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 Pe’Shon Howard still be valuable to the Terps despite his shooting woes?
Jeff Barker: It’s been an uneven ride for Howard, but there are absolutely ways he can – and I think will – contribute. I’m not sure that experience-challenged Maryland could afford to turn its back on the junior even if it wanted to. It needs him.
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One way Howard aids the Terps is on defense. Sure, Howard is known for being flashy. His teammates sometimes have called the longtime Los Angeles resident — who is naturally theatrical — "Hollywood P."
But Howard is adept at something that is not flashy – rugged man-to-man defense. Note who he guards when he comes into games. Nick Faust is long and athletic enough to often defend a big scorer. But Howard can play top guards, too. He’s part of the reason opponents are shooting just 35 percent against the Terps.
Howard may end up on Duke’s Seth Curry on Saturday – we’ll see.
Of course, I can’t ignore his shooting struggles. Howard has gone scoreless in four of the past five games. He earlier had an 0-for-14 field-goal drought spanning nearly four games.
It seems a long time since he hit a game-winner against College of Charleston with three seconds left during his freshman season (2010).
But I don’t see anything fundamentally wrong with his shot. Those of you who have played hoops – even just recreationally – know how much confidence factors into shooting. Shooting is a delicate procedure. You need to be loose.
Howard still looks like himself when he runs the break – he loves the dazzling pass. There are Howard highlight videos on the Web in which he throws passes between his legs and around his back. Terps fans should hope he regains a similar level of comfort when shooting the ball. You know he’s got that confidence in him somewhere. This is a guy, after all, who selected the jersey number (“21”) of Greivis Vasquez – Mr. Confidence himself.
Should Mark Turgeon stay with the same starting lineup and adjust as the game develops, or should he continue to tweak depending on the opposition?
Don Markus: There was a point this season when Turgeon seemed to be sticking with the same lineup - Alex Len at center, James Padgett at power forward, Dez Wells and Nick Faust on the wings with Pe'Shon Howard at point guard. But that strategy was tossed aside when Padgett and Howard, the two players remaining from Gary Williams' final year, struggled and some of Turgeon's younger players started to mature. By Tuesday night's game against Boston College, the Terps were on their eighth different starting lineup. I have to think that Saturday's game at Duke could bring their ninth.
While Len, Wells and probably Faust will remain starters, I think that Turgeon will continue to rotate the other two spots depending on the opponent. I assume that he will likely go with the same "small" lineup that made the run in the second half to take control against BC -- Len, Wells and Faust along with freshman forward Jake Layman and possibly freshman guard Seth Allen. But given the environment at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and Maryland's inability to handle a less intense setting last Saturday at the Dean Dome -- when the Terps fell behind 42-20 at halftime -- I wouldn't be surprised to see Turgeon start senior transfer Logan Aronhalt or even Howard instead of Allen, or another inside player such as freshmen Charles Mitchell or Shaquille Cleare.
But has what I have called Turgeon's "musical chair" lineups contributed to Maryland's inconsistency this season?
I think you can make a case for that, but I think it's just a byproduct of Turgeon not quite being sure who's going to show up and play. Allen played his way into the starting lineup and replaced Howard for a couple of games at point, only to be moved back to shooting guard and eventually the bench because he doesn't take care of the ball. Every time you think Layman has turned the corner -- as he did with a 20-point performance as a starter against Virginia Tech and with his 15-point game against BC in a starting role -- the 6-8 freshman disappears. Mitchell and Cleare seem to switch off in terms of having a good outing -- or both look as if the college game is still moving too fast.
A big part of Turgeon's inability to find a starting lineup goes back to Howard and Padgett. At this stage of their respective college careers, they should be guys Turgeon relies on given the inexperience of the rest of the team. But they are as inconsistent -- or worse -- than Maryland's younger players. I know Turgeon likes the way Howard has defended, but he is such a non-factor offensively much of the time that he can be a liability on a team having trouble scoring points. Padgett works hard, but his lack of athleticism and offensive skills overshadows whatever experience he has. Neither seem to be as vocal a leader as Wells.
I think Turgeon should try to find at least a regular rotation going forward, if not a starting lineup.
Maryland is wearing new Black Ops Uniforms on Saturday at Duke. What do Terps fans think of them?
Matt Bracken: Maryland fans, I'm taking the easy way out this week. Turns out that being the deputy sports editor for a news organization that covers a team in the Super Bowl makes things a little crazier than usual around the office. So instead of going in-depth on a Maryland sports topic this week, my contribution to Terps Trio is updating our "Terps Basketball Uniforms Through the Years" photo gallery. Maryland will unveil new Black Ops uniforms Saturday at Duke. Click here to check out the uniforms. Leave your impressions on Maryland's latest look in the comments section below.