We wanted to get everyone's perspective on Mark Turgeon and the Maryland basketball team right now after their disappointing loss to NC State. With that in mind, we had a rolling roundtable this week.
Q: With the Terps suffering a loss to NC State, a game they led by as many as 11 in the second half with NC State missing their best player, how do you explain this season coming unhinged under Turgeon -- talent, coaching or both?
FlaTerp: I wouldn't personally call it "unhinged" just yet. Playing in Raleigh isn't an easy out for anyone and Maryland simply didn't match the Wolfpack's energy after halftime. In that specific case, you could call it a coaching thing because N.C. State took the court for the second half with a better gameplan and more passion - and just ran away with it. Overall though, I'd go with "both." Right now, the pieces just aren't fitting. Rotations, coaching, gameplans, executions ... none of it is working. The whole team, coach and all, just isn't as good as everyone hoped. Maryland fans would like to think that when you remove T.J. Warren from State's lineup, it becomes an easy win, but the fans and team both should well know by now that there are no easy wins with this group. They have to go out and earn it, every minute, every night. They don't have that mentality right now. If they did, they could be a good team.
Alex: Probably a bit of both. It was always going to be a problem that Maryland doesn't have a single well-rounded big man on its roster, but it's not necessarily on Turgeon that, say, Shaq Cleare hasn't developed at all. I do think Turgeon should be accountable for the team's complete lack of cohesion and inability to find offensive and defensive solutions against a lot of really mediocre opponents. These who-to-blame questions almost never have a simple answer, but we can safely say that this is a lost season, so I do agree that things have come unhinged.
Andrew: I know this isn't exactly the question, but I've been thinking a lot about the Turgeon Thing. I am very much on record as being pro-Turgeon and continue to be so. He hasn't cratered the program or anything close to it, but a lot of people are acting like he has. That said, even I cannot deny that the this team is not close to as good as I thought they would be and the person ultimately responsible for that is the coach. Looking at Turgeon's comments after the games, in between games and his demeanor during the game- he seems just as frustrated as we are. I still think Turgeon will succeed in time, because I do think he is a good basketball coach. Bad coaches don't rise through the ranks the way he did and become as respected amongst his peers like Larry Brown, Roy Williams and John Calipari. Bad coaches don't go into Greensboro and beat the number 2 team in the country; remember, only Turgeon and Pitino beat Duke while Ryan Kelly was healthy last season. The biggest question mark (get it?) is whether he will be successful quickly enough to stay the coach at Maryland. As for the season as a whole, I am kinda at a loss. If you'll excuse my language, shit just ain't working.
John: Talent was never really a question to me. I mean, in terms of being a contender in the ACC, I would say no. But I thought there was no reason this roster shouldn't make the NCAA tournament. The inconsistent play at the point hurts, obviously, and the simple mistakes continue to plague this team. I would say coaching and talent are hurting this team, though they should be better than this. Turgeon isn't putting his players in position to succeed, but I'm not sure the players are putting themselves in position to succeed either. If the turnovers and sloppy defense from the players goes under Turgeon, it is coaching, no doubt about it. Turgeon has the reputation of having a sound defensive team, and that hasn't really been the case all season, which makes me concerned. As Alex said, there really is no simple answer to this one.
Molly: I'd also have to say both, though with more of an emphasis on Turgeon. The players are definitely under-performing and deserve some of the blame, because they're the ones missing shots and defensive assignments, but the thing that I just can't shake is how is just how many seem to be struggling. Having a couple or a few players who aren't improving as expected or are very inconsistent is one thing -- and that happens -- but when you start talking several players, I don't know who else to turn to but the head coach.
Brendan: I honestly don't know. The substitution patterns are strange. The quick hook on players is strange. However, guys just aren't shooting well and aren't defending well. It isn't easy to assign blame here because it seems like some things are going on behind the scenes that we just don't know. I'm not trying to say Turgeon has lost the team, there just seems to be a disconnect between the talent (coaching and on-court) and the results.
Q: So equal blame seems to be the prevailing theory -- do you make a move with Turgeon after the season? Or do you give him next year given the stellar recruiting class?
Andrew: He gets another year, absolutely. Trimble can be a great point guard. Great point guards win in college basketball, just like great quarterbacks win in college football. Wiley's a very versatile scorer and underrated on defense, Reed is a rim protector and Nickens will at the very least provide depth. If it ends up being four years without an NCAA tournament, though? Then the discussion gets real.
FlaTerp: It's too soon to give up on Turgeon. He was dealt a hand at Maryland that no coach would win with. He's recruited quality players, but probably didn't recruit well enough to specific needs his roster has. I debate Andrew all the time about Trimble and the future of the PG position. Andrew, I hope you're right and the Terps have a real point guard next year, because if they don't, then it may in fact mark the end for Turgeon.
John: I firmly believe he deserves a fighting shot next season, and disregarding the financial situation within the athletic department, the recruiting class would be the reason. Trimble can play the point better than Peters and Allen next season (yes, I am confident in saying that) and they add legitimate shot-makers next season in Nickens and Wiley. If Reed adds nothing more than a rim-protector, consider it a win because Cleare and Mitchell really don't protect the rim quite like Len did. The Turgeon era has been frustrating, but he should get another season.
Dave: I mean, even if you wanted to, he has 5 years left on his deal. I personally don't think you give up just yet, but so far, this has been a step back so far this season. I honestly can't figure it out. This team has some of the most head scratching lapses on offense and defense, which falls on coaching, but you have to also ask why they can't execute on a consistent basis.
Alex: For two reasons, it's unpalatable to fire Turgeon. The elephant in the room that's going to keep him employed in College Park for at least another year is his contract. Perhaps you've heard that Maryland's finances aren't in tremendous shape at the moment? They won't pay their head coach not to be their head coach for several years on end. Not going to happen. More importantly to me, though, Turgeon, to his credit, has assembled an elite recruiting class for the 2014-15 campaign. He deserves the chance to mold these prized kids into a team, and I don't think anyone wants to take the chance of losing any of them along with their coach. So no matter how mediocre he's been in his first three years, Turgeon stays.
Molly: Yeah, you've got to give him another year, especially with the recruiting class coming in and the move to the Big Ten. Next season is going to be critical for him though, and the fans are going to have him on a shorter leash than ever.
Brendan: If Maryland continues to struggle and lets say they finish 6-12 in the ACC and finish somewhere around 10th-12th -- I think you might see a move. I don't want to see a move, because I think Turgeon deserves to stay, but I'm also aware with the move to the Big Ten a change could (albeit unlikely) come.
Q: So assuming Turgeon stays for next year, what improvements can be made to help this year?
FlaTerp: It's simply a matter of consistent, sustained play within each game. The Terps backfire off the starting line every freaking game, which is so frustrating. How can you not be revved up for the opening tip? At N.C. State they overcame it quickly (plus the Pack wasn't playing well early either) but unfortunately the same thing happened after halftime and Maryland never matched State's motor after that. You could see State just playing harder in the second half, period. You don't want to lose games on the grounds of being the team that isn't playing as hard, but the Terps have a tendency of just disappearing for long stretches. If they could eliminate that and play two hard, full halves on both end of the floor, it would make so much of this frustration go away. How do you make that happen? I have no idea, and Turgeon obviously hasn't figured out how to make it happen either.
Molly: Ah, this year. Sometimes I forget how much of this season we still have left to play. I think the mentality the team needs to have at this point is aim to have a run similar to the one last year's team had towards the very end, only earlier. This team's original goal may be all but dead, but there's still plenty of time for them to achieve some cohesion and consistency and for individual players to take steps forward. As disappointing as it is, getting into the NIT and going on a run again can only help. The team and the fans aren't going to be satisfied either way, but confidence going into next season is going to be important and that will be much easier if this team ends on a high note instead of limping to the finish.
Try harder? Do better? Score More? All of the above? Damn, too cliche, right? I think Turgeon has to shake up the lineup dramatically to light a fire under people. Maybe go Varun Ram, Dezmine Wells, Nick Faust, Jonathan Graham and Damonte Dodd against Miami to give the others the kick in the ass they need. I think figuring out their offensive identity would help too. There is clearly a lot of work to be done.
Alex: Practice better, play better, right? There’s solid talent that should be able to handle positions 1 through 4, and the Terps have it in them to be a good bit better than they’ve been. I don’t know what the problem’s been or if it’s fixable in the short-term, but Maryland should be able to pull together a better remainder of the season than they’ve exemplified to date.
Sound off in the comments where you stand on any (or all) of the three questions.