Warning: I am at work right now and this will be pretty long.
Football? Cute sport I guess. Guys running around in tights and fancy hard hats. It's a perfectly acceptable amuse-bouche during the early fall leading up to the only season that truly matters. School has just started and it's nice to have something to look forward to on Saturdays (the NFL doesn't count, that shit is insufferable). But thankfully the wait is almost over. Actually, kinda, it is over. Practice has already started, meaning the whole point of Midnights Madness around the country are pretty much gone. Nonetheless, it is 12 days away. It's back, guys, stop crying, basketball is back.
Last season was fun enough. We started the season in New York City and ended it in New York City. In between we had some big wins (I'm looking at you teams in North Carolina that don't wear throwback Chargers colors...no shut up Wake Forrest you don't count either), some stupid losses (truly I was unaware Boston College had a basketball program) and beat a waterfall-based team with our 2 guard playing center. It was very weird. We had a giant person from the former Soviet Union shipped off to the cactus mines of Arizona and something called a "Peshon" go try out for pilot season in Hollywood. I am more concerned about losing one than the other. Guess which one!
On a serious note, this team has the potential to do some big things. Things not seen in The Livable Community since a Senor Huevos was falling into stands making awesome baskets. Let's break down how, why, who and what.
Peshon Howard, at one point, was pretty good at basketball. Last year was not that time. A lot of it might not have been his fault. His injury certainly hampered his athleticism and explosiveness, but I don't think there is an ACL of the mind. He made some really bad decisions, threw some really bad passes and took some awwwwwwful shots. He served his purpose, kinda, last year, as the bridge to Allen and eventually Peters, but I truly do not think his basketball presencewill be missed for a moment. Oh well, we will always have this.
Alex Len is a different story. Was he incredible all the time in his two seasons in College Park? No. Could he have been better? Maybe, but a lot of why he wasn't has to do with a certain someone I mentioned above. Players who want to have success in the post are very reliant on dependable PG play to thrive. They need to get the pass at the right moment and place to be able to take advantage of their height and skills. Too high- he will have to get out of position to jump for it. Too low- it can be stripped and he looses position. Too far to each side- it can be picked off, tipped and he losses position again. I feel like this had to be explained a lot last season. Yes, there were some moments of some games where Len, maybe because he was frustrated with the poor guard play, seemed to disappear. Part of that is on him as well. He also struggled with double teams, especially by smaller players. This is, I think, a more legitimate critique of his game. A guy with his athleticism and skills should have adapted, passed out of the post more, and eaten those defenders alive when the opportunities presented themselves.
What Len did very well, and where we will miss his presence the most, is defensively. He was great at not only altering and blocking shots, but making other players think twice before driving to the bucket. He was one of the best players in the country at doing this, and it is a big reason why he was taken 5th overall in the NBA draft. Shaq and Chuck can do their best to protect the rim, but unless Dodd turns out to be a shot blocking monster, we just won't have the same kind of interior defense we did last season.
I really like the potential of Roddy and Dodd, but the addition I am most excited for is Evan Smotrycz. We have not had a true stretch 4 since...I really don't know. Landon Millbourne kinda was. Kinda. Okay so maybe never? I cannot express the wonders a big guy that can hit a consistent outside shot might do for offense. It allows the post players to operate without the defense constantly stacking the paint. It forces a defender to come of the paint that probably isn't comfortable doing so. Three points is more than two points. You the the...point (sorry).
One, or both, of Roddy Peters or Damonte Dodd might be awesome right away, but the truth is, anything more than average play by both would be delicious, delicious gravy. All we need is Roddy to be a decent back up point guard to spell Allen and Dodd to add some athleticism and height to the frontcourt rotation. If one of these freshmen decide this is not enough and breakout to a potential ACC FOY, we will be an incredibly dangerous basketball team. We might be without that, but adding another impact player to those we already have is scary.
Backcourt: Starting point guard. Very fast person. Streaky shooter. Pretty good handles. Tends to turn the ball over quite a bit. Leader. If Seth Allen can hit outside shots at at a 35-40% clip, get his assists up and TOs down, he will be an above average PG in the ACC. I know a lot of people here have him pegged as a future star, but I don't really see it. I see a very good, dependable PG. His outside shooting game might be key to our offense being successful this season. If he is a threat from the three, as well as the driving ability he has already shown, he will be scary enough to draw attention away from other player we will discuss soon.
Like Dez Wells and Nick Faust! Dez Wells is awesome. If we are going to have an ACC POY in our final season, it will be Wells (Note: There is a better chance of Kate Upton walking into my office and giving me a big plate of BBQ than any Terp winning any ACC award this season). He is an excellent wing defender and one of the best finishers around the basket in the country. An absolute freight train when he gets a head of steam. If he has improved his jumpshot this offseason, this very well might be the last season we get to see Wells in a Terps jersey. He's that good.
Nick Faust is interesting. Sometimes he looks like the best player of the floor, sometimes I want him to sit down for a while. We have been hearing for years that Nick has dominated during practice, has gotten bigger, blah blah. Here is where we reach the crux of our potential success this season: if Faust can just be consistent, hitting 40% of this threes, playing good defense, passing the way he can pass, and is able to stay at the 2/3 rather than play point, we will be an excellent team. If he has the same season as the last two, we will have some problems. He might be the most important player on the team.
Frontcourt: I'll put Layman in here because a small forward is a forward and a forward is a frontcourt player. Whatever, get off my back. Jake Layman is better than a lot of us realize. He has everything you want in a wing player on this team as currently constructed. After he settled down last season he was very good from beyond the arch, showed some flashes of the ever-rare midrange game, and even has some post moves. Obviously the athleticism is there as well. While Wells is probably our best player right now, I would not be shocked if Layman was our best player by season's end. If he can be a 40% 3pt shooter, look out.
Chuck and Shaq do a lot of the same things, which is good. Both either undersized centers (perfectly fine in college) or big giant 4s. Honestly, the 4/5 position is pretty interchangeable in the NBA and NCAA these days. All we are looking for from these big fellas are rebounds and defense. Any offense more than 13 ppg total between the two (what Len averaged last season) is icing. They need to avoid racking up too many fouls and forcing the ball up if they don't have to. Just be big and scary and adorable (that's for you Chuck, love ya).
Projected lineup vs UCONN
Allen, Wells, Faust, Smotrycz, Cleare
Layman first off the bench, then Chuck, Roddy, Dodd.
I would not be surprised to see Chuck start in place of Smo, and almost expect Layman to start in place of Faust at some point in the season.
Well, that's it. I doubt many of you read the whole thing, but I was thinking about how excited I was for basketball to start and needed to get my thoughts in writing.