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.
Can Maryland realistically make it to a bowl game?
Jeff Barker: The odds favor it, but it’s no slam dunk.
With four wins, the Terps need two more to become bowl eligible. Maryland has six games remaining, so the math appears promising.
I don’t usually predict future wins and losses game-by-game. Football (and life) is more complicated than that. Too many things happen in the course of a football season to try to forecast the outcome of a game that is a month or so away.
Maryland can win any game on its schedule. But, for convenience sake, let’s assume the Terps won’t win the contests against Florida State and Clemson. Those are the two nationally ranked opponents remaining on Maryland’s schedule. Maryland’s defense handled another ranked team with a potent offense (West Virginia) pretty well, but the Seminoles and Tigers are – at least this season – the best the ACC has to offer. Maryland will have to travel to Death Valley, where Clemson is so far unbeaten.
That leaves four games – N.C. State, Boston College, Georgia Tech, North Carolina – from which the Terps would need to extract two victories.
I’d look first at Boston College, which has lost five of six games – including one to Army.
I’d peek next at Georgia Tech. Yes, the Yellow Jackets are averaging 37.8 points. But the Terps will get them at Byrd Stadium, and Georgia Tech’s defense continues to give up unseemly quantities of points – more than 40 in each of the past three games.
It goes without saying that Maryland will make the arithmetic a lot easier if it can notch its fifth win on its homecoming this Saturday against N.C. State.
How does the group of players coming into Maryland next year as transfers or recruits compare to this year's group that Mark Turgeon brought in?
Don Markus: I think when the players Turgeon is adding for next year isn't quite as good as who he has this year, but a lot depends on where Xavier transfer Dez Wells fits in the equation.
Put Wells in a lineup with freshmen Shaquille Cleare, Jake Layman, Charles Mitchell and Seth Allen as well as transfer Logan Aronhalt and just by sheer number, they would have an advantage over incoming freshmen Roddy Peters and Damonte Dodd as well as Michigan transfer Evan Smotrzyc. But if Wells doesn't get his eligibility back from the NCAA for this year, next year's group would get the edge.
It's going to be interesting to watch the development of Layman and Allen in particular in regard to the group coming in next year.
Layman was recruited as a small forward because he was looked on as primarily a perimeter shooter. But he has already added 20 pounds and is up around 210. He told me last week that he now prefers to dunk over taking 3's and Turgeon has said that he expects Layman to get time at both forward positions.
Allen and Peters are similar athletically, but I get the feeling Allen is going to be the surprise of this year's recruiting class and might wind up as the starting point guard sooner rather than later. Allen seems to be able to play both in a halfcourt and transition game, while Peters right now is much better in the transition according to Eddie Jordan, the former Washington Wizards coach who coached Peters on the D.C. Assault this summer.
The X-factors for next year's group are Dodd and Smotrzyc.
Dodd was recruited as a project and is spending this year at a military academy near Harrisonburg, Va. He came to Maryland Madness last week and he looks bigger than either Cleare or Mitchell. I was impressed with what Dodd showed at the Capital Classic last April, mainly because he looked liked he was holding his own against players with bigger reputations.
The matchup between Aronhalt and Smotrzyc is hard to gauge, since they play different positions and the fact that the 6-3 Aronhalt will be there for one season as a graduate student and the 6-9 Smotrycz will be there for two. Given his experience and the lack of experience the Terps have going into this season, Aronhalt might be a more important addition than Smotrzyc will over his two years, but Smotrzyc will give the Terps the same outside shooting dimension.
As I said, it all depends on Wells. If the 6-5 guard who averaged 10 points a game for Xavier as a freshman can play this year - even just for the ACC schedule and a possible post-season run - he would swing the pendulum in favor of this season's group. If Wells has to wait until next season, he would definitely push that group ahead. It's certainly a nice problem for Turgeon to have.
Either way, it's remarkable how much talent Turgeon has already brought - or is in the process of bringing - to College Park since taking over for Gary Williams 17 months ago. I think it's fair to say that it's the most talent Maryland has had since the Terps went to back-to-back Final Fours in 2001 and 2002 - maybe even more. Remember when Turgeon had only seven players on scholarship - including Berend Weijs - nearly as many walk-ons?
What can Maryland fans expect from Roddy Peters?
Matt Bracken: Other than Roddy Peters’ family and friends, nobody has seen the newest Terps commitment play more than George McClure. I spoke to the Suitland coach Tuesday for a story on Peters’ commitment that ran online and in Wednesday’s paper. But McClure had plenty more to say about the four-star prospect’s game that was left on the cutting-room floor, starting with some specifics about Peters’ best attributes.
“I think the thing that he brings is he has a great feel,” McClure said. “That’s something, as a coach, you can’t teach. He has a great feel for his game. Very unselfish. He is a scorer, but he was always unselfish. It’s possible to do both. He has good players around him. [He has] no problem finishing with more assists than points. He passes the ball, distributes it pretty well. What made him such a hot commodity is he’s a 6-4 guard, a 6-4 kid with the ability to play the point. That’s just huge. He sees over pressure. Now a lot of the guys he’ll be guarding will be smaller.”
McClure, who first started coaching Peters on the Rams’ varsity squad when he was in the 10th grade, thinks Maryland is “a really good fit” for his star player.
“Initially, he kind of didn’t know what to think with the recruitment of the Harrisons,” McClure said. “But Maryland has always been where his heart was. He said he’d been watching them since Juan Dixon. Coach [Turgeon] likes to get up and down the court. He should do well there. Pe’Shon [Howard] will be there when he gets there next year. He’ll compete with him for some time. Then it should be his show. I like that he’s going to get a chance to play the point.”
Peters will also have to compete with Seth Allen for time at the 1, although Allen seems adept to play the 2 as well. Having two combo guards in Peters and Allen on the floor at the same time could certainly have its advantages for Maryland. Damon Handon, D.C. Assault’s general manager, expects Peters to bring plenty of versatility to the Terps’ backcourt.
“I think some kids have a high ceiling in their game,” Handon said. “They just keep getting better. That’s what I like about Roddy. I think he can go to college and I think he’s still getting better. I firmly believe that his best basketball is ahead of him. I think it’s definitely ahead of him. That’s one of the things that’s going to benefit him.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun