Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Don Markus and producer-editor Jonas Shaffer weigh in on three of the biggest topics of the past week in Maryland sports.
Should Mark Turgeon keep Dez Wells at point guard, or should he move him back to the wing?
Don Markus: When point guard Seth Wells broke his foot a couple of weeks ago, I assumed that Turgeon was going to move freshman Roddy Peters into a starting role. So did others, but Turgeon quickly text-messaged a few reporters to say that Wells would start Maryland’s preseason game at the point, with Peters as his backup.
Wells looked uncomfortable against Division III Catholic and for much of his team’s regular season opener against Connecticut in Brooklyn. It wasn’t until Shabazz Napier got into second-half foul trouble and eventually fouled out with 1:30 remaining that Wells resembled a player who was at times dominant last season.
Then came Wednesday’s home opener against Abilene Chrisitan. Wells struggled early and, after he got pulled from the game, apparently said something that led to Turgeon benching the 6-5 junior for the rest of the first half and for the first minute of the second half. Afterwards, Turgeon said that everything was fine between then and that Wells would be back at the point Sunday against Oregon State.
Truth is, the best point guard play Maryland has had this year came during a stretch in the second half against UConn. It also came from Peters, who twice made great bounce passes to Charles Mitchell and once slithered down the lane for a reverse layup. He didn’t repeat that against Abilene Christian. In fact, Turgeon pulled him quickly after giving him a start in place of Jake Layman.
I am not sure Peters is ready to assume a full-time point guard role, or even a starting job, not yet anyway. If Layman is back in the starting lineup against the Beavers at Comcast Center, Wells will probably be at the point and Nick Faust will be on the other wing. But I think Turgeon should start pushing Peters so that he might be able to play big-time minutes at point in next week’s Paradise Jam.
It’s important that Wells is playing his natural position, just as it is for the team’s other scorers. That means Faust is on the wing, not at point guard as he was at times last season. It means that Evan Smotrycz is playing the “stretch 4” and not center. Wells scored just four points against Abilene Christian, after scoring 13 against UConn.
I know Turgeon wants to give Wells an opportunity to show his point guard skills for scouts, but a prominent NBA scout I talked with after the Connecticut game said that Wells is better suited for shooting guard in the pros. He needs to work on his outside shot and tighten up his ability to put the ball on the floor without it being taken from him.
Peters is Maryland’s point guard of the future. Peters has never been known for his outside shot, so Turgeon plans to surround him with shooters such as Layman and Smotrycz and eventually Allen this season, as well as adding Dion Wiley, Melo Trimble and Jared Nickens next year. Depending on how fast Allen comes back – and how fit he is when he returns – could make a difference in the way Peters develops this season.
It’s probably not wise to sacrifice games Maryland should win and others the Terps have a chance to build their NCAA tournament resume by relying on Peters. But there will be plenty of other opportunities between now and early January, when Allen is scheduled to return, for Peters to play the point.
More importantly, it’s important that Wells gets his points.
Lots of them.
How do you assess the Maryland football team’s chances at Virginia Tech?
Jeff Barker: Even before Maryland suffered all those injuries, I thought this game posed one of the toughest challenges of the season.
Virginia Tech is not as interesting offensively as Florida State or Clemson, but the Hokies defense – especially playing at home – is difficult to solve.
The front seven has five seniors. Each has started at least two years, according to Andy Bitter, who covers the Hokies for the Virginian-Pilot and Roanoke Times. “The Hokies are good at getting pressure and forcing turnovers,” Bitter wrote in a guest blog for us this week.
The Hokies give up 263.1 yards per game, lowest in the conference.
Maryland’s work-in-progress offensive line will surely be challenged. Offensive lines thrive on continuity, but Maryland’s line endured more change this week.
So what needs to happen for the Terps to hang in? Takeaways? A major weather event?
Let’s look at the first scenario. Takeaways can be an equalizer in football games. The Terps were excellent at getting takeaways early in the season, but much less good once the conference schedule began.
In five league games, Maryland’s turnover margin is minus-10. I think they’ll need to turn that around to have a chance in Blacksburg.
How much did the Terps' loss to Syracuse on Saturday hurt their chances with recruits Damian Prince and Jalen Tabor?
Jonas Shaffer: While the lasting image of a third straight defeat might have been one of a post-interception Randy Edsall grimace or a Byrd Stadium with more orange splotches than red Saturday, there are other snapshots worth considering.
Take, for instance, this photo tweeted Sunday by top cornerback recruit Jalen Tabor.
That's Tabor at the right, wearing a Maryland jersey. By his side is Testudo and, oh, blue-chip offensive lineman Damian Prince.
What effect did the season's low point have on those targets at the very top of Maryland's recruiting board? Not much, apparently.
247Sports.com's useful Crystal Ball Predictions for Tabor and Prince haven't changed even slightly since they took their official visits to College Park on Saturday. Now, admittedly, those predictions are nothing more than educated guesses. Most recruiting analysts and would-be insiders had top recruit Da'Shawn Hand becoming a Michigan man on Thursday, not rolling with the Crimson Tide.
But for none of those largely pro-Maryland predictions to have changed says something. The duo will continue to visit other schools, but if a bad loss to a mediocre team before a thinning fan base didn't shake the status quo, you have to wonder what will.