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 coach Mark Turgeon and his team are doing.
Here are a few things to look for as the Terps get ready to play Georgia Tech at 2 p.m. Saturday at Comcast Center.
BEHIND THE 3-BALL
Maryland’s two most dangerous outside shooters, junior forward Evan Smotrycz and sophomore wing Jake Layman, each enter the game against the Yellow Jackets in a bit of a slump.
Since a four-game stretch of making 26 of 48 shots (including 10 of 19 3-pointerss) that started at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands and ended at Ohio State last month, Smotrycz has shot 19 of 59 from the field, including nine of 29 from deep.
“Personally, at least my mentality is if my shot’s not falling, I have to find some other way to impact the game, whether it’s getting an assist, rebounding, drawing a foul and getting to the line,” Smotrycz said.
Smotrycz has done that on occasion. The afternoon he missed 11 of 12 shots overall against Florida Atlantic, including all six 3-pointers, he had seven rebounds and four assists.
But Smotrycz tends to have his best games when he is shooting the ball fairly well, as evidenced by his team-high three double doubles. In two other games, he was within a rebound of a double double.
Layman’s stretch of poor shooting is not as long or as pronounced as Smotrycz's, but he has made just eight of his past 23 field goals over the past three games, including five of 18 3-pointers.
But Layman, too, has figured out ways to help the Terps if his shot isn’t falling.
While shooting 2-for-10 (1-for-7 beyond the arc) against Tulsa, Layman had five rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot, and scored seven of his 12 points at the free-throw line.
“I like [Smotrycz] driving the ball more, scoring more around the basket because he’s capable. He’s pretty crafty in there,” Turgeon said Friday. “Jake, I think he’s going to make it every time, but if he’s not score, he’s got to figure out a way to get to the foul line and drive the ball more.
“He’s got to get more of a mid-range game. It’s all part of the process with them. If it’s not going well, they’ve got to realize it early and get themselves going at the foul line or [with] a layup, and the jumper might be a little bit easier.”
READY FOR ACC
A year ago, the Terps lost their season opener to No. 3 and defending national champion Kentucky in Brooklyn, N.Y., and won 13 straight before losing at home to Florida State after building a big halftime lead.
It took a while for Maryland to recover.
While he has returned to action only recently after missing the first two months with a broken left foot, sophomore point guard Seth Allen sees a different team that will jump back into conference play Saturday.
A tougher nonconference schedule could certainly help.
“We’ve had a lot of close games,” Allen said Friday. “I definitely think we’re battle-tested. It’s partly because of the experience we have, people coming back like me, Jake, Shaq [Cleare] and Chuck [Mitchell]; we’re not freshmen anymore. We kind of know what we’re doing ... out there."
Smotrycz, who sat out last season after transferring from Michigan, said he believes the team is more mentally prepared for the Atlantic Coast Conference than it was a year ago.
“Last year, even though I wasn’t playing, I was kind of worried about it,” Smotrycz said. “I thought the teams we played this nonconference were a lot better than last year. Hopefully, that provides us more experience in winning games.”
Though the Terps have faced a few decent big men this season, Georgia Tech’s Daniel Miller has the size (6 feet 11, 275 pounds) and skill set to give Maryland problems.
Miller certainly did last season, finishing with 16 points, nine rebounds, three blocks and three steals in a 78-68 Yellow Jackets win. Miller went 12-for-12 from the free-throw line.
Turgeon joked at practice that he might use all four of his big men against Miller and all "20 fouls" between big men Cleare, Mitchell, Jonathan Graham (Calvert Hall) and Damonte Dodd.
The Terps might be able to do that since 6-8, 247-pound sophomore forward Robert Carter Jr. is out indefinitely with a torn meniscus in his left knee. Carter had been the Yellow Jackets’ leading rebounder.
“They get a lot of second-chance points,” Turgeon said. “Not only are their big men good rebounders, but their guards are good rebounders. We’re big and strong, too. Hopefully, we’ll become a better rebounding team at 2 o’clock tomorrow.”