Welcome to a second season of Morning Shootaround. We will follow the Terps throughout the 2013-14 season, but this year in this space we will provide a look ahead rather than looking back. We will try to analyze Maryland's strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of its upcoming opponent. We also hope to provide quotes and anecdotes from practices to give some idea of what Mark Turgeon and his team are doing.
Here are a few things to look for as the Terps host Abilene Christian on Wednesday night in the home opener at Comcast Center.
NICK THE QUICK
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One of the biggest criticisms of the Maryland basketball team last season was its habit of shooting too quickly, a problem Mark Turgeon attributed to playing a lot of freshmen. One of the biggest culprits was freshman guard Seth Allen.
Despite the experience gained last season, the problem has not completely been rectified. With Allen sitting in a suit on the bench after breaking his foot, the Terps took a lot of quick shots in a 78-77 loss to Connecticut last Friday in Brooklyn, N.Y.
While junior guard Nick Faust (City) wasn’t the only culprit, he might have been the most obvious. Faust led the Terps with 17 points -- one shy of his career-best -- but he also heaved up a career-high 18 shots, including 10 3-point attempts. At one point, he missed 10 straight shots overall before making his last two.
A number of his shots came way too quickly, and Faust, as has become his habit, pulled up from 20 feet (or longer) rather than driving to the basket. Faust is more effective when he looks to drive rather than when he looks to shoot, though he missed all six layups or dunks he took against the Huskies.
On the ESPN telecast, former Terps star Len Elmore singled out Faust late in the first half for failing to recognize “time [on the shot clock] and score” and said that it’s been something he has been saying since Faust’s freshman year in College Park.
Not counting layups, Faust took five jump shots with 10 seconds or less elasped on the shot clock, four in the first half. Interestingly, the biggest shot Faust made all night -- a 3-pointer with 2:27 left to pull the Terps to within 75-72 -- came with 27 seconds elapsed on the shot clock.
Asked Tuesday before practice whether Faust feels more pressure to score with leading returning scorer Dez Wells taking over at the point, Turgeon defended Faust’s performance in the opener. Turgeon made it clear that Faust was not the only one taking questionable shots.
“I think Nick made one [early], sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s bad,” Turgeon said. “He learned from the film. Nick’s floor game is so much better than it’s been. In practices, he’s making really good decisions. He was just excited. He hit a few, thought he had to make some shots for us, if he could take a few back I’m sure he would.”
REVOLVING POINT GUARD
If Friday’s game against the Huskies seemed like a replay of last season’s opener against Kentucky at the Barclays Center, Maryland's situation at point guard also has to seem like Turgeon’s own personal Groundhog’s Day from his first season in College Park.
All he needs is a bucket hat like Bill Murray to turn into college basketball's Carl Spackler.
In 2011, the Terps went into the season with then-sophomore Pe’Shon Howard sidelined by a broken foot. Turgeon was forced to use Terrell Stoglin, the team’s top scorer, at the point. This time, with Allen sidelined, he decided to go with Wells.
The biggest difference is that Turgeon now has options that he didn’t have in his first season. Another difference is that Wells is a much more willing passer than Stoglin. Eventually, Turgeon went with Faust, then a freshman who hadn’t played the point since middle school, until Howard returned.
If Turgeon decides that Wells is sacrificing too much of his offensive game at the point, as he suggested Tuesday by saying that basketball operations director Dustin Clark told him the team lost “half of Dez” by moving him to the point, he can try freshman Roddy Peters or even former walk-on Varum Ram to run the team.
Given some of the things Peters did against the Huskies, especially in the second half, I would play the former Suitland High star as much as possible Wednesday against Abilene Christian and Sunday against Oregon State (which lost to Coppin State) in order to get him ready for the Paradise Jam tournament in the Virgin Islands next week.
Turgeon should be in a good mood this week, considering that the four prospects who verbally committed over the past few months will all sign officially over the next couple days.
Shooting guard Dion Wiley will get things going Wednesday around 1 p.m at Potomac High in Oxon Hill. He will be followed by small forward Jared Nickens at the Westtown School in Chester, Pa. and 7-foot-1 (and seemingly growing) center Trayvon Reed at the Life Center Academy in Burlington, N.J.
Combo guard Melo Trimble is expected to sign Friday at Bishop O’Connell after getting back from a school trip.
The group has given Maryland the No. 5 recruiting class in the country according to ESPN.