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.
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.”
Asked whether not getting either Duke or North Carolina at home was fair, Turgeon said: “I just think it’s the way it is. It’s life. It’s what we’ve got to do. We get Syracuse at home and Notre Dame at home. Those are two good ones for our fans. For our fans, I would have loved to have Carolina and Duke here. It didn’t work out that way.”
Sophomore point guard Seth Allen said: “I see an unbelievable opportunity to come upon four great wins. A North Carolina team that hasn’t been so good as they have been in the past, we should be able to get a win on the road. The next three of four on the road, and we have Florida State [at Comcast Center]. We’ve been pretty good team playing at home. We’re going to take this opportunity and try to take advantage of it.”
It will certainly be a reversal of fortune. Maryland’s win Saturday in Blacksburg was only the sixth in 27 true road games since Turgeon took over the program. The Terps are a combined 2-17 against North Carolina (0-6) Florida State (0-4), Virginia (0-4) and Duke (2-3).
FEAR THE TURGEON
There’s been a lot of talk this season about Terps players taking advantage of Turgeon. Since the media isn’t allowed to watch practice, it’s hard to say how Turgeon acted in the aftermath of early season losses to Boston University and Oregon State or recently at North Carolina State.
Turgeon said after Saturday’s win over Virginia Tech that blowing an 11-point lead early in the second half to a Wolfpack team playing without the conference's leading scorer, T.J. Warren, forced the third-year coach to “really turn into a jerk.” But there’s a certain part of me that believes it’s not sustainable because his players know that’s not who Turgeon really is.
Even Smotrycz didn’t sound convinced.
He wasn’t even sure when Turgeon had these transformation.
“To be honest, I don’t really know,” Smotrycz said. “At this point in my career, I’ve heard about everything a coach can say and have been a part of any tactic they can kind of use to get a team going. Sometimes they don’t have to be your friend, but they want to win games.
“We want to win games, too. We know our coaches love us and everything they do is for our betterment. If guys just can not take what everyone says -- especially the young guys -- to heart and just use it to make them better, we’ll continue to trend the way we’re going.”