It's nice that we got a little preview of the Terps. They look pretty good, too, but exhibition in the Bahamas? I don't know how much of a test that is. Play and beat
the UConn Women a team that won 9 of the last 11 national championships, and then we can talk.
Actually, I have no idea how good teams are in the Bahamas. For all I know, the Terps pulled out the W after telling their opponents to "Fear the Turtle," as is their mantra. I hate to break it to you, Maryland, but Testudo the Turtle isn't that scary. If you want us to fear a turtle, you're better off calling him Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, or Michelangelo.
2012-2013 Record: 25-13 (8-10)
Conference Ranking: 7th
Historical Notes: Unfortunately the Cuse-Maryland series is kind of lopsided, with Maryland leading 5-2. Syracuse won the most recent two meetings, one of which was a 72-70 nail biter in the 2004 NCAA tourney.
What They're Known For: They were a founding member of their conference, and are jetting off to a different one because of football stuff. Echo? Other than that, they're known as the guys that get more of their offense from slashing wings, as opposed to talented guards.
Season Summary: It was rather up and down, but highlights include beating the Blue Devils twice. The first was a hard-fought win during the regular season that struck a chord with head coach Mark Turgeon. The second was in the ACC Tournament, before falling to UNC. Later, they snagged a 2-seed in the NIT and made it all the way to the semifinals, where they lost to 3-seeded Iowa.
Dez Wells (13.1 PPG/4.9 RPG/3.0 APG). The junior guard led in scoring, and emotion, last year. He would take losses personally, but it only made him work harder and get better. Scary thought. How does one get better after landing on the All-ACC Tournament First Team? I guess we'll find out.
Seth Allen (7.8 PPG/2.2 RPG/2.3 APG). Allen shared point guard duties, and was even thrust into a starting role for a little while in the middle of the season. At times, he was your typical turnover-prone freshman, but he showed no fear. He also proved he could make shots under big time pressure, which is exactly what he'll need to do as the starting PG this year.
Jake Layman (5.5 PPG/3.2 RPG). If you talk about underclassmen poised to make a big jump, this guy's name should come up. Now a sophomore, the 6-8 forward is over his first-year jitters, and is developing into the consistent perimeter shooter that the Terps lacked last year.
Personnel Changes: Alex Len (11.9 PPG/7.8 RPG/2.1 BPG) took his 7-1 frame to the NBA instead of coming back for what would have been his junior year. The Terps lost Logan Aronhalt (6.0 PPG/1.7 RPG) and James Padgett (5.1 PPG/3.6 RGP) to graduation, and starting PG Pe'Shon Howard (3.3 PPG/2.4 RPG/3.6 APG) transferred to USC.
Joining the ranks this year is Michigan transfer, Evan Smotrycz (6-9, forward). He shot 41.4% from deep during his two years with the Wolverines, which I dare say is tremendous. The true freshmen are Roddy Peters (6-4, point guard) and Damonte Dodd (6-10, center).
2013-2014 Potential: Addition by subtraction. And a little bit of addition. Alex Len was a big loss, but the guard play wasn't supportive enough to help him reach his full potential last year. Subtract him and the USC-bound Howard. Now, the Terps are left with the front court combo of Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare, whose team effort will be able to make up for some of Len's absence, and more consistency at the point with Allen. Then, add the (expected) increase in offensive production with Evan Smotrycz, as well as an extra year of experience to the rest of the returning guys, and Maryland doesn't look half bad. At the very least, they shouldn't fall in the rankings, even with the new competition.
Orange Match-Up: No one on the Terps this year will be the kind of rebounding phenom that gives the Syracuse bigs anxiety on defense. Even if one develops, it will take them at least one-third of the game to figure out what to do with the 2-3 when it collapses, so Maryland should be playing catch-up by then anyway.
This contest will get interesting at the wings, where it will be Layman/Smotrycz v. Fair/Grant. The Syracuse pair has a leg up because the guards passing to them have better vision when it comes to making some needle-and-thread passes. They should rack up more points, even if they take fewer shots, simply because their shot opportunities will be better.
Coach Turgeon knows that Maryland needs better guard play, and he's on his way to making that happen. These improvements take time, though, so the Terps will be Big-Tenning by then, and we won't have to worry about it.