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TT Staff Roundtable: Basketball season is upon us

Football is still (somewhat) relevant too, sort of.


Q: With football on bye last weekend, how did you fill the Maryland shaped void in your weekend?

Pete: Getting healthy and recruiting.

Dave: Dealt with a sewer backup in my basement. True story. I had Pete stop by so he could officially break the bad news to me.

Todd: You're kidding, right? Women's basketball exhibition against Catholic Tuesday night; volleyball versus Pitt Wednesday; women's soccer against Pitt Thursday; watch the first two sets of volleyball at Notre Dame on a webcast Friday afternoon then attended the men's soccer against NC State that night. Then I drove to Durham and back on Saturday to watch field hockey play Duke in their last ACC regular season game ever. Oh, and I wrote about all those, too.

Molly: Went to the exhibition game on Sunday and overall had a pretty relaxing weekend.

Alex: I had a friend down from Pittsburgh and watched exhibition basketball. I also stopped for lunch at this incredible pasta place in Chinatown. It was the least sports-oriented weekend in a while for me.

Brendan: I sat on the couch and watched soccer and football until I went to my sister's going away party, and then watched more football at the bar while waiting on one bartender to serve an entire bar.

Q: After seeing Wake Forest get shut out by Syracuse and BC upset Virginia Tech, are you still feeling confident about getting bowl eligible?

Pete: Yeah. Maryland is fortunate to have four winnable games left on their schedule (even with how poorly the Terps have played at points this season). Two is probably the likeliest scenario, with one being a slight disappointment. Zero would incite a riot in the comments that I'm not sure I'm prepared for.

Dave: Definitely. Maryland is actually getting *gasp* healthier in November and with Brown back under center, I think they should get the offense moving again. Additionally, if the defense can keep playing well, I think they should most definitely be able to get bowl eligible. But always beware of the AMEHG.

Todd: I'm still fairly confident. I have to believe the Terps can win at least one of the four remaining games on their schedule. Except for Florida State, the ACC has been so up and down this season that a team can play really well one week and be just awful the next. My hope is that Syracuse had their up and they will come into College Park and have their down.

Molly: With four games to go I still think it will happen. I think it helps that the toughest part of the schedule is over and with the bye week coming when it did, I think the team is ready and focused for this last stretch.

Alex: Lukewarm. Maryland's got a good chance to win this weekend, but if they don't, I could see things going into a tailspin. But there is better than a 50 percent chance that this team will win six games, yes.

Brendan: I am, but I shouldn't be. If there's anything I've learned in the last 24 hours, there are no gimmes in football (Damn you, Minnesota).

Q: What is your projection for the game against Syracuse?

Pete: A lot of people aggressively staring at the sun with the hopes they lose sight and can no longer watch this horrid game.

Dave: Maryland wins, 23-17.

Todd: I was thinking sunny and in the mid to low 50s. Seriously, I think the Terps squeak by and gain that bowl eligibility.

Molly: It'll be a competitive game and I'm kind of feeling a late Maryland comeback to win 21-17.

Alex: Maryland in a nail-biter, but they won't cover the spread. 27-24.

Brendan: I honestly don't know if I see a scenario where Maryland loses. Even with all the losses, Maryland should still be better. 21-20 Maryland wins.

Q: As basketball season is set to begin, what needs to happen this year for you to consider the season a success for the Terps?

Pete: A success? Sweet 16. But I'll take any tourney berth at this point.

Dave: As I said in our preview, NCAA tourney or bust, but the momentum has to keep building. They might win less games than last year, but make the tournament.

Todd: Nothing short of a Final Four. But you're asking about the men's team, aren't you? In that case, finishing in the top half to top third of the ACC and winning one game in the NCAAT will be a success. Better than that and I'm adding adjectives like 'rousing'.

Molly: I'd say the expectation bar is making the NCAA tournament and a success would be playing into the second weekend.

Alex: The Terps will need the expected step forward from Jake Layman, consistent two-way play from Dez Wells and Nick Faust and -- this is key -- someone else to emerge as a legitimate rim protector. Shaq Cleare can play great interior defense, but he won't be on the court for 40 minutes, and I don't think Charles Mitchell or Evan Smotrycz are going to be used as defensive anchors. It's going to help this team a lot if one of Damonte Dodd and Jon Graham develops into a strong under-the-basket defender and rebounder.

Brendan: Anything less than an NCAA tournament will be a disappointment. One win in the tournament would be a success.

Q: Everyone nationally knows about Dez Wells, and Jake Layman has gotten a lot of pre-season hype, who is the player that isn't getting enough attention?

Pete: Evan Smotrycz. He may not have one impressive statistic every game, but he'll be the guy who fills out the score sheet and does the kind of stuff behind the scenes to open up plays for Wells and Layman.

Dave: I think Evan Smotrycz. He just does...everything on the court. I've been really impressed with his ability to go inside when he sees a mismatch, he can get to the line (and make his FTs) and he can hit the threes. With him and Layman on the floor, it is going to be nightmare city, baby!

Todd: Varun Ram. I think I'm hoping it's Damonte Dodd. I think if he can come in and be a defensive presence, rebound, and pick up some of those James Padgett type junk baskets, it'll help the Terps out a lot.

Molly: I would have said Seth Allen before he got sidelined, because I think he was poised to make some noise (and still will I believe, but obviously not anytime soon). I'm going to go with Charles Mitchell, because with all the focus on the guards and the shots they'll be putting up I think he has a real chance to do some serious cleaning up under the basket. But he's going to have to do a much better job finishing than he did against Catholic.

Alex: I think Faust has become a little underrated. He's not as good as Wells and doesn't have Layman's upside, but he's a very good college basketball player and has been for two years. The Terps won't do well if he doesn't.

Brendan: I'm going to second Pete & Dave and say Evan Smotrycz. I think his versatility can create matchup problems. He shot 43.5% from three in his last season at Michigan, if he can shoot above 40%, he and Layman can spread the floor and get to the corners and allow Dez Wells to do what Dez does best. The idea of Smotrycz and Layman on the floor with Dez and Nick Faust is really intriguing to me.

Q: With Jonathan Graham being declared eligible, what do you see his role this season, if any?

Pete: His role will probably similar to John Auslander's. A guy who practices well, serving a great purpose right there, who can also spell Maryland's rotation big men when a) it's a blowout b) the rotation players are tired or c) the rotation players need to be motivated.

Dave: I think he's a guy who can step in and give you a few minutes, when needed, especially during the Paradise Jam when you're potentially playing four games in four days. I think he'll be towards the bottom of Maryland's rotation, but he gives Mark Turgeon another front court player that can contribute when needed and who has experience. And +1,000 to Todd for his response.

Todd: I refer the readers to Dave's Profile in Terpage.

Molly: I'm not sure we'll see much of him in action outside of blowouts, but I think he'll be valuable for what he'll bring in practice.

Alex: To play solid interior D, I'd think. He'll never be more than the fifth scoring option on the floor, but he's got size and, I hear, athleticism.

Brendan: Anything is a plus and bodies are at a premium right now. A couple garbage plays, doing the dirty work here and there would be great.

Q: If I were to set the Maryland basketball season win total at 22.5, would you go over/under?

Pete: Over. In the regular season alone, I'm thinking 25 is around the number, if not more.

Dave: I think over. I've said all along that I think Maryland should end up around the same number of wins as last year, but a few more in the regular season and less in the post season, because they'll be in the NCAAs and not NIT.

Todd: I have to go with the over on that, too. Sure, the league is tougher adding Pitt, 'Cuse, and ND but the Terps won 25 last year and despite losing Len to the NBA, I have to believe Maryland is better this year - more depth, more mature and more experienced. So, over.

Molly: Over. As Todd said, the league is tougher, but if there's a silver lining to no Duke or UNC home games its that we only have to face them once each. And even though we obviously beat Duke at home last year I feel like all the energy and emotion that went into it resulted in the letdown we saw afterwards. In addition, we also only play Syracuse and Notre Dame once and both are at home.

Alex: Tough one, but I'll take the over, with 23 wins. There are enough non-difficult non-conference games to help propel them there.

Brendan: I would take the over and feel mildly comfortable with it. I think I see 21 regular season, but could see as many as 24, so I'll take the over.

Q: Finally, your basketball season prediction.

Pete: I think this team shows flashes of greatness that gets us all excited for what should be a tournament run in 2014-15, but ultimately finishes in the upper section of the ACC's middle (think around fifth) thanks to the ridiculous depth of the conference (it's the PAC-12 football of basketball, and Maryland is Oregon State).

Dave: You continue to see progress in the Turgeon era, with players and the program improving towards the level of success we saw in the late 90s and early 2000s. Here's a much more long winded answer.

Todd: You know how I adore making predictions so I'd like to say ask me around March 2. I think they'll have a successful season so see my answer above.

Molly: I'd like to think we have the potential to finish in the top four of the conference but I think a fifth or sixth place finish is more likely. There's still some questions that need to be answered about this team before we get a better idea of what their ceiling could be, but with UConn, Ohio State, the Paradise Jam and Boston College all on the first half of the schedule we shouldn't have a repeat of last season where we don't get a true test after the first game until after New Year's.

Alex: The Terps will finish in the middle of the ACC, between fifth and seventh, and earn an 8 or 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament. From there, anything's possible, right?

Brendan: I see a sixth-place finish for the Terps and a 7-seed in the NCAA tournament. Depending on how the bracket shakes out, this team could make a run if Roddy Peters and Seth Allen are running the point effectively.