Rooting for Rudy

Over the past five years rooting for Maryland was like rooting for Rudy. We had some great moments, but really whether it was Sean Mosley or Dave Neal giving everything they had, we were just over-matched against the nation’s elite teams.

Maybe we’ve gotten accustomed to rooting for Rudy. In Ben’s article on who should start for Maryland, I was struck by how many people had become defensive about some of Maryland’s upperclassman (Padge, Howard, and to a lesser extent Faust) and how unwilling many have been to accept some of our younger players (Allen, Layman and Mitchell).

Yet for the past five years a good portion of this site has been spent on bemoaning recruiting and wondering why Maryland couldn’t attract better players and take its rightful place as a perennial top 10 program. Now that we are attracting better players, there seems to be a reluctance to give them a chance.

So at the risk of being extremely unpopular, let me start with Padge. Can Maryland be a top 10 program competing for a national title every year with Padge – or a player with his skill set – starting at the PF position?

I don’t need to answer that, right.

Yet plenty of people had Padge penciled in as the starter on Ben’s post and many offered a myriad of explanations for starting a weaker player over a stronger one. Padge isn’t getting us there and that should be painfully obvious. Now I don’t know how good Mitchell is but he is clearly the superior player and has enormous upside. In sports, the superior player starts. And if you want to be a top 10 program you better have the balls to make those moves or top recruits aren't coming if they know they are going to sit behind an inferior player. There's simply no short or long term upside to starting Padge.

Turgeon is now making the moves to get Maryland to the next level. At the start of the season Padge was playing over 20 minutes a game and exceeded 27 minutes twice. In the last three he has averaged 14 minutes. By the end of the season, barring an injury or foul trouble, I suspect he will be playing 8-10 minutes a game. It doesn’t mean he can’t fulfill a role on this team and provide valuable minutes. It just means he’s not good enough to start on a team whose standards are rising and whose future is the top 10.

It also seems to me there was a fair amount of doubt on this site about Layman and Allen when they signed their LOI’s. That doubt seems to continue, especially for Layman. Granted he got off to a slow start but he’s got some credentials and is the type of player we haven’t had in College Park in a long time (if ever). He has the potential to be a game changer and an outstanding four-year player. Again, I don’t pretend to know how good Layman can be, but I haven’t seen anything from Faust that leads me to believe he can get us to the next level. So play Layman and find out.

And Allen? He might be our best scorer. And every team needs a scorer. He's a better version of Stoglin.

And then there’s Howard – the mere mention of his name attached with any criticism whatsoever brings throngs of bloggers to his defense. I’m not sure I get it. From a practical point of view, he lost almost his entire sophomore season to injury. His freshman year he started 8 games. For his career he is averaging less than 6 points a game, about 2 rebounds, and 6 assists. What’s so great about that?

Personally, I think Howard is good enough to get us to the Sweet 16, which I think we will do this year. But it’s also fair to say the jury is still out on him.

The bottom line: If you want to be a top 10 program you have to be willing to accept that when players aren’t good enough, they aren’t going to play. Padge is one of those players. Faust may be another. The alternative is rooting for Rudy. And I think those days are over.

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