Time for Terps to live up to their potential

Maryland's No. 13 ranking in ESPN.com's preseason top-25 poll is going to turn out to be either really low or really high. On one hand, the talent on the team is phenomenal. On the other hand, it's hard to overlook the fact the Terps haven't advanced past the second round of the NCAA Tournament since 1992.

Still, Maryland seems to be moving in the right direction: The Terps won just 10 games two years ago but are now considered among the national title contenders.

Crystal Langhorne, the ACC Rookie of the Year and the conference's only player to average a double-double during a magnificent freshman season, has a lot to do with the high expectations. During an equally impressive offseason, she was named MVP while leading the United States to gold at the Under-19 World Championships.

Shay Doron, another integral part of the team, led Maryland in scoring, steals and free-throw percentage last season.

Maryland also should get a boost from Laura Harper's return. As a freshman last season, she started the first nine games before suffering a torn Achilles that sidelined her for the rest of 2004-05. Harper is finally healthy, as is Kalika France, who battled through tendinitis in her knees last season.

Anesia Smith, a finalist for the Nancy Lieberman Award as the nation's top point guard last season, is the only player of significance who doesn't return. She led the Terps with 6.7 assists per game last season.

That leaves point guard duties in the hands of freshman Kristi Toliver. She is very quick and a pass-first guard, which is what this team needs. Her father is an NBA official, so she has basketball in her blood. One very big key is how quickly Toliver can adjust to the college game.

Maryland's strength is scoring. There are options inside and out, and very skilled players at each position. Rebounding (there are no key losses in the frontcourt), defense and 3-point shooting are also strengths.

The biggest question surrounding the Terps is experience. With just two seniors and six high school All-Americans on the roster, they are very young, albeit talented.

Bottom line? Maryland has never achieved great success with its current players. The talent is there and now is the time for Maryland to show it belongs to be mentioned among the top teams in the country.

Peter Newmann is the college basketball researcher for ESPN. He can be reached at peter.d.newmann@espn.com.