Nike/LM NCAA Preview: No. 4 Maryland (Men)
Maryland's trip to the NCAA championship game last year was hardly foreign territory. The Terps have made it to the title game three times in the last five years, but a national championship has remained elusive.
Maryland will make another run at it this year with an experienced goalie and its usually stingy defense. Whether they make it over the top may depend on the offense taking another step forward.
Maryland at a Glance
2015 Record: 15-4
3 Big Things
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Maryland has struggled for a number of years finishing shots, and last year was no different, as the Terps made just 26.2 percent of their 740 attempts. In addition, when Jay Carlson graduated last year, the Terps lost a 43 percent shooter.
1. The loss of Matt Neufeldt creates a problem and an opportunity.
It’s easy to forget how quickly Matt Neufeldt stepped up to fill a need for the Terps in the fall of 2014 by taking over as their primary long-stick midfielder. Neufeldt had a freshman season worthy of All-America honors by collecting 57 ground balls and causing 21 turnovers, while tying up opposing midfielders consistently. Neufeldt tore his ACL last fall and is lost for the 2016 season. Senior Mike McCarney could open the season in Neufeldt’s place, but don’t be surprised if Virginia transfer Greg Danseglio adds to his value by spending lots of time at LSM.
2. Tim Rotanz is a true X-factor in 2016.
When Rotanz signed with Maryland, he was one of the most highly touted high school attackman in the country. He finished a five-year prep career at Shoreham-Wading River (N.Y.) High School with 248 goals and 240 assists, before bad luck intervened. Injury cut short his freshman season in College Park. A case of vertigo kept Rotanz off the field in 2015 during what became a medical redshirt year. If Rotanz starts the season with Matt Rambo and Dylan Maltz on attack, that alone will mark a victory. If Rotanz stays healthy and productive, he could alter the dynamics of the Maryland offense.
3. Transfer Pat Young has checked his ego at the door.
After transferring from UMBC to Maryland following three seasons with the Retrievers, Young might have begun the fall season expecting special treatment befitting a midfielder who had been a two-time, First-Team All-America East selection with 65 goals in his first two seasons. Tillman said that was not the case. “What struck me most about Pat was his humility,” Tillman said. “He wants to earn everything he gets. He knows there are no free rides on the bus.” At 6-1, 205, Young is big, strong and athletic with finishing skills that could make him an ideal leader on the second midfield unit.
Kyle Bernlohr (Sr.)*
* returning starters
Rambo overcame disciplinary issues by capitalizing on his strong freshman season with a team-high 40 goals and 19 assists, second-most on the squad. The Terps should be more dynamic at midfield, but the offense still must flow through Rambo, who could threaten the 50-goal mark with more proficient shooting.
The 6-foot, 185-pound Virginia transfer spent last season practicing with the Terps. He probably will start on defense, although Tillman also thinks Danseglio could give Maryland valuable time at LSM. “Greg is smart, competitive and a film junkie,” Tillman said.
No defense becomes great without competent defensive midfielders, and Davis-Allen (44 ground balls) is an example of another very good one in College Park. “He could play on our first midfield, but he does such a good job at the other end,” Tillman said.
Biggest Question Mark
Maryland fans have been spoiled by the skilled specialists that have commanded this position over the years. Now that Charlie Raffa is gone, it’s Garino’s turn to continue the tradition. Garino won 63 of 127 faceoffs last year.
Bryan Cole and Dylan Maltz will be two of the key figures on offense for Maryland in 2015. Cole led the Terps with 22 assists last season and Maltz had 11 goals. (John Strohsacker)
What rival coaches say about the Terps
"Tillman has created a program that simply wins. Who has as many NCAA tournament wins as he and the Terrapins do this decade? The offense is patient as they probe and wait for the opposing defense to make a mistake. Opponents do not see the ball that much as the offense possesses and possesses and possesses. The defense is as strong individually as they are schematically. Having Bernlohr behind them only compounds the difficulty opposing offenses have with scoring on Maryland. Hard to imagine them not in the final four again."
"Bernlohr should make them a tough out again."
"We all know now that this team will obviously be very good defensively as time and time again no matter the personnel or the defensive coordinator, this defense continues to be one of if not the top defense in the country year in and year out. Their major issues have been on the offensive side of the ball late in the season and come tourney time. They have some terrific personnel. Losing Raffa will be a hit but he had been out for numerous stretches for them before. The new faceoff guy will definitely not be happy without Neufeldt on one of the wings for them."
"Uncanny knack for getting it done these recent years. Rambo needs to be a leader. Enough offense will be key to final four success."
"If you think they don’t have certain players in certain areas, you’re assessing the wrong thing … They play a really smart style. The last few years, people have counted them out and in the middle of the year they’re ranked in the top one or two. You can expect that again, I’m absolutely certain. They’ll play tough, and they’ll get Danseglio and a healthy Rotanz. I think they’re going to be excellent."
Total number of goals scored by Maryland in its three NCAA championship game losses under Tillman. To win their first national title since 1975, the Terps need to show more unpredictability and versatility on offense in May.
20 High Point
27 @ Yale
26 North Carolina
April 2 at Michigan
Besides being Maryland’s Big Ten opener, this comes near the end of a stretch in which the Terps play seven of nine contests away from College Park, including a trip to Orange County to face Notre Dame on March 5. The Terps travel to Penn on March 29, then head to Ann Arbor on a short turnaround to begin league play.
In an effort to increase the team’s flexibility, Maryland has turned to yoga. The team went through regular classes last fall, and the Terps have placed a larger emphasis on stretching in their pre- and post-practice routines. “We’ve got to get faster and better and stay out of the training room,” Tillman said.
You know what you’re getting with Maryland. The Terps take their cues from a shutdown defense and a faceoff unit that combines to limit possession time and good shots by the opposition. If Maryland scores in double digits, it’s a tough team to beat. The Terps will reach another NCAA tournament and win at least one game. But will the offense be multi-dimensional enough to win the program’s first title since 1975?
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