2022-23 Maryland basketball: Strengths and Weaknesses

When Maryland men’s basketball head coach Kevin Willard took the job just over a year ago, he was tasked with turning around an institution that was fresh off its first losing record since the 1992-93 season, had its former head coach resign in early December, and lost its two leading scorers.

While there were many questions that surrounded this team entering the 2022-23 campaign, it is safe to say that the rollercoaster of a season had more highs than lows.

Maryland finished the season 22-13 overall, 11-9 in Big Ten conference play – including a flawless 10-0 record at home – and won an NCAA Tournament game.

These are all feats that Willard would have called “nuts” if you told them to him before the season.

While they may have sounded nuts, the product on the court showed otherwise, as Maryland raced out to an 8-0 record and was nationally ranked as high as No. 13 in the AP poll in mid-December. A bumpy January ended with three consecutive wins and momentum into February, where the Terps went 5-2 and secured a massive upset of No. 3 ranked Purdue.

Two road losses to begin March moved Maryland down the seed-line prior to the Big Ten tournament, where they won a game over No. 14 Minnesota before sputtering in the second half against No. 3 Indiana.

Maryland earned an 8-seed in the NCAA Tournament and survived its first game by two points over West Virginia before running into the buzzsaw of top-seeded Alabama.

Despite another season without making the sweet sixteen, through the play of the three starters who remained from the season prior, to the impact-transfers brought in by Willard and staff, the Terps exceeded the expectations of many this season.

Here are some of the strengths displayed by the 2022-23 roster, as well as what needs to be addressed and improved on entering the 2023-24 season:


Growth of Julian Reese: After a somewhat disappointing freshman season where Julian Reese underperformed in limited minutes off the bench, the strides he made in the offseason and during the season were noticeable.

At 6 foot 9, an undersized Reese went toe to toe with some of the conference’s best big men. In Maryland’s first matchup against Purdue on Jan. 22, Reese had 19 points against All-Big Ten first teamer Zach Edey.

This performance seemed to light a fire under Reese, as he scored in double-figures in 14 of his next 16 games to end the season. The sophomore had four straight double-doubles in February and became one of the focal points of Maryland’s offense down the stretch.

For Reese, staying out of foul trouble will be key to his production next season. He averaged just over three fouls per game, and as was evident in the Alabama loss, the offense struggled without his presence on the interior.

Heading into 2023-24, Reese is expected to return and anchor a frontcourt that will very likely look different than this season. With Donta Scott expected to move on and just one frontcourt player with experience beyond Reese, the Baltimore native will have a chance to dominate and entrench himself among the Big Ten’s best.

Defense: The identity of past teams coached by Willard were always known as defensive-minded. His first season at Maryland was no different.

In conference play, Maryland held opponents to under 65 points a game on average, ranking them fourth in the Big Ten. The Terps also limited opponents production from 3-point range, allowing less than six made threes a game on average in conference play. The versatility of the rotation pieces allowed Maryland to switch a lot between their 2-4 spots on the floor.

The length of senior forward Hakim Hart was crucial to its defensive success.

Hart averaged just over one steal per game, which included a four-steal game he had against Minnesota on Feb. 22. His ability to disrupt passing lanes and guard virtually any position on the floor allowed Maryland’s defense to flourish.

Veteran leadership: The 2022-23 Maryland basketball team was full of guys with experience. Four of its starters were seniors, including Don Carey who was playing for his fourth school, and off the bench was Patrick Emilien, another veteran who was playing for his third school in five seasons.

While this team was experienced on paper, only Hart and Donta Scott had faced the gauntlet that is the Big Ten conference schedule.

Hart and Scott spent all four years at Maryland and played the role of captain in the early portion of the season. Leading scorer Jahmir Young transferred to Maryland from Charlotte and took some time to adapt to the bigger, stronger players in the conference.

These veterans were the heart and soul of the team and were relied on to produce game after game.

With Carey and Emilien out of eligibility and Hart’s intentions to play elsewhere, it looks like the 2023-24 roster will be on the inexperienced side.

DeShawn Harris-Smith and Jamie Kaiser are 4-star freshman who will look to make an immediate impact next season, but without the veteran mentorship that this past season’s roster had, it could be tough for them to quickly adjust to the conference. But who can Willard lean on? That’s what makes Jahmir Young’s impending decision that much more critical as the staff awaits final word.


3-point shooting: An obvious flaw of the 2022-23 team was its 3-point shooting struggles. Maryland was unable to consistently rely on the 3-point shot as an asset to its offense this season, and it tended to hurt them more than help them.

The Terps ranked 256th in the country in 3-point shooting percentage and had multiple losses with dreadful shooting performances.

On Feb. 7 against Michigan State, Maryland shot 3 for 22 from 3-point range in the loss to the Spartans, which amplified its need for perimeter production.

Carey, who transferred to Maryland to be a spot-up shooter, knocked down 57 of his 166 from beyond the arc this year at just under 35%. Although he struggled at times, he seemed to find a rhythm down the stretch of the season and scored in double-figures in six straight games before the NCAA Tournament.

Without Carey next season, the Terps are going to have to either dip into the transfer portal or develop someone like Noah Batchelor to fill the shooting void. Finding a shooter to round out the backcourt is among the top priorities for Willard and company this offseason

Frontcourt depth: Another area that needs significant improvement is Maryland’s front court depth.

Outside of Reese, who played just under 30 minutes per game, the Terps had no real inside presence. Especially with the foul trouble that Reese dealt with, it is important to have a backup that can come in and provide valuable minutes on the interior.

Freshman Caelum Swanton-Rodger showed flashes of potential at times throughout the year, but saw limited action. His best performance came against Michigan on Jan. 19, where he was implemented to guard Hunter Dickinson. Swanton-Rodger played a huge role in turning that game around, as he scored twice on Dickinson, which included a thunderous slam, and grabbed three rebounds.

Expect him to have a larger role as a sophomore next season as someone who Willard can trust while Reese sits. While the roster could see attrition in the frontcourt, Maryland will also welcome IMG Academy (FL) three-star center Braden Pierce as he’ll be a key piece in the future.

Slow starts/road woes: Another common theme that plagued Maryland this season was its slow starts, especially in games played away from the Xfinity Center.

The Terps won only once away from home in the Big Ten this season, a Feb. 4 win over Minnesota, the league’s worst team.

A recurring theme in these losses were the team’s inability to start strong. On Jan 1. at Michigan, the Terps fell behind 17-0 before scoring their initial points. A similar feat occurred just over a month later in East Lansing, as Michigan State jumped ahead by 15 points before Maryland could muster a basket.

These holes were difficult to climb out of and continued throughout the season. The Terps were constantly playing from behind in road environments, which is difficult to do in a conference like the Big Ten.

Whether it was mental, nerves, or other factors, Maryland went 2-9 in true road games this season. In neutral site games, the team fared much better at 4-3, which included an early season victory over Miami as well as victories in both the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments.

The 2023-24 roster will have to put those struggles behind them in order to succeed in conference play.

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