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’s nonconference schedule was so light. Will it be any tougher next season?
Jeff Barker: Coach Mark Turgeon wants a schedule commensurate with his team’s ability. Next year’s schedule should reflect that it will be his third year at Maryland, and that the team wants and needs to make strides.
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The Terps didn’t play a true “preseason” tournament this season. They played Kentucky at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, followed by LIU-Brooklyn, Morehead State and Lafayette -- all at home.
Next season, Maryland is committed to the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands with Morgan State, La Salle, Loyola Marymount, Marist, Northern Iowa, Providence and Vanderbilt. The Terps are also returning to the Barclays Center for a game against what is expected to be a major-conference opponent.
Maryland annually plays in the ACC/Big Ten challenge. No announcement on that yet.
The Terps are expected to play George Washington in the BB&T Classic at Washington's Verizon Center.
Turgeon has also indicated that he’d like to play a game in Baltimore every year, so we’ll see if that can be worked out.
I know a lot of fans are hoping Maryland schedules another game – in addition to the ones just mentioned – against a team to get excited about.
Has Pe’Shon Howard’s play of late changed Maryland’s point guard situation for next season?
Don Markus: I wrote a few weeks ago that Howard’s return to the starting lineup, if it lasted, would help Mark Turgeon as he gets ready for next season. Howard played well in the ACC tournament and again in Maryland’s first NIT game against Niagara. It’s a major reason why Nick Faust has come on offensively the past few weeks while playing mostly off the ball and why Turgeon has been able to use Seth Allen as a scorer off the bench.
But I still think that Turgeon will spend the first few weeks after the season ends to see if there’s a point guard equivalent to a Logan Aronhalt out there – a senior at a mid-major who is set to graduate and wants to explore playing at a higher level, or even someone who is about to graduate who just wants a change of scenery, as Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brien did. (Didn’t work out so great for O’Brien or Wisconsin.)
With the departure of Aronhalt and presumably Alex Len inside, the Terps are going to need to add more scoring aside from Evan Smotrycz, the 6-9 shooting forward who sat out this season after transferring from Michigan. Since Howard is not a scorer, it will serve Turgeon well to find himself a natural point guard who can also score. From all indications, incoming freshman Roddy Peters is more facilitator than scorer and will need time adjusting to the college level.
If Howard is smart, he would spend the summer working on his jump shot. His form is not as bad as his shooting percentage might indicate. I think it’s just a matter of Howard gaining confidence back in the shot and believing that Turgeon trusts him to take it. If he can hit three or four shots a game on a regular basis, it would not only help his game, but would open things up inside next year for Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare as well as on the wing for Smotrycz, Faust, Allen, Dez Wells and Jake Layman.
After wins over Niagara and Denver, Maryland’s focus now turns to Alabama and Stanford. What’s the scouting report on those teams?
Matt Bracken: While 16 NCAA tournament teams do battle tomorrow, all basketball-watching eyes in College Park will presumably turn toward Tuscaloosa. Top-seeded Alabama will host fourth-seeded Stanford in a second-round NIT matchup at noon, with a date against Maryland in the quarterfinals on the line.
The Crimson Tide hasn’t lost at home since Dec. 30 – a 53-50 loss to Tulane. Since then, Bama (22-12) has ripped off 10 straight victories at Coleman Coliseum. Stanford (19-14), meanwhile, heads to SEC country sporting a 5-6 road mark. If the Cardinal wins, Maryland gets another home game at Comcast Center. If Alabama protects its home court, it will welcome the Terps to Tuscaloosa on Tuesday.
Stanford, which averages 71.4 points, is a significantly more efficient offensive team (No. 39 nationally according to kenpom.com) than Alabama (63.1 points per game, No. 137 in opponents’ average adjusted offensive efficiency). Maryland, for what it’s worth, essentially splits the difference in offensive efficiency at No. 82 nationally. The Cardinal are led by junior forward Dwight Powell (15.3 ppg, 8.4 rpg). And if you’re a Maryland recruitnik, you might recognize a couple names on Stanford’s roster that the Terps went after: freshman guard Christian Sanders (2.2 ppg, 9.2 mpg) and sophomore center Stefan Nastic (2.0 ppg, 7.4 mpg).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Alabama is the better ranked team in opponents’ average adjusted defensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com (No. 26 for the Crimson Tide, No. 65 for the Cardinal). Again, Maryland is somewhere in the middle at 36. Trevor Releford (15.2 ppg) and Trevor Lacey (11.6 ppg) are the guys Alabama’s opponents need to stop.
So will it be Maryland-Stanford in College Park on Tuesday or Maryland-Alabama in Tuscaloosa? Either way, Terps fans will have a little more excitement next week with a high-major opponent on tap.