Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Don Markus and editor Matt Bracken weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in Maryland sports.
Maryland begins Atlantic Coast Conference play in less than a month. Where do you see the Terps finishing?
Jeff Barker: Let’s begin with a caveat. In the last week, coach Mark Turgeon has seemed to take issue with media members and fans ready to proclaim the Terps a top team.
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“I just think our perception is a lot better than reality right now with us,” the coach said. “We’ve got so far to go.”
Fair enough. Turgeon is right – they’re not great yet. They’re … young. Which is likely to translate into "inconsistent."
But it’s all relative.
Even with all of its untapped potential, Maryland is already vastly superior – in talent and chemistry – than last season’s team, which finished 6-10 in the conference.
The big improvement is in rebounding. Last season, the Terps outrebounded opponents by an average of 1.9 per game. But in ACC contests – think Duke and Carolina – they often surrendered second shots.
Since the opponents were getting more shots than Maryland, the Terps’ margin of error was slight – they had to shoot a higher percentage than their rivals just to keep pace.
They won’t have that problem this season.
I see the Terps finishing in the top four in the ACC.
That last happened in 2009-10, when Maryland went 13-3 and earned a first-round, ACC tournament bye.
I’m not predicting 13-3 this season, but I think a double-digit victory total is well within bounds. Even Turgeon would probably concede that.
Can Maryland get anything out of its remaining non-conference games?
Don Markus: l didn't think so, until Mark Turgeon tweaked his starting lineup against UMES on Wednesday night and promised to do the same again Saturday against South Carolina State. By starting freshmen Shaquille Cleare, Jake Layman and Seth Allen, he is accomplishing a number of things.
First, he is showing confidence in his younger players and rewarding them for working hard in practice. Though Allen has played with confidence -- sometimes too much for his own good -- since the beginning of the season, Cleare's game has been up and down and, to be honest, Layman has looked a bit lost at times.
All played well in the 32-point win over UMES, as did transfer Logan Aronhalt, who came off a cameo appearance against George Mason to lead the Terps with 17 points, all but two from 3-point range. Cleare and Layman showed why Turgeon and his assistants were -- and are -- so excited about them and their future in College Park.
I will be interested to see who starts Saturday. I figure that Charles Mitchell will get his first start since he has been the most consistent freshman of the bunch, though he gives the Terps a boost every time he comes off the bench. I would like to see him keep giving Layman the minutes he needs to feel comfortable by the time the ACC season begins.
What this stretch also does is give Turgeon a chance to reassess his point guard situation. As much as he says he loves the job Pe'Shon Howard is doing -- and the junior has played well in terms of his assist-to-turnover ratio and defense -- I think he saw the other night what happens with Allen and Nick Faust running the show.
Allen had eight assists and Faust had seven, but they also attacked the basket -- something the Terps will need from their point guard if ACC teams are able to shut down Alex Len and/or Dez Wells. Unless Howard proves he can be an offensive threat, I look at that as a potential liability once the competition gets better.
One more thing: Turgeon played his starters and a couple of subs a lot longer than he wanted to against George Mason, given that Maryland should have secured the win a lot earlier than it did. Not that Len, Wells and James Padgett need the rest, but they will be a lot fresher once the ACC schedule starts next month.
The one thing the upcoming stretch doesn't do is give Turgeon's team a chance to build its NCAA tournament resume. Right now, all the Terps have to show is a road win at Northwestern and a win over a George Mason team that's been a solid contender in the Colonial Athletic Association.
I guess we'll have to wait a month to see how good the Terps really are, because the next five games aren't going to prove anything.
Roddy Peters will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery later this month, according to The Washington Post. Where does that leave the Maryland commitment for next year?
Matt Bracken: A big summer for Peters that saw him star with D.C. Assault on the AAU circuit, impress at the NBPA Top 100 Camp and land offers from several high-major programs featured one significant negative: the Terps commitment damaged ligaments in his shoulder.
Peters planned to play through the pain during his senior season at Suitland, but revealed his intentions to have shoulder surgery this week on his Instagram account. The announcement came hours after the Rams’ 72-63 loss to Wise. Peters, who scored 16 points in the defeat, later texted the Post to say that he planned to play five more games before having surgery.
Giving up his senior year had to have been an unbelievably difficult decision. As the Post noted in its high school boys basketball preview this week, guys like Peters are rare commodities these days. The vast majority of high-major players from the D.C. area over the past several years have played in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (or another competitive private school league) or left the area altogether for a place like Oak Hill.
But Peters stayed loyal to Suitland High and Rams coach George McClure. With offers from Maryland, Georgetown, UCLA, Memphis, Kansas and many others, there was really no reason for him to leave behind his friends and teammates to chase a private-school title. Though he won’t be able to go after a state crown now, at least Peters will spend his last year of high school in a place where he’s comfortable.
Trying to labor through this season only would have lessened the likelihood of Peters making an impact as a freshman for the Terps. But getting surgery out of the way this month should provide Peters – who’s shooting for a June return – enough recovery time.
Where he fits in with Maryland next fall remains to be seen. Pe’Shon Howard (24.8 minutes per game) and Seth Allen (20.8 mpg) will return, while Logan Aronhalt (10 mpg) is gone. If he’s 100 percent healthy, Peters is probably too talented to not see the floor, whether it’s backing up the 1 or the 2. Maryland has options next year, and I think it’s reasonable to envision a scenario where Peters is called on for instant offense off the bench.
There will be plenty of time for Maryland to figure out the best way to use Peters, but credit the future Terp for making the tough decision to forgo his senior season and focus on his future in College Park.