For those of you new here this is a piece we do from time to time after games. It's modeled off a similar article done by Kevin Van Valkenburg formerly of the Baltimore Sun. Feel free to post your four things in the comments section below.
1. Terrell Stoglin gets a lot of publicity as Maryland's best player, but it's hard to imagine where this team would be without Sean Mosley.
Sean Mosley's not a particularly sexy player. He's not incredibly athletic, he doesn't have a deadly shot, and up until this season he had a habit of missing easy layups. But this year Sean Mosley has emerged as the unquestioned leader of this team. In fact, without him, I'm not sure Maryland wins this game.
Mosley was terrific today (15 pts, 3 steals). But statistics alone don't tell the whole story. Simply put, when the Terps needed a big play today, Sean Mosley delivered. When Virginia Tech cut the lead to 6 with 13 and a half minutes left, Mosley responded with two jumpers and two steals in the span of two minutes to put the Terps back up by 11. With three and a half minutes left and Virginia Tech about to cut the lead to 6 with an easy layup, it was Mosley who came out of nowhere for a momentum changing block that may have been the play of the game.
It's hard to estimate his value because so much of what he does is intangible. They don't keep statistics for charges taken but if they did, I'm pretty sure Mosley would be near the top of the ACC. The same goes for dives on the floor and shots altered. Consider what Ashton Pankey had to say about Mosley after the Duke loss when asked about the youth on this year's team.
"Sean [Mosley] is basically our only leader. He's experienced NCAA tournaments; he's experienced just getting that far. We feed off of him and him being our leader."
There's a reason that Turgeon has said Sean Mosley is the most important person in his life right now besides his family. He's the anchor of this team, he's the glue that brings all these young guys together, and if you think his presence won't be missed next season, you're fooling yourself.
2. It might be time to temper all the "lottery pick" expectations for Alex Len. He's looked incredibly mediocre since the beginning of ACC play.
Now let me begin by saying this is no knock on Alex Len. He's an 18 year old kid who's been thrown into a tough situation. From Day 1 he's been looked at as a savior of sorts despite never playing a minute of Division 1 college basketball and speaking very little English. Then he missed significant amounts of practice and playing time due to an NCAA suspension. Unlike the rest of the team, he didn't get to play through his mistakes against the likes of Radford and Florida International. So he's definitely in a tough spot and one day, I think he will be great. But right now, he has a long way to go before an NBA GM is going to consider taking him with a lottery pick.
In his last four games, Len has scored a total of 4 points and 8 rebounds. He posted 0 rebounds against Duke and seemed to fall asleep on defense several times. Against Temple he was injured seven minutes into the game, but even during those seven minutes he failed to bring in a single rebound. It's clear that there are some confidence issues there (Turgeon has said as much) but I'm wondering if the expectations set for him at the beginning of the season were just way too high.
For all the good qualities Len possesses (height, length, an accurate shooting stroke), there seems to be a good amount missing (reliable hands, post moves, confidence). That's not to say that Len can't improve his game. His confidence in particular can certainly be improved and likely will be as he becomes more comfortable playing basketball at this level. But right now, he looks like the third best big on this team. He's making too many errors to play extended minutes, and with the meat of the ACC schedule approaching, Turgeon can't afford to let the kid simply play through his mistakes.
3. When Mark Turgeon said that his bigs weren't that bad at the beginning of the year, he wasn't kidding. Collectively, Ashton Pankey and James Padgett have been the surprises of the season thus far.
Yes, Pankey and Padgett got mercilessly picked on by the Plumlees earlier this week. And no they're not making any all-ACC teams. But based on what we've seen from Padgett the last two years, and what we thought we knew about Pankey, it's safe to say these two are exceeding expectations this year. For the season, Padgett is averaging 9.1 points per game and 6.1 rebounds. He's developed a couple solid moves in the post and unlike in past years, he's got the confidence to go to the hoop and create his own shot. Pankey has been impressive (although maddeningly inconsistent) as well, averaging 5.6 ppg and 4.7 rpg. Today, he went for 8 points and 11 rebounds and made some key buckets early on that got the offense going.
These two aren't world beaters and I still think the team needs another dependable big on the roster (Hi Shaquille Cleare) but Pankey and Padgett have played well this season and surpassed the admittedly low expectations the fanbase set for them at the start of the year.
4. When you hire a new coach, you never know for sure how it's going to turn out. Some coaches who we knew little about turn out to be legends (like Coach K) and others turn out to be duds (see Sidney Lowe). The Mark Turgeon era is in its infancy, but after a half season, I'm pretty confident that Kevin Anderson hired the right man for the job.
This season has been a bit weird for all of us. For the first time in my lifetime, Gary Williams is not on the sideline stomping, screaming, and sweating as the Maryland's Mens basketball coach. Whenever you go through a period of great transition, it's unclear how you're going to come out on the other side. But through just six ACC games, I am incredibly comfortable with Mark Turgeon as the head of this program.
Arguably the most revealing tell as to how good a coach is is whether or not his teams get better as the season goes on. And this year's Terps have made immense improvements from the time they got thrashed by 20 points by Alabama to where they are today. Maryland sits at 3-3 in the conference, which is good for 6th at the moment. They're coming off a game where they went toe-to-toe with a top 10 Duke team for 30 minutes. And their team defense seems to get better every week. (They held Virginia Tech to just 19 first half points today). There will be stretches where this team looks young and immature (because they are) and games where we, as fans, get frustrated. But through six ACC games, I'm pretty sure I know this: Mark Turgeon can coach basketball. It will be exciting to see how far he can take us in the seasons to come.