Terps an ACC title Contender......?

Alright, so my rush to rant on last years terrible Terps football team was grossly misinformed, criminally in the opinion of some, and I admit I do look and feel like an idiot. My education at the great University of Maryland taught me to research more thoroughly and not just diarrhea out of my mouth. At any rate, there are much more truthful and positive things to be said about the Terps basketball program. Like their enormous potential. Granted this year is not over, but sitting at 16-12 and 6-8 in the ACC, we are an ACC tourney run away from another NIT berth; which is not bad considering how young the Terps are this year. Next year is a different story. The Terps are the sleeping giants of the ACC going into next year.

Looking at this years roster, the only players that should be leaving the team with meaningful minutes are Sean Mosley and Berend Weiss, to graduation. Aside from the hustle plays of Weiss, Mosley will truly be the only one of the two missed as he provides a decent scoring option, hard defense, and senior leadership. Let's take a look at who is returning for the Terps next year:

James Padgett- What a pleasant surprise Padgett has been this year. With the loss of Jordan Williams to the Nets and the issues with Len's eligibility early, Padgett saw some court and took advantage. His minutes are up this year to 23.3 mpg from 8.7 last year and his numbers show he is taking full advantage. He has increased his scoring from 3.29 per game to 8.9, his field goal percentage has improved, and he may be one of the most under appreciated rebounders in the country. He is only averaging 5.7 rpg, but he is number two in the ACC in offensive rebounds per game and third in the ACC in total offensive rebounds. Watching Padgett play, one can see he has all the tools to be that senior leader next year. He makes the hustle plays like offensive rebounds and he plays hard, getting to the foul line at a more efficient rate than anyone in the ACC. (Free Throw Rate is FTA/FGA). He will only be better next year with this 2011-2012 season under his belt.

Alex Len- Checking in at 7-1 as a true Freshmen it is obvious that Len has tons of potential as a shut down defender and rebounder. This year he is already sending back 2.16 shots per game. His offensive game has struggled at time this year, showing a true European style of game with little back to the basket game, but that will improve as he gets more time with the MD coaching staff this off-season and puts more time in the weight room. If Len can put on some weight and muscle, while improving his low post offensive game, he could be one of the best big men the Terps have seen in years. He has shown signs this year already of his big time potential. Against UNC on 2-4-2012, Len put up 12 points, 9 boards, and 4 blocks; a good stat line considering he was going up against future NBA players. On the season Len is averaging 6.22 ppg and 5.55 rpg to go along with the 2 blocks. His points along with 60 FG% will go up as he continues to get stronger. In addition to improving his game, hitting the weights could prevent small injuries that have plagued Len briefly this year. If Len doesn't hear NBA dollars screaming his name in the future. He could be remembered as one of the better big men to don the Terps uniform.

Ashton Pankey- As another freshmen and another big man (6-9), Pankey only adds to the emerging depth in the Maryland front court. He shows flashes of offensive potential, although they have come against teams like Radford (17 pts on 6-8 shooting, 5 rebs), and a decent performance against the Plumlees and Duke (8 pts, 8 boards). Pankey has shown that he can rebound effectively, averaging 5.14 a game while playing behind Padgett, Len, and sharing minutes often with Weiss. Though he doesn't show the offensive potential that Alex Len has, he does have the ability to score off of offensive rebounds and get scrappy buckets. He is more physically mature than Len and I could see him being a solid 10 and 10 guy by the time he is a senior.

Nick Faust- I see just as much if not more potential in Faust as I do in Len. At a lanky 6-6, Faust also has room to mature physically which will only serve to improve his emerging game. Since the injury to Howard, I have seen major improvement in Faust's game, not just in stats but in the way he plays. He is more aggressive and seems to embrace the increased responsibility that Turgeon has placed upon him. I see him shooting three's with more confidence, like his 2-3 on three point attempts last night against GT. His increased workload handling the ball has resulted in more turnovers, but that is to be expected from someone thrust into the point guard role as a true freshmen shooting guard. Since Howard's injury, Faust has been averaging 12.2 ppg, with a season average of 8.03. He is gaining invaluable experience as a ball handler in the tough ACC, experience that will only benefit him next year, leading the team at 2.1 apg (discounting injured Howard). Like Len, if Faust can put on some weight in muscle this off-season, he could have a breakout year. With a more mature body and improved ball handling and shooting game, Faust will be a force to reckon with on the wing in the ACC. His shooting percentage of 34.7 and three point percentage of 23 will improve. He's a freshmen. In addition to his offense, Faust is getting a steal a game and his 6-6 long armed athletic build will make him a great defender in the future.

Terrell Stoglin- And of course Terrell Stoglin. Obviously I love his ability to score, his passion for the game, and his willingness to take tough, pressure filled shots. His ACC leading 21 points per game are a testament to his scoring ability, but I believe there is room to improve in Stoglin's offensive game. Improvements that will come with the continued maturation of his game and the play of his teammates. This year, I have seen Stoglin take some shots that are just unbelievable. In a good way and a bad way. I have seen ridiculous crossovers to beautiful floaters that barely touch the net as the ball goes through the hoop. I have seen ridiculous pull-up threes with 31 seconds left on the shot clock as three of his teammates are yet to get down the court. The point is, Stoglin needs to control his scoring greatness at times. Granted he does have more responsibility this year with the young team and lack of scoring options but 1.89 apg down from 3.273 in 2010-2011 just doesn't cut it for a player handling the ball as much as Stoglin does. We all know that Stoglin can put up 20 plus every night, but sometimes it looks like he is trying harder to get 20 than to get his teammates involved. His field goal percentage is down from 46% last year to 41.4% this year, possibly because of shot selection. If Stoglin doesn't get a call from John Gilchrist, he will only improve in these areas. Remember Stoglin is just a sophomore, as players like Len, Pankey, and Faust develop their offensive games, so too will Stoglin. His assists numbers will go up as Len gets a better offensive game and bigger body and if Faust can become a legit scoring threat. His shot selection should improve with more scoring options on the team and his FG% should go up.

These are just the players on the Terps roster this year. With the addition of top notch recruits such as Jake Layman and Shaquille Cleare, Maryland will adding more weapons to the growing arsenal. Layman's height and 3 point shooting ability will create match-up problems for other teams, as well as another option for Stoglin and Howard, should he return in good health. At 6-8 he will also add length to the perimeter defense and at the very least another defensive rebounder. Cleare will be another low post man to board and play defense. His back to the basket offensive game should compliment the more mid-range/perimeter oriented Len nicely. And we don't even know if the Harrison twins will be joining the party. Take all of these factors and add the fact that teams like Carolina will be losing players like Henson, Zeller, and Barnes; Duke will sure to be losing some pieces like one of the Plumlees, Rivers; Virginia will be losing senior leadership; as well as Florida State losing key players to graduation; I see Maryland legitimately competing for an ACC title. The young team this year will be a more experienced and talented team next year, one predicated on size, defense, and front court depth. If Howard can recover from injury nicely, securing more guard depth, I would be afraid of 2012-2013 Terrapins, very afraid.

All Stats : Stat Sheet.

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