LEN’S MINI-SLUMP

After following up a six-point, two-rebound, 17-minute performance last Saturday against Delaware State, Len was only a little better against IUPUI. He finished with nine points and five rebounds in 18 minutes.

Len is certainly getting a little frustrated with the double and triple-teams that result from the opposition using almost exclusively zone defenses the past two games, but Len has not been nearly as assertive as he was before Christmas break. Turgeon said last week that Len had come back from break not in as good a shape as when he left. 

When Turgeon was asked Tuesday whether it was a matter of teammates not looking for Len early enough in the shot clock, or Len not playing hard enough to get good position on smaller opponents, he had an interesting answer.

“Alex hasn’t played well, so quite frankly, I’m not going to call a play for him if he’s not playing well,” Turgeon said, a hint of frustration in his tone. “He just hasn’t played well. Shaq’s down there swiveling, getting on bodies and we’re throwing it to him and he’s scoring [more] in less minutes or equal minutes. I’m not concerned about it.”

Someone joked with Cleare that he has worn Len out in practice.

“Don’t mind Alex, he’s going to bounce back, he’s a hard worker,” Cleare said. “I have confidence in Alex. Alex has struggled the past two games, but knowing his personality, Alex is not going to stop. He’s done.  Trust me, he’s not done. Alex is going to bounce back and dominate the ACC.” 

In fact, Cleare credits the double-teams Len has seen for allowing Cleare (eight points, five rebounds in 18 minutes,  James Padgett (eight points and six rebounds in 16 minutes) and Charles Mitchell (seven points and five rebounds in 20 minutes as a starter) to get easy shots and dunks inside.

Given Virginia Tech’s lack of size and depth – as well as the success Delaware State and IUPUI had in slowing down Len after in all but one of Maryland’s first 11 games while averaging over 14 points- don’t be surprised to see the Hokies come out in a zone on Saturday.

HOW GOOD ARE THE TERPS?

A year ago, Maryland was 10-3 going into its first ACC game. But Turgeon knew that the record was a bit bloated and the Terps had only one quality win – over a jet-lagged Notre Dame team in the BB&T Classic at the Verizon Center – to show for it.

The Terps don’t really have any marquee wins in their 12-1 record. Kevin Dunleavy of the Washington Examiner asked an interesting question after Tuesday’s game: would it be better if Maryland had beaten Kentucky in the season opener and was undefeated and nationally ranked, maybe even in the top 10?

“I’m glad we’re not undefeated, I’m glad we’re not ranked seventh or eighth,” Turgeon said. “We’re not the seventh or eighth-best team and we didn’t deserve to win that night. I think it’s kind of kept our attention. We’ve got plenty of chances the next few weeks to get ranked. Is that honest enough?” 

LOOKING AHEAD

Finally, the Terps are going to open their much-anticipated ACC schedule. Given the recent struggles of Virginia Tech, I’m not so sure that playing the Hokies is going to be much different than playing Stony Brook or George Mason. After starting the season 7-0 -- with wins over Iowa and then-No. 15 Oklahoma State -- under new coach James Johnson, Virginia Tech has lost its last two and three of its last five.

 Aside from having the nation’s second-leading scorer in Erick Green, Virginia Tech is struggling to find enough bodies (eight scholarship players) and much chemistry under Johnson, a former assistant under Seth Greenberg in Blacksburg. People are starting to question Johnson’s bench coaching after the Hokies lost to Georgia Southern at home Dec. 15 and were blown out the last two games by Colorado State (88-52) in Las Vegas and at Brigham Young (97-71).