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What’s to blame for Maryland men’s basketball’s offensive struggles?

Maryland has the second-worst scoring offense in the Big Ten. Why is that the case?

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 06 Penn State at Maryland
Maryland head coach Kevin Willard has seen his squad shoot 22.3 percent from three this season.
Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The eye test, stats and underlying analytics all show the same thing: Maryland men’s basketball’s offense has been ugly this season.

Head coach Kevin Willard’s offense’s have historically struggled and then taken years to improve. In his first year with Seton Hall (2010-11), the Pirates dropped 13 points per game off their previous season’s average. It took until Willard’s fourth season for the Pirates to eclipse an average of 70 points per game. His teams easily crossed that mark in each of his final seven years, though, and Seton Hall went to five NCAA Tournaments in that span.

Now in his second season at Maryland, Willard’s team has had one of the worst offenses among high-major teams (including the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC), yielding an efficiency rating of 104.4 through nine games, according to KenPom. Only six high-major teams rank lower.

Despite this, Willard has pleaded for the fanbase to “chill” and said that the “scary” shooting statistics will resolve themselves.

The numbers

The Terps are shooting 22.4% from three, the second-worst clip in Division I. They have also attempted the fifth-most triples in the conference, despite a glaring failure to make them.

Overall, they’re shooting 40.3% from the field, the worst mark in the Big Ten. In regards to free throws, they’re converting less than 70% of the time. And their effective field goal percentage, which adjusts a true field goal percentage based on the comparative value of twos and threes, comes in at 44.7%. That ranks No. 321 in the country, dead last among high-major teams.

Possessions have also been easily lost, with the Terps turning it over on 15.7% of their trips to the basket. One hundred and ninety-five teams in the nation are better than Maryland in that aspect.

The fact that Maryland sits just above .500 is impressive with how sluggish the offense has been, as the Terps two all-conference players have often bailed them out.

Jahmir Young and Julian Reese are doing all they can to keep the offense afloat. The duo has contributed to over 70% of the team’s offense, which includes scoring or assisting on 136 of Maryland’s 209 field goals and tallying 99 of its 130 made free throws.

Maryland is struggling to replace lost production

The loss of Hakim Hart and Ian Martinez to the transfer portal has cost Maryland dearly this season.

Hart ranked second on the team last year with 11.4 points per game while Martinez provided a spark off the bench to the tune of almost six points per game. Both players also shot over 33% from three; Young is the only Terp shooting above 30% from distance this season. Don Carey’s departure also left a shooting hole in the offense.

Willard has been unable to find the right pieces to replace that lost offensive production. There are understandably high expectations for freshmen DeShawn Harris-Smith and Jamie Kaiser Jr., but it’s been a tough transition to college for them early on. There’s plenty of season left, and both have shown potential, but are still shooting just a combined 32.2% from the field.

And Donta Scott, in his fifth year with the Terps, has looked uncomfortable at times. He’s hit 10 of his 34 3-point attempts while getting to the free-throw line just 14 times.

The road splits remain unconscionable

Maryland has lost 13 of its last 15 road regular-season games, but its deficiencies away from home this year have been drastic.

In the Terps’ losses this season — which have all come away from College Park — they have averaged just 54.3 points per game. Looking deeper, how they have started road games is more worrisome.

In first halves at XFINITY Center, the Terps have averaged over 40 points per game. Away from their home arena, that number goes down almost 14 points. More specifically, they have a plus-15 average scoring margin in the opening 20 minutes at home, and a minus-7.8 margin on the road.

In the Asheville Championship, when Maryland fell to both Davidson and UAB, the Terps also came out slow in the early portions of the second half, which ended up costing them both games. They managed less than 10 points in the first 10 minutes of the period, allowing opponents to gain leads they would not overcome.

In true road losses to Villanova and Indiana, the Terps scored a combined 43 first-half points, putting them in 24- and 12-point deficits at the break. Against the Wildcats, Maryland made just 12 of its 50 shots.

Maryland has made just 74 field goals in its four non-home games, bad enough for a 33.6% clip.

The Terps have 22 games to find a way to inject some life into themselves, but Willard knows the outlook is grim if their offense can’t find some rhythm.

“Just looking at the numbers, there’s really no joy right now,” he said after the Terps’s win against Penn State.