What Now? Assessing a Stoglin-Less Maryland

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Now that the shock from Terrell Stoglin's draft departure (and supposedly drug-related suspension) has faded, we move from "Well, that sucks," to "Okay, now what?"

It goes without saying that Maryland losing arguably their best player (and inarguably their best scorer) makes them worse off next season, but I'll say it anyway. Regardless of what happens next year, it'll be tough to believe they'll be as good as they could've been with a full, Stoglin-inclusive roster. And from where we stand now, instead of borderline top-25 and an expected tourney team, they'll probably to be on the bubble and we get another year of the tiresome "What If _____ Had Stayed?" game.

Which isn't to say that Maryland won't be improved from last year. Stoglin or no, next year's team will have more talent, depth, and experience than last year's bunch, and should outperform them. Stoglin was good, but had enough flaws that it's tough to say he was indispensable. And the loss of Stoglin is compensated by, among other things, a healthy Pe`Shon Howard, another year of development for Nick Faust and Alex Len, and the reinforcements of Shaquille Cleare, Jake Layman, and everyone else. Maryland had a better short-term future with Stoglin, that's obvious, but that doesn't mean their only future is with Stoglin.

I'm more concerned with how much his departure hurts Maryland. That probably would've depended on Stoglin, of course. If he didn't adapt to the new dynamic of having a lot of talent around him, his flaws (poor defense, questionable decision-making) would be deadly. If he did adapt, he'd be a great piece, but then in essence all he'd be is a scoring two-guard - which, in case I haven't pounded into the ground enough in the past few weeks, are kind of everywhere. He'd be better at it than most, sure, but a fill-it-up two-guard is hardly ever the centerpiece of an elite team. The truth of the matter was that if Maryland was ever going to reach the heights they want to reach, it wasn't going to be because Stoglin willed them there; it was going to be because Alex Len and Nick Faust developed their elite potential into elite talent, and because the freshmen were all they were hyped up to be.

In that sense, the biggest keys are still here. Faust is the obvious replacement for Stoglin's production, as he was the clear #2 at the end of last season and some even started to say he might be a better option than Stoglin. That wasn't true then, but when you take in the totality of Faust's game - his defense and his passing, namely - it's not hard to believe he could become a more effective centerpiece than Stoglin. He's certainly more of a Mark Turgeon-type player. Just as Greivis Vasquez relinquished the crown to a sophomore Jordan Williams, who relinquished it to a sophomore Terrell Stoglin, now Stoglin is relinquishing it to a sophomore Faust. (I see a pattern here.)

And there's Len, who is still showing up on mock drafts for next year, even from respectable outlets like DX. That's a testament to his elite physical tools and potential, given that his actual performance was middling. Guys who are 7-1 with a jumper, athleticism, and coordination don't come around every day, and when they do there's a good chance they develop into double-double types. For now, it's just a matter of getting him to put it all together. Get him in the weight room and give him more time with Turgeon, who has a good track record with bigs, and see what happens.

Here's my point, I suppose: between Faust and Len, Maryland still has two players with remarkable potential. If they turn out, the team will be fine. Not as fine as they'd be with Stoglin, but the hard truth was that Maryland's trajectory always depended on these two. Having Stoglin around was great because it provided some cover. It took pressure off the other players, allowed them to develop without being thrown in the cauldron right away, and meant that even if they didn't turn out as everyone hopes Maryland could still be a good team. He provided some margin of error. Now there's a lot less of it, and the end result will probably be worse than it would've been otherwise, but not necessarily devastatingly so.

No matter where you fall in this debate, it'll likely only be relevant for a single year. Stoglin, remember, was almost always a one-year proposition to begin with. I suppose there might've been a chance he'd come back for his senior year, especially if he failed to impress in this new dynamic, which would've meant that his impact was lessened anyway. But given his, uh, personality, it was unlikely. I won't say there's no long-term impact, because there is - if neither Faust nor Len turns out and Maryland bombs again this year, they'll pay the price on the trail. Maybe with Stoglin they beat Kentucky in the opener and leverage the gigantic recruiting boost that would provide; maybe without him they don't. Ultimately, though, if you have faith in the program Turgeon's building - and as of now I can't think of any reason you shouldn't - this very well could be little more than a blip towards greater and greener pastures. Especially if a certain guard (or guard duo) laces up in College Park in 2013.

In the meantime: Faust, Len, and Pe`Shon Howard will need to pick up the slack. Howard is probably the most intriguing of the set. Without that margin of error Stoglin provided, Pe' showing up at the point more like freshman Pe' than sophomore Pe' is going to be crucial. Outside of those three, I'd guess the biggest beneficiary of Stoglin's absence would be Sam Cassell Jr. He's the most Stogs-esque player on the team, able to hit from anywhere on the floor (like Stogs), get hot fast (like Stogs), and put up major points (like Stogs). If they ever need anyone to fill a role similar to Stogs, they'll look to Cassell.

I'd also expect more defensive pressure and perhaps slowing the game down some more - I don't know if that's what I'd do with all this depth, but it seems to be Turgeon's M.O. This is a real challenge of his coaching chops, and we should learn a lot about both his ability and his style.

All things told, it's a lot tougher to handicap where Maryland's season is headed, since so much of it depends on the development of talented-but-uncertain guys like Faust and Len. I can't bring myself to say they're still a likely tournament team, but the bubble is still a possibility and the worst-case scenario should probably be a lower-mid seed in the NIT. They weren't far off from that last year, and I expect this team to be marginally better with an easier ACC schedule. (Now, if Faust/Len explode or bust, all bets are off.) What's your verdict? If so inclined, I'd also encourage you to comment what you were expecting with Stogs, so we know how much damage you think his departure will do.

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