November 12, 2015

(AP) - Although it took a little longer than he would have preferred, Mark Turgeon has made Maryland basketball relevant again.

In his first three years after replacing esteemed coach Gary Williams, Turgeon failed to take the team to the NCAA Tournament. The Terrapins finally achieved that objective last season, going 28-7 and finishing second in the Big Ten before advancing to the round of 32.

That was merely a precursor to this season, which gets underway Friday night when the third-ranked Terrapins host Mount St. Mary's.

Turgeon has a team loaded with talent and very capable of reaching the Final Four for the first time since 2002, when Maryland won its only national championship.

Expectations are high for this team, which has come a long way since going 17-15 in Turgeon's first year at the helm and 17-15 in 2013-14.

''I don't think about where we are. I think about the way it should be,'' Turgeon said. ''And last year, breaking the (school) record for regular-season wins is where it should be. That's what I envisioned.''

That squad was very good. This one has the potential to be even better. Returning guard Melo Trimble is the Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year and forward Jake Layman added bulk to his 6-foot-9 frame after leading the team in rebounding (5.8).

Transfers Robert Carter Jr. (Georgia Tech) and Rasheed Sulaimon (Duke) add experience and scoring potential, and 6-11 freshman center Diamond Stone has the potential to be an immediate contributor.

''This team has got a lot of talent,'' Turgeon said. ''Guys stayed, recruiting went well. We'll see. We've got an opportunity to do some nice things, so we'll see if we can handle it.''

Turgeon has cautioned that it would take time for Stone - a McDonald's All-American ranked as Scout.com's No. 6 recruit - to develop, though Stone started the only exhibition game and led Maryland with 16 points.

''There's a lot of things that he has to do better and he knows that,'' Turgeon said. ''He's got a great feel for the game, a good understanding of the game.''

While there is no shortage of talent on this squad, it is incumbent upon Turgeon to make sure the chemistry is right. The players insist their goal is only to win, and that playing time isn't nearly as important.

''If everyone has that one common goal of winning the game each night,'' Layman said, ''I don't think sharing the ball will be a problem for us.''

Trimble had an outstanding freshman season, leading the Terps in scoring (16.2), assists (3.0) and steals (1.3). He was first-team Big Ten, too.

''What we're working on is trying to become a better defender - on-ball defender and team defender,'' Turgeon said. ''I didn't ask him to do a lot of that last year because he just couldn't foul. Defensively, he's got to get better.''

A year ago, Trimble was Maryland's only effective point guard. When he left with an injury against West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament, the Terps were helpless without him. Now, Sulaimon and Jaylen Brantley can run the offense when Trimble isn't on the floor.

After sitting out a year because of NCAA transfer rules, Carter is ready to roll. He was arguably the most impressive player on the floor at Maryland Madness last month and should contribute heavily on both ends of the court.

''I think last year was a major jump for me, especially in terms of learning about the game,'' he said. ''I'm a basketball fanatic, so not being able to play just helped me dive in to the ins and outs of basketball.''

Maryland, though, will be without guard Dion Wiley for an estimated four months after undergoing surgery to repair a torn right meniscus. Turgeon said Wiley was expected to start at shooting guard after appearing in all 35 games as a freshman last season and averaging 4.1 points.

After reaching the NCAA Tournament in 2013-14 with a 16-16 regular-season record and Northeast Conference tournament title, Mount St. Mary's finished .500 again last season (15-15) following a first-round loss in the conference tournament.

The Mountaineers were picked as the preseason favorite by the Northeast coaches, with senior forward Gregory Graves and junior guard BK Ashe named to the preseason all-conference team.

Ashe led Mount St. Mary's with 11.9 points per game last season while Graves was second at 10.1 to go along with a team-best 7.4 rebounds.

The Terrapins lead the all-time series 7-0. This is the third time the Mountaineers will open their season at Maryland.

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