Maryland Could Be Fastest School In The Big Ten Next Year
The Maryland Terrapins basketball team, despite running the secondary break offense, didn’t seem like one of the fastest groups in the country last year. They were slowed down quite often when facing zone defenses, former PG Seth Allen walked the ball up court, and plays were designed rather than ran at a quicker tempo. It was understandable with the personnel on the roster, though; the required big men to run an offense that stretches defenses quickly on the break weren’t really there.
But the Terrapins were still fast relatively speaking. According to KenPom.com, Maryland played at the second-fastest tempo in both the ACC and the Big Ten; only North Carolina and Iowa beat Maryland in adjusted tempo per game. Funnily enough, those two coaches actually run a very similar offense to that of Maryland. As a whole, the Terps finished 55th nationally overall in tempo (FGA-OR+TO+0.475xFTA). In terms of fit for the Big Ten, they’re actually pretty perfect.
Funnily enough, despite the perception that the Big Ten is “slow” by comparison to the ACC, it was actually the ACC which had seven teams ranked 300 or lower in terms of adjusted tempo.
300. Virginia Tech
321. Boston College
351. Miami (slowest in the country)
Anyone who watched Maryland last year knows that the ACC was definitely one of the more boring leagues to watch. Virginia and Syracuse struggling to break the 20’s by half was commonplace. Contrast that with the Big Ten, where only three teams (Illinois, Michigan, and Northwestern) finished in the 300’s. Most finished in the 120-220 range nationally, which makes the Terps an outlier in both conferences.
And yet that was the fastest team Turgeon had coached during his time at Maryland. His first season he was 99th nationally in adjusted tempo; his second was 106th. While it isn’t pushing the pace in the way some remember Gary Williams doing (his 2011 team was 21st nationally in adjusted tempo), it was considerably faster than previous squads.
So why would Maryland be getting even faster? Because rumor has it Coach Turgeon has said he wants to play at an even faster pace this offseason (supposedly like the Spurs). For the first time since his time in College Park, Coach Turgeon has the point guard he wants running the show. Melo Trimble and Dez Wells are expected to push the ball up court at a much quicker rate and do so playing with a higher level of efficiency.
If Maryland moves up just 1.2 percentage points in tempo, they’re going to find themselves neck and neck with Iowa and playing at a pace Turgeon has never played before during his career. Technically speaking, Turgeon’s fastest team was last year, but the one after that came way back in 2003 with Wichita State (69.1 adjT). Oddly enough, Turgeon’s teams have fluctuated a lot in tempo over the years, which suggests that he has no problem adjusting to what personnel he has.
What’s exciting is the prospect that next year’s team might fit the so-called “Spurs” mold more than any other group. Young players tend to thrive in systems where they can run through a lot of possessions without having to worry about the inevitable rookie mistakes that bog down any offense. Trimble and Wiley are both really smart players in transition, though, and they’re very good at feeling out defenses on the fly. It goes without question that Wells thrives in transition, and the prospect of Layman or Smotrycz hitting three pointers from the corners should be pretty exciting.
But every time a Turgeon coached team has made the NCAA tournament, they’ve been in the 110’s in adjusted offensive efficiency — a number the Terps have yet to reach under the coach. While defensively Maryland has been doing just fine, it’s glaringly apparent that the offense lacks a precision efficiency or go-to scorer to rely upon oftentimes. It seems tiring when analysts harp on how the Terps need to fix offense, offense, offense, but they’re pretty correct.
The good news is that some of the most inefficient players from last year are gone now, and the high-level recruits that have been brought in are known for being intelligent players on the court. Having spoken to a few sources who have seen a lot of Cekovsky, there’s a good chance he is going to be way ahead of where folks expect. Adding a very smart senior like Richaud Pack fixes problems of inefficiency too.
And while the fabric of Maryland’s offense might be slightly different, with less secondary-break and more fluidity in transition, the tempo shouldn’t go up too much from last year. What will be noticeable, however, is that Maryland will still play faster than just about every team in the Big Ten. With any hope, they’ll do it more effectively and efficiently than before too.
Justin Robinson: Robinson remains a high prospect for Maryland, but don’t expect him to decide until the fall. Robinson trimmed his list earlier in August to Maryland, Virginia Tech, UNLV, Temple, Creighton, and Providence. The good news is that Maryland has as good a chance as anyone, but Creighton can offer him a lot of playing time and Temple has good friend and former teammate Obi Enechioniya. Robinson has not revealed much information, but I’ve talked to the kid a lot and Maryland definitely stands a chance.
Andrew White: Over the weekend, Kansas transfer Andrew White took an official visit to Maryland. White said the visit as a whole was great, and that he thought Maryland was a great situation for him. White also played pickup with Jonathan Graham, Wiley, and Trimble.
White has visited Nebraska, Notre Dame, and Richmond already but has not committed. The fact that the Terps have gotten this far in the process points to them being a viable contender right now. White is from Virginia, and there’s a chance he could end up committing to Maryland after such a positive trip. We’ll find out in the next couple days.