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Thoughts on Maryland basketball blame, Big Ten signage and beer at Byrd Stadium

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Baltimore Sun reporters Don Markus, Jeff Barker and producer-editor Jonas Shaffer weigh in on three topics from the past week in Maryland sports.


Who's to blame for Maryland not winning close games, Mark Turgeon or his players?

Don Markus: After losing to No. 4 Syracuse on Monday night at Comcast Center, the Terps are now 3-5 overall this season in games decided by six points or less, including 1-3 in the ACC.

That includes non-conference wins over Florida Atlantic (66-62) and Providence (56-52) and non-league losses to Connecticut (78-77) in Brooklyn and George Washington (77-75).

The only ACC win that was a close game shouldn’t have been – a 3-point win over Miami when Maryland blew a 10-point lead with 1:45 to go before Dez Wells made a 3-pointer that many questioned him for even taking.

Many blame Turgeon, and the ever-honest Midwesterner admitted that he didn’t do a great job getting his team ready to play against Syracuse’s zone.

But you shouldn’t blame Turgeon for Jake Layman missing the first of two free throws with 47.7 seconds left that would have tied the score rather than leaving the Terps down one.

You can’t blame Turgeon for Wells for giving up the ball to Faust when many thought Wells should have taken it right to the basket down the lane as he had done for much of the last five minutes.

You can’t blame Turgeon or Wells for the last play, which ended with Seth Allen taking an off-balanced 3-pointer rather than pulling up from 25 feet rather than trying to get a little closer to the basket.

You can’t even blame Turgeon for the two last-second shots Charles Mitchell tried recently at Duke, though many wondered why Wells would inbound the ball rather than try to take a pass to set up a potential game-winner.

But I think Turgeon has to take the responsibility for the way his team continues to miss opportunities down the stretch, something that’s been a recurring theme this season.

A coach has to take the blame, as Turgeon did after the Syracuse game, but at some point his players have to be able to make plays down the stretch. Three of Turgeon’s narrow wins came when players didn’t follow the script.

Along with Wells’ 3-pointer, there was two games last year that went down to the buzzer: when Alex Len tipped in an airball by Pe’Shon Howard against North Carolina State and when Allen was fouled  and made a pair of free throws to beat Duke at Comcast Center.

It’s interesting to note that Turgeon’s last four teams at Texas A&M were 16-7 in games decided by four points or less, which means his players in Lubbock were more clutch than his players in College Park have been so far.

Many disgruntled fans say that Turgeon’s in-game coaching adjustments pale in comparison to those his predecessor made during his 22 years at Maryland. There were few coaches as good as Gary Williams in that regard, which is one reason he has recently been nominated for the Hall of Fame.

Some have blamed Turgeon’s struggles on the lack of talent Williams left him, or on the fact that Len left after last season and Terrell Stoglin was booted out of the program after his first season.

But Turgeon should be getting a lot more out of the talent he has recruited.

This is clearly Turgeon’s team and the players who are not delivering in clutch situations are players that he brought in, convined to transfer or, in Nick Faust’s case, retained from the former regime.

For Maryland to return to the NCAA tournament once they go to the Big Ten, winning close games is obviously something Turgeon’s team will have to do with more regularity. Something else that’s obvious: there’s a lot of blame to go around for what has transpired this season.

But I still think it’s up to players to make plays in crunch time. A coach can only do so much. 


Maryland officially enters the Big Ten in four months. What changes are we seeing already?

Jeff Barker: The move is close enough now that signs – literally – are cropping up on campus.

When you enter the Gossett Football Team House auditorium, you will spot a “Maryland football” sign in red, along with the logos of the other schools that will form the East Division: Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers.

If you walk down a corridor to the dining hall, on your left appears several Big Ten logos and lists of all the member schools for the 2014 football season.

There is also a list of Big Ten-affiliated bowl games. There is the Rose Bowl, Gator Bowl and Heart of Dallas Bowl, There is the Armed Forces Bowl, Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, Outback Bowl, Capital One Bowl, Music City Bowl, Alamo Bowl, Holiday Bowl and Pinstripe Bowl.

The Rose Bowl will host a national semifinal game next season in college football’s new playoff system.

Maryland has been planning for its conference shift for months. It’s a large undertaking. Among other tasks, the school has been replacing ACC logos, scouting camera locations for the Big Ten Network at athletic venues and discussing travel schedules with the Big Ten to minimize student-athletes' missed class time.

Football players are starting to peek at next season’s schedule, which includes visits to Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin.

“I’ve definitely thought about the history of a lot of these programs,” defensive lineman Andre Monroe said. “Playing in front of a bigger stage, we feel like that’s something we’ll be able to embrace. How many chances are you going to get to do this? So you might as well take advantage of it.”


Could beer be on the menu next season at Byrd Stadium?

Jonas Shaffer: According to an article this week in The Diamondback, a Student Government Association official has put forth a bill proposing the sale of alcohol at athletic events.

The impetus for the bill is not money, but safety. "I would like to see the sale of alcohol at all athletic events, making these beverages available to all attendees who are legally allowed to drink,” reads the proposal of Josh Ratner, the SGA student affairs vice president and undergraduate senator in the University Senate, according to the Diamondback. “This will reduce incidences of unsafe drinking, attract more fans to athletic events and generate additional revenue for the University.”

Just how much? During the 2011 season, West Virginia made more than half a million dollars in beer sales alone, according to a February 2012 Associated Press report. Food sales for that season were up 60 percent, while concession sales overall were up 84 percent from the previous season. Underage-drinking arrests and open-container violations, meanwhile, fell off.

Alcohol, technically, already is for sale at Byrd Stadium, but only for the 64 Tyser Tower suites ringing the field. Opening up the sale of beer to a stadium with a 10,000-seat student section would present the university with a wonderful financial opportunity (What 21-year-old kid doesn't enjoy a cold one on a steamy September day?) and daunting liability concern (What 18-year-old kid wouldn't want enjoy a cold one on a steamy September day?).

Wallace Loh crusaded against underage drinking at Iowa, where he served as provost before taking a position as university president at Maryland. Would he be willing to open up alcohol sales if he thought it might actually help the problem at the school?

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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