1. Maryland has talent and potential, but it lacks a key ingredient that most good teams have: an identity.
Over the weekend, I was struck at the difference between watching a team like the Ravens (sorry non- Baltimore people) Saturday night and then watching the Terps the following evening. The Ravens know where their center of gravity is. They know where their heart comes from. There is no question who's team it is and the general has his team ready to play each time they step on the field. He demands it.
As I watched the Terps struggle to run anything resembling an offense last night, it hit me that Maryland has no such guy -- No one to get in a teammate's face and say "Lets wake up, guys". No one who other players refuse to let down.
Now, maybe it's unfair to compare any of these 18-22 year olds to a guy like Ray Lewis (or insert your own iconic sports leader here) but I feel like the good teams in the ACC have guys that fill that role (albeit to a lesser degree). Duke has Mason Plumlee. NC State has CJ Leslie. Who's going to be that guy for Maryland?
The most likely candidate seems to be Dez Wells -- a guy who teammates look up to and the player who seemed to take over for the Terps last might when nothing was going for them. Or maybe it's Alex Len, who showed in the last two minutes that he's capable of demanding the ball and dominating a defender 1-on-1. (Although it did leave me wondering where that assertiveness/will to dominate was the first 38 minutes of the game).
Whoever that guy is, he needs to emerge and take the reigns of this team now. When the Terps have another stretch of 7 minutes with no points, someone needs to be able to grab the rest of his teammates and wake them the hell up.
2. The point guard situation is still unresolved, and it might remain that way until next season or even beyond.
One of the reason Maryland lacks an identity is because it lacks a consistent floor general. Pe'Shon Howard and Seth Allen have alternated starts and impressive performances but neither has done enough to solidify being "the guy" at the 1.
I think this team will get better as the season rolls on, but I'd be surprised if the point guard situation looks much different come March. We essentially know what we have in Pe'Shon Howard -- a guard who's limited athletically and provides little scoring threat, but someone who can generally run the offense and get the ball to his teammates. Seth Allen seems like the polar opposite in terms of skill set to Pe'Shon. He is incredibly athletic, can score both driving to the basket and from behind the arc, yet he lacks the experience that Pe'Shon provides and often seems to be going 100 mph. I'm not going to pretend to be a basketball expert but from my eyes, it seems like the offense simply runs smoother under Pe'Shon.
All of this analysis is meant to suggest that neither Pe'Shon nor Seth is an ideal ACC point guard (at least not yet, in the case of Allen). On a team stacked with talent, the one glaring deficiency in terms of personal seems to be the point guard position. Now, maybe Roddy Peters changes that next year. Or maybe Seth eventually figures it out. But right now, it's a major problem and perhaps the biggest factor towards the team's inability to consistently run it's offense.
3. I love what Turgeon has done with this program, but there are aspects of his coaching that leave a lot to be desired right now.
I feel ridiculous criticizing Mark Turgeon's coaching ability. After all, he's been a coach for 25 years and been around the game all his life. I watch and occasionally write blog posts on Maryland basketball.
But there are a couple criticisms of Turgeon's coaching this year that seem to be valid.
First, the offense seems to be incredibly predictable and in the last three halves at least, completely ineffective. Now, i know the team is young and Turgeon hasn't implemented as much as he's wanted to. But last night, the offense essentially consisted of high screens at the top of the key and wings cutting across the baseline. Maybe somebody else noticed more than that, but that's literally the only semblance of offense I remember seeing last night. To put it in perspective, that's the exact offense my intramural team ran at Maryland. (We also competed in the 6 foot and under league, so our personnel was severely limited, but I digress).
The point is Turgeon (and the players) should be able to implement and execute something more complicated than what me and my buddies run. Maybe there's more going on than meets the eye and basketball minds out there, feel free to correct me. But right now, from my vantage point, the offense looks too simple and predictable.
Secondly, I can't remember the last time Turgeon drew a play out of a timeout that has worked this season. My recollection may be faulty but I literally can't remember a single one.
Third, it's mid January and there's no set rotation. Hell, Spencer Barks played yesterday. There's been at least 6 different starting lineups. And it doesn't appear that anybody on the team knows their role with the exception of Len, Dez and Aronhalt. Part of the reason there's no set rotation has to do with the inconsistency of the players. But I think much of it falls on Turgeon as well.
Finally, Turgeon certainly could have handled the second half of the Florida State game much better. (He'd tell you as much). As the lead slipped away and the offense stalled, Turgeon panicked -- shuffling lineups faster than a particularly difficult game of Crab Shuffle. When the coach of a very young team panics, it's hard to expect anything more from the players themselves.
I like Turgeon, think he was an excellent hire and believe he's going to win a lot here. But it's clear through the last two games that he hardly walks on water.
4. Wednesday's game is really really important.
Wednesday's game against NC State was always going to be significant. With the events over the weekend, it just became that much more important.
For those that live under a rock, NC State upset #1 Duke this past weekend, while Maryland lost its second ACC game of the season. Wednesday night represents one of the few chances the Terps have of adding a quality win to their resume. A NC State team ranked #20 just last week, now comes in at #14 and once again as a legitimate favorite to win the ACC. Comcast Center
should be packed (edit: it's sold out!) for its first ranked opponent all season.
Win, and Maryland will stand at a respectable 2-2 in the ACC, have added a marquee win, and have gained momentum going into a game against an underachieving, but still dangerous North Carolina team. Lose, and the Terps will be 1-3 in conference play, with a very real shot at falling to 1-4. I err on the side of caution when calling games "make or break" so early in the season, but Wednesday night's game is pretty damn close to one.
It's been a tough 5 days. There's no way to sugar coat that. But this team has the makeup to be really good. It might come together next week, or next month, but i think it will come together. Let's go out Wednesday night and create an awesome environment at the Comcast Center. It's a week or two early to be pushing the panic button.