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Basketball season tips off and the Terps head to Michigan State

Testudo Times staff writers and contributors gather to discuss early season expectations, the impact of Dion Wiley's season-ending injury and Maryland's nationally televised showdown in East Lansing with the top-15 Spartans.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Testudo Times Roundtable

Week of 11/9

Q: What did you think of Maryland's performance against Wisconsin last week?

Todd: I thought it blended significant improvement with the same old Maryland football we've seen throughout 2015. The same old Maryland came in the form of 11 penalties, two interceptions, missed blocks and, ultimately a loss. The improvement came from actually creating a turnover but even more, the effort and passion of the team. The Terps are much improved in this aspect and the credit for that has to go, in some significant measure, to Mike Locksley. In truth, I think this was all we, as fans, could reasonably ask for from him.You can hope that improved effort leads to sharper focus, fewer mistakes and better outcomes but that's simply not likely to happen in the middle of a season in which the opposite has been the norm.

Andrew K.: Platter, as in Maryland handed Wisconsin the game on a silver platter. Maryland outplayed Wisconsin in the first half and should have been in a position to dig a B1G hole for Wisconsin. But Jamerson's kick-off return for a TD (that blunted the early momentum that Maryland had established), the 58-yard run by a defensive lineman on a fake punt, the dropped potential TD catch by Etta-Tawo, and finally, the penalty on the onside kick late in the game buried the Terps. Maryland could have been in front by 24-0 at halftime. Instead the score was tied, and Wisconsin dodged a huge bullet.

Jake S: I feel like the game was misleading. I'm sure the bad weather had something to do with it, but the majority of the students left at halftime. The game was still close! It never was truly out of hand if you go by my "two possession rule". (If you are within two scores of tying or taking the lead, the game is NOT over). Nonetheless, I feel that it was a fun game to watch and I feel the team played how they have all season. The team played hard despite letting up some crucial big plays. At this point, a game like that is what I expect from this team, so I thought the performance was mediocre. That's how it has been all season.

Thomas: It was the Terps' second-most respectable loss of the season, behind only the Penn State loss. Obviously, the Badgers weren't at full strength, but Maryland played reasonably well. It's just the big plays that hurt them. Again.

Brian B: The Terps continue to show significant improvement since the firing of Edsall. I'm not sure how much to read into that, but the games have at least been watchable the past month. Penalties and turnovers continue to be a constant source of frustration, but again, at least the Terps are showing that they at least have the ability to be competitive.

Sammi: The Terps are trying so hard yet I always end up disappointed.  It's great to see an improvement but little mistakes are setting the Terps back, such as Etta-Tawo's dropped TD pass and being offsides for the onside kick.  It's the little things that the Terps must focus on to get big results. It's frustrating but at least they're improving.

Noah: Turnovers and penalties hurt Maryland again but they certainly did a nice job defensively for stretches of the game. Wisconsin wasn't at full strength but Maryland outgained them on offense. The Terps didn't put themselves in position to win the game until it was too late, and their margin for error was so small that a tiny mistake effectively ended their chances of coming back and winning.

Q: How safe is Perry Hills' hold on the starting quarterback job?

Todd: I think it's safe. Although I saw someone write about "throwing caution to the wind," I don't think it's in the nature of anyone on this coaching staff. Rowe's appearance against Wisconsin was more or less the pattern we've seen through much of his time at Maryland which is to bring in the strong armed gunslinger late in the game when facing a substantial deficit. I don't think I saw anything from his performance Saturday that shouted, "Start me!"

Andrew K.: Wisconsin was clearly determined to limit what Hills could do with his legs. That meant Hills would have to produce via his passing ability. That would scream for slants, bubble screens, etc... but for some reason Locksley continued time and again to have Hills throw deep. Maybe the coaches saw something on film that made them believe that Wisconsin could be exploited on deep throws. They were right in the first half, but Wisconsin made adjustments and Locksley should have responded to that by having Hills go to a west coast offense in the second half. What I'm getting at is that Hills is still Maryland's best choice at QB as long as he's not expected to have a Flacco-like arm.

Jake S: At this point in the season I don't see another change coming. Hills isn't good, but nobody else has proven to be even the slightest bit better. With only three games left, I believe it will be Hills throughout, unless an injury or something even more ridiculous than his interception count forces someone else into the job.

Thomas: It's safe, but not for any really good reason.

Brian B: At this point there would be no benefit to changing the quarterback. Hills has the best set of wheels, so I imagine Locks is going to stick with him for the time being. If the Terps head into the final game with a record of 2-9 than I could see Daxx getting the opportunity to start, just for the hell of it.

Sammi: Not to go all "hope is lost" on the Terps but uh... yeah, all hope is lost.  Therefore, I don't see why Hills would lose the job when there are three games left and no chance at a bowl game.

Noah: I think it has to be situational. You have to give your team the best chance to win and if Hills isn't getting the job done, you have to go to one of the other guys. I expect him to start the rest of the games but it wouldn't surprise me to see other quarterbacks come in for two or three series in an effort to spark the offense.

Q: Nicolas Pritchard averaged less than 32 yards on his seven punts against Wisconsin and Adam Greene missed a 46-yard field goal. Outside of Will Likely, who had one punt return for negative yardage last week, why does the special teams unit seem to be struggling so much after being ranked as one of the nation's best just a year ago?

Todd: Just a year ago? How about just seven or eight games ago? Part of the answer is in your question. Maryland is using a walk-on freshman punter and finished the Wisconsin game with the second-string placekicker. They certainly underused Craddock when he was healthy and, as spectacular a start to the season that Likely had against relatively inferior competition, it was unrealistic to imagine he'd maintain anything close to that output.

Andrew K.: I don't think the special teams unit is doing all that poorly. In fact, a case could be made that Wisconsin was so worried about Likely that they continually gave Maryland good field position by avoiding him. Wisconsin isn't alone in that regard. In terms of the kicking game, Pritchard is a freshman who is averaging 39 yards per punt. Hopefully he'll improve on that next season. Greene shouldn't be faulted for missing a 46-yard field goal. He did nail a 44-yarder on his first attempt.

Jake S: Like Todd said, look at who's out there. They aren't ready. I also agree with Andrew about Likely. Wisconsin didn't want to give it to him, and when they did, they made sure they could be all over him.

Thomas: If your kicker is a backup and your punter is a walk-on freshman, you're gonna have a bad time.

Brian B: I'm no mathematician, but I believe the law of averages state that Likely was bound to decline slightly after his explosive start to the season (I believe Todd essentially said the same thing). Losing Craddock is no help either.

Sammi: Special teams is having a problem because they're using a freshman for a punter and keeping Craddock on the bench for their backup.  So... that's like taking me, giving me a helmet and saying "score a touchdown."  It would never work and makes your team look silly.

Noah: Brad Craddock isn't having the season that he did a year ago, and opponents are realizing that Will Likely is probably the single greatest threat on Maryland's football team. If they kick it away from him, he can't hurt them as badly. So far, that strategy seems to have paid off for Maryland's Big Ten opponents.

Q: Now to basketball. On a scale of 1-10, how much does Dion Wiley's season-ending injury affect the Terps?

Todd: I'll have to go with six. Reports said he'd earned the starting position as the off-guard and I think losing a starter, regardless of the depth behind him and disregarding the relatively limited productivity expectations from the fan base, losing a starter is almost never good. His loss clearly shortens and changes the backcourt rotations and, if it forces Melo Trimble into needing to play more minutes, that also could prove a significant negative by the time the end of the season rolls around and the Terps are looking to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

Andrew K.: Assuming that there are no other significant injuries, I'd say 5. It hurts depth in the backcourt. Turgeon claims that Wiley would have been the starting shooting guard, but I believe that by the time Big Ten play rolled around, Nickens and Sulaimon would be getting the majority of SG minutes. Now it's possible that Wiley was poised for a breakout year, but we'll have to wait a year to find that out.

Jake S: 4. This team is deep-ish and should be able to rebound from it without a serious hiccup. Although Wiley was going to be the starter, if Sulaimon played the way he is capable of, it was going to be his spot very quickly. It hurts the rest of the guards, but if this team is as good as everyone believes it is, they shouldn't have a major problem replacing him.

Thomas: For now, 4. The Terps will still roll out a backcourt rotation of Trimble, Sulaimon, Nickens and Brantley. Assuming they're all healthy and productive, Wiley won't be missed too much on the court. However, because of the minutes increase, they'll all be a little more worn-down come tournament time. Wiley wasn't supposed to be a star, but losing even a complimentary starter is never a good thing.

Brian B: 3 or 4. It is hard for me to speculate how much Wiley improved during this offseason, but last year he was a role player on a less talented team, and I wouldn't have expected him to be much more than that this year. I am sure he would have made solid contributions to the team's success throughout the season, but the Terps have the roster and talent to fill the void his unfortunate injury caused.

Sammi: While the Terps are a man down, it's not like it took away the offense.  I'll say four.  While Wiley's great, we still have Stone, Trimble, Layman, Sulaimon, Cekovsky... sorry, am I reading the whole roster?  They'll be fine.

Noah: I'm going to go with a five. Wiley had taken a nice step forward this offseason and was poised to be a steady (but not spectacular) contributor to a team that is expected by many experts and pundits to make the Final Four. Losing Wiley for the season hurts because I think Sulaimon would thrive in more of a reserve role, but the Terps have the kind of depth that mitigates the loss of a good starter like Wiley.

Q: Men and women's basketball are both ranked in the top-10 and start their regular seasons this week. What are you looking to see from each team in their first few games?

Todd: The men's squad has, of course, the much anticipated game against Georgetown in the season's second contest. That should be a win but might be a bit of an early challenge and the only one until the December game at North Carolina. I expect the Terps will head into that one 6-0 with five comfortable wins (although if they play Rhode Island in Cancun, that has some potential to be entertaining). I don't expect the women's team to be challenged until that December 28th game against Connecticut. I'll look for Coach Frese to do some mixing and matching with lineups and rotations and try to get the freshmen some quality minutes.

Andrew K.: I can only speak to the men's team. I'd like to see balanced scoring, better three-point shooting than in previous years, domination on the boards and less turnovers than last year. The Terps should show a complete team effort, with many go-to options. I'll be very interested to see how Layman performs now that he's playing small forward.

Jake S: Like Andrew, I can only address the men's team. I think it's great that the team is challenged so early in the season with their game against Georgetown. Not only is Georgetown a very good team, but it will create an atmosphere and energy that the team will have to learn to play in if they want to truly make a run at a national championship. I'm looking for them to prove why they are ranked so highly in every national poll and why people think they have a legitimate chance to make the Final Four in Houston.

Thomas: The women will smash, crash and bash their first three opponents: UMass-Lowell, High Point and Detroit Mercy, all at home. The men will face at least one early challenge in the form of Georgetown. D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera could be a big matchup problem with Dion Wiley injured. In the patsies, I expect both teams to use deep rotations and experiment with several different lineups. Hopefully, they'll both be ready for December bouts against no. 1 preseason teams.

Brian B: The men will do well, the women will do better. The talent gaps in women's basketball always seem to be wider, so I doubt the Terps will struggle with most of their early opponents. On the men's side of things, I am sure Maryland will face a great challenge from the Hoyas. If the Terps do lose to Georgetown, it is no time to press the panic button.

Sammi: First off, I think that the women and men are both going to be dominant teams throughout the season.  There's an arsenal of players on both teams that are not easy to stop. Georgetown is going to test the men's team early. As for the women's team, they're amazing to watch and full of power.  They'll both be fine.

Noah: When it comes to the men's team, I'm looking to see whether Diamond Stone can be close to the same force inside that Jahlil Okafor was for Duke. Can he give Maryland that physical post presence that they'll need to make a deep run in March? The women's team is looking to make their third straight trip to the Final Four so they are no strangers to lofty expectations. I want to see who emerges from Frese's stable of point guards as the best floor general. Brene Moseley is the best athlete,  Kristen Confroy is probably the best shooter and Chloe Pavlech is the most balanced. Who will seize the starting job?

Q: Maryland volleyball beat No. 12 Ohio State in straight sets last week for their first win over a ranked opponent in over five years, and Angel Gaskin was named Co-Big Ten Freshman of the Week, the first-ever Maryland volleyball player to be given a Big Ten Player of the Week award. Is this something or nothing?

Todd: Two questions about "Other Maryland Athletics" in the round table. Way to go Noah! For this first question, it depends, in part, on the meaning of something or nothing. The Terps have six games left this season (five when this publishes). Three are against top 10 RPI teams (Nebraska, @Minnesota and @Penn State) The other three are Purdue (#34), Iowa (#57) and @Northwestern (#38). They could reasonably lose all six and that might leave the perception that the Ohio State win was a blip. I think even that would be wrong. First, the Terps bounced back with two quality efforts after playing probably their worst game of the year at Nebraska. I think that shows the character of the team. I think it also shows the quality of the coaching staff and that the team is buying into what the staff is selling. I also think it clearly says to the conference that they can't take Maryland lightly now, and that the Terps have the potential to be a force once Coach Aird gets a roster full of players that mesh with his style of play.

Jake S: Finally a little volleyball. This is definitely something. Anyone who has followed volleyball this season would know that the future seems very bright for the program. They have some major recruits coming in who will hopefully complement the group they will return. Regardless of how many wins they record for the rest of the season, a victory like that is huge. Before that win, all we heard was talk about how the team was coming along and how the future is bright. The win over a ranked opponent shows that the future is near, and that Maryland volleyball will be a very strong team as the best is yet to come.

Thomas: It's something. Maryland is a young, on-the-rise team. This win proves that the "rise" part is possible.

Brian B: It is definitely something.

Sammi: It's definitely something, especially for a volleyball team that has struggled this season.  A win is huge for them, especially over ranked Ohio State.  Are things turning around?

Noah: This is definitely something. Maryland has two Under Armour All-Americans coming in and one of them, will be enrolling in January. Bringing in a top-15 recruit is a big deal and wins like the one against Ohio State serve notice to both recruits and the fan base that this program is going to be pretty special in just a few years.

Q: Field Hockey's Welma Luus pulled a Daniel Murphy in the Big Ten tournament, scoring seven goals over three games to help Maryland sweep the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles. Maryland goes into the NCAA Tournament unseeded and will almost definitely have to beat top-seeded Syracuse at Syracuse AND either Albany (the team that knocked them out a year ago and beat them earlier this season) or two-time defending national champion UConn just to make it to the NCAA Finals. How do you like Maryland's odds of winning their first NCAA Championship since 2011?

Todd: Maryland's playing pretty well right now and they're in the tournament so they have a chance. Two of their early season losses were in overtime and came when even Missy seemed to be fiddling with the team's identity a bit. On the other hand, I think the 17-game winning streak is a bit deceptive. The quality of the teams Maryland has played isn't at the same level that they will face in the NCAAs and they've struggled late in the season against some teams that, frankly, shouldn't have challenged them as much as they did. I would have frankly preferred that they'd faced Michigan's goalie, Sam Swenson, in the Big Ten Tournament final because she's probably one of the two or three best goalies in the country and that would have been better preparation.

Jake S: The Mets reference hurts. Even though it is positive, I don't think I'll ever recover from the heartbreak I experienced. I don't know much about the Field Hockey landscape, but I know that Maryland hasn't lost in a very long time. Playoffs are all about getting hot at the right time, as we saw with Daniel Murphy and the New York Giants during their most recent championship runs. Since the team is playing so well, I give them a good chance at winning the whole thing.

Thomas: Field hockey is one of those sports where the favorite doesn't always win. This Maryland team is hot, so it has a chance. However, I don't like their odds of making an Average Joe's-style run through the tournament, simply because they'd have to beat too many Globo-Gym squads.

Sammi: I agree with Thomas's whole Dodgeball analogy and give him major props for it.  They're hot, and they have a chance, but I don't necessarily think they'll win.  Not to be a negative Nancy, but... oh, well, I am being negative.  Sorry.  Hey, prove me wrong and we'll talk.

Noah: Maryland's back-line has worried me at times this season and while Sarah Holliday is the real deal, even great goalies shrink somewhat under the pressure of the NCAA Tournament. Maryland will have to go through the crucible and while Missy Meharg is supremely confident that this year's squad will win it all, I do not share that same confidence. I think the Terps make the Final Four but lose to the two-time defending national champion UConn Huskies who sport a perfect 20-0 record coming into the tournament.

Q: Maryland travels to East Lansing to take on the ranked but no-longer undefeated Michigan State Spartans on Saturday. Who wins and what will the final score be?

Todd: Pass.

Andrew K.: The Spartans, 34-21.

Jake S: MSU a lot, Maryland a little.

Thomas: I learned in my World History class not to mess with angry Spartans.

Brian B: Michigan State wins, obviously. The score...meh 39-12.

Sammi S: Michigan State will win... the score will be... hmm, Michigan State 36 and Maryland 3.1415926535...

Noah: This Michigan State defense really misses Pat Narduzzi. Spartans win 31-17 to keep their Big Ten East hopes alive.