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Testudo Times Mailbag: Lila Bromberg answers your questions on the Terps

You had questions as the Maryland Terrapins enter a busy March. Here are some answers.

Ohio State v Maryland

There’s a lot going on with the Maryland Terrapins these days, with men’s and women’s basketball gearing up for March Madness, along with fall and spring olympic sports getting fully underway. So, it seemed like the perfect time for a mailbag Q/A.

Thanks to everyone for submitting their questions. I couldn’t answer them all, but here are some of my thoughts.

Q: How is Darryl Morsell’s shoulder, and what exactly happened? I know he’s had issues, but it almost looked like a partial dislocation. How concerned are Terps’ coaches?

At the beginning of the season, Morsell was having some minor issues with his shoulder that were causing shooting struggles at times, but it hadn’t been that big of a deal.

Against Rutgers last Sunday, he re-aggravated that right shoulder while going up for a defensive rebound, immediately grabbing it in pain and taking a second on the court before going back to the locker room. After the game, head coach Mark Turgeon said Morsell didn’t fully dislocate the shoulder, but it was popped back in twice in the locker room before he returned to the sideline. The coaches were wavering on the cautious side and didn’t initially want to let him play, but Morsell begged to do so and then had a great performance for the rest of the afternoon.

Turgeon didn’t seem that alarmed or concerned at that point after the game, which is a good sign. We have not gotten an update since, as the only media we get with Turgeon and players is the day before games. Having the week off between Rutgers and Michigan State definitely helps in terms of recovery, and I would be surprised if he didn’t play this Sunday.

Update (Feb. 27): In pre-game availability, Turgeon said Morsell has been resting all week and will be a game-time decision.

Q: Why does Turgeon like playing Reese Mona over Aquan Smart or Marcus Dockery?

The three biggest things this comes down to are experience, basketball IQ and unselfishness. People seem to get caught up in the fact that Mona isn’t a scorer, but that isn’t why he is on the court. Mona is the most unselfish guy on this roster and he will always put the team before himself. He will help set up the offense, make the right pass and lift the spirits of the guys around him. A lot of his passes go unnoticed because guys whiff on the shot — as has been the case with so many shots this season — but he sets them up perfectly. He had a beautiful bounce pass into the paint last week, but his teammate somehow missed the shot.

Mona has been in Turgeon’s system for four years, whereas Smart and Dockery are still learning it as freshmen in a very unusual season. Quite frankly, neither are ready for quality minutes yet; the college game is still at full speed for them, while it has slowed down for Reese. He does the little things and that’s why his coaches and teammates appreciate him.

If you haven’t already, check out my feature from when I visited his family’s farm last season. It was one of my favorite experiences I’ve had as a journalist.

Q: What do you think the chances are that Aaron Wiggins goes pro after this season?

After Aaron Wiggins shot 41.3% from deep as a freshman, making the second-most triples for a freshman in school history (62), I was almost certain he would have a chance to go pro after his sophomore season. But that wasn’t the case, and it was clear that it wouldn’t be early on due to his lack of consistency shooting the ball.

While it has improved in recent weeks, Wiggins’ consistency is going to be one of the biggest factors working against him. I think he also needs to show more of his ability to create his own shot. He’s done it some, but not enough or at an elite level that will gain the attention of NBA scouts. And his stats aren’t eye-popping enough, as he isn’t even the leading scorer on the Terps.

He hasn’t been mocked in a single draft or big board I’ve seen so far, and this is a deep class, so the odds aren’t on his side. Additionally, I haven’t seen a single scout at a Maryland game this season — not one. Yes, more scouts are doing things virtually now with the pandemic, but some have been at games for other Big Ten programs.

Though the desire to take the jump and make some dough might be there, I think Wiggins would have a way better chance after another year in College Park.

Q: What are the chances Darryl Morsell comes back for another year due to the NCAA extra eligibility rules?

I don’t know where his head is at right now, but as someone who has covered Morsell since we both came in as freshmen, I think there is a pretty strong chance he stays. He is a team guy through and through, he loves this program and his teammates with everything he has, and he is all about winning. This surely isn’t the senior season he wanted, both in terms of results and experience, and I think he’ll want another shot at going deeper in March with a better roster in 2021-22. Morsell also doesn’t have many pro prospects at the moment and graduating in the middle of a pandemic is not an ideal situation.

Q: Last I heard about Chol Marial, we heard Turgeon say he “wasn’t the answer” in the paint — do we think we see Chol back next year, or has that ship sailed?

If I’m Marial, I’m booking the first flight out of College Park. Remember the Chol we saw waving a teddy bear around and jumping with glee last year? He was one of the happiest players I’ve ever seen, but he’s just looked miserable this year, and I don’t blame him.

Yes, the timing, basketball IQ and movement are a work in progress, but at the end of the day he’s nearly 7-foot-3 with a wingspan that lasts miles. That alone gives him potential, but it won’t be realized at Maryland. He deserves to play for a coach who believes in him and is willing to go the extra mile to help him develop. I just don’t think Maryland is the right mesh and I hope Chol can go to a program, likely a low or mid-major, where he can be appreciated, developed and actually get some minutes under a coach that has confidence in him.

Q: Is this Brenda Frese’s best coaching job ever?

It’s really hard to make that definitive or broad of a statement, but it for sure is up there and I would be in complete shock if anyone else was named the 2020-21 Big Ten Coach of the Year.

Maryland women’s basketball entered the season with five entirely new starters after losing the likes of Kaila Charles, Stephanie Jones and Blair Watson to graduation, as well as Taylor Mikesell and Shakira Austin to the transfer portal. Frese also lost one of her top assistants in Shay Robinson, who had been with the program since 2014. But none of that phased the Maryland head coach.

Frese brought in transfers Katie Benzan and Chloe Bibby, both of whom have exceeded expectations, with Benzan already making her mark as the best three-point shooter in the history of the program. Despite missing a typical offseason to form chemistry, this year’s Maryland team meshes perfectly, always in sync to make the right pass on offense, and so much of that comes down to how Frese coaches the group in practice.

The Terps are must-see TV, playing an eye-popping, entertaining style of basketball that is a thing of beauty. They lead the country in scoring offense with 93.2 points per game and boast the best three-point percentage in the nation at 42.05%, have the second-best assist/turnover ratio (1.62), the fourth-best field goal percentage (49.03%) — I could go on and on.

With five-star freshman Angel Reese back sooner than expected and looking like she hasn’t missed a beat, this team has all the makings for a very deep run in March. I see Maryland as a true championship contender, thanks to Frese’s coaching efforts.

Q: Locksley’s recruiting has been on point. His on field results haven’t been great. How long does Locksley have to produce a bowl game appearance before Maryland moves on from him?

So let’s take a second to actually look at the facts of the situation. Locksley has been here two seasons and was hired into a chaotic situation following Jordan McNair’s death and the ensuing scandal. This past season was an unprecedented mess with COVID-19; the Terps (2-3) barely played any games and had 57 new players. Of the three losses, one was with the majority of their starters missing and another had a walk-on playing at quarterback, both due to coronavirus. So yes, the results aren’t there, but let’s consider that Locksley has been under circumstances that would have made it extremely difficult for anyone.

People seem to use Ralph Friedgen’s early success as a baseline, but everyone forgets that he came into the job with an extremely talented roster — Shaun Hill, Bruce Perry, E.J. Henderson, Leon Joe, Curome Cox and Jeff Dugan, just to name a few. Turning a program completely around in a year doesn’t just happen no matter how good the coach is, especially following a national scandal.

Now, to your actual question. Athletic director Damon Evans has assured Locksley that he would have enough time to to turn around the program before being re-evaluated, and it’s barely been two seasons. I could go on way too long about this, but simply put, I have a lot of faith in Locksley to turn around this program. The group looked special at times last season and there is incredible talent returning and entering the program that will be around for years to come. My bold prediction is that the Terps will shock a lot of people and finish as a top-three team in the Big Ten East next season. And yes, they will earn a bowl game selection.

To end things, here are some quick hitters:

  • Q: Does 2-1 in the final 3 get Maryland men’s basketball in the dance? Or do they need to win all 3? Yes, the Terps should be in, even if they lose one. As of Thursday night, Maryland ranks No. 31 in the NET, aided by five Quad 1 wins. The Terps are one of just 15 teams in the country with that many quality victories, which is what they’ll look to ride into postseason play.
  • Q: In a post game presser, Turge mentioned switching up the offense and it allowed Wiggins more freedom... any idea what those changes were specifically? Turgeon has been running a lot of set plays that revolve around Wiggins and has also allowed him more space to create his own shots. Improvement on ball movement helps too.
  • Q: Will we see James Graham at all this season? No, at least not in meaningful minutes. If the team is up by a substantial amount late in one of these next three games, Turgeon might let the bench guys come in for a minute or two, but his time won’t go beyond that. He was never expected to play much this year; rather, it was a chance for him to start adjusting to the college game early.
  • Q: Why not start Jairus Hamilton over Hakim Hart? So Hamilton and Hart don’t play the same position, at least not on this team. Hart has started at point guard, as he has proven to be the Terps’ best option there. Eric Ayala is way better off ball and the team has had a lot more success since moving Hart to the point. Also, Hamilton had multiple chances to start and didn’t take advantage of them.
  • Q: Out of the four projected 1 seeds, who would you prefer to face in March? If I’m being completely honest, I don’t think Maryland men’s basketball has a chance to beat any of the four projected No. 1 seeds — I would be surprised if the team makes it past the round of 32. That isn’t a knock on the Terps or to be negative, but it just isn’t realistic. With that being said, I would pick Ohio State.
  • Q: What is Turgeon going to do to avoid the same tragic flaw that has plagued this team: lack of size? I am going to leave this one to our in-house recruiting expert, Wes Brown. Check out his article on one of the options head coach Mark Turgeon is exploring. If Turgeon strikes out there, his only hope is the transfer portal.