Welcome to the second season of Morning Shootaround. We will follow the Terps throughout the 2013-14 season, but this year, 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 watch as the Terps get ready to play at North Carolina on Tuesday night.
- Seth Allen leads Terps on road to play North Carolina
- Maryland always will be ACC school to Roy Williams
- Maryland Terps coverage
- 2013-14 Terps basketball [Pictures]
- Analyzing Maryland's 2013-14 men's basketball season player by player
- Maryland-Duke memories
See more photos »
- Maryland Madness sights & sounds [Video]
- Video: Williams retires as Maryland basketball head coach
Turgeon’s team has certainly played some of its best offensive basketball of the season – maybe in his first three seasons – over the past three games.
Collectively, the Terps are shooting 85 of 160 against Pittsburgh (26 of 54), Miami (28 of 50) and Virginia Tech (29 of 56). After shooting four of 17 on 3-pointers in a four-point loss to the Panthers, Maryland is 18 of 36 in the past two games.
It has come against a team that plays mostly man-to-man (Pitt), a team that uses an unorthodox matchup zone (Miami) and a team that has trouble getting back on defense (Virginia Tech). Meaning, Turgeon has put in new wrinkles for each.
“They’ve really happily surprised me the last few weeks preparing for Pittsburgh [and] the last two games. All three game plans were different,” Turgeon said after practice Monday in College Park. “This one [against] North Carolina one is different. They’ve really been dialed in.
“We really talked about maturity, growing up. You can see it coming. Guys are getting more confident. I think you keep it simple, what we do offensively. We’ve added a few things, but we’ve kept it simple, we’ve dropped a lot of things and we’ve gotten better at what we do.”
The Terps are sharing the ball better, as well as taking better care of it. In the last two games, Maryland has 30 assists to 19 turnovers, including just two turnovers in the second half against Virginia Tech.
Considering North Carolina has never been considered a great defensive team, that trend should continue at "The Dean Dome."
“I think it’s being poised enough to pass up a decent shot to get a better shot,” Terps junior forward Evan Smotrycz said.
One of the more noticeable transformations has been from junior guard Nick Faust, who played one of the more efficient games of his career Saturday against Virginia Tech.
Faust (City) made the only shot he took in the first half and finished 3 of 4 overall, 2 of 3 on 3-pointers, with 10 points, three assists, no turnovers and one blocked shot in 24 minutes.
“His shot selection has been very good. He’s getting out on the break, he’s getting us into our offense, and that’s what big,” Turgeon said. “Now guys aren’t breaking off stuff to shoot, so now we know where the shots are coming from ... I think Nick’s playing well right now.”
Turgeon knows that Faust is capable of doing more, but he will take a more restrained player than one who, like many of his teammates, has been prone to take quick shots.
“Mentally, he’s playing better, and for our team, he’s playing better,” Turgeon said. “I think the best is yet to come with Nick. He’s starting to figure it out. He looks like a basketball player now. He really does.”
We know that this is just the machinations of the computer program that spits out the conference schedule. That’s what Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford said when asked by Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post at media day about the absence of Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State on the Terps' home schedule.
After a "gimme" last Saturday in Blacksburg, Va., the Terps play at North Carolina, home against Florida State, at Virginia and at Duke. Maryland also started with four of its first six games on the road in the ACC. Most teams have one such stretch, but you would be hard-pressed to find too many other ACC teams with the kind of schedule the Terps were handed.
Turgeon is looking at the upcoming schedule as “a great opportunity for us. We’re 5-4 [in the league], and a lot of great opportunities, we’ve still got a shot. I’d rather be playing good teams than teams that aren’t going to help us. This gives a great opportunity to get some quality wins.”