Alex Len's disappearing act hurting the Terps

Maryland needs much more production from 7-1 sophomore center

Alex Len

Alex Len is defended by Virginia's Akil Mitchell, left, and Justin Anderson. (Baltimore Sun photo by Amy Davis / February 10, 2013)

COLLEGE PARK —

This one was ugly, an 80-69 beatdown at the hands of Virginia that made that patch of gray in Mark Turgeon's hair practically double in size. A few more losses like this and he'll need the Just for Men even more than I do.

The big question for Maryland on Sunday was this: where was Alex Len?

The big sophomore center finished with nine points, but four came in the last 1:18 when Comcast Center was emptying and the cleaning crew was getting the mops and brooms ready.

OK, Len finished with seven boards and blocked a few shots. But basically he was a non-factor. And when your 7-foot-1, 255-pound big man is a non-factor in a big game like this, it becomes a major cause of concern.

Or at least it should be.

"Well, I don't think he was very good the first half, or the start of the second half," Turgeon said of Len. "The physicality got to him a little bit. He had to chase around Justin Anderson (17 points) and that really wasn't fair to him.

"... They did a good job on him. They doubled him, made it tough. I just kept telling him he's got to get to the boards and get second chance points. ... He has to be a little more physical. It wasn't his best day."

No, it wasn't. And now Maryland's record drops to 17-7 and 5-6 in the ACC, and the window for getting into the NCAA tournament closes a little more.

Not that the Terps' chances to get into the Big Dance were that great to begin with. Not with their lack of impressive wins over quality opponents. And not with all the weak sisters — LIU Brooklyn, Georgia Southern, UMES, Monmouth, the list goes on — in their non-conference schedule.

To be fair, you don't lay all the blame for this loss on Len's shoulders. None of the Terps played well in a game they had pointed to for days, which is baffling in itself.

Three or four times in his post-game presser, Turgeon mentioned that the Terps seemed a step slow from the beginning and a "little lethargic" all game long.

Give Virginia credit, too, for making life miserable for Len inside. Every time he touched the ball, two defenders were in his face and he struggled to kick it back out to an open man.

And when he wasn't drawing a double-team, he was too far away from the basket to be effective, which has happened too often this season.

It's all a little mystifying, though, because Len was projected by many to be a lottery pick in the June NBA draft.

As recently as last month, Seth Greenberg, the ESPN analyst and former Virginia Tech coach, was talking about Len like he was the second coming of Pau Gasol.

"I think they've got a legitimate low-post presence and a skilled 7-footer and not that many teams can say that," Greenberg told The Baltimore Sun's Don Markus.

"Alex Len is a difference maker. He's got great hands, he runs the floor, he's gotten stronger, he understands what the scheme is all about, yet he has the skillset of a European player. I think he in himself is unique."

Well, maybe.

But the fact is, he hasn't made the kind of progress with his game that Greenberg — and a lot of us — thought he would.

Sure, he was Maryland's leading scorer going into the Virginia game, with a 12.6 average. But there have been too many times recently when he's been a virtual no-show on offense.

 

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TRACKING THE TERPS