Well the terps are now 5-6 and need to really improve quickly if they have any hopes of sliding into the field of 68. It looks like we are NIT bound, and all in all, in the grand scheme of things that's not such a bad result. You make the NIT this year, and next year you are ready to take your big step forward. But are we? For the first time, I'm beginning to question whether the future really is looking bright for Maryland. A large part of that has to do with our head coach, who, though I still believe he can be the man for the job, has objectively had an abysmal season.
There's no doubt this team is limited by the fact that they don't have a true point guard and carry four perimeter players who are not real threats from 3 on most nights (of course 3 of those players are guys that Turgeon himself recruited to come here but that's another story). But there is a lot of talent out there, far too much talent to be a sub .500 team in the ACC with only one win all year to hang their hat about.
Virtually every team is limited in one regard or another except for true title contenders. The job of a coach is, obviously, to have a team playing to its strengths and to minimize any weaknesses both within each game and as a matter of overall strategy for the season. In that regard it's hard to give Mark Turgeon and his staff anything other than an abysmal grade this year.
(By the way you want to talk about limited?--talk about Virginia. They have basically one post player and he's 6'8". They are also very limited atheleticism on the perimeter. They have a PG who shoots 35 percent from the line and is a total non-factor from 3. Never the less they Just took us to the wood shed with beautiful execution on both ends of the court and are 7-3 in conference.)
The Meh Defense and the Abysmal Offense
His hallmark is supposed to be defense, supposed to be. And on most nights our defense is better than most teams. But in key games this year our defense has been terrible--at FSU, today against UVA and of course at Duke and at UNC. We did show up defensively at home against NC State, but it's fair to say you can't count on us to guard anybody worth their salt on Defense. And really what excuse is there for this? Defense is supposed to be Turge's strength as a coach and unlike on offense, I do not see us as limited at all on the defensive end. Quite to the contrary we are long, and athletic, and can throw many different looks out there. And yet we are where we are on D--inconsistent at best.
Of course the defense is actually the strong point of this team, but not because it is elite but because our Offense is the worst thing I have ever witnessed during my 13 plus years of watching Maryland basketball religiously. Anyone have any idea what our game plan is on offense? Who are we trying to get the ball to? Who are we running plays for? Are we even running plays? (it's very difficult to see any objective evidence that we are). Every now and then we run a bit of motion but for the most part we are completely stagnant with no penetrating cuts or passes. Unlike on Defense, I'm willing to admit we are limited on the offensive end. Like I said, we carry four perimeter players who really aren't threats to shoot from three. We have really only two guys who can consistently get in the lane, and even then they are extremely turnover prone. We have no real true point guard. These are all well documented issues. But are we so limited that it's too much to ask us to look like we vaguely resemble an organized basketball team on offense?
Player Development (or lack thereof)
Name me a player who is playing at a consistently higher level than they were at the beginning of the year? I'll give you Logan and (maybe) Layman and that's about it. I understand ups and downs are a part of having a young team but where is the development in key players like Len and Wells? I'm not seeing it. And then there is Faust who has regressed lower than I would have ever imagined.
Perhaps worst of all is how Turge let Pe ruin his confidence. It was clear that Pe was not confident in himself after a few poor performances in ACC play but yet he let him totally lose it instead of paring back his role. Now he's finally pared back Pe's role and it seems like Pe has a bit of confidence going, but where was this five games ago when it was the OBVIOUS move to do?
Undoubtedly, of course the lack of development has a lot of this has to do with the 10 man rotation that Turge insists on running.
In Game "Coaching"
Perhaps the worst area for Turge has been in game tactics and strategy. Against VTech he inexplicably watched as VTech went on a 14-2 run at the end of the first half, over the course of like five minutes, and did not call a timeout. Today, he let's Justin Anderson and Len match up man on man for at least five minutes, a match up that clearly favored UVA. In the 2nd half he put Dez or Nick on Anderson and that was a much better match up. If you take away five minutes of Justin Anderson going H.A.M. on alex len, it's a lot closer down the stretch. And then after two great games from Padge...where exactly was he in the second half? Or really all game... This seems like it could have been a good game for him and Len to get going inside but I very rarely saw him.
I could all go on and on and on about all the questionable moves that Turge has made in games this year. How about at Duke when Plumlee is playing with 2 first half fouls and not even feeding the post once in the final five minutes of the half? How about having people help Len in the post against Plumlee against Duke? How about having no answer for the zone in the NC State game. The strange lineups to close the game; his strange insistence on breaking up the starting five after a hot start. There have just been too many self imposed errors coming from the coach out there.
I am, for the first time, questioning whether the program truly is on the rise. Sure we are landing better recruits but they are not the kind of recruits who are so talented that they are going to step out on the court and win with their talent from day one. They are the type that have to be molded, they have to be developed, and they have to be put into roles in a cohesive offensive and defensive system. And then most of all, they have to be led successfully on gameday.
For the first time I'm questioning whether Turge is that guy. This year was never going to be final four, maybe it was never going to be an NCAA tournament year. But I'm just not seeing anyone being developed, or put into a role, and I'm certainly not seeing anything resembling a coherent offense or consistent defense. Most of all I'm seeing so many strange and unforced errors coming from our sidelines.
But look, I'm willing to admit that maybe I'm the fool. Maybe I just cant see how truly limited we are, and how Turge really is making progress and that with an off season and some reinforcements that we'll be over the top. Either way, the bottom line is we are at the "next year" point. And for this Terps fan, "next year" better include an NCAA tournament birth--and really a comfortable birth. Otherwise I don't think it's unfair to start talking hot seat.
NOTE: a commenter has pointed out an obvious point--that the season is not yet over. And so while it looks unlikely at this point it's fair to qualify this analysis with a "thus far".