At long last, the season can begin. Sure we have been playing ball since November, but lets be honest. The Maryland basketball team has not faced the stiffest of competition thus far. That is all about to change starting Saturday when Virginia Tech comes to town.
What can we take from the cupcake schedule the Terps have played so far? I don’t think too much to be honest. They haven’t been in too many close game situations. You don’t have a good feeling of how they will react in a pressure situation. Of the 13 games they have played so far, only 4 of them have been decided by 10 points or less. There is still much to learn about how this team will hold up on the road against stiffer competition.
I still don’t know what to take of Mark Turgeon’s rotation at this point either. He has not really showed his hand on how he will start or even what his substitution pattern will be or just how deep it will be. It seems as if he started a different lineup almost every game over the non-conference portion of the schedule. Will he shorten the bench? I think so, but who loses the minutes at this point isn’t clear based on how he has subbed players in and out. You have to think Jake Layman could be the odd man out, but I still think he gets some time. It will be very interesting to see if he sticks with some guys a little longer.
To this point, the team hasn’t had a dominant go to scorer. I think that is a good think. On a given night, almost anyone could have the hot hand and lead the team in scoring. I think that balance is pretty good, but I would still like to see one or two guys step up and say the ball is mine at crunch time. Len is the obvious answer for me, but the guards have to do a better job feeding the post, especially against a zone.
As a season ticket holder, this Virginia Tech game couldn’t get here soon enough. That schedule was tough to get excited about. Now that all changes. The Terps did what they were supposed to. They went out and put away the teams that offered little resistance. They wore them down with their depth and size, and generally had games put away early in the second half. I am sure they got tired of playing those types of teams, and despite not always playing perfectly inspired basketball for 40 minutes they turned it up and took care of business.
Moving forward, it is going to take a full 40 minute effort. That is something we haven’t seen yet. Some of that could be attributed to the ever changing lineups and longer bench. I think a more stable lineup and rotation, players will be able to settle down and play with a little more cohesion from start to finish. That is of course if Turgeon goes that route. He may very well change starters from game to game.
I for one am ready. It remains to be seen if the Terps are. The ACC teams not named Duke have all showed some signs that they may not be ready for primetime yet. The number 2 spot seems to be up for grabs this year. I still think NC State gets it’s act together and gives Duke a run, but it is NC State, and they is always a chance they lay an egg.
So if this Maryland team really comes together, plays hard for 40 minutes, and tightens up the free throw shooting a little, a run at the second spot in the ACC is not out of the question. Is that goal lofty? Maybe, after all they haven’t played the challenging schedule that teams like to use to show they are ready for the big time of conference play. However, just getting out on the court and learning to play together against any competition may have been more important. I just hope they can throw a switch and play with a little more intensity after so many games where they were going to win almost by showing up. I am giddy, and ready for the ride, because I really think this team is going to gel and get it done. They genuinely seem to like playing together and have fun out there. Go Terps!