Discussing Maryland's loss to Pitt and the Terps' play this season

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Some of the Testudo Times writers discuss the tough loss, trying to look at some of the good things that happened Saturday evening, and why this team has struggled.

Last night was another tough loss for Maryland and their fans, but at least the team seemed to show some fight and other improvements. They did some things better on offense, but still gave up way too many easy baskets. That being said, Pitt is a top 5 team. Turgeon called them on of the best teams he's faced in his career, as a head coach or assistant. So to me, losing to them by 4 is a kind of moral victory, since I thought we'd lose by 15-20.

What did you all think?

FlaTerp: I agree completely ... but I've wholly tempered my expectations, which is the key to appreciating any progress the team makes. They started strong, played a full game, showed heart and had a shot at beating a very good team. Considering where we've been the past month, that's definitely a big step up, even though the win didn't come. My personal goal right now is for the Terps to just improve and be a tough team with promise - I've let go of the tourney and don't really care about the NIT either. If they play well, the NIT will come I guess, but I just care about the playing well part. No more blowouts please.

I think I'm the only one who complains about point guard and views that as a much bigger problem than Smo or the bigs (who are everyone else's scapegoats). How many times did we have a chance to cut it to 6 and then turn it over instead? A couple of times it was Faust turnovers, and then a couple other times it was Allen rushing bad shots. When you have a point guard whose instinct is to watch over the offense, you run a play, you're more patient, and you get a better shot. All our guys think about scoring more than passing.

Andrew: It goes back to my general dislike of the "all or nothing" sports fan. It's the idea that if the team isn't going to win a title, or even compete for one, the season is a total failure. I enjoy watching teams grow, watching coaches grow and watching fan bases grow with them. The game last night was disjointed because of all the fouls and just weird overall. Pitt is a really, really good team that Maryland competed with until the very end. I didn't even think Maryland played all the well. I just think they are starting to play better and that's all we can ask for.

This was a tournament team in my eyes at the beginning of the season. I was wrong. I admit that. What I don't think is that this disappointing season means every season going forward will be too. Sports don't work that way. Every good team has at least one really excellent, All Conference/All American player and right now Maryland doesn't. I though Dez would be that guy and he isn't. Put Greivis Vasquez/Joe Smith/Juan Dixon/Steve Blake/Len Bias/Steve Francis on this team and they are easily in the tournament. You need a great player. Maybe Trimble is that great player or Wiley or Nickens or Malik Ellison or Chris Clarke. Maybe next season Dez becomes that player or Jake or Seth. If you are giving up on the program because of one or two disappointing seasons I feel sorry for you when this team hits their upswing.

Dave: Going into last night's game, I was really worried about this team. I've talked to numerous friends and fellow Maryland fans about what the issue was with this team. Was it coaching? Players? Players being unable to be coached? We were all disappointed about the effort in some of the previous losses, but last night this team actually fought back, battled and almost pulled out the win. Pitt is a really, really good team. Turgeon called them one of the best team's he's faced in his coaching career. There is no shame in losing to Pitt, but it was still a loss at a point in the season where Maryland has basically no margin for error. They still made some mistakes that prevented them from winning, but they also didn't get blown out by 30 on their home court. That tells me that improvement is happening, that hopefully Turgeon and his staff have finally gotten through and found a way to get this year's team to play better.

John: Yes, Dave, that is why I think the "Turgeon can't reach these players" statement is a bit asinine. Last night showed they are fighting. Still errors that need correcting, but it certainly wasn't lack of effort, that's for sure.

While this game still goes down as a loss, this game was a lot different than the Florida St game where they just got rolled. They fought back and you can tell they are genuinely frustrated. So, based on that and I could be wrong, it seems as though Turgeon hasn't lost the team like many have hypothesized. While it is frustrating, and the talent is there to be a tournament team, it is misplaced talent in my eyes. No true PG (Peters simply doesn't add enough) Mitchell and Cleare, while tough, simply are not getting it done underneath at center. They aren't rim protectors. I could be wrong on that, but I just don't see it.

I'm a bit surprised to see the team struggle this badly, but battling tough with Pitt means something. No one could have reasonably expected to win the game. Pitt is far and away the better team. The key to me is they didn't roll over.

Dave: I agree, John. They key is they didn't just give up. They fought back. They showed that they're coachable and what Turgeon and Co. are teaching them is getting through. They still made mistakes and turned the ball over too much, but they were in much better position than they've been recently. I think another thing Maryland is missing is a guy who they can just depend on to carry them in tough spots, like when they cut the lead and just needed to make a basket or two as Pitt continued to miss free throws. Someone like Greivis or Juan Dixon. I thought Dez would be that guy, but they seemingly have no one for that role and we've seen that over the past two seasons. Remember the end of the Kentucky game last year and the UConn game this year?

Brendan: I'm okay with the loss but I can see where the over-reactionary fans are coming from. In a game where they fought hard and never gave up -- it wasn't enough. That means there is a lack of talent, plain and simple. This team was regarded as a tournament team by most, and is failing to live up to expectations.

However, in what was considered a lost season where the team looked like it had given up or accepted the fact they weren't good, they fought back.Turgeon fought back. They all fought against a really good Pitt team. They made a game out of something they had no business being in. That's a step in the right direction after the NC State debacle.

Todd: I certainly understand the frustration some of you and some of the posters express. I think we as fans all (reasonably) expected to see more progress than we've seen.

Again, with the caveat established above, I ask is Dez Wells any better this season than he was last season or even as a freshman? How about Shaq? Could Seth Allen have attended a point guard "college" over the summer (Kristi Toliver did in at least one and possibly two seasons on the women's side) knowing that he had to be that player for Maryland this season? And if he did, why is his tendency still to make many bad decisions. I know it's hard to compare some of these players to their counterparts on Pitt - who have so much experience but it's legitimate to question the apparent lack of progress. 

I also think Turgeon set himself up for some of this criticism. He could have made his preseason comments a bit more conditional. Something along the lines of, "If we get the point guard play I know Seth is capable of providing and if Shaq can translate the progress he's showing in practice to game situations we should take that next step" then fans might show a little more patience. 

I do agree with FlaTerp about the point guard issue. College basketball is a point guard driven game and MT above all people should know that. I've seen Brenda succeed with a lot of these multi-skilled players (think Thomas, Coleman, and the like) but she's always had a strong point guard (Toliver, Barrett, Brown) and usually a reasonably good backup (think Moseley who was brought in to back up Barrett or Pavlech last year). And she was prepared even when she had two point guards transfer (Dara Taylor who's starting for 13th ranked Penn State and leads the team in assists and is 3rd in scoring and Natasha Cloud who's playing for St. Joseph's and is also 3rd in scoring while averaging over 8 assists per game) she was basically ready. Sorry to digress so deeply into the women's team but I needed to drive home a point. While I wouldn't expect Turgeon to have that kind of depth because he's only in his third season I'm still looking for the great point guard. Maybe it's Trimble but that doesn't help this season.

With all that said, I don't think the comparison is outrageous. Chris Weller had lots of success until the early nineties. But from the 93-94 season to 2001-02 the year before Frese came in MD had 1 NCAA and 1 WNIT appearance and hadn't finished the season ranked since 92-93. She made the NCAA in her second season. In her 2nd season she had 2 prime recruits (Shay Doron & Kalika France) followed by a great third class (Langhorne, Harper, Newman, Perry) and completed the puzzle with Coleman & Toliver in year 4. I think for Turgeon we need to realistically look at this year's freshmen as his year 2. But next year, he really needs to make a leap.

Andrew: Honestly, Dez has been my biggest disappointment this season. I was talking about it with my buddy at the game. He is a player without a role. He can't really shoot, he is not a great penetrator, he doesn't have great handles. He is at his best when he can just bully past people and finish around the rim, in transition, and in isolation when everyone stands around and lets him attack (like at the end of the BC game). That's not a great thing for a young team. I love him and his passion but his skillset is a weird one. You can't really run plays for him.

I thought he was going to make the leap this season to a legitimate All-ACC type player. He is not even close to that.

John: Here is how I look at it, and FlaTerp made a great point. Faust was classified as Turgeon's first recruit, and that is hardly the truth. Chances are, if Turgeon had gotten the job earlier Faust may never be a Terp and Turgeon may have brought in different players. Maybe he wouldn't have, but who knows, point is, it is tough to call that his first legitimate season. His first season consisted of Parker, Stoglin, Howard, Weis, just to name a few. To put it nicely, the team wasn't that good. Stoglin was talented, but we knew what he wanted to do. His first big class included Layman, Cleare, Mitchell, Allen while bringing in Wells. Besides Wells, all four needed time to be brought along, so to call it a failure in their sophomore seasons would be unfair. This year consisted of two recruits who, again, need time for seasoning. I think we know where I am going here. It is a young team that needs progression. It is unlikely to see ANY of those players as stars in year two. Now, there has to be a progression shown, and we see it to an extent with Allen, and even Layman. Layman, while he has struggled this year, is still better in areas than he was last season. Allen seems much more comfortable than last season. Next year is where you need to see these players beginning to reach their potential, especially with the additions of Wiley, Trimble, Reed, and Nickens.

FlaTerp: I know I said this after last season: Dez needs to lose about 20 pounds, be skinnier and faster, and become a big basket-attacking 2 instead of a run-of-the-mill 3. He's too big and bulky and that's not going to get him anywhere at his height if he wants to have a pro career.

John: I agree, FlaTerp. I still think he can attack the basket with ease and I think his penetrating ability is better than it seems, but there is no need for him to be up at the weight he is.

Todd: I'm going to weigh in a bit on this one. I don't think you should dismiss the "Turgeon isn't reaching the players" quite so cavalierly. First, in terms of effort, one game does not a connection make. If we see this level of effort for all the games remaining on the schedule, you can dismiss that aspect of "not reaching the players." But that's only one piece of the puzzle. Another legitimate question is, is he reaching the players in terms of what he is trying to teach them. One piece of evidence that he isn't is in the number of moving picks called against MD. Setting and setting up a pick seems to be basketball 101 to me. Whether it's teaching the guard to hold his dribble until the big man has established position or getting the post to establish position more quickly, the team fails to execute this play with dismaying regularity. To me, that says either Turgeon's not teaching it or he's not teaching it in a way that's getting through to the players who have to execute the play. So I think the jury is still out on this one.

Dave: I think that's a valid point, Todd. I've just spoken to and heard Turgeon say a lot about how they're trying to reach these guys, how they're doing everything they can think of to try to reach them, and I'm hoping that something is finally starting to sink in. But you're right, we need to see that pattern continue into the Miami game and further down the line.

John: Very fair point Todd. A lot of fundamental issues with the team, and I see what you are saying. I think for the most part, the players respond to him effort-wise, but there are still a couple players I'm not so sure about. Faust would be one in particular. I' not sure he listens to what is told of him. That's just from an outsiders perspective. I have no clue how it truly is. The players, for all I know, may not respect him. Who knows. Wish I knew more honestly.

Brendan: I think the most troubling part about the season is the lack of clarity on the problem. It's across the board failure. If it were coaching-- get a new coach. If it were the players -- force attrition.

It's all of that and more. That's the scariest part.

Todd: We all wish we knew more, I think.

It's become an interesting divergence between Turgeon and Edsall, I think. Edsall came in and blew the team up. He drew lots of heat for that and for apparent coaching deficiencies and some less than respectful comments about the previous regime and the players. Turgeon came in to just the opposite. Funny, said all the right things and people thought he had a thin roster. Now, all but the most virulent anti-Edsall people are at least grudgingly giving him some slack and people seem to be tightening the noose around Turgeon.

FlaTerp: Turgeon is likeable so people cut him more slack. There's not much to like w/ edsall. He stinks at PR so nobody is giving him the benefit of the doubt. I dont really agree about him changing minds though. I bet if you polled, public support for edsall is way less than turgeon.

Andrew: I don't think so anymore. Remember the article we did on whether the season was a success or not? Most of the comments were negative but the poll was 75% yes. The commenters tend to be far more negative/rash/reactionary than the readership as a whole.

FlaTerp: Disclaimer: Andrew is president of Edsall's fan club.

Alex: Any institutional problem goes back to leadership on some level, so you can't absolve the head coach for an underperformance like this. The lack of offensive movement and unwillingness to swing the ball around the floor are things I blame coaching for, no doubt. Putting together an imbalanced roster and not figuring out how to hide serious interior weaknesses? That's on Turgeon, too.

But a lot of this team's shortcomings are the fault of nobody but the players. It isn't Turgeon's fault that Shaq Cleare can't catch a pass. It isn't Turgeon's fault that his players take ill-advised isolation shots with no chance of scoring, or that they bail out driving players with soft fouls in the lane. The players can do better, and they need to, or nothing Turgeon does is going to matter.

Andrew: It's more of an I-Believe-He-Can-Win-Here Club than Fan Club. Compare him to Mike London. Everyone thought London would be great, and every year UVa is worse and worse even with a lot of talent. No matter what else has happened, Maryland has gotten better. I'll getting better than getting worse, no matter what else is going on.

Dave: I actually think Edsall has become more likable over time, but I'd be right now people would be more down on Turegon then they would on Edsall. One of my friends phrased it well yesterday when we were talking about this, saying he really wants to like Turgeon, but he's been really disappointed with this season. That being said, he's also willing to give him more time and patience.

Alright, that's going to do it for this discussing. What did you all think about this format? Did you like it? Hate it? Let us know.

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