Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Don Markus and intern Connor Letourneau (The Diamondback's co-sports editor) weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in Maryland sports.
Maryland has now announced the start times for its first three football games (all afternoon games). What do you make of the early-season schedule?
Jeff Barker: I’d liken the importance of the season-opening games to 2010. There is a certain extra pressure -- a nagging burden -- on a team that enters a season with a long losing streak.
In 2010, Maryland beat Navy in the opener to snap a seven-game losing streak from the year before. This year, Maryland will host William & Mary (3 p.m.) in the Sept. 1 opener trying to end an eight-game winless streak. Then the Terps head to Temple trying to avenge last season’s embarrassing 38-7 loss to the Owls.
A couple notes on Maryland’s schedule:
-- It’s the first one I remember that alternates home and away games like a checkerboard all the way through. Coach Randy Edsall said he hopes that not having a long homestand will help keep his team on its toes.
-- The Terps have no weeknight appearances. All of the games are on Saturdays. It feels like a generation ago (actually 2008) that Maryland last played on national television on a Thursday night. I guess you’ve got to win a few more games to convince the television execs that you are worthy of showcasing your talents in prime time.
Don Markus: Like many, including one NBA scout I talked with that night, I was surprised to hear that Stoglin was invited by an NBA team to one of their private workouts, along with players who are considered legitimate lottery picks. It's also surprising since the Hornets have the No. 1 and No. 10 overall picks, but don't have a second-round pick as of now, and that's what the undersized Stoglin is at best.
But I think Stoglin's ability to score in bunches -- both outside and inside -- must make some NBA scouts curious about the kid. The ACC has had a number of its leading scorers not make it in the NBA, particularly shooting guards who needed to be point guards in the pros. Look at recent years, with guys like Malcolm Delaney at Virginia Tech and Jack McClinton at Miami or even going back 20 or more years to another former local star, Rodney Monroe, at N.C. State.
On top of that, Stoglin's less-than-exemplary behavior in College Park and the circumstances surrounding his sudden departure last month will not exactly endear himself to NBA general managers and coaches. But the fact that Stoglin showed up in New Orleans with the likes of Duke's Austin Rivers and Connecticut's Jeremy Lamb means that the Hornets are more than a little intrigued by the former Terp's talents.
No former Maryland men’s basketball players were asked to participate in this week’s NBA Draft Combine. What are the chances Alex Len, a 7-1 center from Ukraine who has already received considerable NBA buzz, will take part in the event next year?
Connor Letourneau: I think Len is still at least two years away from being ready to contribute at the next level. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean the rising sophomore will return to College Park for his junior season. If just one team finds Len’s blend of length, range and agility intriguing enough for a first-round selection, he could be gone.
But will that happen? It’s really anyone’s guess. For an NBA franchise to take a chance on Len, it’ll need to see some production to back up all the potential.
After sitting out the Terps’ first 10 games last season for a violation of the NCAA’s amateur rules, Len appeared poised for stardom. He averaged 13.5 points and 2.3 blocks over his first four collegiate contests en route to ACC Rookie of the Week honors.
But Len was downright bullied in ACC play. Over the Terps’ final 18 games, he reached double-digit point totals twice. He dropped easy passes, struggled to post up smaller defenders and appeared generally lost.
Granted, Len was recovering from an ankle injury he suffered during a Jan. 21 loss at Temple. And despite his giant frame, he was only a freshman going through the typical progression of a player adjusting to the college game away from home.
But next season, being green will no longer be a viable excuse for the big man. With leading scorer Terrell Stoglin gone, coach Mark Turgeon will need Len to shoulder a heavier offensive workload. He’ll need the Ukrainian national team member to start showing why some pundits believe he could be a lottery pick in next year’s draft.
Personally, I think he’ll step up to the challenge. After spending most of last season acclimating himself to the American game, he’ll likely use the offseason to hit the weights. He should enter the fall with a renewed confidence, the knowledge that he has all the tools to become an elite ACC center.
If that happens, Len could be scary. He very well could be shaking David Stern’s hand — if not next year, then at least by 2014.