After the last couple weeks it is pretty safe to say we don't have a lot positive going on around College Park. One player who has continued to show up in a holding pattern, and even more recently in the stock down column was Jake Layman.
Layman was on most preseason watch lists as a breakout candidate to begin the season and the hype machine got started early. Layman was touted for the way he finished the season with strong performances off the bench against North Carolina, Duke (in ACC Tourney) and Alabama (in NIT).
Games against lesser competition saw Layman put up gaudy numbers in the non-conference schedule to begin the year, 27 points against Morgan State and 22 points against Florida Atlantic. However, we also saw signs of Layman struggling against better competition. Layman was 11-for-38 combined against UConn, Providence, Ohio State and George Washington.
The Ohio State game was especially troubling, and maybe a sign of things to come. Layman was 1-for-9 from the floor and struggled in other areas of his game. He did rack up seven rebounds and two blocks, so his poor shooting didn't effect his overall game -- one thing we can give him credit for during his shooting struggles in ACC play.
Taking out the early ACC game against Boston College, Maryland has played five conference opponents and has gone 2-3 in that time.
Layman's averages in those five games: 6.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.0 block, 0.8 assists. Layman is shooting 31.4% from the floor, 22.2% from 3 and 41.1% from the free throw line over that period.
He's struggling, that much is clear, in conference play since the turn of the calendar year. He's forcing shots and even when he's open he's not knocking down three's.
Layman isn't being used as much as other players on the roster, he has just 17% of possessions used -- which under kenpom.com usage percentages makes him a "role player" -- which is odd, because he sees the highest minutes on the team.
The last five games have five of the worst nine games of Laymans' season in terms of offensive rating. His average offensive rating for the season is 119.1 (good for 204th in the country), but his last five games are at 86.8.
So how does Layman get back on track?
Attack the rim more:
Saying 'attack the rim' to Layman won't help his shooting stroke, which is the big issue. Layman needs his confidence back. Or he needs to develop more of a killer instinct, one of the two. When Layman is attacking the basket he's struggling at the rim, and if he gets fouled, he's not converting at the line.
Shoot through it:
Telling Layman to keep shooting may get him through it, but do we have any proof of late that it will? He's clearly got the green light from coach Mark Turgeon to shoot the basket, and deservedly so, but right now he isn't on and he's hurting the team.
Try harder on defense:
Another cliche people throw about is trying harder on defense. Layman gets rebounds, alters shots and occasionally blocks shots, but we all know that he's an average defender. Again, I'm not sure this is the right course of action.
This is probably the way I would go -- mind you, not for an entire game, but let him come off the bench for a couple games and see if that gets him back on track. I think it could take some pressure off him and letting him run with the second unit and be 'the guy' would help. It did last year, at least.
Ultimately, Layman is a key cog to this team and vital to whatever success the team has down the stretch. He needs to get back on track, and soon.
This isn't to say Layman is the reason the Terps are struggling. Evan Smotrycz and Dez Wells are both in a shooting rut as well. Smotrycz is shooting career lows from the field and 3-point line. Wells is well below his career average from the field.
What do you think the biggest problem for Layman has been and how would you fix it?