Player Impressions vs. IUP: Because Preseason Tells Us Everything, of Course

It sounds like a lot of us here weren't able to see the IUP game, and with tonight being Maryland's only action before heading to Brooklyn, I know there's a lot of interest in how the squad fared. So, I thought I'd do a brief rundown, player by player, at least from what I could see from the stands tonight.

(As you read this, you should probably keep in mind that these are musings on a few minutes of exhibition play from a guy who spent the hours before the game tonight playing aesthetically-upsetting pickup games on campus. With members of Maryland's Academic Quiz Team, who are about as good at basketball as you're probably imagining them to be).

Pe'Shon Howard
YAY: I'm unashamedly Team Pe'Shon, so there's bias here, but his game looked very solid (if a bit understated). 9 points, 5 assists to just 1 turnover, and most notably no bad decisions (the one turnover, I'm fairly certain, was when a late kickout got deflected and grazed his arm while flying out of bounds). Much more under control than last year. Often made the good play (rather than chasing the great play).
NAY: Consequently, was actually kind of ho-hum to watch; had a number of fastbreaks and shied away (perhaps prudently) from going for the knockout dish. Could not get Len going in the post.
Fun Fact: For all the press about Faust's retooled jumper, Pe'Shon also seemed to have a new stroke (more refined than retooled though); it looks MUCH nicer than last year. Was just drilling it in pregame.

Nick Faust
YAY: Only functional player on the court for the first 10 min or so. Was more consistent from deep; many 3s were decent looks. Drilled a sick shot coming off the curl on the right wing, got trampled and drew the 4-point play. One of two effective drivers for Maryland, and generally made the right call on dishing it. Typical Faustian defense.
NAY: He seems more comfortable with his shot, but it doesn't look all that systematically better. Still jacked a pull-up three in traffic (in fairness that was pretty much there for him all last year, somehow). Did not actually CONVERT that 4-point play. Had 4 turnovers.
Fun Fact: He's bigger, which you wold expect given his work ethic and a full college off-season.

Jake Layman
YAY: Potential to be deadly when paired with a penetrating PG. Finished through contact on a great dunk off the pass. High-energy defender. Kept rebounds alive, often by leaping over everyone and smashing the ball into some poor Pennsylvanian's face. FT form was perfect.
NAY: Nerves in the first half. Shanked a few shots. Outsmarted on defense a few times. Scouting reports are right, he really does short-arm the three ball a little bit, especially considering his frame. Took a crazy runner but got bailed out by putback LenDunk.
Fun Fact: Lost track of his PG while trying to initiate an offensive set, and threw a chest pass to Mark Turgeon. Turgeon caught it (duh), then abused the ball while yelling something unhappy. Jake Layman sat down for a while after that.

James Padgett
YAY: Classic Padge. Active on the offensive glass. Seemed a bit better at passing in the post. Had a great jam off an offensive board that saw him jump through traffic to throw it down.
NAY: Classic Padge. Hope you weren't looking for him to add the Sr. Dino Jumper Special into the repertoire, 'cause it ain't happening (not that it needs to). Didn't box out that well despite this being a game against IUP. Padgett vs. Kyle Wiltjer on the perimeter is going to end poorly.
Fun Fact: Only got 18 minutes; unclear whether this was a case of poor performance/known-commodity-in-preseason-syndrome (I'd bet the latter). Also Kyle Wiltjer looks like the monster from "Splice." What the hell, Kyle Wiltjer.

Alex Len
YAY: Seems to have the baseline face-up jumper whenever he wants it. Was sure drilling those threes in pregame. Acknowledged existence of offensive glass (upgrade from last year). Is definitely bigger. Blocked stuff a lot.
NAY: Needs to get angrier. Unacceptable failure to assert himself against a team that just had no business stopping a skilled, athletic 7-footer. Scored just a few points on repeated matchups vs. a 7'2" IPU guy who was so unskilled that he was literally trying and failing to dunk during pregame, jumping up and down at the basket like a Pomeranian going after a frisbee. Hands are improved but still not great. Did not make himself a good target in the post. Chased a few too many blocks on defense. Had horri-awful near-turnover on last sequence, promptly recovered, then committed an obvious charge by spinning into someone's chest on the baseline; Turgeon was not thrilled.
Fun Fact: Was way more confident passing from the post. If he comes back as a Jr., there's a non-zero chance he could drop a quad-double on someone terrible.

Charles Mitchell:
YAY: Good lord, that's a lot of rebounds (to say nothing of the 7/8 Off/Def split). Good vision: Solid outlet passes, good kickout for an assist. Hit a midrange jumper off an all-business Allen dish with someone closing out, and looked comfortable doing it. Good instincts, motor, and skills - has 4-year fan favorite written all over him.
NAY: Box-outs were an issue. Struggled to score at the rim and failed to get the ball high enough while going up, which might explain his lack of FT chances (seriously, consider: 7 offensive boards, zero fouls drawn). Committed some dumb fouls, which the less athletically-inclined can often ill-afford. Not exactly a gazelle running the break.
Fun Fact: Appears to really love the long outlet pass a la K-Love, which he admittedly threw with some accuracy. This will surely work just as well vs. Kentucky. Seriously, look for this to become something of a Chuck signature, even though he got a frowny face from a coach (E-Hayes?) after his last one bounced off the posterior of an unsuspecting Logan Aronhalt and led to a TO.

Shaquille Cleare
YAY: Not a lot. He's big, strong, and in better shape than most 280-pound freshmen. Did not get pushed around in the post, that's for sure.
NAY: Unfortunately, a lot. Ben summed it up ("needs to grow into the game"). Got one chance in the post, but was far away from the basket and had a desperation turnover. REALLY did not box out well at all, which given his strength is likely just experience/technique.
Fun Fact: Do not see him getting 15 minutes vs. Kentucky, though he is a decent matchup for Nerlens Noel. Will be interesting.

Logan Aronhalt
YAY: Knows how the game works. "3-pt specialist" apparently no longer a phrase used only sarcastically in CP!
NAY: Didn't do a lot besides knock down jumpers (though, shouldn't have to). Struggled to stay with his guy defensively at times. Consistently pegged Alex Len's knees with ugly entry passes.
Fun Fact: Dunked at Midnight Madness!

Seth Allen
YAY: SETH ALLEN IS GOOD AT BASKETBALL. I think I was first inspired to post on this site after seeing people criticizing Seth Allen's supposedly lackluster highlight tapes; well, no worries, because he's not going to have a that problem for much longer. Fearless with the threeball, and should be - stroke is plain nasty. Obliterated some despondent French exchange student who was guarding him with oooh-inducing dribble moves on two or three different occasions. Had 5 assists (to 0 TOs!), and had several more dishes that ended in foul shouts. Turgeon wasn't joking about Allen being a "better defender than I thought." His ball pressure was disruptive and continuous; had 5 steals and a few more plays that ended in turnovers because of his active D. 5/5 from the line. Is The Truth.
NAY: I guess he didn't turn into a dragon and devour JJ Redick at halftime or anything. Freshmen are so unreliable.
Fun Fact: After one of his steals (which were mostly from great defense rather than jumping passing lanes, incidentally), he had a clear breakaway with just one IUP player trailing. He almost certainly had the jam, but after looking over his shoulder chose to lay it in for the guaranteed points, just to be on the safe side. A lot of people were disappointed, but somehow I suspect a certain J. Dixon in attendance tonight looked on the decision pretty favorably.

Varun Ram (hon. mention)
YAY: Can windmill dunk despite being (very, very generously) listed at 5'9".
NAY: DND - Short.
Fun Fact: Wore not-so-great jeans and a black t-shirt to the game; looked like someone had wandered down from the student section, and just sat down next to Spencer Barks. Please don't wear that on real TV.

Parting Thought: This game was cringe-inducing at times, but in a way that was noticeably distinct from last year. Last year, there were just systemic issues with the team (no real bigs, no real PG for much of the year) that would lead to things like Pat "The Horse" Horstmann of Northwood abusing us inside, or taking 15+ seconds just to get into offensive sets. That's not what was going on tonight. Guys were just not playing well, for a while. Good shots weren't falling, people were lapsing defensively, stuff slipped through the cracks. . . just an ugly game. An ugly game by a team that was obviously way deeper and better than it showed. That's something of a new look for Maryland basketball, and definitely an encouraging one.

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