Baltimore Sun reporters Don Markus and Jeff Barker and producer-editor Jonas Shaffer weigh in on three of the biggest topics of the past week in Maryland sports.
After Wednesday’s 16-point loss at No. 5 Ohio State, is Mark Turgeon now under more scrutiny than Randy Edsall?
Don Markus: The honeymoon for Mark Turgeon ended last season when his team struggled to find any consistency during the ACC schedule and lost a couple of games that many believed the Terps should have won. (Boston College and Georgia Tech, both on the road, come to mind.)
But because he had inherited a much more difficult situation than Randy Edsall in terms of talent and was able to have his team play hard on a consistent basis his first two years, the goodwill and patience extended to Turgeon extended into this season.
That is nearly all gone after another disappointing performance by Maryland against Ohio State, one that in many ways was just as bad the home loss to Oregon State a few weeks ago.
The 76-60 final score was deceiving, considering it felt more like a 25 to 30-point loss.
Judging by the reaction from fans commenting on The Sun’s website as well as those I spoke with at the airport in Columbus on Thursday morning, Turgeon could start feeling the same kind of wrath Edsall had until the football team won at Virginia Tech and North Carolina State this year.
Edsall still has his doubters, those who believe he is not the coach to lead the Terps into the Big Ten. But at this point, he will likely get at least two years to prove he is – with the last year of his contract in 2016 up for discussion unless he starts strong in the new league.
Turgeon is certainly not close to that discussion, in part because he signed an eight-year deal when he left Texas A&M to come to Maryland and because he has had two highly ranked recruiting classes. But fans want to see that individual talent turn into a top 25 team.
The storm clouds are starting to gather over Comcast Center, and they could turn even darker should the Terps lose to George Washington on Sunday. Given that the Colonials have already beaten Miami and No. 20 Creighton, this is more than a trap game for Maryland.
It actually would be a quality win for a team desperately in search of one.
A year ago, the Terps nearly beat defending champion and No. 3 Kentucky at the Barclays Center, then went through the rest of a very weak non-conference barely tested. Turgeon said later that it hurt his team and his own comfort level as a coach.
Now, after nearly beating No. 18 Connecticut at the Barclays Center, the Terps have not played very well aside from their three-game sweep in the Paradise Jam and a 27-point win over Morgan State last week.
Many still think Turgeon is the right guy to bring the Terps back to national prominence, but apparently it’s going to take longer than many -- myself included -- expected. Losing Seth Allen with a broken foot right before the season began certainly threw Maryland off track, but there are no excuses for the way Turgeon’s team played in Columbus.
It was embarrassing, nearly from the outset. It was, unfortunately, reminscent of some of the performances Edsall’s team gave as recently as Wake Forest earlier this season. If Edsall can take heat for the way his team didn’t show up to play that day before losing Stefon Diggs and Deon Long to horrific injuries, so can Turgeon. There were no injuries at the Value City Arena in the Big Ten/Big Ten (non) Challenge but plenty of insults.
How do you think Maryland fans felt seeing watching ESPN’s Top 10 Wednesday night and Thursday and seeing three Ohio State dunks from the same game? Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, Turgeon’s team had better look more prepared, focus and committed than they did against the Buckeyes.
That’s a coach’s job, and right now, the basketball coach is feeling a lot more heat than the football coach in College Park for the first time since each was hired.
What former Maryland recruit could Mark Turgeon and the Terps use now?
Jonas Shaffer: For all his flaws, give Gary Williams this much credit: He knew how to find, and develop, a point guard for his system. And before he retired in 2011, he had a letter of intent from a kid named Sterling Gibbs.
A three-star recruit out of New Jersey, Gibbs didn't look look much like the next Steve Blake or Greivis Vasquez. Nor did he have even the billing of a D.J. Strawberry. So it was with little disappointment among Maryland fans that he was released from his commitment after Williams' exit; even less attention was paid when he signed with Texas soon after.
His freshman year was a flop -- less than eight minutes, three points and one assist per game -- and he got out of Austin and went back home. He sat out last season after transferring to Seton Hall, and that, it seemed, would be the last we'd hear of him. Gibbs had once been a part of the same last-gasp recruiting class as Martin Breunig, after all.
Turns out, Williams was right to like Gibbs. (As for Breunig, well, that's another story.) In his season opener, Gibbs had 23 points, six rebounds, four assists, two steals and two turnovers. Over eight games this year, he's averaging 14.6 points and 4.4 assists per game, with an assist-to-turnover ratio of better than 2:1. In other words, he'd be tied for first in scoring and first overall in assists on this year's Terps team.
Is Gibbs perfect? Oh, no. His shooting numbers (34 percent from the field, 28 percent from deep) are an eyesore, and Seton Hall opened December with a loss to Fairleigh Dickinson. Not to mention, who knows whether Seth Allen signs on with Turgeon if Gibbs keeps his Terps pledge.
But put Gibbs in College Park this season, and you have a different team: Dez Wells on the wing, Peters learning from a veteran, Varun Ram only a use-in-case-of-emergency option. It's far from perfect, but after Wednesday's loss at Ohio State, it's clear this team would happily settle for solid.
What was your take on the email showing that basketball coaches Mark Turgeon and Brenda Frese initially opposed Maryland’s move to the Big Ten?
Jeff Barker: It’s funny because I remember looking at all those coaches lined up during the event to announce the conference shift one year ago. I recall thinking: “Their worlds have changed overnight.” Some looked unhappy.
So I wasn’t surprised to read that particular email, which I received from a Public Information Act request. It was written by regent and top donor Barry Gossett on the day after the media disclosed the Big Ten negotiations, but before the formal announcement
It read: “I have been getting calls and emails from friends and fans alike, bottom line is ‘say it ain't so’. I did get a call from Mark Turgeon who is very opposed to this. He said all the coaches he has talked to, except Randy [Edsall], are upset and opposed. Brenda did talk to me last week expressing concern and was not warm to the idea.”
You have to remember how new this all was to the coaches, and that Turgeon had only arrived at Maryland in May 2011. The ACC was fresh on his mind, and he couldn’t have had any complaints about competing in such an upper-echelon basketball league. In fact, I’m sure the ACC was a selling point for Maryland.
But let me add that Turgeon and Frese are competitors.
How competitive is Turgeon?
His wife, Ann, said in 2011: “ I beat him a couple times in backgammon when we were first married and now he won't play me anymore. “
So I can’t see Turgeon and the other coaches doing anything but embrace the challenge of transitioning to a new conference.
The task ahead was previewed Wednesday night, wasn’t it?