The Maryland Terrapins came into the 2013-2014 season with promise of finally shaking their NCAA tournament drought. The team was filled with the type of talent and youth that could contend with most of the teams in the ACC but, however, would fall woefully short of expectations, failing to make either the NCAA tournament or NIT.
Coming into 2013, the Terrapins were expected to start Seth Allen at the point guard position, surrounding him with the likes of juniors Dez Wells and Evan Smotrycz and sophomores Jake Layman and Charles Mitchell along with a healthy and deep bench to spell the starters. When Allen went down with a broken foot before the season began, head coach Mark Turgeon was left to decide whether or not he wanted to start a freshman at the point, or move another player into that role.
Turgeon had a few options to take over the point duties. Junior Nick Faust had some experience from his freshman year, true freshman Roddy Peters was a point guard by trade, and Dez Wells was seemingly being the best ball-handler on the roster.
Turgeon decided to run junior guard Dez Wells at the point to start the season, a role that doesn't particularly suit the former Xavier transfer. Wells struggled with turnovers in the early games, specifically against Connecticut in the opener at the Barclays Center -- he turned the ball over six times in the game -- but Peters played a solid game in 18 minutes of action (though turning the ball over three times himself). The Terps battled back in that game to only lose by a point, a game where Seth Allen could have been the difference between and win and a loss.
Allen was expected to be out until early-to-mid-January, but made his return on December 29 against Tulsa. In his much-anticipated season debut, Allen scored 15 points on 4-10 shooting, giving promise for a Maryland season which had started 7-5 in his absence. When Allen returned to action, some expected a complete turnaround immediately, but his recovery to full health took a bit longer than that.
The effects of Allen's return were both positive and negative. If Allen had been able to start from the beginning of the season, the team might have built a chemistry around him and improved faster as the year progressed. With Allen in the lineup, there was little doubt that the Terrapins had a scoring punch that could go off at any moment, but being added in the middle of the season, Allen still needed to regain his conditioning and movement on a healing foot.
In Allen's next two games he would score six and 10 points, respectively, against North Carolina Central and Georgia Tech. He would follow that up with a one-point performance against Florida State in a losing effort.
The turning point for Allen came against that same Florida State team he scored one point against earlier in the season. Allen was nearly unstoppable throughout the rematch, scoring 32 points, a career-high, in 35 minutes. From that game on, Allen would score double-digit points in six of the team's last eight games, three of those games being 20-point efforts. Allen had found his comfort on the court, and the results proved it.
What Seth Allen provides is far beyond his scoring. He's a solid ball-handler who can let junior Wells play his game rather than handle the point. As an additional bonus, Peters didn't have the pressure of handling the point guard duties on an extended basis in games.
Even as a sophomore, Allen is one of the respected players on the roster, and that type of respect is needed at the position Allen plays. The play-making ability Allen brings, with his coast-to-coast speed, outside shooting and ability to pass could have been what the Terrapins needed to pull out some of those close losses early in the season.
In a shortened season, Allen averaged 13.4 points per game. That impact could have changed multiple games the Terrapins lost early in the season, such as Connecticut, Oregon State, George Washington, and Boston University. That could be the difference between 17 wins and 21 wins, giving the Terrapins hope for an NCAA Tournament bid.
While there is no quantifiable way to tell how Seth Allen would have changed the Terrapins' fortunes early in the season, the ability he provides and the way he plays his position could have been the difference for the team. With players playing out of position to start the year and a lack of a second option alongside of Dez Wells, it could be said that Allen is a key cog to the Terrapins not only this season, but heading forward. With the additions of Romelo Trimble, Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens to pair with Allen and Wells, the back-court for the future is bright.
Seth Allen has his deficiencies, but there is no questioning that he is the second-best option the Terrapins posses. When that is taken away from a team as it was at the start of the 2013-2014 season, it hurts in more ways than one. Things definitely got better when Allen returned, but the writing may have already been on the wall.