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 get ready to play No. 1 (but not for much longer) Syracuse on Monday night at Comcast Center.
ORANGE SEEING RED
The best-case scenario for Maryland going into this game was for Syracuse to come in No. 1 and unbeaten, tired but happy after wins over Duke and Boston College.
The worst case scenario for the Terps going into their biggest home game of the season and one of the biggest in Turgeon’s three seasons is what they will face instead.
A tired and unhappy team that has lost two straight games and will undoubtedly lose its No. 1 ranking when the latest poll comes out Monday.
And a 69-year-old coach who is more cranky than usual – and that’s saying an awful lot when it comes to Jim Boeheim - after being tossed out of a regular season game for the first time in his Hall-of-Fame career.
“I thought it was pretty crazy seeing Jim Boeheim do that,” Maryland forward Jake Layman said after practice Sunday in College Park. “It just lets us know he’s going to come in here with a lot of energy this game and they’re going to be looking to get the win.”
Junior guard Nick Faust (City) had been rooting for the Orange to stay undefeated.
“I really do wish they were still undefeated,” Faust said. “That just brings more buzz to the game. But they are still No. 1 [until around noon Monday], still a great team and it’s going to be a great win if we win.”
Turgeon thinks that the back-to-back losses take a little pressure off Boeheim’s team.
“They’re probably a little more determined, probably a little more relaxed,” Turgeon said. “When you’re 25-0, there’s a lot more pressure to go undefeated.”
I wonder whether Boeheim has commiserated with his old pal Gary Williams about getting thrown out of a game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
It happened to Williams for the first time early in the first half of an 86-59 loss for the No. 23 Terps against the No. 1 Blue Devils on Jan. 29, 1998.
A lot of ACC coaches who feel they’ve been given the short end on calls at Cameron in tight games – Turgeon joined a very long list recently – must feel a little better seeing the second-winningest coach of all-time get the same treatment. Or worse.
Personally, I think it was just a makeup call for Rodney Hood not going to the line a few weeks ago after getting hacked on the arm trying to dunk. Somehow I have a feeling Mike Krzyzewski voiced his displeasure over that one.
A key confrontation between the Terps and Orange will take place at point guard. Given how Maryland sophomore Seth Allen and Syracuse freshman Tyler Ennis have played of late, it could determine the game’s outcome.
Allen is coming off a rough outing last Tuesday night against Wake Forest. He shot 2 of 10 from the field, with all but one of the misses coming from 3-point range. He also didn’t play great in the two-point loss at Duke, with seven points, two assists and three turnovers.
Since scoring a career-high 32 points against Florida State on 11 of 15 shooting, including seven of 10 on 3-pointers, Allen has shot 11 of 30 from the field, including 3 of 18 on 3-pointers. Given Syracuse’s zone, Allen will likely has his share of open 3-pointers on Monday.
Ennis, one of the most dynamic freshmen in the country, had a rough game shooting at Duke as well, going 2 of 13. He did have six assists, including a great wraparound bounce pass to C.J. Fair (City) for a dunk late in the game.
I’ll be interested to see if Turgeon tries to throw a bigger, stronger defender on Ennis such as Dez Wells or Faust in trying to prevent him from getting to the rim, especially if Allen is not locked in on him early.
This might be the only time this season that the Terps will come into a game a lot more rested than their opponent. Maryland hasn’t played since beating Wake Forest last Tuesday and Syracuse is coming off an emotional and physically taxing loss at Duke.
“It’s great, helped prepare us even more,” Faust said of the practice schedule the past few days. “Trying to get a step ahead since they have so many games”
Asked if there’s a danger of the Terps losing their rhythm, Faust said, Not at all. We feel like this is the time for us to get the rhythm going even more.”
Considering how slowly Maryland started against the Demon Deacons, I’m not sure there’s a rhythm to lose. Faust was about the only Terp to have much going that night, finishing with a career-high 20 points.
But the Terps should have no excuses and given the way the Orange have struggled against mediocre teams like N.C. State and lost to a bad one in B.C., Maryland should have a decent chance.