Yesterday, the University of Maryland announced that Maryland Madness will be held at Cole Field House. The October 18th Madness will kick off the first formal practice for Terps, as Maryland begins the countdown to their November 8th opener vs. UConn in Brooklyn.
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MD was 25-13 last year, with their season ending with a National Invitation Tournament (NIT) Semi-Final loss to Iowa. They were a team that could be awfully tough to watch due to their duality. On their best days, at their best moments; they looked the part of a high quality team. Too often though, their flaws overshadowed the things they did well.
Since last season ended, they’ve lost Alex Len to the NBA. They also lost their best 3 point shooter in Logan Aronhalt, and the 38 combined minutes a game that James Padgett, and Pe’Shon Howard provided.
That was last year though. The reminder that March Madness is right around corner (and that date vs. the Huskies only 6 weeks from Friday) is the indication that it is time to look ahead.
Here are some thoughts as the season nears:
1) Last things first. This is the Terrapins last year as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). As Maryland prepares to depart, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame join the league. Maryland will face all three teams, with a home-and-home vs. the Panthers. It should also be remembered that it is an 18 game ACC schedule this year.
2) As mentioned above, MD begins their season vs. out-of-conference foe UConn in Brooklyn. Beyond that, MD will participate in the Paradise Jam (Marist / Loyola Marymount / Northern Iowa / Providence / Vanderbilt / Morgan State / La Salle) in the U.S. Virgin Islands, travel to Ohio State for the ACC / Big Ten Challenge, face George Washington at the Verizon Center for the BB&T Classic in DC, and take on Oregon State, and Tulsa at home. It’s not an overwhelming OOC slate, but it does look to be an improvement over last year.
3) The Terps were 294th overall in turnover margin last year. Sophomore Seth Allen looks to be the starting PG. It was good to see that he played well in the August trip to the Bahamas, showing him to be recovered from the injury that ended his Freshman year. With his health no longer an issue, the question with Allen will be how well can he run the offense, particular in 1/2 court sets? Behind Allen will be true Freshman Roddy Peters. Peters is highly regarded, but like Allen is more of a combo guard vs. true pg. I like that Peter is not going to be asked to lead the offense right away, as I think that would be a lot to ask. Not only will he be adjusting to the College game, he missed most of his Senior year of HS with a torn labrum. His play is going to be important for MD, but playing behind Allen takes some of the pressure off of him. I think Allen, and Peters will be excellent players in the open court. When the game slows, these two have to help limit MD’s turnovers at the minimum.
4) In addition to Peters, other newcomers this year include Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz, Penn State transfer Jonathan Graham, and Freshman Damonte Dodd. Smotrycz’s game is said to resemble Duke’s departed F Ryan Kelly, and he apparently performed well in-practice all of this past year. Dodd has good size and athleticism, and will be asked to give minutes off the bench similar to what Cleare and Mitchell provided as Freshman. Graham figures to be more of a practice player, and likely the 10th man in the Terps rotation.
I don’t believe it matters who starts at the 4 (Smotrycz or Layman) or the 5 (Cleare or Mitchell), but it will be interesting to hear the stories about those battles in camp. Each of those guys has had time in the system, and that is encouraging. With Sophomores you always hear the biggest leap in their careers is after their Freshman years. Layman was an offensive force in the Bahamas. There have been a couple of pictures going around on Maryland boards showing strong physical improvement from Cleare. Mitchell averaged 5.4 boards in under 16 minutes per game.
That’s a nice post group to work with, and Dodd provides additional security. If Maryland ever wants to go ‘big’, Layman can move down to the 3.
5) Maryland played their best last year when the ball was in Dez Wells hands, and he was committed to driving and attacking the rim. Nick Faust ended his Sophomore year playing his best from the end of February on. For the season, his FG%, 3pt FG%, and FT% all improved. How good can these two be on both ends? This is a pair of strong, athletic wings – who come into this year with a lot of experience. With Len last year, there was the sense that MD needed to get the ball to Len. That was understandable as Len was a lottery talent. However, with the issues MD had at PG, that was often a fruitless endeavor. This year, I’m hoping to see an offense that more often plays to the strengths of the roster.
One of the things I like about this Terps team is that Wells and Faust (and Allen, and Layman) can play the passing lanes and create offense from defense. I think it is on this duo to the set the mentality for the team. If they go out looking to attack, and impose their will each game; Maryland should have a great opportunity to get to the NCAA Tournament for the first time under Coach Turgeon.