Many have said that Maryland's non-conference schedule this season was weak. Too weak, maybe. That maybe ACC play would come as a shock to them when they took that step up in quality.
They saw tougher opposition, sure, when they hosted Virginia Tech to open up the ACC schedule. Maybe not much tougher than some of their cupcake fodder, but certainly a step up nonetheless. And it turns out they didn't miss a beat.
The Terrapins lead wire-to-wire, usually by double-digits. They out-executed Virginia Tech in the halfcourt and often beat the Hokies at their own game on the break. They shared the ball, took care of it, shot well, rebounded, and defended at a high level. The final score, a 94-71 win, didn't even entirely do justice to how good Maryland was and how large the margin could've easily been.
In short: it looked like this team is for real, competition be damned.
Two unexpected, youthful figures led the way for the Terps: Jake Layman and Seth Allen, who were Maryland's two leading scorers and combined for 41 point between them. Suspected by many to be the odd man out in conference play, Layman started in place of the injured Nick Faust, who got nicked up in practice and was dealing with a shoulder injury. And the freshman rewarded Turgeon for the decision, finishing with 18 first-half points on 6-7 shooting. He was quieter in the second, not forcing matters, but still finished with 20 points, 8 boards, 3 assists and 2 blocks, an all-around impressive performance that will have him challenging for a starting spot in the coming days.
As Layman slowed in the second, Allen took up the slack in the second. He finished with 14 points in the second half and 21 for the game on a hugely-efficient 8-12 from the field, lighting up Tech's defense. He continues to be an impressive sparkplug off the bench, with shooting, quickness, and scoring instinct that most second units can't hang with.
But this was not a case of two players carrying the team. Layman and Allen were the right guys at the right times, reaping the rewards of a fantastic all-around performance. The offense executed wonderfully. The defense forced turnovers and generated easy buckets. Everyone shared the ball until a good look presented itself. Today, the guys with the looks were Layman and Allen. But don't expect that necessarily to hold true consistently. Dez Wells, Alex Len, Logan Aronhalt, Pe`Shon Howard - any of them played well enough to get those types of numbers today, and in the future there will be games where they will. Make no mistake: this is a team, and a well-balanced one at that. Keying on one guy is a fool's errand for opponents, and it's going to make Maryland a very difficult team to beat.
That said, we are Maryland fans, after all, so there's a natural tendency to guard against getting carried away. And after all, it was only Virginia Tech. Sure, the Hokies beat Oklahom State and Iowa. Of course, they also got blown out by BYU and lost to Georgia Southern, too. So no, they're probably not NCAA Tournament material. But nor are they an awful team. They aren't very good, but they're not awful. And you'd certainly expect them to do better than losing by 23 in their conference opener.
Maryland deserves credit for how well they played. And it was very well indeed. Aside from a sloppy spell in the second half where they were challenged by Tech's press, virtually nothing went wrong and everything went right. It was a dominant performance. Imperious. And it's a very, very encouraging sign for Maryland's future.
There are a few interesting talking points, especially what happens with the starting lineup in the coming games. But there'll be time for that later. ACC wins like this have been lean for the program in recent years: savor them, now that they're finally back.