After moving to 5-0 and winning the Hall of Fame Tipoff Championship over the weekend, Maryland is now ranked for the first time in the Kevin Willard era.
Maryland checked in at 23rd in the latest AP rankings, ahead of both Purdue and Iowa. Maryland also vaulted into the top 25 of Monday’s updated Kenpom rankings. For a team that was projected to finish tenth in the Big Ten this season, this week’s updated rankings is the latest improvement that’s validated Willard’s hire as Maryland’s next head coach. After rallying the fanbase through various alumni engagements through the season, inking a consensus top-20 class with local firepower in his first cycle and reinvigorating Maryland’s tempo to energize the fanbase, Willard now has Maryland basketball firing on all cylinders to kick off his first season as head coach. In Willard’s mind, this weekend didn’t give Maryland basketball signature wins but on a national scale, the performances validated Maryland’s hot start to the 2022-23 season.
“We’re really not worried about signature wins or where we are. I think we still have a long way to go. I mean we’re good, we have great players, but they’re still trying to learn this system,” he added.
Maryland’s convincing wins through the weekend continued the trend of blowout wins to start the season as the Terps are tied for 27th nationally in scoring margin through five games. While Maryland’s swarming defense has made the performances impressive through the early season, they’ve done so with balanced offense on the other end. Donta Scott combined for 49 points over the weekend to draw MVP honors and is one of four players averaging double figures, joining Julian Reese (13.2), Hakim Hart (12.4) and Jahmir Young (12.2). Maryland also sits second in the Big Ten in team field goal percentage (50.2%) while allowing its opponents to shoot just 36.5% from the floor.
Multiple ballots placed Maryland inside the top 20, but as Willard noted during preseason that his team will likely hits its stride in late December, Maryland’s head coach reevaluated where his team is through the first five games.
“I think as I’ve been getting to know these guys and get to know their personality, you know, they’re smart basketball players so that has really helped with what we’re trying to do on the defensive end. And I think offensively as they start to realize that, you know, the more the ball gets side to side, the more we get to second options. We’re becoming a very good offensive team, so we’re a little bit ahead, but again, I’m excited about the fact that I see so many things that we can get better at.”
Maryland will return to action on Friday afternoon to welcome former Terp Juan Dixon back into Xfinity Center as the head coach of Coppin State.