You've probably heard the day's bad news already: Maryland's star post player Jordan Williams is heading into the NBA Draft, and this time there's no going back.
It's not a surprise, but it does hurt. With Williams coming back to join sophomore guard Terrell Stoglin and a solid core, Maryland likely would've been an NCAA Tournament team next year. Instead, they'll be looking like a bubble team...at best.
The biggest reason for that has to do with Maryland's frontcourt, which now has no depth and no star. Don't believe me? Then let's look at some of the current members of the front court.
James Padgett (6-8, 215; 8.7 mpg, 3.3 ppg, 1.9 rpg): Padgett is the leading contender to start next season, as well as Maryland's most experience, proven post player. Look at that stat line, then read that sentence again. Yeah, that's where we're at right now.
Padgett has shown flashes that make you think he's on the verge of breaking out. He has some great post moves. He runs the floor well. He's not afraid to work. He also happens to be lacking in the strength department, possesses hands of stone, and has never put together a solid, complete ten minutes or so of basketball in one night.
Padge is a question mark, in truth, but at least he's a question mark who's been in the program for two seasons. That's more than we can say for...
Berend Weijs (6-10, 200; 5.2 mpg, 1.8 ppg, 1.1 rpg): Weijs is a JuCo transfer who entered Maryland's program last year as a huge mystery. The Dutchman has become a bit of a fan favorite thanks to his trademark beard and lanky, unique look, but his play has been middling. He sat out much of the ACC season on the bench, and when he got in the game it was rarely for more than a minute or two.
Weijs' height and shot-blocking ability are obvious, and the best Maryland has to offer at the moment. But he's a string bean, which hurts him on the block. He doesn't have much in the way of post moves, either, and his offensive game is pretty much limited to dunking. To top it all off, he has little to no experience at this level.
Ashton Pankey (6-9, 220; DNP): Pankey came in last season as a freshman recovering from a foot injury that ended his senior year of high school ball. He played three minutes in Maryland's first game before it was apparent that his foot still wasn't healthy enough to play. He received a medical redshirt for last season and still has four more years of eligibility.
Unfortunately, that means he essentially hasn't played steady competitive basketball in two years. Pankey is what many hoped James Padgett would be - a hard-nosed trashman who rebounds very well - but it's probably unwise to expect anything past that. Heck, it's just a risk thinking he'll be able to play; a similar nagging injury ended Jerome Burney's playing career a few seasons back.
Martin Breunig (6-9, 205): Well, kinda. Based on reports and video, Breunig is most at home on the wing. His coach says he's a natural big man who has used this year to work on his perimeter game. Either way, Breunig has great size for the four. If he can play there, even as a face-up four, things get a lot easier for Maryland, as they can plug in some size at the 4 in addition to the 5.
But Breunig is a freshman who's only played in the states for a year. Who knows exactly how much he can contribute right away? In an ideal world, he'd be one of the first players off the bench. But there's just as good of a chance that he struggles with the transition. We'll have to wait and see on this one.
Yeah, that's all four of 'em. And yes, Maryland definitely needs more help (and bodies) in the post.
There's a good chance that Gary Williams will treat this situation similarly to how he treated it back in 2008 with Dave Neal: go four guards and hope for the best. Neal was a 6-5 center with T-Rex arms and no vertical, and he was surrounded by four guards. It was a horrible situation as far as post play is concerned, probably just as bad as this year appears, but Greivis Vasquez (along with Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne) willed that team into the NCAA Tournament.
Unfortunately, this year's team doesn't have Vaz. Regardless, we'll probably be seeing a lot of Villanova-in-the-early-mid-2000s four-guard sets. Height will be a problem, especially against teams with great size like Duke and UNC. Maryland will have to make those games (and most others) about pace and perimeter player, pressing often and trying to push the tempo. Even then, I expect Terrell Stoglin will have to make quite the leap to keep Maryland competitive in the tourney chase.
That said, there are still options for Maryland to better themselves in the post. Williams' departure opens up another scholarship, giving them two unfilled schollies for the upcoming year. It's probably too late to use both, but don't be surprised to see Gary Williams give it a shot. He certainly has options.
The most obvious one is Wally Judge, the former McDonald's All-American from PG County who went to Kansas State and is looking to transfer. Zags has him down to Maryland and Rutgers, which will be an interesting battle (Rutgers has a former DCA coach on their staff). Unfortunately, it's unlikely that he'll be able to provide any immediate help, as he'll have to sit out a year before being able to play.
There have been rumors flying around that he might apply for a waiver so he can play immediately (a dream scenario), but the NCAA is notoriously stingy with those. They're generally only given in cases of family emergencies; even if he has one, I don't think they'll look upon the recruitment process (and the consideration of Rutgers and Washington) too kindly.
The other two well-known options are Robert Goff and Marek Soucek. Goff may or may not be a legitimate target; the news of Maryland's pursuit of him popped up last week, but the trail has gone quiet since. With concerns over his eligibility, I would be slightly surprised to see this actually happen.
Soucek is more interesting. There's not a ton of information floating around on him, but we know a little. For example, he's Czech. He's 21 (but would, presumably, be a freshman). He's 7'0". He has a traditional Euro-style face-up game and can hit three-pointers. And, according to his training academy, "is possible that next year he will play against Duke University if finally Maryland sign him."
ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US-ness aside, that last statement (horribly translated though it may be) seems to indicate that, uh, he and Maryland have some level of mutual interest. This isn't the first time Soucek has been listed as having interest in Maryland, either. Even though he wouldn't fix the problems in the post, he'd at least give Maryland some much-needed height. (I'm still a little concerned about his eligibility, between his age and the traditional problems Euros have).
Past that, Maryland's team pretty much is what it is at this point. Sure, maybe there will be a late, random JuCo addition (Karron Johnson? I don't care if he's crazy). But it's doubtful whoever that is (except Johnson) will make much of a bigger impact than Weijs did last year (read: almost none).
So, best case scenario, Maryland's frontcourt next year is comprised of the four guys mentioned above, plus Judge (who, despite all his talent, averaged 5 ppg at K-State) and Soucek (who is even a bigger question mark than Pankey). And I'd be shocked if things turned out even that nicely.
At least blogging it will be fun.