When Dez Wells gained eligibility, my official prediction for the University of Maryland was a 24-7 record overall, and a 12-6 finish in the Atlantic Coast Conference. When the ACC season began, the Terps were 13-1 overall, and I maintained that previous prediction. As Maryland prepares for their trip to Duke Saturday, it feels like there is a need to recalibrate expectations for what awaits the Terrapins over the remainder of this season.
With their Tuesday night win over Boston College, the Terps are 15-4 overall, and 3-3 in the ACC.
The remaining regular season schedule is:
2/2 vs. Wake Forest
2/10 vs. Virginia
2/16 vs. Duke
2/19 @Boston College
2/23 vs. Clemson
2/27 @Georgia Tech
3/2 @Wake Forest
3/6 vs. North Carolina
In order for my previous prediction to come to fruition, the Terps would have to go 9-3 in this 12 game stretch. Right now, that record against that remaining schedule seems unlikely. I suspect some people might even see a 7-5 finish as optimistic. If MD did go 7-5 in these games, the Terps would be 22-9 overall, 10-8 in the ACC, heading into the ACC Tournament. I think that would have Maryland squarely on the bubble, depending on who they had beat.
Nationally, the Terps are:
83rd in Points Per Game (71.8)
2nd in Rebounds Per Game (43.0)
21st in Assists Per Game (16.1)
32nd in FG % (.468)
43rd in Scoring Defense (59.6)
327th in Turnover Margin (-4.1)
Maryland has played with a 10 man rotation this year, with each member of that rotation having played in all 19 games, and averaged at-least 12.2 minutes per game.
At this point though, Coach Turgeon has to think about shortening his bench. Junior PG Pe’Shon Howard is averaging 4.6 assists to just 2.1 turnovers (and is shooting 91% from the FT line), but has generally looked like a liability against ACC foes (12 assists vs. 15 turnovers, 13 total points – including 4 games with zero points). I give credit to Senior PF James Padgett for not complaining publicly as his minutes have decreased from 23.6 last year to 17.2 this year. There were times last season (vs. Illinois, Notre Dame, vs. Miami, vs. Boston College, @UNC) where Padgett provided good minutes against quality teams. This year his FG% has increased (57% compared to 51%), as has his FT% (65% to 56%), but it still ‘feels’ like has been less effective this year. When he comes into games, MD needs him to rebound, and play defense. Similar to his efforts at Northwestern earlier this year. Since that point, we’ve seen too many games where his contributions have been negligible, and he’s missed multitudes of chip shots and put backs. I think both players are still capable of providing positive minutes to the rotation, but they need to earn their minutes the rest of the way. With their offensive limitations, there should be no times where both players are on the court together at the same time, as it forces MD to effectively play 3 on 5.
Let’s be clear though, MD’s current issues are not what they are getting (or not getting) out of what should be the 9th and 10th players of their rotation.
If you look at the numbers above, you have to start with the Turnover Margin. The lack of a true PG is going to remain an issue, that can’t be addressed this year. That causes issues with MD’s 1/2 court offense, handling pressure, etc. I find that all somewhat understandable. With Howard’s issues, nobody can reasonably expect combo Guards like Faust and Allen to overnight be the reincarnation of Steve Blake.
What bothers me though, is the number of unforced errors we see each game. Across the board, MD hurts themselves with careless decisions, and a lack of focus. There are going to be turnovers. You don’t expect MD to play perfectly. However, the goal should be reducing their turnovers (currently MD is averaging 15 turnovers in ACC play) by about 3 per game.
Maryland being turnover prone is not new. Many teams under Gary Williams had this trait as well. It was somewhat more livable under Coach Williams though, because his teams would press and trap and create turnovers of their own. In several recent games, we have seen Coach Turgeon reluctantly use a press. With athletic guards/wings like Faust, Wells, Allen, and Layman (not to mention athletic bigs like Len, Cleare, and Mitchell); I’d like to see more of this from the Terps. Use the height, length, and athleticism to create turnovers of your own, starting with in-bounds pressure.
Wells has a very interesting game against Boston College with his 8 assists. His ability to create and facilitate offense for his teammates is something you would like to see continue. For Xavier last year, Wells had 1.7 attempts from 3 per game, and made 38% of his attempts. This year, he averages 1.5 attempts from 3, and is shooting 25%. While he averages 11.8 ppg, his scoring is inconsistent. 18 points vs. Miami, followed by 4 vs. NCST. 21 points vs. UNC, followed by 5 vs. Boston College. I can deal with that inconsistency, if he creates for others the rest of the year.
Faust has had at-least 7 boards in 3 of his last 4 games (0 against UNC). While not a true PG, I think he is much more effective with the ball in his hands. He is simply not the intermediate and outside shooter he was advertised to be prior to getting to College Park. He is a very good athlete though, with an ability to beat guys off the dribble. MD needs him to score. His points are not going to come from outside, so he needs to attack the rim, and get to the foul line (his FT% has improved from 62% last year to 75% this year).
Allen does a lot of things well. You have to like his quickness, and desire to play defense. Despite going just 2 for his last 14, he is still shooting 35% from 3. After having 5 turnovers vs. FSU on 1/9, he’s had just 4 total turnovers in next 4 games. Part of that is having the ball in his hands less. Playing off the ball, MD needs him to make some shots. Like Faust and Wells, he has an ability to create for himself. Compared to both of them though, he has a better shot.
If Howard, and Padgett are the 9th and 10th guys in the rotation; Aronhalt is the 8th. He is shooting 48% from 3, but has shown some trouble getting off his shot against the more athletic teams he is seeing in ACC play, and is just 4 for his last 17 overall. Last year for Albany, he made 89% of his FT’s. Due to that, you would like him to be on the floor in close and late games. However, I’m sure part of the consideration from Coach Turegon is that Aronhalt is limited defensively. To Aronhalt’s credit though, he has just 2 turnovers in his last 62 minutes of action.
Layman scored 20 points in the ACC opener vs. VaTech, but followed that with just 9 total points the following 4 games. Put back into the starting lineup, his scoring came back to life vs. Boston College, with 15 points vs. the Eagles. He’s made 5 of his last 12 shots from outside, and he has the athleticism (and size) to score inside. Maryland has limitations scoring, and Layman has some of the best scoring ability on the team. I’d like to see MD give him the opportunity to be a consistent threat.
After 9 points, and 11 boards vs. UNC, Mitchell was also inserted back in the starting lineup vs. Boston College. Unfortunately the Freshman had one of his worse games of the year. Despite that, I like what he brings. His intensity is always high, and he is averaging 6.2 boards in just 16.6 minutes per game. We’ve talked about some of the weaknesses MD needs to address, but they also have to continue to take advantage of their strengths. The strength of this MD team is their work on the glass. Mitchell can’t have more games like against BC (1 board in 14 minutes, or vs. Miami 1 board in 12 minutes).
If Mitchell is not starting, fellow Freshman Shaq Cleare will be. Cleare is shooting 61% from the floor, on 3.2 attempts per game. Coach Turgeon has talked about wanting to get Cleare more time at the 5, with Len at the 4. Playing 24 minutes against the Wolfpack, Cleare responded with 8 points, and 5 boards. In the next two games he played 17 minutes combined. That speaks to the inconsistency of Freshman, but my thought is you have to get him on the court and use him. Cleare averaging 13.7 minutes, and Padgett averaging 17.2 can not continue.
At 7’1, with his skill set; Alex Len is being projected by everyone as an NBA Lottery Pick. If he’s not coming back to College Park next year, let’s seem on the court as much as possible this year. People complained about Jordan Williams’ conditioning, but in his Sophomore year, Williams averaged 32.5 minutes per game. Len is averaging 26.4. Now obviously the surrounding talent has something to do with that, but the overall point remains. Len is your most talented player, and he needs to be on the court more. Against BC, I thought Len did a better job of demanding the ball then we had seen in many previous games. That has to continue. If Len is going to be an NBA Lottery Pick, he should be taking every game at this level personal. He should want to show he is the best player on the court, each time out. It will be interesting to see him and Plumlee matched-up on Saturday. Len’s getting to the line 4.6 times per game, but is averaging just 66% from the charity stripe. That needs to improve as well.
Conclusion on Maryland:
A couple of weeks ago, I would have thought a 12-6 finish in ACC play was the floor for MD. I was also expecting a Sweet 16 appearance. I think both of those goals are still possible, but Maryland is in a precarious position right now. Their Out-of-Conference schedule was so poor, that the Terps will only advance to the NCAA Tournament by what they do in Conference play (and the ACC Tournament). This Terps team has clear limitations, but I do believe there is enough talent here that anything less than an appearance in the NCAA’s would be extremely disappointing.
Looking at Duke:
The Blue Devils had a tremendous start to their season, winning their first 14 games. That included victories over Kentucky, Minnesota, VCU, Louisville, Ohio State, and Temple.
Senior Forward Ryan Kelly was hurt prior to the NCST game, and Duke has proceeded to lose 2 of their last 3 games. Kelly was averaging 13.4 ppg, including 52% from 3 point land. Freshman Amile Jefferson – who Maryland pursued hard – has been getting time in-place of Kelly.
Mason Plumlee (6’10, Senior, Forward) leads Duke in scoring (17.4), and rebounding (11.4).
Seth Curry (6’2, Senior, Guard) is 2nd in scoring at 15.9 per game. Curry averages 43% from 3, on 5.7 attempts per.
Quinn Cook (6’1, Sophomore, Guard) is scoring in double figures (11.1) and averages 6.1 assists against just 2.2 turnovers.
Last night at Miami, Duke was drilled by the Hurricanes – losing 90-63. You can expect a strong effort from the Blue Devils Saturday, with a lot of on the ball pressure. For MD to compete, they are going to have to dominate on the glass.
Nationally, the Blue Devils are:
19th in Points Per Game (77.8)
113th in Rebounds Per Game (36.6)
43rd in Assists Per Game (15.3)
51st in FG % (.461)
70th in Scoring Defense (61.5)
18th Turnover Margin (4.1)