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No. 6 Maryland men's basketball tops UConn and Maryland football makes a bunch of hires

Testudo Times staff writers and contributors gather to talk Maryland-UConn and the slew of new additions to D.J. Durkin's staff.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Testudo Times Roundtable

Week of 12/7

Q: No. 6 Maryland topped UConn, 76-66, in the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday night in Madison Square Garden. What were your initial thoughts on the game?

Todd: I saw the first half and the opening minutes of the second so I'll limit my comments to a degree. The first half was the most complete overall half of basketball I think I've seen from Maryland this year. True, the Terps didn't shoot as well as we've seen in the other early season games but they did everything else - defend, rebound, share the ball and handle the big stage. From the opening minutes of the second half, my immediate concern was a drop in their defensive intensity. I think that contributed to Connecticut's rally.

Andrew K.: A tale of two halves. The Terps' play in the first half was national-champion caliber. The second half it seemed like Maryland was waiting for Trimble or Sulaimon to drive to the hoop, and Maryland's interior defense was suspect. Still, Maryland outplayed a tough UConn team on national tv at the Garden. This team is measurably better than at the start of the season.

Brian B: Initially I thought, why are prime time basketball games played at 9:30 EST, such is life. In the first half all I could think is this team has come a long way in a few short weeks since playing Rider to the wire. I kind of figured UConn would stick around in the second half, and while Maryland's quality of play declined later in the game, it was nice to see them take their punches and in most cases respond with a few blows of their own.

Jake S: Andrew nailed it. Maryland looked like a team poised to win the game by 50 in the first half. Their defense was incredible throughout the half, and they were constantly finding ways to score. There's a good chance they didn't have a single bad possession in the first half -- aside from Robert Carter throwing up a three to start the game. The second half was a lot of standing around on the offensive end, and a lackluster defensive effort. Nonetheless, a win is a win, and it was good to see them hang on and close it out in the end. Even if Kevin Ollie helped out a little bit...

Thomas: The first half was Diamond Stone's coming-out party and it was magical. When three different Terps (Stone, Melo and Nickens) are at the top of their games, nobody beats Maryland. Diamond got into foul trouble and it looked like he stopped being so aggressive. But the team fought off the Huskies and capped off a big win.

Carson: I was at the game and it was surreal. Never been to the Garden before and I usually see games over winter break time at College Park but won't be able to this year because of work and the real world. So seeing them at the Mecca was great. They also played really well I thought. A lot of UConn fans were saying how legit they looked which was good to hear. And there were more Maryland fans there than I expected which was nice. I was on cloud nine to say the least.

Noah: I covered this game with Matt Ellentuck and y'all made some great points. There was a nice Maryland contingent and the Terps got into a groove in the first half. UConn was turning the ball over a lot early, and Maryland's bigs played really nice defense in the first half. Maryland turned the ball over eight times in the second half, and UConn's hot shooting from deep helped make the game close. Ultimately, I think Maryland prevailed because of their edge in rebounding and their ability to draw fouls and make their free throws.

Q: Who was your MVP of the game?

Todd: Although this was something of a coming out party for Diamond Stone (shades of Alex Len at the Barclay Center?), and Robert Carter, Jr. made some big plays down the stretch, the choice is still Melo Trimble. No further elucidation needed.

Andrew K.: Trimble, whether dropping dimes or slashing to the basket. Many times both at once.

Brian B: My older brother posted this on his Facebook, "My man crush for Melo is at an all-time high." I don't believe anyone could sum it up any better than that.

Jake S: Melo Trimble. That dude is on another level right now.

Thomas: Any time Dick Vitale raves about a player's "swag," said player shall be deemed the game's MVP. I'm pretty sure this if embedded somewhere in the official rules of basketball. ¡Mantenerse Melo!

Carson: Kevin Ollie.

Noah: I really like where Carson went with that but I think Melo Trimble was the difference tonight. He went 14-15 from the charity stripe and Maryland needed just about every single one of them.

Q: What were two things that you think Maryland did well against UConn?

Todd: I think the Terps handled the big stage and they crushed it on the boards. If you want a second game specific element, 23-29 from the free throw line.

Andrew K.: Maryland's rebounding was the best I've seen this year. The second was getting out of the starting gate fast and almost never looking back. How refreshing it was rather than falling behind and scrambling to catch up.

Brian B: I kind of have a soft spot for rebounding since it was essentially the only thing I was superior at during my brief organized basketball playing career. And by superior I mean I had the advantage of being taller than most everyone else on the floor. Grabbing 45 boards and out-rebounding the other team by 21 is impressive for any game. (I referenced the ESPN box score, but there seem to be some conflicting stats from other sites) Additionally, they won the game from the inside out. Maryland is proving quickly that they are not a ‘live by the three, die by the three' kind of team, which is very important come March.

Jake S: They handled the environment well. The crowd was heavily in UConn's favor, and the way they came out and put together an early lead was impressive. That shows signs of development and growth as they've had slow starts in many of their games this season. I also thought they ran their offense very well. Aside from the brief lapses, the offense had good flow to it. I love when Sulaimon and Layman curl hard off of screens and look to attack the rim. They are both talented slashers and can benefit from defenders chasing them around screens since they can also shoot the three-ball exceptionally well. Those two can give defenses fits since they're multi-dimensional players on offense. Hamilton for UConn will become that player at some point.

Thomas: Not only did they control the pace of the game and dominate on the boards, but Coach Turgeon didn't knock any papers off the scorer's table. Major props to him for that.

Carson: They played great on the glass and looked relaxed. The atmosphere did not scare them and they played calm and collected.

Noah: While Thomas is definitely not wrong in his praise of Turgeon's self-restraint, as I alluded to earlier, I think Maryland's edge in rebounding and free throws were the keys to me.

Q: What were two things that you think Maryland needs to work on going forward?

Todd: The main thing for me is that they have to put a full 40 minute game together against a good team and I don't think Maryland played 40 minutes of good defense. UConn scored too many easy baskets driving the lane in the opening minutes of the second half and, while I didn't see the rest of the half, they shot almost 50 percent for the half so I'm guessing the defense didn't improve much. I'd also like to see the Terps share the ball better. Nine assists on 25 baskets isn't great.

Andrew K.: Playing with a big lead. That requires continued intensity and not making lackadaisical turnovers. The second is getting Layman some open looks. I liked how Layman played last night, but his perimeter shooting needs to take off against top-tier teams.

Brian B: I may have to disagree with Andrew here, Layman's defense seemed shaky at the end, and while he made some tough drives to the basket, all of his perimeter shots seemed well off the mark. They still turned the ball over 15 times, which is not absolutely terrible or anything, but just enough to remind us that it could still be an issue with this team going forward.

Jake S: Like it was noted above, it's important to play a full game. Had they played the entire game the way they did to open the game, they would've won by 40. I think they got too comfortable with their lead and it almost came back to bite them. Turnovers remain an issue. It is getting better, but I'm sure Turgeon would love to see a game against a solid opponent where the turnovers are under 10. Is that realistic?

Thomas: They seemed to tense up and force plays during UConn's comeback, which is common but still not great. And 15 turnovers (especially Stone's lazy pass that turned into an easy Husky layup) is enough to let a good team hang around.

Carson: Definitely play a full game. They're definitely coming together and playing better games overall compared to some of the early season games, but they're still not quite there yet. But they will be.

Noah: Turnovers were a problem once again. Maryland committed seven in the first half and their eight second half turnovers helped UConn get back into the game. Obviously, playing a full 40 minutes is important but I think in order for Maryland to really reach their potential, Jake Layman will have to play better. He went quiet for long stretches of this game. This team can't play their best basketball when Layman isn't involved and contributing in a meaningful way.

Q: Maryland men's soccer fell in the Elite Eight to second-seeded Clemson on penalty kicks last week. They failed to repeat as Big Ten champions but did win the Big Ten tournament for the second straight year. How would you grade Maryland's season?

Todd: This, for me, is a bit tricky. For most schools, a conference tournament title and Elite Eight appearance is a wonderful season. But this is Maryland soccer and the team and the fan base legitimately look toward conference championships and College Cup appearances as the norm. For most teams, this is an A- season but for Maryland it's a B.

Brian B: The most surprising part to me is that a team in South Carolina has a solid soccer team. I have visited Clemson several times, and it has never struck me as a place that would recruit well for soccer. Anyway, I will still give them an A. Their regular season was pretty lackluster by Maryland standards, but they got hot when it mattered and almost found themselves playing in the Final Four...uh, I mean College Cup again.

Jake S: A-. They did knock off top-ranked UCLA early, which provides a little positivity in a regular season that seemed to be uncharacteristic of this program. They won the Big Ten tournament which certainly isn't easy, and they made it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament. Despite their regular season struggles, this was a very successful season. I look at the Giants super bowl runs. They certainly didn't have great regular seasons, but they got hot when it mattered most. I'd definitely say those were successful, and although Maryland's season didn't end with a championship, they gave it a good run.

Thomas: B+. A few good games in the regular season, but kind of a disappointment. They won the conference title, won two NCAA tournament games and gave the No. 2 seed all it could handle.

Carson: What Todd said.

Noah: I gave them an A- in my Title Tracker column so I'll stick with that. Todd is right. Maryland isn't just any men's soccer program and their standards and expectations are higher than most others. That being said, this team had a lot of new pieces. They got hot at the right time, brought home some hardware and nearly advanced to their third College Cup in the last four years. The sad reality is that this run to the Elite Eight doesn't erase the demons from last year's one and done performance and the loss in the national title game two years ago.

Q: Maryland is hiring Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, Alabama's assistant director of player personnel and former head coach at Friendship Collegiate Academy in Washington, D.C., to fill out D.J. Durkin's staff as the defensive backs coach. Do you like the move even though Abdul-Rahim wasn't on the Tide's coaching staff?

Todd: Even in isolation it looks like a smart hire. Abdul-Rahim is is precisely the type of young, energetic coach Durkin indicated he'd hire. He also has strong local ties and appears to relate well to the players he coaches.

Andrew K.: I don't subscribe to guilt by association (being on Saban's staff). But his actual coaching experience is thin. It seems as if he was hired as an unannounced recruiting specialist. I'm ok with that as long as someone else is helping out with the coaching side of things.

Brian B: It's up in the air. It certainly appears to be a good hire, but how successful he may or may not be in his new role is all speculation at this point.

Jake S: I'm all in on Durkin's hirings. I think he's doing a good job and is backing up what he said he was going to do. Unlike Andrew, I feel anyone associated with the Alabama program has to be talented in some way, so I think it's a good hire.

Thomas: If a man is going to go from Alabama football to Maryland football, it's going to take a promotion and/or raise. Aazaar got that. I'm sure he'll be a fairly decent defensive backs coach, but it seems as though he's here to wreak havoc in the local recruiting scene.

Carson: This is huge strictly from a recruiting standpoint. I think this, coupled with Diggs saying "anything could happen" as it pertains to his commitment to Bama, means he flips and comes home. Like Brian said, as far as an on-field impact, who knows, but off the field, this is big.

Noah: When you have a moment, look up the piece that Grantland did on him when he was the head coach at Friendship Collegiate Academy. He turned them into a powerhouse. Abdul-Rahim has serious recruiting chops in the local area, but he is also pretty darn good at development. I really like the move.

Q: Mike London, the former head coach at Virginia, was just hired as Maryland's associate head coach and defensive line coach, and Scott Shafer, the former head coach at Syracuse, was just hired as Maryland's defensive coordinator. What do you think? Are you on board with these new hires?

Todd: I find it interesting that Durkin picked up two guys who didn't have success as head coaches but both appear to be quite well respected by their peers and by the players they've coached. My thoughts are that Shafer's hire was, at least in part, to solidify the midwest recruiting and London's was to look to truly adding the V to the DMV "movement."

Andrew K.: Very much on board with London (don't know much about Shafer). At the University of Richmond, London led the Spiders to a national championship (FCS). While at Virginia he was known for his ability to build strong defenses, as well as being a top recruiter in the 757 area code (Newport-News, VA Beach).

Brian B: London kind of surprised me (In a good way). If you are worried about AAR's lack of coaching experience, this hire should do a little suppress the anxiety as London has been coaching at various positions since 1989 and has been a DL coach at many stops along the way. Hiring both Shafer and London has to be a move completely based on recruiting.

Jake S: Like I said above, I'm all in on the new hires. London stands out a little more than Shafer, but I still think it's a good hire. If Durkin's continuing on the trend of hiring former head coaches that didn't pan out, could Lane Kiffin be next?

Thomas: London is a fantastic guy with a motherload of coaching experience. Shafer much of the same. Both guys seem to be in that purgatory of being a good coordinator or assistant, but they're not good enough as a head coach to turn a program around. Very few guys are. Two overqualified hires for Durkin. I'm impressed.

Carson: Love it. Getting London is big and I too don't know too much about Shafer, but from the looks of it, Durkin is doing a hell of a job building a well-rounded coaching staff.

Noah: London and Shafer should both turn out to be great hires. Both are really good coordinators who will be trying to prove themselves so they can go back to being head coaches. Both can recruit well and both are respected defensive minds. Shafer's defenses are predicated on attacking the offense and forcing their hand. Shafer is creative, and I'm excited to see how this defense stacks up against some of the others in the Big Ten East. I still hope that Durkin leaves his imprint on the defense as well.

Q: University of Maryland President Wallace Loh recommended to the Board of Regents that the name of Maryland's football stadium, currently named Byrd Stadium, be changed to Maryland Stadium. I have a two-part question: First of all, are you on board with changing the name of the stadium? Second, what do you think the name of the stadium should be?

Todd: I have no problem with either changing the name or the motive for doing so. I think it's reasonable for people to say that, although he might have been a man of his time and made great contributions to the university and that those who honored him at the time they named the stadium for him believed they could separate his unrepentant and militant segregationist stance from those contributions, we as an institution of higher learning no longer believe that to be the case and that a change is warranted. As for a new name, I've given it little thought beyond a handful of tongue in cheek suggestions.

Andrew K.: I think the stadium's name should remain Byrd. Next question?

Brian B: Curley Byrd did a lot for the University of Maryland, but I am way too indifferent about what we call our old, ugly football stadium to argue the morals of falsely memorializing bigoted people. Keep it, change it, I don't care, albeit "Maryland Stadium" would be pretty dumb. I already made my sarcastic suggestion on Dave's article Tuesday, "Big ugly gray structure across the street from Ellicott Hall".

Jake S: I'm also indifferent. If they change it, I certainly hope it's more creative than "Maryland Stadium". If they don't change it, I'll see you guys at Byrd next season.

Thomas: I feel as though the school's greatest football coach, former president and creator of the Terrapin mascot is the best person to name the stadium after, but if enough people believe that his flaws override all of that, I'm in no position to fight against a name change. But I'd rather allow Capital One to buy the rest of the stadium than attend games at "Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium." That sounds funky.

Carson: Exactly what Jake said.

Noah: I think it's a nice gesture by the administration that shows they care about making sure that minority students are respected and appreciated. In concert with the dialogues that they plan on facilitating, it is clear that President Loh will not allow Maryland to suffer the same fate and bad press as schools like Missouri, Ithaca, and Yale. Maryland Stadium is surely just a placeholder until they can come up with a better name. I like "The Shell" as a nickname but honestly, it might be a shrewd move for the university to sell the naming rights for the stadium and make some more money.

Q: Did Torrey Smith's touchdown catch in overtime to beat the Bears change the leaderboard for the top Terps playing in the NFL right now?

Todd: I don't know. Smith made the type of catch he's been getting paid to make for several years now. It was only one of two catches on the day, I believe. I don't follow the NFL too closely nor do I particularly follow Terps playing in the league but I'd guess for a season long body of work, someone is having a better season than Smith. (And, apropos of nothing else, thanks for not asking for some type of prediction!)

Andrew K.: Until Diggs gets on a team with an offensive line that can give its QB time to throw.

Brian B: Diggs to me is still having the more impressive season. He has come back down to earth as of late, but his numbers still look pretty good, especially due to the fact that he missed a handful of games at the beginning of the season. Torrey, whom will always have a spot in my heart, is just doing what he has always done. The fact that Shaun Hill is still on a team is impressive by itself.

Jake S: Torrey Smith is the top Terp in the NFL right now. He will be passed by Diggs, though.

Thomas: Are we forgetting that D'Qwell Jackson is leading the entire freaking league in tackles? *Looks at previous comments* Yes. We are. Fantastic.

Carson: DHB BABY!

Noah: I agree with Thomas that Jackson is probably having the best year of any former Terp. He leads the league in tackles by three right now and also has a pair of sacks, an interception, a forced fumble and touchdown. He has probably been one, if not, the best players on the Colts during this very odd season they've been having. Smith has more touchdowns. Diggs has more catches and yards. Diggs is playing on a potential playoff team. Smith is most certainly not. In the end though, no one is touching Jackson with the year he's having for Indy.