Monday, December 05, 2011

Outpost of Progress

I thought that the game against Notre Dame would go a ways toward informing Maryland fans where this squad is in early December. Most assumed it would be a work in progress at this point even before the injury to Pe'Shon Howard and the NCAA docking Alex Len 10 games of eligibility. There have been more lows (noncompetitive losses to Iona and Alabama) than highs (the Colorado Comeback) but there have been some signs of progress. In studying Notre Dame I felt they would be a good substitute for the bottom half of a dreadful ACC this season. Notre Dame is a team that will struggle badly in Big East play and will likely end up towards the bottom of their league. They lack any inside presence and rely heavily on perimeter shooting and drawing fouls driving to the basket. They are not very athletic outside of a few players (though Jerian Grant is pretty good) and are vulnerable on the boards. If Maryland lost on a neutral floor to this group it would have been an ominous sign for conference play. Having come away with a win it still isn't clear how good Maryland can be but we are seeing signs that barring further injuries to a thin roster that Maryland won't have a Wake Forest in 2011 type of season.

Super sophomore Terrell Stoglin was dazzling in scoring 31 on 11 made field goals in 37 minutes. Stoglin shoulders a tremendous burden on this squad as he is the only player who can create his own shot and the most serious offensive threat. It is unrealistic to expect him to dish out 7 assists a game or play lockdown defense in addition to the scoring burden. He will have some difficult games in ACC play and will force bad shots from time to time but suppressing his gunner instincts isn't going to necessarily help this team be successful this year. Mark Turgeon's motion offense is still a work in progress and although the team did a better job of running sets in this game they are not going to win much playing "system" basketball regardless of how much Turgeon wants to run a balanced attack. I think he understands this but also wants the role players on the team to buy into his system. This is perhaps why Ashton Pankey seems to be in the dog house. On a thin roster there is no other explanation for his one minute of play against Notre Dame. Hopefully he gets his head on straight because Maryland will need his rebounding and toughness in ACC play.

Sean Mosley bounced back from a dreadful game against Illinois and had one of his most complete nights of the season. He was very efficient with the ball and made good decisions on offense. He struggled to guard Grant at times but when Mike Brey went with a five out motion (all five players on the perimeter) it was a tough assignment for Mosley. Mosley is not a superstar and never will be but if he can gain a little consistency he can be a very valuable compliment for Stoglin.

James Padgett has put together a decent two games adding 11 points and 10 rebounds. He did it only shooting 3/11 which for where he puts the ball up is horrendous shooting but he is hustling and getting better on the defensive boards. He is not the wasted scholarship that some fans considered him to be and looks to be on track for a solid campaign and potentially very good senior season. Overall he has ably replaced Dino Gregory's production and in some ways is better.

Nick Faust continued to struggle with his shot. He is now seven for his last thirty five field goal attempts (20%) and only 3/9 from the free throw line in the last three games. His struggles at the foul like may cause problems in a tight game since it is hard to keep the ball out of his hands with so few guards on the roster. Hopefully the softer schedule the rest of the month will help him regain some confidence.

This Notre Dame team is not very good and will likely finish near the bottom of the Big East but I think this was a very significant win for the Terps going into the underbelly of the non-conference slate. They will get Alex Len on the court at the end of the month and then hopefully Pe'Shon Howard in January. Things might not be looking to bad at that point.


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