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More on Evan Smotrycz's Transfer to Maryland: Another Piece Added to the Puzzle, and What Happens Next

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Good news: he already has a proclivity for elbowing Plumlees in the face!
Good news: he already has a proclivity for elbowing Plumlees in the face!

A lot can be said about Mark Turgeon's time at Maryland, but one of the easiest conclusions to draw: the man is deadly with the official visit. His latest conquest is sophomore Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz, who was so impressed by his visit to College Park that he committed on the spot to the Terrapins and cancelled trips to Colorado and Providence. Quoth Smotrycz: "I just felt really comfortable with the coaches and the guys on the team. Maryland is such a big-time program that it would have been tough to beat. I didn't feel like I needed to go anywhere else."

Works for me.

Smotrycz is an intriguing fella; he started 24 games as a freshman in Ann Arbor, averaging about 18 minutes per. That figure dropped to 18 starts as a sophomore last season, but his minutes rose to about 21 per. He was also vastly more effective: his FG% rose from 40% to 48%, his 3PT% rose from 38% to 43%, and more than doubled his rebounds per game, to about 5 a game. While no one would call him an elite rebounder, he was actually one of the best in the Big Ten on the defensive glass, with a defensive rebound percentage in the top 5 of the conference - a mark, for what it's worth, which would've led Maryland's team last season.

He had a minor foul problem - by which I mean he was second in the conference in fouls per game and in foul-outs, despite averaging less than 25 mpg. (Ukrainians and foul problems, mane.) Outside of that, though Smo was a largely efficient cog in the greater Michigan machine, with the team's second-highest offensive rating, third-highest +/-, and best 3PT%. He was more or less what he was expected to be: a highly-skilled 6-9 stretch four. Playing upwards of 20 minutes per game for a very good team at the highest level of college basketball, and playing efficient and effective basketball while doing it, is pretty encouraging stuff.

As you might guess, then, his transfer came as somewhat of a surprise to the Michigan folk, particularly given that Smotrycz would've had a chance to fight for the starting 4 spot vacated by departing senior Zack Novak. That was certainly the thinking from ESPN's Tim McCormick, who expected Smoz to play a significant role:

He was going to be an integral part of a Top 10 team...And he probably would have started every game and have been the second- or third-leading scoring option. At times, I thought he was a great fit for John Beilein's system with his ability to be a stretch power forward and knock down shots. His rebounding had really improved this year. I'm a big fan of his game. As someone that follows Michigan basketball really closely, I was disappointed.

But with top-30 big man Mitch McGary and five-star wing Glenn Robinson III incoming, it seems a bit naïve to expect his minutes to increase that substantially. And worse than that, Smotrycz was nonplussed at being forced into playing minutes as the back-up center due to Michigan's significant lack of post depth. That issue wasn't addressed by Beilein; McGary is a nice addition, but Robinson III is a combo forward who would've pinched Smotrycz's ability to play as a true four. Perhaps Smotrycz preferred to play in a system that would better utilize his skillset.

If that's the case, Maryland is certainly a logical destination. They're stacked with space-eating big men like Shaquille Cleare, Charles Mitchell, and Damonte Dodd (as well as Alex Len, if he's still around), which means that Smo will rarely, if ever, be forced into banging down low like a center. Instead, he can function a role similar to, say, Ryan Kelly at Duke (only way less goofy-looking): a face-up four who can stretch defenses with his outside shooting. That'll give room to space-eaters on the blocks like Cleare and Mitchell, as well as open up lanes for penetrative guards like Pe'Shon Howard and Nick Faust. Smo should benefit from both developments, finding openings on the perimeter from kick-outs and pick-and-pops.

In the same way, he makes a lot of sense for Maryland, too. Guys who are 6-9 and can hit 40%+ from deep don't grow on trees. Smotrycz will instantly give the offense a rare dimension and will bolster their post depth, with potentially six players (Cleare, Mitchell, Dodd, Len, Ashton Pankey, and Smotrycz) capable of providing major minutes down low. For a team that's lacked post depth for much of the past decade (the Will Bowers/Travis Garrison/Dave Neal Era) this is a welcome change.

In short: Maryland's roster was screaming out for this kind of player. He'll diversify their offensive options greatly, and add another aspect teams will have defend against. And with his experience and success at Michigan, he should have little trouble adjusting to the ACC.

Which isn't to say he's a perfect player, or that your expectations should be through the roof. While not a defensive liability, nor is he a shutdown defender. He's not likely to win any awards for rebounding. His fouls are troublesome. And he was far from a star at Michigan.

But I don't think any of that matters; this is more or less a case of great fit. Building a basketball team (unless you hit the recruiting lottery) is a lot like doing a puzzle. Finding the right pieces and putting them together just right is somewhat of an art form. And Smotrycz, with his unique skillset that complements the pieces Maryland already has, fits into Maryland's puzzle just right.

Unfortunately, he won't be able to suit up next year per NCAA transfer rules. He'll sit out this upcoming season, taking up a scholarship but being able to practice in the meantime, before becoming eligible in '13-'14, the same year Turgeon and the Terrapins should just be hitting their stride in his third season. (See: Tony Bennett at Virginia; John Calipari at Kentucky; Thad Matta at Ohio State; Ben Howland at UCLA; Bob Huggins at WVU, among others).

The timing, really, isn't half-bad. I'm not in the business of playing the hypothetical line-up game, but with recruiting going the way it's gone recently, if Nick Faust, Terrell Stoglin, and/or Len stick around, that should be a very deep and very talented team. Seems like if you're expecting big things from Turgeon, that's probably the year they become realistic.

Once he does become eligible, he'll have two years left, essentially a redshirt junior. In the scholarship sense, Smotrycz is almost trading spots with Mychal Parker, which means the Terrapins still have an open slot for next season, almost certainly being reserved for Sam Cassell Jr. Sam the Younger took a visit to USF recently, and will decide "in the next few weeks." I'm increasingly thinking he's the last target on the board, with time running out to make a move for fringe guys like Darrick Wood and Thaddeus Hall (or for them to get qualified). It seems like Cassell, who provides backcourt versatility as an option at either guard spot, will either get that final spot, or it'll be saved for next year. But, of course, you never quite know what'll happen in this business.

What's perhaps more interesting is what'll happen in the 2013 class; with potentially six big men in only 13 scholarships, it seems unlikely that any 2013 post players will be high on Maryland's priority list; there's just not a ton of room for them. The focus instead would seem to be on landing a top-flight point guard, like Andrew Harrison or Rysheed Jordan, and perhaps a wing as well, given the chance that neither Terrell Stoglin nor Nick Faust will be sticking around until their senior season.

(Speaking of Jordan: he's starting to get looks from elite schools. Kansas watched him last night, and Kentucky apparently got in contact with him recently as well, which means he's in full-on blow-up mode. I'm not worried yet; Kansas likes their chances with Allerik Freeman, so nothing will happen between them and Jordan until something happens with Freeman. And as for Kentucky, it's all about the Harrisons: either they land them (and obviously don't land Jordan) or they don't (in which case I'd think Maryland did, which means no Jordan).)

Last note: I'm getting better at typing "Smotrycz" now, but it's still cumbersome. So: the consensus on a nickname is "Smo," correct? Toss-up between E-Trizzy and Smo' Treys if you're feeling playful.