Maryland's Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen Smith named to John Wooden Award Top 20 Watch List

Maryland's Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen Smith named to John Wooden Award Top 20 Watch List

For the second time in the 2019-20 season, there are two Maryland Terrapins on the John Wooden Award watch list, which is given to the top college basketball player of the season. 

Once again, it was point guard Anthony Cowan Jr. and forward Jalen Smith that made the 20-person shortlist. They are one of three teams, joining the Kansas Jayhawks and Duke Blue Devils with two candidates. Cowan and Smith have led the Terrapins all year as the two top scorers and playmakers.

Cowan is having a phenomenal senior season for Maryland. He has a career-high average in points (16.2) as the Terps' primary source of offense. Most recently, Cowan's 31 points against Iowa gave him a new career-high for a single game. The last several games have seen Cowan rise up a level and he credits that to the game slowing down for him

Cowan has been on the Wooden list throughout the season. This is the third update of the year and the shortest watch list of the season.  

Smith returns to the list after missing the 25-person Midseason Watch List. That is likely due to the tear that the 6-10 forward has been on in Big Ten play. Smith has recorded a double-double in four straight contests, resulting in a four-game winning streak for Maryland. 

A big jump for the sophomore against top-tier competition. 

Being named to the John Wooden Late Season Watch List does not guarantee any player to be named one of the 15 finalists in March. However, with two in the top 20, there is a greater likelihood that at least one Terrapin in consideration for being named the best player in college basketball. 

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March Madness Revisited: When 16-seed Mount St. Mary's pushed 1-seed Villanova

March Madness Revisited: When 16-seed Mount St. Mary's pushed 1-seed Villanova

As March winds down without its usual flurry of March Madness moments, NBC Sports Washington takes a look back at some smaller DMV schools who made a big impact during their most recent NCAA Tournament appearances.  

A season removed from winning the national championship in 2016, Villanova found itself trailing by a point with less than five seconds to play in the first half of the first round of the NCAA Tournament. 

At the time, no No. 16 seed had ever beaten a No. 1 seed. That would come a year later. The Wildcats’ opponent that March evening in Buffalo, N.Y.? Mount St. Mary’s.

The little school from Emmitsburg, Md. had been to the Big Dance before. Legendary coach Jim Phelan, who ran the program for 49 years and is in the College Basketball Hall of Fame, shepherded the Mountaineers from Division II to Division I in the early 1990s. They won the Northeast Conference tournament in 1995 and 1999 to reach the tournament and made it twice more in 2008 and 2014 even after Phelan retired. 

But it was its fifth trip the NCAA Tournament, under current George Washington coach Jamion Christian, where The Mount put a scare into the defending champs and heralded what UMBC would do a year later against No. 1 seed Virginia.     

The road to becoming Northeast Conference champions did not get off to an easy start. The Mountaineers opened the 2016-17 campaign with nine straight road games. But that was by design.  

“I knew when we built that schedule we had a great team,” Christian told NBC Sports Washington. 

Entering a Dec. 22 showdown with Coppin State, the Mountaineers were 1-11. Mount St. Mary’s won its final non-conference game with ease, 87-49, and went 14-4 in NEC play en route to claiming the conference’s regular season championship. 

“I bet on their ability to rally around one another when it got tough and I bet on their ability to be great,” Christian said. “We got it spot on that year.”

Christian had played four years for Phelan and his successor, Milan Brown, from 2000-2004. But a three-year starter and captain, his teams at The Mount never reached the NCAAs. He did take them there as head coach in 2014, a 71-64 loss to Albany in a First Four game in Dayton.  

But 2016-17 was different. Until that season, Mount St. Mary’s had never won the NEC regular season title and tournament in the same year. The Mount defeated St. Francis (Pa), 71-61, at home at Knott Arena to earn the school’s fifth trip to the tournament. 

On Selection Sunday, the Mountaineers learned that they would be headed to Dayton again for the second time in four years as part of the First Four. This time they were a little offended, not just happy to be going at all. 

“We didn’t feel like we should have been in Dayton,” Christian said. “We felt like we should have been a 15 - or even a 14 seed with our numbers that year. And we went into that game bringing back the underdog mentality that we wanted to prove and show the world how good of a team we had.”

The 2014 loss to Albany had prepared Christian’s group for what was to come in 2017. They weren’t worried about escaping Dayton this time around. 

“It was a perfect scenario for us with all of that,” Christian said. “We had played in Dayton before. We had made some mistakes playing in Dayton the first time just because you don’t know.”

Led by a 23-point performance from Junior Robinson, the Mountaineers defeated New Orleans, 67-66, in Dayton. 

Next up? Villanova less than 48 hours later in Buffalo. Christian said he learned a lot from a 90-59 loss to the Wildcats in 2013 and knew exactly what his game plan was going to be. 

“The number one thing was we wanted to be aggressive. We wanted to be in attack mode,” Christian said. 

Top seeded teams were 130-0 against No. 16 seeds entering that game. But following an Elijah Long 3-pointer, the Mount led Villanova 10-2 with 13:27 to play in the first half. The Mountaineers led the majority of that first half and owned a 29-28 lead in the closing seconds of the half before a Jalen Brunson backdoor layup put Villanova in front heading into the locker room.

“When we got to the half, I remember walking in and the guys were breathing really hard and I said, ‘Oh boy,’” Christian recounted. “It was one of those moments where you want to try to continue to give them confidence, but you’re also letting them take a moment to take a deep breath so they can play to their full potential.”

Villanova eventually pulled away in the second half and won 76-56. But the game did leave Wildcats head coach Jay Wright impressed. For a large part of that game, The Mount made Wright and the Wildcats uncomfortable. 

“It’s in the back of your mind,” Wright said after the game. “It hits you for a second. ‘This could be one of those nights.’ You’ve got to knock it out and concentrate on the next play. But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t come up.”

It didn’t end quite the way they wanted it to. The really big upset would have to wait until the following season when UMBC stunned Virginia 74-54. But after its 1-11 start, Mount St. Mary’s won 20 games in a season for the first time in two decades and showed everyone the blue print for how a 16 could finally beat a 1. 

“The best don’t look at winning and losing as a finale, they look how hard you compete,” Christian said. “And I felt [Villanova] had a great level of respect for how hard our team competed that day.”

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Maryland's frontcourt depth takes a hit as forward Ricky Lindo Jr. enters transfer portal

Maryland's frontcourt depth takes a hit as forward Ricky Lindo Jr. enters transfer portal

On the same day that two former Maryland forwards, the Mitchell twins, announced they would be playing next season at Rhode Island, another member of the Terps program announced they were leaving the program.

Sophomore forward Ricky Lindo Jr. has entered the NCAA's transfer portal, the team announced on Monday.

“I want to thank the University of Maryland and Coach Turgeon for everything over the last two years,” Lindo said. “I had a chance to be a part of some amazing moments that I will never forget, including winning a conference title. I’m appreciative of my coaches and teammates for all their support. After much discussion with my family, I have decided it is best to seek a new opportunity as I continue my college career.”

Lindo appeared in 29 games for the Terrapins a season ago, starting two. The forward saw his minutes decline throughout the season, as head coach Mark Turgeon often played a six-man rotation during the back-half of the year.

The sophomore came to College Park in August of 2018 a late arrival, as Lindo initially planned to do a post-grad year before coming to Maryland. But in need of frontcourt depth, Turgeon awarded him a scholarship, and Lindo decided to forego the post-grad year and joined the Terps.

As a freshman, Lindo played in all 34 games and averaged nearly 13 minutes per contest. His impact was felt most on the defensive end, as he specialized in defense and rebounding. 

Although his minutes declined as a sophomore, Lindo was in a position to have an expanded role for the Terps next season, as All-American Jalen Smith is likely headed to the NBA Draft.

"I can’t thank Ricky enough for his commitment over the past two seasons and for helping our team win the Big Ten Championship this year," Turgeon said. "Ricky was a great teammate and did everything I ever asked of him. He’s a fantastic person and I wish him and his family all the best moving forward."

As it stands now, the Terps only have three forwards on their roster for next season: Donta Scott, Joshua Tomaic, and Chol Marial. While Scott established himself as a starter, Maryland received limited contributions from both Tomaic and Marial. Tomaic played just under four minutes per contest, while Marial played sparingly while dealing with multiple injuries that have bothered him since high school.

The Terps currently have zero incoming recruits that are forwards and just have one commitment in the 2020 high school class thus far. Maryland still has the opportunity to add a few graduate transfers, but recently lost out on Harvard's Seth Towns to Ohio State.

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