Heading into tomorrow night’s game against Monmouth, the University of Maryland Terrapins are 8-1. Here are some quick hits on what we have seen so far, and what we believe awaits.
1) When Dez Wells gained eligibility, we predicted the Maryland to finish the 2012-13 season with a 24-7 record overall, 12-6 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and a trip to the Sweet 16. 9 games into this season, I feel anything short of that projection will be disappointing.
2) Based on what Duke has accomplished so far in the Out of Conference (OOC) schedule, they have to be considered the prohibitive favorite in the ACC. I still believe in NCST’s talent, and will always respect UNC; but Maryland has as good a shot as anyone else to finish 2nd in league play.
3) Maryland is currently 3rd in the country in assists per game, and 4th in the country in rebounds per.
4) As we talked about before the season, the OOC schedule is so limited, that advancing to the NCAA Tournament (and receiving a strong seed), will be almost totally determined by what MD does in Conference play. Northwestern is 7-3 overall, and has split their last two games with Baylor and Butler. That win over the Wildcats will look better if they can finish in the middle of the Big Ten. A neutral court win over George Mason is a decent win, but is only going to matter so much. The scheduling has to improve in future years.
5) This is the first year of the 18 game schedule in the ACC, and it is going to be a marathon. Those additional two games do help balance out the limited OOC schedule. Conference play starts with home games against Virginia Tech, and Florida State on the 5th and 9th of January. I believe the Winter Break for Maryland’s students will be over at that point, which is a good thing. Over the past couple of years, there has been attendance issues for Maryland, particularly against the OOC cupcakes. That can not be the case when the Conference schedule begins. Maryland will need to get off to a good start in ACC play against the Hokies and Seminoles. You have to defend your home court in league play. You win those two games, and Maryland will be 14-1, (2-0) when they head to Miami on the 14th.
6) Howard was not particularly athletic before his injuries, and he has been further slowed. He is averaging an impressive 5.9 assists, against just 1.8 turnovers though. The primary issue with his game right now is that he is not hitting enough open shots. After hitting 2 of 3 attempts from 3 against SC State, his 3 point shooting percentage improved to 31%. Hopefully that is the start of an upward trend. Overall though, he is making just 21% of his shots. You want him to be a facilitator, but if the defense is going to give him open looks, he has to knock down a healthy percentage of them. Maryland is going to see more-and-more zone. I think Howard runs the 1/2 court offense better than Allen, but Howard has to show he can get into the lane against zone defenses. When he does, he is very strong interior passer.
7) Allen pairs nicely with Howard. Allen is extremely quick, and better offensively and defensively than Howard. While he has had 4 games with at-least 5 assists; he is not a true PG. If MD is trying to push the ball, and get out in transition, you can live with the ball in his hands. When the game slows, he looks uncomfortable. He’s made 11 of 32 shots (34%) from 3. Maryland is going to need him to consistently provide some offense off the bench.
8) I was hoping for – and expecting – a bigger jump from Faust. As a Freshman, he got off to a horrible start with his shooting percentage, but that improved as the year progressed. Through the first 9 games of his Sophomore campaign, his shooting % from the floor is still just 37%. He is actually shooting worse from 3 point land (22% compared to 27%), than he did last year. He has scored in double figures in 7 of the 9 games. He is playing good defense, using his long arms to play the passing lanes. There are some that believe with his shooting issues, that it is possible Faust will go back to playing more PG when the Conference season begins. There is some value there I guess, as he can force the issue with his athleticism. He is a good finisher around the rim, and with the ball in his hands; he might get some easier looks. It did work for him at the end of last year when he was playing his best ball as a Terp.
9) Layman’s eventually going to be a scorer. As he gets older, I hope he develops a bit of a post up game. I suspect maybe later this year, he will start knocking down some of the 3s he is missing now (4 of 20). That said, right now, he is missing way too many open looks. I know Coach Turgeon wants the defense to improve, but I think he shows good energy when he enters games. With those long arms, he can be disruptive.
10) After averaging 30+ minutes per game the last two years with Albany, Aronhalt is adjusting to his role as the designated zone buster off the bench. He’s made a remarkable 17 of 28 (61%) of his 3′s. Nobody will expect that % to continue, but he is going to remain an important weapon. Coach Turgeon has talked about going from a 10 man rotation to an 8 man rotation when ACC play begins. I don’t think Aronhalt will be in that shortened rotation. I think his time will go up and down, as Turgeon matches-up against opposing defenses. In close and late situations though, Aronhalt will need to be on the floor due to his ability at the FT line.
11) Charles Mitchell and Shaq Cleare coming off the bench is an incredible luxury. Other teams just can not handle that post depth. Mitchell’s work on the boards (6.9 per game, in just 16.2 minutes per) is really fun to watch.
12) We’ve certainly seen Wells athleticism, and glimpses of his all around game. He is taking the same amount of 3 point shots (1.7 attempts per), but after hitting 38% of his attempts last year; he has made just 20% of his looks from outside so far as a Terp. As that evens out, Wells will be a monster. When defenders have to respect his shot, he will just blow past them and get to the rim. It should be noted that his assists, steals, and blocks are all up over last year. On the other-hand, his turnovers per game have doubled.
13) There is almost no doubt that Len will be suiting up for an NBA team next year. There are lots of projections to be found of him as a Lottery pick. There are some projections of him as the 1st pick overall. Just a tremendous combination of size, skill, and athleticism. Still, even though you understand why NBA teams are salivating, it is not like his game lacks room for further growth. He’s had 5 games already this year with less than 10 FG attempts. He’s had at-least 7 boards in all but 1 game, but only double-digit boards (Kentucky, and Northwestern) twice. After blocking 11 shots in the first 3 games this year, he’s had 10 blocks in the next 6 games. His talent is immense, but he’s not dominating games as consistently as Jordan Williams did two years ago (Of course there is more talent around Len). There needs to be a focus every game, of finding Len, and getting him numerous (and regular) touches.