On Sunday night, the University of Maryland Terrapins (10-6 overall, 2-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) will face the Seminoles (10-4 overall, 1-1 in the ACC) in Tallahassee. Including that game, there are 15 Regular Seasons games remaining prior to the start of the ACC Tournament.
I think to evaluate where the program is, and where things are going for the Terps; you first have to take a step back and reset things a bit.
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The 2012-13 season ended with Coach Turgeon’s 2nd Maryland team making a good run in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT). That was followed by Alex Len leaving for the NBA, the incoming Freshman Class of Roddy Peters and Damonte Dodd formally coming on-board, and Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz becoming eligible to join the Terps; after being part of the program the past year. Later, Penn State transfer Jonathan Graham would also join the program and gain eligibility.
With larger portions of the roster returning, expectations were ascending as this 2013-14 season prepared to begin – then Maryland lost Seth Allen to injury. With Allen injured, MD’s shaky PG situation became even more of a liability. Multiple players were forced to play out of position, and MD’s overall depth was reduced. In addition to those issues, Maryland was dealing with (and continues to deal with) a limited front court.
The Out of Conference schedule last year was weak, and was slightly upgraded for this season. Winning the Paradise Jam was good, but carries minimal weight due to the fairly limited competition faced. Marist was irrelevant. Northern Iowa is a decent mid-major. Providence figures to finish in the middle of the Big East. Losses on a neutral court to UConn, and at Ohio State are understandable. Losing three games to Oregon State, George Washington, and Boston University (two of those games being at home) is what has crippled Maryland’s resume.
Oregon State is a major conference team – and even though they are traditionally an also-ran in the Pac 12; it was not shocking that they had some legitimate capable players. Watching the Beavers put up 90 points at the Comcast Center was as surprising as it gets though. Maryland has historically had struggles at the BB&T Classic at the Verizon Center, so losing a game vs. a local rival in George Washington was also not shocking. Frankly, as that game prepared to tip, Maryland was the underdog. Those underdog expectations in December were different vs. what one would have anticipated when you looked at Maryland’s schedule in the preseason. The Boston University loss is the one where I continue to scratch my head. The Terriers might win the Patriot League and advance to the NCAA Tournament in March, but there is no excuse for that team having left College Park with a win.
Following that Boston University loss, Maryland went on a 3 game winning streak, corresponding with the return of Allen. There was talk of ‘starting over’, and the wins vs. Tulsa, NC Central, and Georgia Tech saw Maryland resemble the team we had anticipated seeing going into the year. Allen is not a PG, but having another guard capable of handling the ball made an immediate difference to the roster as a whole. The depth was improved. The perimeter defense was improved. The bigs were getting easier looks inside. Allen’s scoring ability (particularly his abilities to create, and shoot from outside) greatly aided the offense. Beating the Yellow Jackets had MD 2-0 in Conference play heading to Pittsburgh this past Monday night.
Road games are always difficult for college teams, especially in league play – even with new league foes like Maryland and Pittsburgh. As an aside, one of the things which struck me about that game was the curiosity of the night. Seeing a new venue, opposing Coaching style, and unfamiliar players. The Terps will have a number of similar nights coming these next few years in the Big Ten. Getting back to the game action, it was a competitive first half for the Terps vs. the Panthers before things fell apart. Pittsburgh shot over 50% for the game. Coach Turgeon has to call a timeout in the last minute plus (with MD down 20) as he was not pleased with the effort he was seeing.
So, as tomorrow night’s game vs. FSU looms, let’s get back to the originally posed question. Where are things going for the MD program? With the OOC results being what they are, it will be exceedingly difficult for the Terps to play themselves back into NCAA Tournament at-large contention. The Terps would likely have to finish the ACC Regular Season with around 12 wins. That means MD would have to go 10-5 from this point. For that be within the realm of possibility, the Terps probably have to win at-least four of their next five games (@Florida State, Notre Dame, @NCST, Pittsburgh, Miami). It is hard to believe four wins in this five game stretch is plausible, if MD can’t pull the upset vs. FSU tomorrow.
One thing no Coach wants to have to ‘Coach’ is effort. As we mentioned above, Coach Turgeon was not pleased with the defensive effort vs. Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, even if we see MD play with an improved intensity for 40 minutes tomorrow – the Terps are not in a position where a moral victory could be celebrated. The only way tomorrow night is a success for the Terps is if they win. That’s the position MD is in.
Maryland is behind the 8-ball, and a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010 should not be expected. Remarkably it is still possible, but certainly is not likely. If the Terps do not go on a run these next 15 games (or win a birth with an ACC Tournament Championship), where are expectations going to be with the Terps when life in the Big Ten begins next year?
However this season ends, the Terps will welcome in the Top 10 incoming class of Melo Trimble, Dion Wiley, Jared Nickens, and Trayvon Reed. In the College game of today, there seems like there are always unexpected departures. However, as of now, the projected roster for next year looks like:
Guards: Faust (Sr), Allen (Jr), Peters (Soph), Trimble (Frosh), Wiley (Frosh)
Wings: Wells (Sr), Layman (Jr), Nickens (Frosh)
Bigs: Mitchell (Jr), Cleare (Jr), Smotrycz (Sr), Graham (Sr), Dodd (Soph), Reed (Frosh)
While it is too early to wonder how the minutes will break out, that is a deep and talented team. With the addition of Trimble, plus a more experienced Peters, and Allen still be around; PG play should no longer be a liability for the Terps. With Reed, MD will have an athletic big to help defend the rim. Wiley and Nickens will improve the shooting ability (which will help against all of the zone defense MD current sees), and the overall athleticism of the roster.
Expectations of what that team will be capable of, come back to the here and now though. If the players that are here now, don’t become more cohesive, and improve their play over these remaining 15 games – it might not matter who is joining them next year. If Maryland wants to look ahead to their future with optimism, they need to start with improvement in the present. Let’s see what happens tomorrow night vs. the Seminoles.
Florida State (10-4 overall, 1-1 in the ACC)
Notable wins: VCU, UMass, Clemson
Losses: Michigan (2pt OT loss), Florida (1pt loss), Minnesota, UVA
PPG: 73.6 (152nd Nationally)
Rebounds: 38.3 (68th Nationally)
Assists: 12.7 (198th Nationally)
FG%: 47.4 (63rd Nationally)
Scoring Defense: 62.5 ppg (28th Nationally)
Strength of Schedule: 19th
Individual Statistics: Found here
Maryland (10-6 overall, 2-1 in the ACC)
RPI Top 100 wins: Northern Iowa, Providence, NC Central
Bad Losses: Oregon State, Boston University
PPG: 73.6 (152nd Nationally)
Rebounds: 39.1 (51st Nationally)
Assists: 12.2 (234th Nationally)
FG%: 44.5 (182nd Nationally)
Scoring Defense: 67.7 ppg (110th Nationally)
Strength of Schedule: 76th
Individual Statistics: Found here