When news broke on Wednesday morning that Dez Wells would, surprisingly, be allowed to play immediately this season, the reaction was immense.
Rightfully so. Wells is legit.
But it was also a bit overblown. One writer went as far as to say that the ACC would be a four-team race this year.
That could end up being the case, especially since NC State, Duke and UNC all have some question marks heading into the season. I’m not ready to take it quite that far just yet, but what I will say is that Wells makes Maryland the fourth-best team in the ACC and a group that should make the NCAA tournament this season.
Because Wells fills a need for Maryland. The Terps have a low-post scoring presence in Alex Len, they have a play-making point guard in Pe’Shon Howard and they have a scorer and shooter on the wing in Nick Faust. Throw in a couple of solids pieces off the bench (Logan Aronhalt, Seth Allen, James Padgett) and a talented pair of freshmen to rotate through the four-spot in Jake Layman and Shaquille Cleare, and the only this that Maryland is really missing is a lockdown perimeter defender that can help on the glass.
That’s precisely what he does best on a basketball court.
A 6-foot-5, physically and athletically blessed wing, Wells is a blue-collar talent. He makes Maryland better on the defensive end of the floor for a myriad of reasons: he’s another big perimeter player, he can lockdown a go-to scorer, and he can sneak on and grab defensive rebounds, which will take some of the pressure off of a Maryland frontline that is young and slender.
Wells can also knock down an open three, get out and fill a lane in transition and he’s one of the most explosive finishers in the college game. He adds another dimension to Maryland, one that will allow them to better matchup athletically with teams like, say, Kentucky, who they play on Friday at the Barclays Center.
Let’s be clear here, however: Maryland is still a year away from truly being a contender. But with Wells in the fold, this won’t simply be a season where the Terps are biding their time.
They’ll be a factor, both in the ACC and in the national picture.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.