"If Xavier transfer Dez Wells wins his appeal and is eligible immediately, Maryland will not only be good enough to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament, but will have a chance to advance once it gets there."
Well, Maryland fans can rejoice, because the NCAA declared Wells immediately eligible to play for the Terrapins on Wednesday. What does this mean for the Terps' outlook this season? Ahead of Maryland's prime-time showdown with the Kentucky Wildcats on Friday, let's take a look.
Simply put, Wells is a perfect fit for the Terps, and a great example of a Mark Turgeon-type player. He is a physical, lockdown defender who can guard any of the perimeter positions -- he has the athletic ability to defend ball guards and the size and strength to check the best small forwards in the country. On offense, he is explosive off the dribble and plays through contact.
Maryland is no longer the high-scoring, up-tempo team it once was under Gary Williams, but it will still run when given the opportunity. I expect Turgeon to free the Terps early in the shot clock, having Pe'Shon Howard and Seth Allen pitch the ball ahead to both Wells and Nick Faust, giving them opportunities to attack in transition. Wells and Faust should complement each other well, as both have the ball skills and "city game" to get to the rim and finish with authority or make a scoring pass.
Wells is a scorer more than a shooter, but he does have the ability to make open 3-point shots. An adequate passer, he needs to tighten up his decision-making. But in the half court he will take pressure off Howard and Faust and give Jake Layman time to get stronger and better ready himself for the speed of ACC basketball.
Wells' versatility will fit well in both Turgeon's pro-set and motion offensive systems. I look for Turgeon to put Wells in double-gap isolations, post-ups off basket and flex cuts, as well as use him as a screener in small-big cross-screens. Look for Wells to be a cutter in post action as opposed to spotting up; this will make the defense honor his cut and put him in position to get to the offensive glass. He averaged 1.2 offensive rebounds per game last season.
He will make Maryland a better offensive team because he is a proven scorer and will be playing with a pass-first point guard in Howard and a skilled post player in Alex Len.
It is on the defensive end, however, where Wells will have his greatest impact. Turgeon, a Larry Brown disciple, is a committed defensive coach, and Wells will now be the catalyst for the Terps on the defensive end. Wells is athletic, long, active and alert off the ball. He is also hard to screen and can finish the possession with a defensive rebound.
Wells will bring a mindset of getting stops to the young Maryland roster. He is a high-energy defender who will talk, which will engage his teammates. He will be freed up to pressure the ball, knowing he has a shot-blocker playing behind him in Len, and his leadership on the defensive end will eventually make Maryland an elite defensive team.
Maryland is a tradition-rich program in transition, with several talented players, and what they lacked prior to Wednesday was a player with NCAA tournament experience. Wells is not only a winning player with tourney experience, but one who has had to overcome off-the-court issues, including last season's brawl between Cincinnati and Xavier for which he was suspended. He has the opportunity to be a leader for the young Terps -- an example of how to work and what it takes to win but also a reminder of how a bad decision can affect one's future.
The pieces of the puzzle are coming together for Turgeon, and the addition of Wells will expedite the process of returning the Terps to an elite level. A roster of talented, athletic perimeter players and big-bodied frontcourt players has Maryland poised for a very good 2012-13 campaign. The first chance to see just how much better Wells will make the Terps comes Friday against the defending national champions.