I finally have some quality time to myself where I have nothing to do, so I thought I better write something on the old blog before my partner shuts me out! I was going to write a football wrap, but lets be honest, what is there worth saying that my wife couldn’t some up in a sentence or two. They had no quarterbacks, that Diggs guy we were all excited about was better quicker than we expected, and the defense was solid. Done end of story. So I got to thinking, it is basketball season, why not take a look at where the Terps are during the finals break.
Overall, they are about where we expected them to be when we got the news that Dez Well was going to eligible this season after winning his appeal to the NCAA. Lose to Kentucky, and win the others against teams they should beat. Maybe you could say Northwestern was a game they could lose, and of course George Mason because, well let’s say it, it was the BB&T. However they had an eye opening second half against Northwestern and managed to win against Mason. So here they sit at 9-1 and with only a game against Stoney Brook between them and a 10 game winning streak.
I am a little nervous about the Stoney Brook game however. They will be coming off finals, having not played particularly well leading up to the break, and SB could be the best of the lot in these games of lesser opponents. They are a solid Mid-Major, just the type of team looking to get a win.
Enough of that talk of whats ahead, lets talk about how things have gone individually so far, and see if we can predict how that will translate going forward.
Alex Len. Wow, I mean what a difference a year has made. Confidence is high (not unlike Sherminator in American Pie) and he seems much more comfortable then he did at any point last year. Is he the most dominant big? No, but man you can seem glimpses where he really could. The weakness to me is when teams go zone against the Terps he seems to get forgotten about for long periods of time. That is a little on Len, and a little on his teammates. Going forward, the sky is the limit. If he were back next year you could put the Terps in the preseason top 5 in my mind. He is only going to get better the more comfortable he gets. The problem is, people are saying he is a high lottery pick next year. He should average a double double going forward.
James Padgett. If nothing else he has been a solid option inside. He is never going to wow you, but he is going to give you an honest effort every game out. He is playing a few less minutes than I expected, and I take that to mean nothing at this point. Turgeon has made it clear he is trying different lineups and units. As we get into ACC play, I think Padgett will see a small bump in his minutes as Turgeon will go with what he knows. Padgett has increased both his FG % (65%) and FT% (68%) this season so far. Both are signs of how hard he has worked. Padgett is what he is. A guy that will fight to get to the basket (even when he should kick it out sometimes) and will get fouled. The key will be if he is hitting those FT’s. Some games he looks great at the line, other times he gets ice cold.
Dez Wells. I didn’t really count on him being here when he got denied initially, so I think we got really lucky with Dez. He is really good in the open court. Is incredibly strong inside the paint. If he can get a smaller guard posted up, you can put 2 on the board. He can even out muscle some bigger guys down low with his positioning and footwork. He is a consistent outside shot away from the NBA. He seems to be a competent defender. The thing I like most are his quotes. This guy really appreciates the opportunity to be playing at Maryland. He is thankful his teammates welcomed him in, and generally loves playing, and more importantly playing for Maryland. He will be one of the top scorers on the team going forward in my opinion.
Nick Faust. I don’t want to say he is having a Sophomore slump, but he hasn’t had that explosive rise to the next level I was (maybe unfairly) hoping for or expecting. I am sure it is really difficult this season for Nick. Last year he played. Wether he took a bad shot, played well or poorly, he was playing out of necessity. This season Turgeon has options and if Nick is pressing, he goes to the bench. I am sure that is in his head a little and it is going to take him a little time to get back to just playing ball. At times he shows what he can do. Others you wonder what he is thinking. It took him a little while to get comfortable last season, and I expect the same to happen this year. I really expect him to be peaking as we move through the ACC season. If nothing else, he one of the better on the ball defenders on the team, and that alone will keep him on the court.
Pe’Shon Howard. Pe has had his ups and downs so far, and I think we all expected that as he is coming off of last seasons injuries. At times he is a solid leader on the court who looks ready to lead this team deep in the post season. Others he looks like he has little interest out there. To be fair you can say that about a lot of the team at times and some of that may have something to do with the scheduling. I think I notice it the most with Pe’Shon though because he is the point. The truth is he has a 3:1 assist to TO ratio, and I can live with that. At times more athletic guards will be a challenge for him defensively, because he is not 100% yet. To be honest, if he can get a little more consistent with the outside shot, he could be a real steadying force for the Terps.
Logan Aronhalt. I will say I was a little concerned about him after the Kentucky game. He look overmatched athletically in his few minutes. Since that time though, he has played the role I was hoping he would play. Spot up shooter. On the season he is 50% from the line, 52% from the field overall and 58% FROM THREE! He has made only one shot from inside the arc. I always thought it was nuts the way Curtis Staples only took three’s but with Aronhalt count on it. He has no business putting the ball on the court and driving the lane. Launch when ready my friend. When he is hot, Turgeon better keep him out there. I can see him playing 6-10 to minutes a game in ACC play, particularly if a “zone buster” is needed.
Seth Allen. I will say I got a little too excited, a little too early about Seth. He seems to have hit a bit of a wall lately. He started out incredibly hot, but has since turned into a turnover machine. He can score, and has a nice shot from outside. He can get in the lane. Defensively he has some work to do. At times he is ok on the ball. Off the ball he has a hard time keeping an eye on his player from time to time and loses him. He can get steals, but can get burnt just as easily. I found it interesting that Nick Faust was getting some time at the point the last couple of games. Not sure if Turgeon is thinking Allen is ready to run the show in the ACC, or if moving Faust to the point might get more time for Aronhalt to launch three’s. Either way, Allen has to value the ball more to stay on the court.
Jake Layman. You hate to say anyone has been a disappointment 10 games into their career, but I truly thought Layman may have been the most ready to contribute right away. You can see he has some skill, but at the moment he seems to be having some trouble adjusting to speed of the college game. I think he will be a really good player by the time he is done at Maryland, but if he doesn’t get it together quickly he will be spending more time on the bench than I expected. It doesn’t help your chances if you are doing the course work either. I think he will be fine, but with 10 guys, not everyone is going to get a ton of minutes, and with the flexibility of playing Dez or Faust at the 3, Layman may be the odd guy out if Turgeon looks to shorten the bench for ACC play.
Charles Mitchell. What a pleasant surprise he has been. I had him in that going to be a solid player by his junior or senior year category. However, Mitchell has done one thing really well. Rebound. He is averaging 6.5 boards in just over 15 minutes a game. Lately he too has taken a step back, but he will play. Expect the Terps to get screwed on some calls in the ACC, and all the bigs will have to play when someone is in foul trouble. I mean we have gotten screwed when we weren’t bailing on the league. Why wouldn’t it get worse? In all seriousness though, he will play. Having a strong inside player who can rebound will help you, and for that alone Mitchell will see some decent minutes.
Shaq Cleare. The opposite could be said for Cleare. He started slower than Mitchell, but has come on lately. He is a bit of a work in progress, but he can play and over time will become a force inside. He is still trying to get used to not being the biggest guy on the court like he was in High School. Once he does he will be a tough matchup. Offensively he is coming along. He has an odd but effective FT stroke (75%) and has gotten a little more comfortable in the offense. He too will play valuable minutes this season. If he keeps up his FT streak, he could be on the court in late game situations if he continues to improve the rest of his game at the rate he has over the last 4 or 5.
Mark Turgeon. Overall, I love his experimentation with the lineups. He has started everyone. He doesn’t always use the same starting lineup to start the second half. He rides the hot hand a little longer than Gary did. The most exciting thing is the difference in the team in the second halves of games. I don’t know if it is a change in the game plan. An impassioned speech, or just the fact that he has put together a team that he feels he can go 10 deep with and the Terps can wear down other team. What ever it is, the second halves have been better in almost every single game. There is a lot to be said for that. I don’t expect to see hockey like wholesale lineup changes on the regular. I don’t expect to see games where Dez and Len don’t start because of a coaches decision. But whatever buttons he is pushing right now seem to be making sense. He hasn’t had to have a lot of close game “x” and “o” moments since the Kentucky game, but so far you have to like what he is doing. Everyone on the team is buying into his system. Everyone seems to be having fun playing as a team, and I think that ultimately will get them in the big dance.
So there you have a look at where everyone is in my eyes. Just one fans view. I don’t think I said anything too outlandish, but if this team keeps it up, there isn’t a real reason they couldn’t wind up in the top 3 or 4 (or better if things really click) in the ACC. I am concerned about the weak schedule hurting them going forward. I don’t think it is a good idea to inflate the egos of this young team. Yes they are 9-1, but they have a lot of work ahead to show us if they are ready for a top tier ACC finish. I for one am ready to find out!