Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Rarely does a team pull a major upset and suffer a disappointing loss in the same week and look like the exact same team while doing so but that's what happened last week. The Terps knocked off #14 NC State at home and then got thoroughly whooped three days later in Chapel Hill. In each game they shot the ball poorly, committed 13+ turnovers, and struggled to run the offense. Below we'll recap what we learned about this team in the last week.
1. Turnovers are simply killing the Terps right now.
Throughout Maryland's slate of out-of-conference games, there was one area that gave us cause for concern above all else -- turnovers. If the Terps couldn't hold on to the ball against the likes of Moorehead State and IUPUI, how would they take care of the ball against better teams. Well, through 5 ACC games, our worst fears have been realized.
Maryland has gift-wrapped the ball to the other team far too many times. KenPom lists their Turnover % (Turnovers divided by possessions) at 22.3% -- good for 265th in Division 1 basketball. The turnovers, more than anything else with this team, seems to really be hurting their confidence and composure.
Against North Carolina on Saturday, the Terps turned the ball over 5 times in their first 6 possessions, playing into the hand of a UNC team who's good in transition and riling up a home crowd eager to make it hard on Maryland.
Turning the ball over is especially damaging for this Terps team because they're so good at half court defense (Ken Pom has them second (!) in effective FG% on defense). When they throw the ball away, not only do they give up an offensive possession but they often times allow the opposing team to get out and run in transition. Like most teams, Marylabd's transition defense is a hell of a lot less effective than its half court defense. The discrepancy between half court defense and transition defense is even greater for this team because they’re so good at half court defense.
We can blame the turnovers on their youth and inexperience. And there's probably some validity to that. But excuses really don’t do anything for you and the Selection Committee won’t care how young the Terps are. If this team can't find a way to cut down on its turnovers, Maryland's ceiling will be pretty limited.
2. This group of guys is capable of growing up quickly but at this point, the Terps are intimated on the big stage.
The players would probably disagree with this but Saturday at UNC the moment just seemed to be a little too big for them. As mentioned above, the Terps started the game with turnovers on five of their first six possessions. A couple Reggie Bullock three’s later, the crowd went nuts and Maryland seemed rattled. It didn’tfeel like the Terps were going to be able to regain their composure really until halftime and that’s what ended up happening.
Now again, a lack of composure is something you expect from a young team on the road. But the more troubling thing is that it’s happening at home as well. The second half against Florida State was a total collapse. And you could argue that they froze in the second half against NC State as well.
This all goes back to what I touched on last week regarding the team’s lack of a true leader. Dez Wells once again showed that he’s the guy most likely to fill that role. But he can’t do it alone. He played a really good game against North Carolina (21 points, 8-11 shooting, 5 boards) but at times, seemed to be the only one with the confidence, (or the ability), to make something happen.
The Terps have a home game against a surging Boston College team to try to regain some confidence. Then it’s off to Durham to play in one of the more hostile environments in college basketball. It’ll be another big litmus test for this team to see if they’ve matured any in the last week.
3. For as bad as Maryland has looked offensively since ACC play started, they aren’t THIS bad. No one's shots are falling but it's unlikely they'll shoot this poorly all season.
Since the VT game, Maryland has shot 35% from the field. Aronhalt has made exactly two shots. Seth Allen has been 11-37 (29%) in the same stretch.
Maryland simply is going to shoot that bad the whole season.
Aronhalt and Allen, specifically, are not going to shoot that bad all season.
Some will cite the increased level of competition as the reason Maryland has struggled to shoot the ball. But many of the shots the Terps are missing are uncontested. Aronhalt and Seth Allen, particularly, are both getting plenty of open looks behind the arc.
Some of the offenses problems are structural (not enough movement) but others seem to stem from simply not getting open shots to fall. That’s likely to change as the season rolls on.
Shoot a little better, which shouldn't be that tall of a task, and the Terps will be in much better shape.
4. Faust starting at point guard gives this team the best chance to win.
I’ve got a feeling the point guard situation is going to a reoccurring theme in this column…
After the NC State game, Turgeon has this to say regarding playing time at the 1:
"I think Nick felt very comfortable at the point," he said. "I think Seth felt very comfortable at the two (guard). And Pe’Shon felt comfortable coming off the bench. Whether it stays that way, we’ll see. I like the direction it’s headed."
Despite the results of the North Carolina game, I couldn’t agree more.
Faust actually played decently well at the point on Saturday, and even better on Wednesday vs. NC State. He’s fast enough to break guys down off the dribble, he’s got experience playing the position, and he’s quick enough to guard an opposing team’s point guard.
Additionally, playing Faust at the 1 allows Seth Allen to slide over to the 2, where he can concentrate more on scoring (something this team needs pretty badly in case you haven’t noticed). Allen’s potential is off the charts in my opinion, but I think it’s asking a lot to put a freshman at point guard when it’s not his natural position.
The odd man out here seems to be Pe’Shon Howard, and frankly, I’m OK with that for now. Pe’Shon has real value to this team and at times, he seems to run the offense better than anyone on the roster.
But there are other times when he’s rattled where he’s simply hurting the team. Saturday against Carolina was one of those times. Seven turnovers and zero assists is a pretty awful stat line for a point guard no matter how you slice it.
That’s not to say that his season his done and he should be dropped from the rotation. He should backup Faust, and when he’s hot, Turgeon should ride him. When he struggles like he did Saturday, though, he simply can’t play.
This point guard musical chairs situation is frustrating and I think it’s hurt the development of the team. Hopefully, Turgeon has found a solution that will stick.