By Don Markus
The Baltimore Sun
4:30 PM EST, November 21, 2013
ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands -- Maryland and Morgan State came to this Caribbean destination for the Paradise Jam basketball tournament with different priorities.
It's not that the Terps packed only their sneakers and the Bears packed only their snorkels, but the coaches from schools located less than an hour apart made it clear that they do not have the same agenda.
Mark Turgeon said after practice in College Park on Tuesday that Maryland (1-2) is treating the three-game, four-day event as a business trip, an opportunity to improve on Sunday's home loss to Oregon State.
Todd Bozeman said before Morgan State (0-4) left Baltimore that he hoped that "it's not only about basketball, it's about exposing the guys to other things, trying to take advantage of seeing another part of the world. ... They might never get to the Caribbean again."
Not that Turgeon won't allow his Terps some beach time Saturday, as long as they beat Marist in Friday's opening round and don't have to play again until Sunday.
But he hopes that his team's trip this summer to the Bahamas, where Maryland won three games in four days against local competition while vacationing at the posh Atlantis Resort, will help make his team's focus mostly on hoops this weekend.
"It's totally different," Turgeon said. "It's business. Still fun, because you're in a beautiful part of the world, and we get to play a tournament, but it will be film sessions and all that."
Of course Bozeman, who has taken previous Morgan State teams to faraway places such as the Bahamas and Cancun, Mexico, also cares about the outcome on the court at the Sports and Fitness Center.
The Bears, who play La Salle on Friday night, opened their season with losses at Ohio State and Towson and home losses to San Diego and Ohioon Wednesday night.
"Where we are playing, the teams we have at the beginning of the season, it can appear to the general public that you're having a tough time when you're getting better," Bozeman said. "It doesn't appear you're successful, but it's preparing you to be successful."
Turgeon certainly looks at this tournament and his team's first three games from a different perspective.
Though picked seventh in the Atlantic Coast Conference's preseason media poll and not mentioned as anything more than a bubble team in this season's early NCAA tournament projections, the Terps have been more than a little disappointing to date.
"Obviously we don't want to be 1-2. I can't remember the last time ... being under .500 after three games," said Turgeon, whose Terps sandwiched losses to then-No. 18 Connecticut in Brooklyn, N.Y, and Sunday at home to Oregon State with a win over Abilene Christian.
"We just want to play better. That's the whole deal," Turgeon said. "I'm sitting over there on the sidelines, going, 'I just cannot believe the way we were playing.' Offensively, we were good against [Oregon State's] zone. We turned it over too much, and our turnovers lead to layups. I just can't believe the way we're playing defensively."
Turgeon and his team watched tape of the Oregon State game Monday night and again Tuesday morning before preparing for Marist. He also showed the players film of last month's closed scrimmage against Villanova.
"I think we were further along three weeks ago than we are now," Turgeon said. "Our Villanova scrimmage we guarded like crazy. For some reason we've taken a step back."
Said sophomore forward Charles Mitchell: "If we can play like that with nobody in the gym, we should be able to play like that with 17,000 or 15,000 people in the gym. It showed us who we are as a team."
Maryland and Morgan State are on different sides of the draw and are not expected to meet until they return home next week, scheduled to play at Comcast Center on Nov. 29. If the Terps win their opener, they will play the winner of Northern Iowa-Loyola Marymount. After La Salle, the Bears' next opponent will be either Providence or Vanderbilt.
With a large contingent of Morgan State alumni living nearby, Bozeman knows that his players will get fan support here. He also realizes that for players who are accustomed to playing in the no-frills Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, a four-day tournament "is an opportunity. ... It's a combination of business and pleasure."
In other words, it's a place for sneakers and snorkels.
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