ACC Team Preview: Maryland Terrapins

Posted 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.

Maryland Preview 2013

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.

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Alex Len’s Coming Out Party Nearly Spoils Kentucky’s Title Defense Debut

Posted by EJacoby on November 9th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. He filed this report from the Kentucky-Maryland game tonight in Brooklyn. You can find him @EJacobyRTC on Twitter. 

We assumed it was nearly impossible for Kentucky to repeat the kind of immediate, dominant success it had last season with a brand new crop of young players this year. For the first half of their season-opening game against Maryland on Friday night, though, the Wildcats came out on fire and efficient on both ends en route to opening a 15-point lead just minutes into the second half in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. But it didn’t take long for the inconsistency, poor decision-making, and defensive mistakes that are typical of freshmen players to crop up for John Calipari’s team, which opened the door for Maryland to make a run in front of a very pro-Terrapin crowd. Led by emerging sophomore center Alex Len, the Terps went on a 15-0 second half run and eventually took the lead before seesawing to a tough, 72-69 loss. Len was the catalyst on both ends for Maryland’s near-upset, as the sophomore seven-footer finished with 23 points, 12 rebounds, and four blocks — all game-highs. He shot 10-18 from the field and committed zero turnovers. Despite failing to capitalize with a monster non-conference victory, Maryland and its fans must feel confident about this season’s outlook on the heels of Len’s dominant opening performance.

Alex Len nearly led his Maryland team to a big-time upset win over Kentucky on Friday night (Maryland 247 Sports photo)

The big sophomore showed flashes of greatness last season for Maryland, but he did not put together any dominant performances that could propel Mark Turgeon’s team to big wins. The center from the Ukraine recorded six total games in double-figure scoring last year, and none after February 4. He averaged 4.1 points per game in his final 10 games and amassed just one double-double all season. Tonight was a completely different story, as Len looked much more polished in the paint with offensive moves, finishes at the rim, rebounding prowess, and strong defensive positioning. Len turned national consensus #1 recruit Nerlens Noel of Kentucky into an afterthought, dominating the freshman in the paint as well as beating him down the floor in transition on multiple occasions. Noel had just four points on 2-6 shooting to match his nine rebounds and three blocks. If not for the unlikely late-game heroics of former Kentucky walk-on Jarrod Polson, who scored 10 points tonight after recording a total of seven previous points in his career, the Terps could have left Barclays Center with a defining victory.

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