Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Don Markus and producer-editor Jonas Shaffer weigh in on three topics from the past week in Maryland sports.
How would you rate the Maryland women’s chances against Notre Dame in Sunday night’s Final Four?
Jeff Barker: The Terps will be the underdog, of course. Again. I think they can hang with the Irish – they did on Jan. 27, losing 87-83.
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In order to prevail, Maryland would need an even stronger game than it played in eliminating Louisville in the Elite Eight. That was a game in which Maryland was energized and willful, but the Terps were hardly flawless at the end.
Maryland’s advantage on Sunday is inside. Notre Dame must play without leading rebounder and third-leading scorer Natalia Achonwa (7.7 rebounds and 14.9 points per game), who tore her anterior cruciate ligament in the Elite Eight. She got into foul trouble in the teams' first meeting and was limited to 21 minutes, so the Irish know how to play without her.
The Terps were burned by Notre Dame guards Jewell Loyd (30 points) and Kayla McBride (20 points) in January. They may be the most dangerous 1-2 backcourt combination in the country.
My take: Sunday’s outcome will hinge on which team does the best job of minimizing the other’s biggest advantage.
I’ll be looking in particular at Maryland’s offensive rebounding numbers as a sign of their inside success. The Terps had 11 offensive rebounds in the first meeting, compared to Notre Dame’s six.
With their size, the Terps have the ability to lengthen possessions and collect second and third shots. Getting extra shots can offset Notre Dame’s prolific backcourt scoring. Maryland attempted 68 shots in the January game to Notre Dame’s 53. That’s the sort of margin the Terps will probably need again because the Irish are capable of shooting a very high percentage.
And finally: I wrote for today’s paper on the increasing attention paid to the women’s game. The interest seems to feed on itself. The more familiar fans become with the teams and players, the more interest the game holds.
Sports is really just a reality show. The more episodes you watch, the more you get hooked.
What do you make of Melo Trimble's limited impact on the McDonald's All-American Game on Wednesday night?
Jonas Shaffer: I think we can all agree on this much: Whenever Trimble emerges as a player worth watching, whether it's six months or one year or four years from now, no commentator in his or her right mind will point to this game as his coming-out party.
Now, it's not as if the first Terps signee to play in the prestigious showcase in 11 years was invisible. ESPN analyst Jalen Rose complimented him on his shooting form. He made a nice pass on a fast break that wasn't converted. He swished both of his free throws. And ... yeah. Not much else. He missed his few attempts from deep and was planted on the bench for much of the second half as the night's more well-known stars finished out a tight game.
It was a disappointing coda to what had been an encouraging week in Chicago. Trimble impressed analysts and scouts in practice and, despite his relatively low ranking, he seemed to belong. On Wednesday, though, he was deferential — maybe too much so — and his shot was off.
So Trimble isn't Tyus Jones. No surprise there. Trimble was there for a reason. He had shown many why. It wasn't apparent Friday night, but that doesn't mean it won't be before long.
If Mark Turgeon sticks with his current roster and staff, will the Terps be any more competitive in the Big Ten next season than they were in the ACC this season?
Don Markus: There is something to be said about stability when a program is showing steady progress, but Maryland took a rather obvious step backwards in Turgeon's third season in College Park.
With the move to what is arguably a tougher conference – it certainly was in 2013-14 based on how far Big Ten teams got in the NCAA tournament compared to ACC teams – you would think that Turgeon would like to make some changes.
While he appears stuck with his personnel on the court, the one area which Turgeon does have some wiggle room is with his coaching staff.
For the first time since Turgeon arrived, the staff went through upheaval in November when assistant coach Delonte Hill resigned after his second drunk driving charge in Maryland.
Turgeon promoted basketball operations director Dustin Clark, whom many say is Turgeon’s closest confidante at Maryland despite a significant difference in their ages. He also named former Terps great Juan Dixon as a special assistant.
After a disappointing 17-15 season where there was little improvement either collectively or individually, many Maryland fans question the ability of Turgeon and his current staff to develop the talent he recruits.
Some of it falls on the head coach, but that is typically the role of assistant coaches. There was some improvement among the guards, but little among the team’s big men – in particular sophomore center Shaquille Cleare.