Monday, November 19, 2012

Maryland Departs ACC, Joins Big Ten

It has been a while since I have posted on this blog but in light of today's events I felt the urge to add my thoughts to the collective on Maryland's move to the Big Ten. Back in 2010 when the conference realignment was kicking into high gear I wrote that Maryland could not and should not refuse an invite from the Big Ten if one was offered. It seems that Notre Dame's laughable half in and half out deal with the ACC may have been the trigger for Jim Delaney, Big Ten commissioner, to make the move that had been brewing in Chicago for quite a while now. That decision is Maryland's opportunity.

The financial troubles of the athletic department have been well chronicled. With the financial mismanagement of former AD Debbie Yow the revenue and budget gap for Maryland is getting bigger every season. How did we get here? The football and basketball programs began to decline around the same time losing ticket sales and resulting in declines in Terrapin Club members. The economic crash in 2008 certainly didn't help matters, nor did the ill fated decision to add luxury suites at Byrd Stadium in the midst of the worst recession in modern times. Profligate spending on non-revenue sports by Debbie Yow certainly exacerbated the  bleeding. In the past budget shortfalls were covered by the use of one time sponsorship deal income or one time donations instead of consistent revenue. Now that those sponsorship deals or one time donations have largely been drained and the budget gap is a growing threat to Maryland's competitiveness.

Faced with a dire financial forecast President Loh and AD Kevin Anderson did not have many attractive options. They were forced to make painful cuts to programs, paring down the number of scholarship programs to 20, and putting the athletic department on a hard road of austerity measures. When the normal funding of conference television rights and poor fan spending cannot make up the shortfall you have to change something. Maryland's apathetic fanbase probably isn't going to change any time soon and the ACC's sad television deal isn't up for renegotiation until after creditors started showing up to pull the copper wiring out of Comcast Center. As Pete Thamel reported on SI.com Maryland will stand to make $12 million more in 2014 than they would have they stayed in the ACC. The numbers only get bigger from there to where they expect to bring in $42 million in revenue in 2017, which is almost double what the ACC stands to be paying its members.

It is understandable to approach the move to the Big Ten with melancholy but there is a real danger of crossing over into sentimentality. The old ACC has not existed since 2004 when we went through the initial round of expansion. The round robin disappeared and ACC basketball began a quiet decline. Those battles with traditional Tobacco Road opponents and longtime ACC rivals like Clemson are going by the wayside. In 2015, for basketball, six teams on the schedule would be former Big East programs. Games against Boston College, Notre Dame and Syracuse have nothing to do with the great history of the ACC that Maryland has been part of in the past. A indication of this was when Pittsburgh was named Maryland's primary partner. Maryland has more recent basketball history against a handful of its future Big Ten opponents than Pitt. If that is the direction the ACC is going then there is little point in maudlin nostalgia about the great rivalries that won't occur going forward. Maryland had a choice of staying in the ACC for emotional reasons and living hand to mouth or potentially thriving in the Big Ten run by executives who understand where college sports are going to be in a decade. Given those option there really isn't any choice.

There will be many bittersweet elements to this divorce. I will miss rivalry games against Virginia and the sometimes fanatical devotion to basketball that was part of the fabric of the ACC. At the same time it is an unavoidable conclusion that the smug belief among ACC-philes that it is the best conference in the country hasn't been true for a while now. North Carolina and Duke continue to chug along while the rest of the league fail to contend for any significant achievements. The inclusion of football lightweights Pitt and Syracuse is a reflection of the insecurities of the basketball coaches in the ACC and more than a little envy at the Big East NCAA bid numbers the last few years.

On balance this a move that Maryland's administrators had to make for the future of the sports programs. Maryland can choose to live in a threadbare, dilapidated mansion continuing to hold onto golden memories or take a risk of building a new future with new challenges.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Winter of discontent

I've probably used that turn of phrase before regarding Maryland sports but I'm too lazy to look it up. Morale in Terrapin Nation is not at all time high levels. The 18 point loss to Duke in basketball reminded everyone how far the Terps are from being a top team in the ACC. The friction between Terrell Stoglin and Mark Turgeon bubbled over after the game with Stoglin taking to twitter to complain about getting benched. Three more players decided to transfer from the football team including QB Danny O'Brien. While Randy Edsall did have a huge recruiting victory when WR Stefon Diggs of Good Counsel signed with Maryland over the likes of Ohio State and Florida it seems like every time he goes out in the media he just makes things worse. The problem is you cannot have your head coach hiding under a rock but Edsall is like a politician who drops in the polls every time he gives a speech. The head coach needs to be the face of the program. The question is whether the rift between a sizable number of fans and Edsall is irreparable already. The amount of animus between Edsall and the fanbase is unlike anything I have seen. Many fans have lost all reason in their desire to see Edsall fail. When some fans would rather see the program struggle so they could get rid of a coach you know things are poisoned. Then again a vocal minority of fans wanted Gary Williams gone both before and after he won a national title.

For my part I don't think Randy Edsall is a great coach but neither do I harbor any real dislike for the man. If he was successful at Maryland I wouldn't have a problem with him. His grooming standards and rules for players are of little consequence to me. His stilted and wooden persona in the media makes it hard for any fans to really embrace him. Even if he is successful in the coming years he will likely never be embraced by the entire fan base. In that sense then the Edsall regime is already a failure and Kevin Anderson's hiring of him was a mistake due to his failure to access Edsall's suitability to the culture at Maryland. With Mike Locksley bringing in the top talent in Maryland it will almost certainly raise the fortunes of the football program. In a number of weeks Locksley has landed more talent than the Friedgen and Franklin pair did in their final three years. When the fortunes of the team do turn around it is almost certain to create an uneasy stalemate between those fans who have grown to hate Edsall and those who only desire a winning program.

I can only great the transfer of Danny O'Brien with a shrug. I wasn't convinced he was going to be the starter going into the fall regardless. His play last season was abysmal and putting aside issues regarding the system and the quality of his teammates he struggled with basic reads and decision making at the QB position. It was one of the worst seasons by a Maryland quarterback since Joel Statham in 2004. Chris Turner's 2009 season with an equally putrid 2-10 team was better. With a good offensive line, decent running backs and one of the better wideouts in Maryland history O'Brien looked good as a red-shirt freshman. Without all those elements he was one of the worst quarterbacks in the ACC. That isn't an elite player. Perhaps he will transfer to a program that is loaded with talent and he'll flourish distributing the ball to the kind of elite players that Maryland does not possess at the moment. I tend to doubt that will happen. O'Brien worked hard and was a good representative for the University. He'll graduate in the spring and move on somewhere else. It would have been good for Maryland had he stayed but it isn't as if the program has lost an elite player either.

It wasn't surprising that Maryland lost by 18 at Cameron. Once again Mark Turgeon tried his outside-in defense and it resulted in the Plumlee brothers dominating Maryland's big men. Alex Len got into early foul trouble and that pretty much obliterated any slim chance Turgeon's strategy would work. Ashton Pankey, who hasn't played a good game in weeks, and James Padgett had little chance to stop the assault in the paint that Coach K unleashed. The only real bright spots in the game were the play of Mychal Parker and Nick Faust. Both showed they can by dynamic players on the wing and it may be a blessing in disguise that Pe'Shon Howard's injury will ensure that these two will get extended playing time as the season draws to a close. Howard wasn't playing well before his injury and I doubt it will make a significant difference in the fortunes of the team. I saw this as a 6-10 squad before he was injured and I don't see that changing.

What could make a difference is if Stoglin decides to check out like Jordan Williams did last year down the stretch. I think Turgeon has totally mishandled this situation with Stoglin. His criticism of Stoglin in the media has been surprising and shockingly inept for a coach of his tenure. It is important to note that Turgeon has never been a coach at a program with the profile and location of Maryland. With all due respect to Texas A&M it probably did little to prepare him for that it would be like at a school with the expectations of Maryland. Turgeon's seeming inability to deal with Stoglin outside of the media eye has given me my first doubts about his ability to return Maryland to its former glory. If he cannot deal with the ego of a player like Stoglin then how will he be able to recruit and coach elite high school players who are almost all divas in some way? I think the way that Gary Williams handled the cancerous junior season of John Gilchrist would be educational to Mark Turgeon at the moment. Hammering away at Stoglin after every loss, notice when Stoglin bails out the team with his scoring there isn't much comment from the coach about his lack of assists, serves no purpose and seems to betray a lack of ability to coach a potentially difficult player. Stoglin bailed out his coach who was flummoxed by Brad Brownell's 1-3-1 zone gimmick in their 64-62 squeaker against Clemson. Without Stoglin this team may have two ACC wins and no one would be talking optimistically about next season. More to the point if Turgeon mishandles Stoglin and the sophomore decides to transfer you can push back Maryland's return to the NCAA tournament until at least 2013-14. With Sean Mosley departing and only a lightly recruited guard in Seth Allen arriving next fall the backcourt would be one of the weakest in the ACC without Stoglin.

The Terps get Boston College at home later in the week and then travel to UVA before hosting Miami next week. It will be a pivotal stretch for the team and a potential turning point for the coach and his relationship with the squad's only star player.

Friday, February 10, 2012

ACC odds & ends

Has the hype regarding the finish to the North Carolina versus Duke game gone a bit overboard? It is as if that was the first time a 3-point shot in the closing seconds won a game for a team, or the first time anyone ever came back from 10 points behind to win. The game did demonstrate that both of these squads have serious deficiencies that will probably prevent them from a deep run in the NCAA tournament. I'm not sure I have ever seen worse on the ball defense from a Duke team. Andre Dawkins is Duke's version of Mike Jones and Quinn Cook could barely guard a folding chair. For UNC Kendall Marshall has never played good defense and without Dexter Strickland they don't have anyone to place on a dangerous shooter. It is too bad Tyler Zeller has turned into the goat because his play was the only thing keeping the Tarheels close in the 1st half. For the game he thoroughly dominated the Plumlee brothers and controlled the low post. With a seven point lead and two minutes to go both Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall turned the ball over but little blame was given to either of them. Not surprising that in a battle of coaching wits that K would best Roy Williams. Not sure what Williams was thinking switching Zeller on a basic high screen it wasn't as if Rivers had not already made 5 3-point shots prior to that. Another thing this game showed was that North Carolina's bench is a serious weak sport for this squad.

We going to see if N.C. State's 7-3 record is a bit of a fraud very soon (I think it is). Their next three opponents: Duke, Florida State and North Carolina. Lucky for them two out of the three are at home.

I am surprised that Jim Larranaga has gotten Miami playing at this level so quickly. Their 6-3 mark in conference play is also a bit misleading but they did have a signature win against Duke at Cameron. As with the Wolfpack things get a little more difficult with two games against FSU, a home game against North Carolina and road contests against Maryland and N.C. State. They should probably find their level at 9-7 and in the NIT.

Perhaps it was a surprise that FSU was upset by Boston College the other night but anytime Leonard Hamilton gets off the bus the opponent has a chance.

In other news former Maryland football head-coach-in-waiting James Franklin really put his foot in his mouth when complaining about some players who had changed their minds after giving a verbal non-binding commitment to Vanderbilt. Without naming names he questioned their character and honor. Given the climate in college recruiting "de-commits" are always a factor and it seems silly to attack a kid over an honest change of heart. As long as they are a man about it and don't have their mother call to tell the coaching staff they changed their mind, yes Terrence Ross I am talking about you, then coaches shouldn't whine about it. New North Carolina coach Larry Fedora must have spit out his morning coffee after reading Franklin's self serving comments. Fedora recruited QB Patton Robinette who was in the midst of student orientation for an early enrollment at Chapel Hill before he hopped in a car bound for Vanderbilt. You can read Fedora's scathing comments regarding Franklin's hypocrisy in the Atlanta Journal. Maybe Franklin's misstep is just the result of a coach who is a little in over his head going up against the sharks in the SEC.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Wacky night

Maryland's two overtime loss to Miami has to be one of the most bizarre games the Terrapins have played in the last decade. Four technical fouls were called, 47 total fouls, 5 players fouled out, Miami coach Jim Larranaga looked like he was about to keel over at any moment, and Mark Turgeon was tossed out of the game. Anyone who was worried that Turgeon was too Milquetoast for the ACC must have been heartened by his explosion when Nick Faust was called for a charge with seven minutes left in the game. After getting tossed Turgeon could be seen calling the official, Brian Dorsey, a "[bleeping] p*ssy" before he went to the locker room. I've always felt Jamie Luckie was one of the worst officials that regularly works ACC games, who can forget his technical against Greivis Vasquez that resulted in a DQ and Maryland's defeat against Boston College in 2007. This was an awful crew in a sport that has too many awful officials. I'm not sure what the ACC is really doing to improve the quality of officiating but this crew, well known as they are, should not be officiating ACC games next season.

The game itself was a poorly played affair until about 7 minutes left when Maryland, galvanized by their coaches ejection rallied to tie the game at 69 with a minute left. I thought assistant Scott Spinelli did a good job managing the game in Turgeon's absence and was probably more aggressive using the press than Turgeon would have been. The results were good as Maryland forced Miami into three turnovers in the final few minutes to tie the game.

I thought that once Reggie Johnson and Durand Scott fouled out that the game was Maryland's to lose going into the second overtime. A bad shot from Terrell Stoglin to start the second overtime and some defensive breakdowns sealed the game for Miami as they went out to a five point lead and never looked back. Maryland struggled to grab defensive boards at critical moments and could not guard Scott (24 points in 11/14 shooting). Pe'Shon Howard didn't start for some reason but still played 43 minutes though it was one of his poorer efforts of the season. He may have had 8 assists but he matched that with 5 turnovers and probably should have been credited with several more. His offense continues to struggle as he is shooting 24% from the floor (11/45) in ACC games. He simply could not stop Durand Scott, who isn't a particularly great guard, when matched up one-on-one. It is trend this season that Howard has really struggled to defend dribble penetrations. I don't know if his foot or conditioning are still an issue but he has been a liability on defense for a team that isn't blessed with great defensive guards.

Alex Len had a bit of a renaissance against Miami with 11 points and 7 rebounds to go with 4 blocks. He certainly played better than doughy Reggie Johnson. There were several moments in the overtime periods when I felt Maryland should work the ball to Len with Daquan Jones trying to guard him but Len's teammates didn't recognize the mismatch and the one time they did throw it into him it was a poor pass that resulted in a turnover. Len will be up against one of his biggest tests of the season with North Carolina coming to town with John Henson and Ty Zeller.

Terrell Stoglin has certainly put up points his last two games but I didn't think overall that he played as well as the stats would indicate. He was a little too focused on his 3-point shooting, he probably should have gone to the basket at the end of regulation instead of settling for a perimeter shot, and threw up a few too many bad shots for the game. Allowing for his mistakes without Stoglin Maryland didn't have a chance of being in the game last night. I really don't get the level of criticism for Stoglin in the press and even sometimes by Mark Turgeon. Scorer's like Stoglin are going to take some bad shots. He probably took too many 3-point shots but even players like Vasquez were guilty of that from time to time. I'm not sure where the idea came from that if Stoglin was more of a pure point guard that Turgeon's offense would run like a well oiled machine. It wouldn't. Turgeon's offense is fairly plain and not really suited for the talents of this squad. For his offense to function at a high level you need really talented players and Maryland only has one of those at the moment. This is a young team that is also a little light on offensive talent. Everyone needs to accept Stoglin for what he is, warts and all, because he is the only player that can keep Maryland competitive with their opponents in the ACC. I'm not sure watching Mosley, Howard and Faust clang shots off the rim is a great alternative.

Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg, who to use the language of his people is the biggest schmuck in the ACC, said Stoglin sometimes plays for both teams. Besides being a douche-bag Greenberg also happens to be wrong. In the 2nd half Stoglin scored 21 point on 6/12 shooting, including 4/8 from the 3-point line to sink Greengerg's Hokies. Not sure how that constitutes keeping the other team in the game. With a 10 point lead and three minutes left in the game Maryland should have coasted to a victory. Sean Mosley was called for a flagrant foul, turned the ball over and committed another foul resulting in the lead going down to 7 points. Then Nick Faust, who was in the game for some strange reason, missed the front end of two one-an-ones, followed by another Mosley foul. At that point the lead was down to five. The only role Stoglin had in the harder-than-it-should-have-been win was he missed three free throws at the end. It had nothing to do with his shot selection or selfishness.

Stoglin will get his share of criticism and a guy who throws up 20 3-point shots should, but I would also point out it isn't fair to let guys like Sean Mosley, Pe'Shon Howard, Ashton Pankey off the hook while blasting Stoglin. Those three went 4/18 from the floor and had just as many boneheaded plays as Stoglin did, Mosley's charge on the a fast break may have just been the pivotal moment in the game, but they won't get much as a peep of criticism by Turgeon or the press. Throw into the mix that Steve Czaban of the local ESPN radio affiliate said ominously yesterday that sources had told him that Stoglin "didn't fit the long term plans of [Turgeon]" and I'm a little dumbfounded.

Turgeon isn't exactly burning up the recruiting trail with talented guards. Take Stoglin off this roster and next year they are likely to be the same level of team they are now, perhaps in the NIT but with a losing record in the league. A backcourt of Howard, Faust, Parker and a gimpy freshman Seth Allen would be one of the worst in the ACC. If Turgeon does chase off Stoglin it may be his down fall.

To end on a positive note Mychal Parker seems to be finding his groove as a sub scoring 6 points in just 15 minutes and showing some of his high flying athleticism. He is one of the few players who can run the floor well on a squad that has big men who rarely ever get out on the break. When Maryland was struggling to score his ability to get out in transition was a great asset.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Never a dull moment

It was an eventful week for Maryland basketball with Duke coming to College Park on Wednesday on the night when the court at Comcast Center would be named after former coach Gary Williams. The game itself turned out to be a bit of a letdown as Duke used its superior talent and Coach K out maneuvered Mark Turgeon to post another in a string of wins against the Terps. As I have written before the obsession with Duke in the majority of the fanbase is a negative. Elevating the game above other ACC contests that are probably a more accurate barometer for the program makes little sense. Since winning the ACC tournament by defeating Duke in overtime Maryland has finished on average over three games below Duke in the standings. The fleeting moment back in 2001-2 when Maryland was battling Duke for ACC supremacy is long over. There has only been one game in the last 8 years when a Duke versus Maryland game was crucial in deciding who would win the ACC, yet I bet that Duke will be the only ACC sell out Maryland has all season. It's pathetic.

Oh, well, back to the game. Mark Turgeon's strategy to limit Duke's 3-point shooting was executed well (3/16 from the 3-point line) but it didn't matter as Duke's trio of post players chewed Maryland up on the interior. Turgeon will figure out that trying to grind out a half court game rarely worked against Duke. Opponents have been trying to do that to Coach K and the Blue Devils since, oh, forever. The disparity of coaching experience was on display in this game.

The game became a footnote when former Maryland coach Lefty Driesell was quoted as being opposed to naming the court after Williams. The fact that reporters chose to run the story the day of the ceremony is disappointing but I'm not surprised Driesell opened his big mouth to insert his big foot into it. Who can forget when Maryland defeated his Georgia State team in the 2001 NCAA tournament he was quoted as saying, "Maryland don't [sic] mean anything to me...I'm not emotionally attached to Maryland." Then he went on to say he hoped Georgetown would beat Maryland in the Sweet 16 game. So we know Driesell is a jerk and we also know that he was lying when he said he wasn't emotionally attached to Maryland. It is obvious from his petty and bitter comments that he is still wounded by his ousting as the head coach at Maryland. It is reflective of a man that even 30 years later doesn't get it. Driesell may have done impressive things at Maryland but he was also the architect of his own destruction.

The suggestion that Driesell made that he felt it was an insult to his players (an not him) is pathetic and ridiculous. Tom McMillen regularly attends games and Len Elmore is a vocal supporter of Gary Williams. That was just a sad attempt by Driesell to make himself appear less vain and narcissistic in his attempts to criticize the honor given the Williams. His follow up comments on the radio make him appear even less sympathetic. His obsession with people seeing the court and thinking Williams' "put Maryland on the map" is bizarre and pompous. The idea that Driesell created Maryland basketball is also an insult to Bud Millikan who nearly won as many ACC games as Driesell did in three fewer seasons. While Driesell did gain Maryland a fair amount of notoriety he also presided over a number of scandals and tragedies that had a definite role in the NCAA handing down a death penalty to Maryland during the Bob Wade era. The sanctions that the NCAA handed down for actions under Wade were the bookend to the Herman Veal controversy and the later death of Len Bias. To maintain the misdeeds under Driesell were not considered by the NCAA when handing down sanctions for what today would be minor NCAA violations is to be obtuse.

All of Driesell's arrogant pronunciations when he took the job at Maryland turned out to be braggadocio. It was Williams who rebuilt the program reach a height it never reached was under Driesell. Gary Williams time as head coach at Maryland was a glorious healing of the tumultuous scandals and tragedies that occurred before he arrived. Driesell's tenure ended with such negativity that many in the administration viewed the basketball program as a stain on the university. That is part of his legacy and clearly something he takes no responsibility for creating. His lack of tact was always a trait that got him into trouble but to try to ruin a day of celebration for Williams, who has always been welcoming of Dreisell, when Driesell has the court at Georgia State named after him is the height of hypocrisy and selfishness.

Gary Williams risked his career to save Maryland basketball from the abyss. He has donated his money and time to fundraising for Maryland, funded the athletic department with his successful basketball program and has been the most visible face of the entire school. I would hardly say that Williams' has no ego but his love of Maryland has never been in question. With Lefty Driesell it was always first and foremost about Lefty. His actions in this case may have ensured that there will never be a formal reconciliation between the school and Dreisell. In this case it is Driesell who has continued the ill will as there are some who won't forgive or forget his lack of graciousness.

In some ways it is typical of Maryland sports. Something is obviously the right thing to do yet they can't help but turn it into a botched and tainted result. Do you think anyone would seriously suggested the women's basketball coach should have the court named after her at Duke, UNC or Kentucky? Maryland's biggest foe is not the Blue Devils or Tarheels but infighting and back biting. This was just another example.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Terps winning ugly

It hasn't been pretty but Maryland has managed to squeeze out two home wins to improve their ACC record to 2-1. There have been a number of people on the radio and in the sports journalist world who have expressed surprise that Maryland is 12-4 and 2-1 in the ACC. I think Maryland has merely beaten the teams that they should have and expecting this team to lose 12 or more conference games in a league that is so weak is ridiculous. Given the awful middle of the stuck-in-the-glory-days-ACC if Mark Turgeon manages to lose 12 or more ACC games with Terrell Stoglin and a healthy roster then Kevin Anderson made a mistake in hiring him. I think the road loss to N.C. State and this road game at Florida State probably will give a more fair approximation of the current ability of this squad than beating Wake Forest and Georgia Tech.

Sean Mosley and James Padgett played very well against the Yellow Jackets. Though Padgett struggles to guard quicker players in the post his offensive rebounding is something of a wonder. The pair made 16/17 free throw attempts on a day when Maryland's shooting was atrocious. From the 2nd half against Wake Forest to halftime of the Georgia Tech game the Terps made just 14 of 56 field goals (25%). What saved their bacon was 23 free throw attempts which they converted at almost 83%. There was even a technical foul from Georgia Tech having six men on the court, weird.

I have a feeling we are not going to see a high powered offense from Turgeon any time soon, if ever. His teams play the same plodding tempo that he has employed everywhere else he coached. For now that is helping to keep Maryland from getting to far behind and has served this group well against some lesser opponents.

I think this team has done a good job defensively but they have not really been tested recently. The Wolfpack had little trouble with Maryland's defense a week ago (47.5% FG and 1.09 PPP) so their strong showing the following two games probably has more to do with Wake Forest and Georgia Tech than the Terrapins turning into a defensive buzz saw.

Alex Len has struggled to get involved in the offense the last two games with only a handful of field goal attempts. It isn't just Stoglin's high usage rate either. Len is a good passer for his size but probably needs to be a little more aggressive on offense. He gave up some really cheap fouls against the Yellow Jackets that could have come back to bite the Terps in the butt but Pankey and Padgett played well enough.

Pe'Shon Howard has really struggled since coming back from his broken foot. His offensive game is nearly non-existent as he is only shooting 32% from the floor. While he understands the position much better than Nick Faust he hasn't performed well in running the offense like many assumed he would. His attempts to make a more difficult play than is necessary are Vasquez-esque, but with a fraction of the talent. He has 12 assists and 10 turnovers in three conference games. That is not the ratio that Turgeon was probably expecting. Perhaps his conditioning is an issue, which would explain his awful defense against the likes of Scott Wood and Tony Chennault, but it doesn't really explain his poor decisions on offense. A number of times in recent games he has driven down the lane without any clear plan and ended up tossing a prayer towards the rim. Howard was supposed to be a dramatic improvement over Faust when he got back into the lineup but that hasn't happened. Faust and Howard have each been equally poor on offense (both shooting 32% with Oratings of 84.6 and 75.9 respectively) and while Howard gets more assists he also has turned the ball over more frequently.  Unless Howard begins improving Maryland shouldn't expect to keep a winning ACC record for very long.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Terps open home ACC slate against Deacons

Sorry for the lack of writing the last few weeks. The holidays and a bad back have kept me from writing very much.

The basketball squad had a good December against some questionable mid-major teams. Alex Len and Pe'Shon Howard returned to the lineup from suspension and injury respectively. Len proved from the start that he is a very skilled player. Len still has work to do in almost all facets of his game but he was very productive in  his first college games. He proved against N.C. State that he will be a force in ACC play. His conditioning needs improving and his defense is still somewhat of a work in progress. He is grabbing rebounds and blocking shots based on his size and quickness, not the execution of good fundamentals. When he puts it all together he will be a formidable force on defense.

Howards return has been a little more rocky. His game against Cornell was a very mixed bag and I thought overall he did not play well. Against the Wolfpack he was also uneven and had a dreadful night shooting and trying to guard Scott Wood. Wood isn't exactly Adam Morrison and Howard often failed to stay with Wood especially in the 2nd half. Howard deserves some slack because of all the time he missed with his foot injury but his return has been a very mixed bag. While he has accumulated 26 assists in just five games he also has added 19 turnovers. His assist and turnover rate are nearly identical. Maryland fans will probably have to adjust to the fact that under Mark Turgeon it is rare to have a point guard racking up assists. In his season as head coach at Texas A&M the assist leader on the team never averaged over 3.6 per game. There were plenty of opportunities for assists with Gary Williams' flex offense and emphasis on transition scoring. With all those gone under Mark Turgeon a plodding half court motion style offense is what we're going to get. The scrutiny of how many assists Howard gets or how few Terrell Stoglin has is probably not the best indicator of how Turgeon's offense is working with these players. Howard will not make this team much better if he just focuses on getting assists. Maryland needs a reliable scoring option at the guard spot besides Stoglin. Nick Faust, Mychal Parker and Sean Mosley have struggled to provide that. Unless Howard can magically make those players better scorers, and early indications are not good, then having a "true point guard" back probably won't help as much as fans might expect.

Inserting two new starters into the lineup was bound to cause some problems with other players who had settled into rolls. Faust, Ashton Pankey and James Padgett are pretty much starting over. I thought the team gave a good showing for opening league play on the road against a decent N.C. State squad. Had the game been at Comcast Center it could have easily gone the other way. It is worth keeping in mind that the starting lineup against the Wolfpack had two sophomores, a freshman and an inexperienced junior. The bench isn't very seasoned either. I expect them to play much better tonight at home.