Friday, January 20, 2012

The State of Terptown – Before the Devils Come to Town

By G. Jon
While I’ve essentially been sitting on the sidelines and reading the Battle of the Beltway as a hometown sports fan, admiring Ben and the Ty guy for what they have been able to compile about our professional sports teams in the nation’s capital, I noticed that they have largely ignored one part of our athletic landscape – the WNBA.
Just kidding – I’m referring to the multitude of college basketball programs in the area; specifically the Maryland Terrapins.
As a Maryland Alumni, and staunch supporter of Testudo and all of his adventures, I thought the Battle could use someone who follows a college team in the area and give a little analysis on where the Terps stand in my mind, and what needs to be done to improve the squad this year…and down the road. Sitting at 12-5 (2-2) the Terrapins have shown flashes of competitiveness and ability, but have also lost to non-tournament quality opponents while squeaking through their relatively easy schedule this year. I have taken the liberty to grade the team’s performance below based on their schedule before it gets ungodly difficult, and they wither away to the NIT or worse.
Coaching Staff (Mark Turgeon, etc.) = B+
                  Turgeon was given a big pile of leftovers for dinner this year and for the most part has made it taste like reheated sausage lasagna instead of 6 day old dominos 4th meal pizza. He has changed largely unproductive players such as Mychal Parker, James Padgett, and Berend Weijs into players with defined roles on this team and the teams of the future. Padgett has been especially impressive. He went from an undersized forward who looked scared to dribble, into an offensive threat and rebounding force. Under Turgeon these largely disappointing Gary Williams’ recruits have shown new life off the bench for the Terps and will continue to eat minutes.
                  On the recruiting front Turgeon’s biggest acquisition of the year was the The Big Ukrainian who formerly played pro basketball in a foreign land before landing with the Terrapins. Alex Len has shown solid instincts in the post, has the length to out rebound most other 7 footers in the ACC, and has exceptional passing skills. If Turgeon can develop him into a post scoring presence besides the shifty hooks he throws up from time to time and packs on about 40 more pounds of muscle, the wiry recruit that couldn’t get into Virginia Tech due to his “poor academics” (Greenberg claims he couldn’t meet VT’s standards) could challenge for 1st team ACC honors by the time he graduates with a degree in Nuclear Engineering from UMD.
                  2012 recruits are also looking ripe. Shaquille Cleare is one of the best Big Men in the country and should pair nicely with Len in the starting lineup next year, at 6’9’’ and 270 he already weighs as much as Len and Weijs combined. Jake Layman is a sneaky athletic 6’7’’ Small Forward who should be able to replace the defense and aggressiveness the Terps will lose when Sean Mosley’s eligibility is used up.  Another recruit Turgeon has received a solid verbal from is Seth Allen, an undersized shooting guard that can flat out knock down threes. The Terps are also hot on the heals of some very talented PF’s that are still undecided. They currently have the 17th best rated recruiting class in the nation, and appear in the top 25 for the first time since we all got excited about Mike Jones.   
                  Although Turgeon has done wonders with the pile of dog shit (excuse my French), he does have flaws. Terrell Stoglin has basically been given an invisible leash on the floor and at times seems to think he is the only player on his team. Turgeon did ceremoniously bench Stoglin for the first 2 minutes of their game against Wake Forest, presumably because of this, but still he needs to do more to get the dynamite sophomore to trust his teammates. Turgeon also has relied on Stoglin for way too much of the teams scoring as it has become obvious in crunch time. The Terps go-to-play when they need a bucket – Ball Screen Watch Stoglin (BSWS). If they want to compete with Duke next week, they need to get scoring from everyone on the floor.
Good Recruiting, Making Something out of nothing, but losing control of the star player = B+
Post Players = C
                  When I was at the University of Maryland I got to watch Ekene Ibekwe, James Gist, and the highflying David Neal, defend the rim for the Terrapins. While those three athletic freaks have long graduated and are busy with life after basketball (is Ibekwe still playing for Nigeria?) I miss the days when the Terps could at least rebound and protect the rim. This year, there was a major hole left on the front line when Jordan Williams left for the second round of the NBA draft, and they still have work to do to fill it.
With Alex Len came the ability for the Terps to finally defend the rim from opposing big men simply shooting over our undersized post players. He challenges guards and forwards when they streak to the basket, and has been able to block a lot of shots. He can’t, however, box out or be physical underneath to save his life. This is where Ashton Pankey “Leg” comes into the picture. This guy works HARD on the boards and I love him for it. He plays a little dirty from time to time but it’s that Dave Neal grittiness I missed last year that has me all in on the Medical Redshirt post player.  Padgett has a little scoring and rebounding ability, and Weijs is… a fresh body to throw out onto the floor from time to time.
                  The post players run into trouble when it comes time to score in the post. They rarely get the ball and when they do it is usually when a streaking guard is dumping it off to them. When they get the ball in the post, watch out, you aren’t going to like what you see. Remember Jordan Williams Drop-steps? His physical baby hooks? Those are a thing of the past. The Terps flat out can’t score when they dump it into the post. Padgett from time to time looks like he has a post move, and Len’s best post move is a bounce pass to the streaking guard down the middle (he does have great vision), other than that, when the Terps feed the post it is usually because Stoglin accidently picked up his dribble.
Better Post Defense and Rebounding than last year. Lack any semblance of an offense = C
Guards = B-
                  Aside from Terrell’s propensity to be a bit of a ball hog, he has been nothing short of amazing. He might be the quickest guard in the ACC, and can create his own shot against basically any defender. He shoots 41% from beyond the arc and scores 21 points per game. He should be a first team ACC player this year, but probably won’t because the Terrapins will end up below .500 in all likelihood. He takes a lot of shots, but he doesn’t miss a lot, and from time to time he makes great offensive plays that spark his teammates.
                  Sean Mosley has shown up this year behind the three point line and has taken a leadership role amongst the young core of guards. He is our best defender, can rebound, and is all around the most active player on the floor at all times. He took over against Georgia Tech on both sides of the ball and willed the Terps to a decent second half for the first time all season.
                  Pe’shon Howard has been pretty terrible at point guard for the Terps so far. He may not be fully in mid-season form due to the broken foot he suffered in preseason practice, but at the same time he has close to 4 turnovers per game to go with his 4 assists. Pe’shon needs to move that closer to +1.5 Assist to Turner (A/T) ratio, from the +1 he holds now. He’s been poor from three-point land, and a poor shooter in general. I do think he will bounce back and believe he will have a better second half.
                  Nick Faust, and the bench have been playing some quality minutes but their youth has hurt them to this point. Faust shows flashes of being a bit like DJ Strawberry. He has the ability to shoot midrange, and can penetrate to the lane with his length. Mychal Parker thus far has pretty much been a waste of a scholarship. I keep hoping to find something he does well, but I haven’t yet (rebounding? Maybe?)
Stoglin’s a star, Mosley’s a leader, and the rest need to step their game up = B-
Overall Grade = B-
So far the Terps have been expectedly unexceptional. Although they don’t have much to work with they have been about average. The emergence of Stoglin as one of the hardest players to guard has made them a little better than average. I expect them to finish the ACC with a 7-9 record which will put them at 18-12 for the year and cause a lot of people to be concerned. Don’t worry. Turgeon is bringing in some real talent, and if his past experience says anything about what he can do for a college program we will be dancing in March 2013. Right now the Terps need to take care of Temple a good team that can easily be over looked with the Blue Devils coming to town next Wednesday.

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