Welcome to a second season of Morning Shootaround. We will follow the Terps throughout the 2013-14 season, but in this space this year, we will provide a look ahead, rather than 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 head coach Mark Turgeon and his team are doing.
Here are a few things to look for as the Terps get ready to play Boston University at Comcast Center on Saturday.
This has been an interesting three-game stretch for Maryland assistant coach Scott Spinelli.
It began with a trip back to Spinelli’s hometown (Leominster, Mass.) for Maryland’s ACC season opener at Boston College, continued with a home game against Spinelli’s former college coach (Mike Jarvis) last week and will end Saturday when the Terps host Spinelli’s alma mater (Boston University).
“It’s probably the most emotional I’ve been,” Spinelli said of facing Jarvis, who later went to George Washington and St. John’s before landing at Florida Atlantic, which the Terps beat Sunday, 66-62. “The amount of emotions you have in those three games are more than the actual games.”
When the Maryland schedule came out in late summer, Spinelli said he didn’t pay much attention to this three-game homecoming of sorts.
“You’re kind of focused on getting ready for the season,” Spinelli said. “When it came about and it happened and you’re living it, it’s a little bit different because you’re there and it’s not just on paper. It brings back a lot of fond memories and it makes you realize how fast the years go by.”
Spinelli has been with Terps head coach Mark Turgeon since leaving Nebraska for Wichita State in 2006. He came to Maryland with Turgeon from Texas A&M in 2011 and has helped the Terps put together two strong recruiting classes.
Turgeon was asked Friday whether he knew what kind of player Spinelli was at Boston, where he went from a freshman walk-on in 1986 to an on-scholarship sophomore before later undergoing career-ending knee surgery as a junior.
“Can I tell you what his coach called him?, No I can’t do that, not on camera,” Turgeon joked Friday after practice. “Probably the same kind of coach he is: probably tough-minded, works hard every day, great energy, probably a great teammate.”
As he considered his assistant's boundless energy, even now, in his mid-40s, Turgeon said of Spinelli: “Can you imagine what he was like then, the energy level he had then? He still has it today. I imagine he was a lot of fun to be around.”
After facing some of the nation’s top guards, — from Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier to Ohio State’s Aaron Craft to Boston College’s Olivier Hanlan — the Terps are not going to be too intimidated by Boston’s Maurice Watson Jr.
Not that Maryland shouldn’t concern itself with Watson, a 5-foot-10, 165-pound sophomore who has scored in double figures in 10 of his team's 11 games and averages 14.6 points and 6.5 assists per game.
Lesser-name guards have done well against the Terps this season.
Roberto Nelson scored 31 points against Maryland in Oregon State’s upset win over the Terps in College Park on Nov. 17. Maurice Creek of George Washington finished with 25 and hit the buzzer-beating game-winner Dec. 8 at Verizon Center.
Even Pablo Bertone of Florida Atlantic had 21 points in last Saturday’s 66-62 loss to Maryland.
Asked about the kind of challenge Watson presents, Maryland guard Dez Wells said: “No challenge we haven’t seen as a team. We’ve played against really good guards year in and year out. He’s a really good player, but we’ll be up for the challenge.”
Given Watson’s size and quickness, Turgeon likely will have a combination of freshman point guard Roddy Peters and junior point guard Varun Ram (River Hill) trying to slow him down.
Will Turgeon was the one who told his dad, Mark, about Maryland's appearing in ESPN.com’s "Bracketology" update. The Terps were listed as one of seven Atlantic Coast Conference teams in the NCAA tournament, slotted as a No. 12 seed playing No. 5 seed Oregon in Spokane, Wash.
“I think it’s credit to two things: One, we’ve been playing without our point guard [Seth Allen], and we’ve played a really tough schedule,” Turgeon said Friday. “I think when the [Ratings Percentage Index] come[s] out, I think we’re going to be really high.”
Turgeon was quick to point out that the projection "really doesn’t mean anything.” In reality, neither Turgeon nor a certain Baltimore Sun sports reporter who mentioned it in Terps Trio on Friday understood how Joe Lunardi does his early posts.
Since the Terps were one of only two ACC teams with a league win, they were generously — and probably prematurely — made the league’s automatic qualifier.
In other words, they'll quickly disappear from Lunardi’s bracket unless they get off to a good start in the league when regular-season ACC play resumes.