COLLEGE PARK — Third-ranked Maryland looked like every bit of its lofty national ranking Wednesday night, but that doesn't mean the Terps have convinced the rest of the college basketball world that they're on a fast break to the men's Final Four.
They certainly weren't in a position to prove much against a struggling, outmanned team from Rutgers that came unraveled so fast that Maryland coach Mark Turgeon was deep into his bench in the first half. The Terps looked like an NBA team in comparison, but their 88-63 blowout win isn't going to count for much on their resume.
Apparently, it will take more than that — or their convincing road victory against a solid Northwestern team on Saturday — to live down their strange performance against Penn State in their Big Ten opener at Xfinity Center on Dec.30.
Nobody needs to remind the Terps that they looked completely lost for most of that game before storming back in the final minutes to win 70-64. Nobody needs to remind them they would not have been in the game if freshman Diamond Stone had not outscored all of his teammates 39-31.
ESPN analyst Dan Dakich must have turned off that game at halftime and missed the first half at Northwestern, because he delivered a lukewarm assessment of the Terps during Tuesday night's telecast of the Indiana-Wisconsin game.
While the commentators were discussing the top teams in the Big Ten, Dakich conceded that the Terps were "pretty good," but seemed to think they might have too many "moving parts" to be truly elite.
If that means they have too many good players to get every guy all the playing time he might deserve, well, they might be guilty as charged. But you're unlikely to hear Turgeon complain that he has too many good players and he just doesn't know what to do with all of them.
He spent the nonconference schedule moving all those parts around and seems to have found the right chemistry but said Wednesday night that he never intended to settle on a particular combination of players and roles.
"I'm not one of those guys who thinks everything's got to be lined up just perfectly," Turgeon said. "I know who our guys are, but I think every game's going to be different, depending on who we're playing, the matchup, how the game is flowing."
No doubt, Dakich and a lot of outside observers watched Stone go crazy and senior Rasheed Sulaimon go silent against Penn State and wondered how a team as talented as Maryland could look so out of balance.
The Terps have been passing the baton around a lot during the first half of their schedule and still are developing their on-court identity.
But, whoever they are, they are 14-1 and obviously more than just pretty good.
Stone might have looked uncomfortable during his first few games, but he has quickly morphed into the freshman prodigy he was projected to be. Sulaimon showed up just in time to fill the alpha male role vacated by Dez Wells. And Robert Carter Jr. has combined with Stone to create an imposing presence in the paint that prevents opponents from focusing all their energy on stopping sophomore sensation Melo Trimble.
If that means they have too many moving parts, well, so be it. That's why they didn't miss a beat Wednesday when Trimble left the game in the first half with a tight hamstring. It probably wouldn't have mattered if they did lose a step at that point because the game was never close to being in doubt, but solid depth figures to be critical if the Terps hope to go deep into the NCAA tournament for the first time since their last Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2003.
Maybe it is possible to have too many good players, but Turgeon probably is willing to take that chance.
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.