Maryland: The Most Confusing Team in the ACC Could Still Be a Problem in March

Posted by Jimmy Kelley on February 20th, 2013

Jimmy Kelley is an ACC correspondent for Rush the Court. Follow him on Twitter @DevilsInDurham

At one point during Maryland’s 83-81 win over Duke on Saturday, the Terps looked like a team that could do no wrong. Throughout their 68-59 loss to Boston College on Tuesday it looked like they could do no right. In a microcosm of Maryland’s season, the Terps followed up what should have been their signature win with what will be pointed to by the bracket experts as a signature loss. However, despite the disappointing result on Tuesday night, Maryland still has all of the tools to make life difficult for teams like Miami, NC State, and Virginia in the upcoming ACC Tournament.

Alex Len, Maryland

Alex Len (right) and Shaquille Cleare (left) are two of the reasons why Maryland could be a tough out this postseason (AP Photo)

We hear the same story every year: Guard play wins games in March. With that in mind, Maryland sounds like a team built to make life tough on a better team when the games start to count a little more. Seth Allen had one of his best games in conference play on Saturday and Dez Wells helped keep Maryland on top with his efforts in getting to the line. But despite how good the duo looked in stretches, they still managed to turn the ball over 14 times between them, with seven of those miscues coming in the final five minutes when Duke battled back to tie the game. For Maryland to make any sort of run in March their guards will need to play more like they did while building the lead than they did in the last five minutes.

In spite of all the turnovers, though, Maryland was able to pull off the win against Duke thanks to its stable of physical post players. Alex Len may be the best NBA prospect at the center position in all of college basketball, while Shaquille Cleare, Charles Mitchell and James Padgett are all capable complementary pieces and bruisers on the inside. There are few teams this season that can boast such a deep front line and when they play the way they did both offensively (14-of-20, 40 points, 20 rebounds) and defensively (holding NPOY candidate Mason Plumlee to four points on 2-of-7 shooting) on Saturday they will be one of the toughest single-game outs in the postseason.

For a team to make a deep run in any kind of tournament it needs to know how to string together victories. This is where Maryland has been lacking this season and these two games demonstrate that skittishness perfectly. Yes, Boston College has been tough at home this season and was due for a big win. But when Len, Allen, Howard and Wells only combine for 22 points and an out-of-this-world performance from Logan Aronhalt (26 points, 7-of-12 from three) keeps you in the game, the question must be asked if this team can build on its positive outings and string together some victories. The jury is still out on this one, but just barely. Maryland is by far the toughest team in the ACC to make sense of, but if the Terps can eventually put together more Duke efforts than Boston College efforts they will be a team nobody wants to see opposite their bracket line in Greensboro this March.

Jimmy Kelley (20 Posts)

Follow Jimmy Kelley on Twitter @jp_kelley

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