Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Don Markus and editor Matt Bracken weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in Maryland sports.
Maryland begins Atlantic Coast Conference play in less than a month. Where do you see the Terps finishing?
Jeff Barker: Let’s begin with a caveat. In the last week, coach Mark Turgeon has seemed to take issue with media members and fans ready to proclaim the Terps a top team.
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“I just think our perception is a lot better than reality right now with us,” the coach said. “We’ve got so far to go.”
Fair enough. Turgeon is right – they’re not great yet. They’re … young. Which is likely to translate into "inconsistent."
But it’s all relative.
Even with all of its untapped potential, Maryland is already vastly superior – in talent and chemistry – than last season’s team, which finished 6-10 in the conference.
The big improvement is in rebounding. Last season, the Terps outrebounded opponents by an average of 1.9 per game. But in ACC contests – think Duke and Carolina – they often surrendered second shots.
Since the opponents were getting more shots than Maryland, the Terps’ margin of error was slight – they had to shoot a higher percentage than their rivals just to keep pace.
They won’t have that problem this season.
I see the Terps finishing in the top four in the ACC.
That last happened in 2009-10, when Maryland went 13-3 and earned a first-round, ACC tournament bye.
I’m not predicting 13-3 this season, but I think a double-digit victory total is well within bounds. Even Turgeon would probably concede that.
Can Maryland get anything out of its remaining non-conference games?
Don Markus: l didn't think so, until Mark Turgeon tweaked his starting lineup against UMES on Wednesday night and promised to do the same again Saturday against South Carolina State. By starting freshmen Shaquille Cleare, Jake Layman and Seth Allen, he is accomplishing a number of things.
First, he is showing confidence in his younger players and rewarding them for working hard in practice. Though Allen has played with confidence -- sometimes too much for his own good -- since the beginning of the season, Cleare's game has been up and down and, to be honest, Layman has looked a bit lost at times.
All played well in the 32-point win over UMES, as did transfer Logan Aronhalt, who came off a cameo appearance against George Mason to lead the Terps with 17 points, all but two from 3-point range. Cleare and Layman showed why Turgeon and his assistants were -- and are -- so excited about them and their future in College Park.
I will be interested to see who starts Saturday. I figure that Charles Mitchell will get his first start since he has been the most consistent freshman of the bunch, though he gives the Terps a boost every time he comes off the bench. I would like to see him keep giving Layman the minutes he needs to feel comfortable by the time the ACC season begins.
What this stretch also does is give Turgeon a chance to reassess his point guard situation. As much as he says he loves the job Pe'Shon Howard is doing -- and the junior has played well in terms of his assist-to-turnover ratio and defense -- I think he saw the other night what happens with Allen and Nick Faust running the show.
Allen had eight assists and Faust had seven, but they also attacked the basket -- something the Terps will need from their point guard if ACC teams are able to shut down Alex Len and/or Dez Wells. Unless Howard proves he can be an offensive threat, I look at that as a potential liability once the competition gets better.