Maryland Terps’ Success Resembles 1999-2000 Season


Feb 24, 2015; College Park, MD, USA; Maryland Terrapins guard Melo Trimble (2) is congratulated by guard Dez Wells (44) in the second half against the Wisconsin Badgers at Xfinity Center. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Juan Dixon, Steve Blake, Lonny Baxter. Any true Terps fan will forever remember these names. In the 1999-2000 season, Dixon and Baxter were sophomores, while Blake was an incoming freshman. Blake was a much heralded point-guard, who was an All-American Honorable Mention.

This year’s Terps found themselves with a similarly talented point-guard in Melo Trimble, a McDonald’s All-American, who was ranked as the 29th best national prospect by ESPN. Despite Blake being more of a pass-first point-guard and Trimble being a shooter, their first season as Terps followed a similar script.

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In 1999-2000, the Terps got the season off to a fast start, going 6-1, which included beating a ranked opponent in No. 16 Illinois. The only loss came against another ranked opponent, No. 11 Kentucky. Compare that to 2014-2015, where the Terps got off to a 7-1 start beating then-ranked No. 13 Iowa State and losing to then-ranked No. 7 Virginia.

The similarities between the two teams do not stop there as both squads held very respectable home records.

The 1999-2000 team was 13-1 at home, while the 2014-2015 team went 18-1 at home. Both teams also had very similar conference records. The 1999-2000 team was 11-5 in the ACC, whereas this season’s Terps are currently 12-4 in the conference, with two B1G conference games remaining. The 1999-2000 team finished second in the conference while this year’s team is also on track to finish second in the conference.

Both teams also had to overcome sloppy conference play as the 1999-2000 team started 0-3 in conference games before going 11-2 in conference play the rest of the season. The tough stretch included back-to-back-to-back losses to NC State, Duke, and Georgia Tech, in the span of nine days. During that period, the Terps dropped from 12th to 24th in national rankings.

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This year’s team had similar struggles within the conference. Although the team did not lose back-to-back, it flip-flopped between wins and losses between January 22 and February 8. During this span, the team was blown out by Indiana, Ohio State, and Iowa, while squeaking by Northwestern and Penn State. Maryland dropped from 13th to 19th in the national rankings during this span, but has recovered with five consecutive wins after that period.

Both seasons saw the Terps get signature wins against top-five teams. In 1999-2000, the Terps defeated No. 3 Duke on the road, 98-87. That victory ended Duke’s 31-game ACC Winning Streak and was the first time the Blue Devils had lost in Cameron Indoor Stadium since January 1997. Juan Dixon led the team with 31 points and Terence Morris contributed two late three-pointers to seal it.

This season’s Terps made a statement by beating No. 5 ranked Wisconsin at home, 59-53. The win ended the Badgers’ 10-game winning streak, the team’s longest since an 11-game streak in 1941, when they won the NCAA Championship. In a Juan Dixon-esque performance, Dez Wells led the Terps with 26 points with Trimble adding points late to put the game away.

The 1999-2000 team was led by a big three of Dixon, Morris, and Baxter while this season’s team is led by Trimble, Wells, and Jake Layman. The 1999-2000 team was better at distributing the ball around and had a stronger interior presence than this year’s team, as they led the nation in assists and blocks. Having a distributor like Blake definitely helped in terms of assists, which is a facet the Terps are lacking this season.

However, this year’s Terps have relied more so on the three-ball and getting to the charity stripe, and have found success in both facets. As of March 3 , the Terps are ranked 13th in the nation in free throws made and have made more free throws and three-pointers thus far than the 1999-2000 team had made over 35 games.

The similarities in terms of players are also interesting to look at.

The 1999-2000 team was led by Dixon, who averaged 18 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. Trimble is averaging 16.2 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game this season. Dixon was in his sophomore year while Trimble is a freshman, so he still has room to grow. Both Dixon and Trimble are excellent shooters and have a similar frame as both are 6’3” with Trimble outweighing Dixon by about 20 pounds.

Morris on the 1999-2000 team could be compared to Layman as both are 6’9” junior forwards. Morris averaged 15.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, while going 36.5 percent from beyond the arc. Layman, this season, is averaging 13.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game and has gone 38.2% from beyond the arc.

Obviously, this year’s team does not have a big man with stats comparable to Baxter; however, Wells does maintain a similar point production to what Baxter had in 1999-2000.

Even the role players have some striking resemblances. Freshman Jared Nickens could be seen as a more efficient Drew Nicholas, who was a freshman on the 1999-2000 team. Nickens is averaging 6.2 points and 1.4 rebounds per game, while Nicholas was averaging 5.1 points and 1.1 rebounds per game. Nicholas is ranked 7th in Maryland history for three-point field goals made, while Nickens is currently 2nd in Maryland history in three-pointer made by a freshman.

Finally, freshman Michal Cekovsky could be compared to Tahj Holden from the 1999-2000 team. Cekovsky is 7’1”, which is three inches taller than Holden, but both have a similar build. Although Cekovsky has seen limited playing time thus far this season, he does present a big body in the lane for the Terps, which proved to be a major asset against Wisconsin. Cekovsky is averaging 2.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 0.7 blocks per game, which is comparable to Holden’s 3.3 points, 2 rebounds, and 0.7 blocks per game in the 1999-2000 season.

The 1999-2000 team did make the NCAA tournament as a No. 3 seed, which is where many experts are predicting this year’s Terps to be seeded. The 1999-2000 team won their first game, but lost 105-70 in the Round of 32 to UCLA. However, the Terps did make it to the Final Four the following season and won the national championship in 2002.

If this year’s Terps could repeat that progression from tournament team to national champions in three seasons, I’m sure all of College Park would rejoice. The blueprint is there, now we’ll just have to wait and see.

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