Eternal thanks to FlaTerp, Pete Volk, Todd Carton and Andrew Kramer for stopping through to answer some questions in this week's staff roundtable. I decided we would shake things up this week and talk a little bit about football and men's basketball. We'll get to it:
Let's talk about handsh ... Just kidding, guys.
Q. I've asked questions along this line before, but now that Maryland is 6-3 and 3-2 in the Big Ten, is a 1-2 finish for a 7-5 year acceptable, or do the Terps need to go 8-4 for you to call this year a success?
FlaTerp: I want eight wins, so if they go 1-2 but win a bowl game, I guess that would mean the season ended on a good note and they won more than last year. That would be just OK, not sure about acceptable though. 2-1 would help me forget the very low low points this season and just feel a lot better about the state of the program. 2-1 plus a bowl win over a real team? Then I'll go buy a Randy Edsall Fathead, join Andrew Emmer's fanboy club, "Edsall's Army," and sign petitions to erect a statue on the mall.
Pete: I think 2-1 is an unmitigated success, 1-2 is disappointing at this point but acceptable in the broader scope of things, especially if Maryland wins their bowl game.
Todd: Given the way some of the other conference teams have performed this season, I'd say 2-1 is a success, though I'd be hesitant to call it unmitigated. Before the season started, yes, I'd have called it unmitigated. But looking at where Penn State and Michigan are this season, neither of those wins (assuming the Terps win at Michigan) is overly impressive and they are more than counterbalanced by the two non-competitive games against Ohio State and Wisconsin. If they finish 1-2, they'd have to win the bowl game and reach the eight-win floor for me to consider the season successful.
Andrew K.: 8-4. If the 2-1 scenario plays out, that means the Terps lost to a very good WVU team, as well as three B1G heavyweights. All of these teams are ranked within the top 25. Elsewhere the Terps took care of business, sometimes easily. That would demonstrate real progress, in my opinion.
Q. What was the thing you liked most about the win at Penn State?
FlaTerp: Craddock, the defensive front and a newcomer to the who-was-good list, the secondary! Diggs did not have a good game, but was really gritty down the stretch, so that was fun, too. Finally, those Maryland Pride helmets are awesome. We should wear them more.
Pete: Will Likely made a play again when Maryland needed him to -- two, actually. His interception and punt return were instrumental in the victory, and I think he and Yannick Ngakoue both have the potential to finish their careers as two of the greatest Maryland players ever. Same with Andre Monroe, but he's basically already there.
Todd: I'd actually thought about this before you asked the question, and I'm still not sure I have any answer, let alone a good one. I'm one of the old guys who has real memories of lots of games in the losing streak that they ended. But this was a game that Maryland should have won by more than one point. I share in the emotion of the win and bouncing back from the Wisconsin game, but I didn't see anything in the way the Terps played that made me think we could be a contender.
Andrew K.: The fact that the Terps continually shot themselves in the foot, on the road, yet found a way to pull out the win. While I question C.J.'s arm (who doesn't?), I have no doubt about his drive and leadership.
Q. What was the thing you liked the least?
FlaTerp: Quarterback play.
Pete: Absolutely has to be quarterback play. The offensive line didn't do a very good job, but C.J. Brown couldn't make any throws (or plays with his feet).
Todd: For me, it's 1-14. That's Maryland's third down conversion rate. I thought 3-15 against Wisconsin was pathetic and the offense managed to regress from that number. Maryland is now 112th in third down conversion rate and the last two games would put them 124th of the of 125 D-1 teams. Know where Michigan State's defense is in that category? Second. Michigan is 40th. Maybe they'll convert some third downs against 103rd-ranked Rutgers.
Andrew K.: Two things. First, the decision to decline the holding penalty near the end of the first half almost ended up costing Maryland the game. It was totally irrational. Second, C.J.'s inability to connect on his passes. While it's true that there were some drops, there were plenty of miserable throws.
Q. In basketball, the Terps' first exhibition was, well, an exhibition of three-point shooting. What do you think of a small-ball kind of look this season, at least until Evan Smotrycz is back and, conceivably, even afterward?
FlaTerp: Whatever gets Maryland to the Big Dance. If Wiley and/or Nickens are good enough right away to be meaningful rotation players on a good team, I'm all for it. If Smo gives the Terps the best shot, play Smo. I don't care how it happens, just be a sporty team and get to the tourney.
Pete: I'm a big fan of this. Maryland does not have much in terms of frontcourt depth, and I've been hoping for them to move to a smaller set for some time now. Having Trimble, Pack and Wells out there at the same time is pretty exciting, especially with shooters like Wiley and Nickens available off the bench.
Todd: I was initially inclined to pass on this but hey, I'll give it a shot. I like it because I think the three-point shot is the great equalizer in college basketball but I probably don't like it as much as Pete. Here's why: I don't follow the men's game closely enough to know what kind of shooter Pack is, but the only experienced player Pete mentioned is Dez Wells. Unless he's improved his outside shooting by some order of magnitude, I'm not convinced I want him taking a lot of shots. The other three players are freshmen. I have no idea how they will fare against the level of competition they'll face when they get into the grind of the B1G season. Nor do we know what will happen when they hit the freshman wall 25 or so games into the season.
And then there are some thoughts about coaching. If Maryland develops a quarter-court offense that runs capable shooters off two, three or four screens to get them open, great. Otherwise, the good coaches in the Big Ten will develop defensive game plans that will challenge and negate the outside threat, unless the Terps build some kind of inside presence to open those shots up.
Andrew K.: It's not a matter of like/dislike. At this point, it's our only sensible option. What it does do is provide Pack and Wiley with more playing time. Once Smo returns, I'm not certain we'll initially see the three-guard set. But if Smo/Jake don't progress from last year and/or Dodd finds himself continually in foul trouble, then we might return to that smaller lineup.