ACC Team Preview: Maryland TerrapinsPosted by Chris Kehoe on November 2nd, 2013
Last year, Maryland had an impressive 13-game winning streak after an opening-night three point loss to the defending champions, Kentucky. Most of that run can be attributed to soft scheduling by head coach Mark Turgeon, but nonetheless it showed promise. Maryland finished out the regular season with a solid record of 20-11 and was rewarded with an NIT bid for its troubles. In addition to a run to the NIT semifinals (losing to Iowa), the Terps had a couple of signature wins on their résumé over #2 Duke late in the season. After the season was finished, they lost Ukrainian center Alex Len to the NBA Draft, but he struggled with inconsistency under Turgeon and never quite lived up to his potential.
This season the Terps will be bolstered on the interior by Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz, a versatile 6’8” junior who can play as a stretch-four for this athletic Maryland team. They also have a powerful 260-pound tandem of interior sophomores in Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell, who are expected to shoulder the majority of the rebounding and post defense responsibilities this season. How they are able to perform as two of the biggest players on the Maryland roster will go a long way in determining this team’s ultimate success. This may also speak to Maryland’s lack of frontcourt height, seeing as Cleare is 6’9” and Mitchell is only 6’8”. Going against larger ACC frontcourts, some with legitimate seven-footers, may prove to be a problem for this relatively inexperienced duo. Another particularly relevant story surrounding this year’s Terps will be their pending move to the Big Ten, which will show up in press conference quotes and in the form of cheers (and jeers) from opposing fan bases. Maryland will want to leave the ACC on a positive note, and this team certainly has the requisite talent to make an NCAA run in its ACC finale. If last season proves as any indicator, Maryland’s fate is inextricably tied with Dez Wells‘ output and performance.
Wells, the former Xavier transfer, is an athletic and burly guard who plays with great efficiency. He puts up strong numbers on proficient shooting percentages (over 50 percent from the floor) in only 28 minutes per game. With projected point guard Seth Allen suffering a major injury that will keep him out for two months, Wells will be relied upon to have the offense run through him. Look for freshman point guard Roddy Peters to step up in Allen’s absence, and while Peters is a talented floor general, it may take him some time to adjust to the college pace and running Maryland’s system. Another story to keep your eye on will be the progression of lanky sophomore swingman Jake Layman, who is projected by many analysts to make a major jump after showing brief flashes of athleticism and potential during his freshman campaign. The 6’8” slasher needs to develop a better perimeter shot so defenses will respect his range and remove from his effectiveness. Another key contributor for this team at the two-guard position will be junior Baltimore native Nick Faust, a starter and athletically gifted player. Faust has ball control issues, averaging a little over two turnovers per contest last season, but has all the intangibles present to make the jump this year.
A recurring theme of this year’s Maryland team will be a lack of outside shooters and an abundance of athletic players who like to score in and around the paint. How well the Terrapins make opponents respect their outside shooting may play a large role in determining their fate. A large part of their success will depend on the trajectories of Layman and Peters, both players with little to no experience. Maryland will have to rely heavily on Peters to handle the ball against pressure while Allen is out, and if he is not up to the task this may create openings for Wells and Faust to handle the ball. Faust must cut down on his turnovers and improve his shot selection. His talent is undeniably there, but his decision-making at times leaves something to be desired. Another crucial plot will be how much Smotrycz has worked on his game and how he adapts to Maryland’s system. Early indications show that he is ready to take on a leadership role and provide a much needed dose of experience and scoring from the forward position.
Their opponents this season will be much of the same but will get better, RPI-wise, thanks to the new ACC inclusions. Maryland’s schedule this season starts off again with a top-25 ranked team in the form of Connecticut. They then face four easy games until traveling to Ohio State in what will prove to be a tough early season test (and Big Ten primer). In ACC play they have a home-and-home series versus Pittsburgh and a very tough Virginia squad, but lucks out only having to face UNC, Duke, Syracuse, and Notre Dame once each.
While Maryland will surely miss Len and Allen (while he’s out), it can still do some damage in its final ACC season. Turgeon has already proved himself an able recruiter, so now comes the time to show he can win big conference games late in the season with some consistency. Wells will put up great numbers again and likely find himself on one of the all-ACC teams at the end of the season. On the interior, height may be a weak point but Cleare and Mitchell can make up for it with their wide frames, strength, and tenacity in pursuing rebounds and defensive intensity around the rim. It says here that Maryland will finish with around 20 wins again, but this time have enough quality on the schedule to earn an NCAA bid. In the ACC landscape they should finish firmly in the top half of the league, probably somewhere between fifth and seventh place.