If there was any doubt that Maryland's mid-week loss to Florida State was a wake-up call and not just a mere anomaly, the Terrapins' follow-up 54-47 loss at Miami should've erased those doubts.
After all, the performance they put forth against the Hurricanes on Sunday night was shocking, given expectations and opinions of this team just a mere week ago. There was no rhythm. There was little passion. There was less composure. Their execution was poor. Their confidence looked shot.
This game rivaled any from last season in how disjointed, discouraging, and disappointing it truly was. Heck, it might've even exceeded it. This year's team is better than last year's, something that's blatantly obvious based on the larger picture, but you'd have no way of knowing it from this game. And that's a scary sign.
Miami is not a bad team, it should be said. They're undefeated in the conference, haven easily defeated Georgia Tech and toppled UNC, both on the road. They're experienced and decently talented, with a great coach at the helm. Maryland should never be okay with losing to Miami, but it's happened plenty in the past, even in the good years. And a rebuilding Maryland dropping a game to a good 'Canes team on the road? Hardly the end of the world.
But it's not the result that's worrying: it's the performance. Maryland looked outmatched and in over their heads. It seemed like they couldn't beat Miami for talent, and they certainly couldn't beat them for execution. Perhaps most worryingly, Mark Turgeon seemed devoid of answers. If it were one game, perhaps this wouldn't be worrying. But coming on the back of a second half against FSU that looked the exact same? The worries seem legitimate.
And yes, things were as bad as they sound. Maryland shot 6-28 in the first half, turned the ball over eight times, and managed only 14 points before the break. They should've been out of the game at halftime by any measure, but Miami let them hang around. Things were a little better in the second half, but not by much. The Terrapins made run after run at the lead, getting within two or three only to see a more experienced, more well-oiled Miami team would hit a big shot to kill momentum. Maryland never had the backbreaker; Miami always did.
That's perhaps Maryland's biggest problem this year, aside from the lack of composure and experience. There's no go-to scorer, and they don't execute well enough offensively to generate a good look when they need one. And to make matters worse, even when they are able to generate a solid look, it seems as if the Florida State loss has shot their confidence. This team is not a sweet-shooting team, for sure, but they're a heck of a lot better than the 31% they managed today, especially given that they got plenty of solid looks from deep that almost exclusively went wasted.
That confidence will, you think, return, at some point, and that will make them more dangerous. But this team isn't what we thought they were, it seems, despite the very real talent on the roster. There are a lot of holes - point guard, outside shooting, experience - and it's uncertain if their strengths will make up for them when it comes to playing top-tier competition, or if Turgeon is enough of a tactician to make up for them.
They could still end up a good team, as they add experience and get their wits back about them. That will be a hugely interesting test, in fact, for Turgeon. But with three halves in a row of low-quality, worrying basketball in the rearview mirror, with new concerns and issues popping up everywhere, it's not easy to be optimistic for the short-term. More soon.