Yesterday, the NCAA declared Xavier transfer Dez Wells eligible, and with that decision; the prospects for the University of Maryland’s 2012-13 season immediately changed.
Had Wells not gained eligibility, the Terps were likely to have a starting lineup of Howard (1), Faust (2), Layman (3), Padgett (4), and Len (5) to start the year. With Wells, Layman will join his fellow Freshman (Allen, Mitchell, Cleare), and Albany transfer Logan Aronhalt off the bench.
Last year, the Terrapins ranked:
- 153rd in the Nation in scoring offense
- 213th in the Nation in FG%
- 112th in the Nation in rebounding
I think you see significant improvement in each of those categories this year. Maryland has played below the rim in recent years. That will change this season. Faust and Wells will play the passing lanes, and get a lot of easy buckets in transition. Len is going to overwhelm many teams inside. The additions of Cleare and Mitchell provides Maryland with big athletic bodies off the bench who will help the Terps win battles on the boards. Aronhalt, Allen, and Layman will provide some scoring punch (and shooting ability) off the bench as well.
So, if we believe those areas will be improved; what are the biggest questions as the season prepares to begin? For me, it begins with discussion of PG.
Last year Maryland ranked:
- 277th in the Nation in Assist to Turnover Ratio
- 311th in the Nation in Assists per Game
There is increased pressure on Pe’Shon Howard to stay healthy and perform. Last year Howard had the broken bone in his left foot, before returning and tearing his right ACL. When he was able to play, his play was sub-par. Maryland needs the Howard that was capable of hitting opening shots as a Freshman, and physical enough to drive to the rim, and flash his strong interior passing. After averaging 3.2 assists and 1.7 turnovers as a Freshman in 18.5 minutes per, he averaged 3.7 assists and 3.2 turnovers as a Sophomore in 33 minutes per. If he can stay healthy, I think he will be very solid. The key for the Terps will be having a steadying influence at the position that is capable of running a 1/2 court offense.
Even if Howard stays healthy, Allen is looking like a player that is going to earn playing time. Coach Turgeon has already mentioned that Allen is a plus athlete who plays good defense. He also has some scoring ability. However, what Allen is not is a true PG. If Howard suffers another injury, or does not perform, is Allen going to be able to run the offense effectively? That is a question to be determined.
A second question or issue for me is Maryland’s out-of-conference schedule. The Terrapins will open their season tomorrow vs. Kentucky in Brooklyn. Later this month they will head to Northwestern for the ACC / Big Ten Challenge. In December, they will face George Mason in the BB&T Classic at the Verizon Center. Outside of that, the schedule is very thin. I think a few more challenges prior to Conference play would have been nice, and would have given the Terps a chance to build a better resume. Should Maryland lose to Kentucky, I think it is fair to say Maryland will likely need to beat the other two, and probably win 10+ games in the ACC to advance to the NCAA Tournament. I think this Terrapins team is capable of that, but it does not give you much margin for error.
Without Wells, the Terps were projected to finish 6th in the ACC. I thought that represented the floor of what they were capable of. By all accounts NCST is the favorite. Duke and UNC will be factors as always. Miami and FSU are other threats. With Wells, I think Maryland has a chance to compete for the Conference title. Between Wells, Len, and Faust – the Terps have have 3 players capable of being 1st or 2nd team All-ACC. Having gone through a year of league play, I expect Coach Turgeon will be more comfortable in his surroundings. With Stoglin gone, there might be the benefit of addition by subtraction. The ball might move around a bit more, and this team has the depth, length, and size to be better defensively.
I’m not really concerned with Coach Turgeon’s recent comments questioning the intensity and effort in practice. By the accounts of many analysts, his teams have typically played hard. What I do think we have to consider is, how long will it take this team to gel and come together? There are 6 new players among the first 10, and it could take a while for them to find their collective stride. We will get an immediate glimpse of where the Terps are tomorrow night against the defending National Champs. Obviously Kentucky has had tremendous turnover to their roster as well. What we should get a glimpse of though, is Maryland’s improved depth and athleticism.
This neutral court challenge represents opportunity for the Terps. I think this game can be the equivalent of the Terps vs. Georgetown in ’93. The comparison being a game that announces Maryland is back as a factor on the National stage, and really represents the beginning of the Turgeon era, like that win over the Hoyas did for Coach Williams.
My official prediction for the season is a 24-7, (12-6 in ACC play), with a trip to the Sweet 16. How do you have the Terrapins finishing?