his backhand ability. Add him the perimeter trio of Jahmir Young, Don Carey and Hakim Hart plus the promising growth of JuJu Reese and Maryland has plenty of guns to keep track of.
Maryland set the Nets on fire as a team, shooting 60% from the field and 42.9% from three. They’ve converted 40 percent of their three-point attempts in three of five games this season. Willard emphasized getting everyone on the court involved in the offense and not being afraid of the perimeter shot. That multidimensional approach will make it difficult for them to plan the game forward because it won’t be as simple as shutting down a player.
2. The emergence of JuJu Reese
JuJu Reese finished with 17 points on 7-8 from the field against Miami. He now has at least 15 points in three of Maryland’s five games this season after failing to reach that mark once in 32 games as a freshman. The former top-60 recruit is currently averaging 13.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. Reese’s emergence early in his sophomore campaign is an extremely welcome development for a Maryland team that lacks frontcourt depth.
After the coach who recruited him left the program midway through his freshman season and his sister moved from UMD to LSU, JuJu Reese had every reason to leave Maryland. He stayed and is now a major piece to the Terrapins’ surprising start to the season.
3. Maryland is ahead of its time
Maryland Basketball was a nearly unanimous selection to finish in the bottom half of the Big Ten league this season. With a solid recruiting class of 2023 on the way, the Terrapins were considered a truly competitive team a couple years away. Looks like no one told Kevin Willard. The Terps are currently 5-0 with blowouts against two top 40 teams and reside in the top 25 of both KenPom and the AP poll. The culture has changed at UMD. Every game this season has been characterized by dynamic offense, active defense and fast-paced play. It looks like Maryland Basketball may be more competitive this year than we thought.
The Terrapins were not expected to smell the AP Top 25 in 2022-23. What Kevin Willard has accomplished in such a short time is certainly remarkable. The early returns suggest that he is already delivering on his promise to restore Maryland to national prominence.