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Martin: By returning, Trimble saved from unfair, inevitable criticism

Martin: By returning, Trimble saved from unfair, inevitable criticism

With his decision Wednesday to withdraw from the 2016 NBA Draft and return to College Park for his junior season, Maryland guard Melo Trimble immediately transformed the Terrapins from team that would have been rebuilding next season into a team now with legitimate NCAA tournament hopes.

The return of an All-Big Ten guard who, at times throughout his career, was arguably the nation’s best point guard will do that.

From strictly a basketball perspective, Trimble’s decision to withdraw is the easiest to explain and the most reasonable. He struggled during a crucial stretch toward the end of the season. The NBA Combine in Chicago put onto paper the subpar measurables that have been the greatest criticism of those tasked with projecting his game at the next level. Workouts with teams after the Combine did not move the needle.

Now the clock resets and he has a junior season with a young but talented team to either solidify himself as a second-round pick or find a way to work into the first round.

But in choosing to return to College Park, Trimble did something much less tangible, though perhaps nearly as noteworthy. He, knowingly or not, shielded himself from what would have been unfair and inevitable criticism that comes along with perceived NBA Draft failure.

If he had decided to remain in the draft -- and especially if he had gone undrafted, as many reputable mocks suggested was a possibility -- that would have been a factually accurate end to his career at Maryland.

All-Big Ten First Team as a freshman, All-Big Ten Second Team as a sophomore, late second-round pick or undrafted player after declaring.

Again, factually accurate, but a label that would then unfairly color in the eyes of many an individual career in College Park that has been unlike any other the program had seen in a decade or more.

Remember: Trimble committed to Maryland in Dec. 2012, during a season that would end in the NIT for the Terrapins. He stuck with it even after five players decided to transfer out of the program after the 2013-14 season.

And because of that, he was branded as the program savior in the lead-up to his freshman season in 2014 -- astronomically high expectations that carried with them an incredibly heavy unspoken undertone of having to save Mark Turgeon’s job after the head coach had, to that point, not yet made an NCAA tournament appearance in College Park.

Dez Wells and Jake Layman kept the ship afloat. Melo Trimble got it sailing -- rapidly -- in the right direction, somehow exceeding every single expectation placed upon him.

In two seasons, Trimble has piloted the Terrapins to a 55-16 record, which is the program’s most successful two-year stretch since winning the 2002 national championship and advancing to the 2003 Sweet 16.

Last season was the program’s first trip back to the regional semifinal in 13 years.

The only Maryland player ever to score more points than Trimble through his sophomore season? Joe Smith.

Yet there would have been a strain of the Maryland fan base that would have immediately dismissed a decision to stay in the draft as misguided, at its most tame, or employed far stronger adjectives beyond that. Look at comment sections prior to Trimble’s decision for proof.

The NBA Draft is not a video game. One cannot return for another year in college, improve by five skill points in every category, and magically cement oneself in the first round.

Trimble will likely return to the NBA Combine next year and there he will still have one of the shortest wingspans in his position group and will have one of the shortest vertical jumps because by this point his weaknesses are known. He will be 22 years old in what is considered to be one of the deepest, most talented drafts in years.

At that point, he will simply have to show he can play ball. And he will have his entire junior season in College Park to prepare himself for that moment.

But never, thankfully for Trimble’s story, will anyone ever be able to say the homegrown star was chasing money or getting bad advice or any of the other preferred terms to explain an underclassman jumping to the draft.

We do not yet know what Trimble’s junior year will be like. He will have an opportunity to get healthy, but his supporting cast will not be as purely talented on paper as it was last season. At the same time, though, expectations will be closer to what they were his freshman season when he exploded onto the national scene.

In front of him will be the opportunity to unquestionably put himself in the conversation about the greatest Maryland guards ever, along with Juan Dixon, Steve Blake, Greivis Vasquez, and others -- without the verbal asterisk of “if he had come back for his junior year.”

Years from now, he will sit courtside as a guest and be shown on the videoboard overtop the court to a deserved raucous applause because he will have satisfied the purists and the narrative writers, regardless of what happens in 2016-17.

And yet there is still much of the story to be written.

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Not the homecoming former Terp D.J. Moore was hoping for against the Redskins

Not the homecoming former Terp D.J. Moore was hoping for against the Redskins

Former Maryland Terrapin D.J. Moore made his first trip to FedEx field as an NFL star. His Carolina Panthers traveled up to Landover, Md. for a Week 6 matchup with the Washington Redskins.

However, it was not the homecoming he and the Panthers were hoping for. 

The first-round draft pick had two fumbles in the first half against the Redskins. Both were punch-outs due to Moore not holding the ball tight enough.

The wide receiver's first came as he fielded the Redskins' first punt of the afternoon.

The second being a fumble coming off of his first reception, punched out by Josh Norman, who had his best game as a Redskin.

Both plays had enough effort, probably too much. Moore was clearly trying to make something out of nothing and both times it cost him and the Panthers two key possessions on the road. 

First two touches, two fumbles. Not a good look. 

But in other Maryland Terps news, Vernon Davis did haul down the first touchdown of the game and Torrey Smith scored a late touchdown and converted the two-point conversion. 

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As one of the most penalized teams in college football, Maryland's penalty woes showed vs. Michigan

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As one of the most penalized teams in college football, Maryland's penalty woes showed vs. Michigan

On the field, it has been a season of ups and downs for the Maryland Terrapins. On Saturday, it became evident that the team's penalty issues are at epic proportions based on their loss to Michigan.

This season, Maryland is one of the most penalized teams in all of Division I football. 

No matter if the penalties are coming in wins or in losses, yellow flags have forced Maryland to dig themselves out of holes this season. Quickly these holes become insurmountable with the inconsistent offense the Terps have this season. 

Below is where they stand on the NCAA FBS Division I leaderboard:

  • Penalties per game (4th worst) - 9.8 penalties
  • Penalty yards per game (3rd worst) - 93.8 yards
  • 7 penalties per 100 plays (t-worst) 


This past Saturday against Michigan, their penalties were a significant factor in a loss for the first time this season. Twelve times the Terps were flagged, costing them 107 yards. 

The first major penalty was just after the Terps got a big kickoff return for a touchdown by Ty Johnson to give them an early 7-3 lead. Two scrimmage plays later, Darnell Savage got his second interception of the season on Michigan's side of the field with the upset in full swing. A holding penalty on the return pushed the Terps back to midfield where they would go three-and-out. 

That mistake, although minuscule at the time, cannot happen on the road against a top-25 opponent. A momentum-swinging play was diminished by the penalty and kept them from adding to their lead.  

The offense though was responsible for most of the dirty laundry on the field. Of their 12 penalties, half of them were on the offense. Five of those six were detrimental to their success. 

A holding penalty in the second quarter prevented the Terps from having the chance to answer Michigan's first touchdown of the game.

On the first drive of the second half for the Terps, three penalties in the first four plays pushed them back to a 4th-and-36. 

Although they converted a fourth-and-6 in the red zone, they got pushed back to that mark because of a false start the play prior. This was their first drive of the fourth where they were behind by three scores and desperately trying to come back.

In their Week 1 shocking upset over the ranked Texas Longhorns the team had eight penalties for 70 yards. This was the only game that their opponent committed more penalties.

The next week at Bowling Green (14 for 139 yards) was worse, at home vs. Temple (five penalties, 35 yards) and at Minnesota (10 penalties, 118 yards).

Currently, the team is sitting at 3-2 with a win over the No. 9 team in the country, Texas. Considering everything that has happened, and they are under interim head coach Matt Canada, they are rising above expectations. 

But by no means are there many confident in how the Terps have played this season. Mostly that is due to these penalties. 

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