Welcome to a second season of Morning Shootaround. We will follow the Terps throughout the 2013-14 season, but in this space this year, we will provide a look ahead, rather than back. We will try to analyze Maryland's strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of its upcoming opponent. We also hope to provide quotes and anecdotes from practices to give some idea of what coach Mark Turgeon and his team are doing.
Here are a few things to look for as the Terps get ready to play Tulsa at 7 p.m. Sunday at Comcast Center.
Mark Turgeon on Saturday was trying to downplay the significance of Seth Allen's return after the sophomore's 12-game absence with a broken left foot. While the point guard probably will not play much until the Terps return to Atlantic Coast Conference competition Saturday against Georgia Tech, recent history suggests he might.
Two years ago, then-sophomore Pe'Shon Howard played 32 minutes against Radford after missing the season's first nine games with a similar injury. Much of that had to do with the fact that Turgeon wanted to move then-sophomore Terrell Stoglin and then-freshman Nick Faust (City) off the point and back to their natural wing positions.
With freshman Roddy Peters starting the past three games at point guard, and playing well for stretches in each, Turgeon has the luxury of using Allen more judiciously, as well as the option of playing the 6-foot-1 left-hander alongside Peters and junior wing Dez Wells at shooting guard.
It might also be tempting for Turgeon to eventually move Allen back to the point, where he was expected to start the season, and bring Peters off the bench, which was the initial plan. But I think Turgeon is pretty committed to giving Peters major minutes at point, as long as he plays defense.
The one thing hurting Peters is his inability to hit outside shots. Boston University was the latest team — and certainly not the last — to zone the Terps in the Terriors' 83-77 road win Dec. 21. Peters is shooting a respectable 31 of 64 (48.4 percent) from the field, but is just 1-for-5 on 3-pointers and gets most of his points off drives.
Peters said he has worked this winter break on his floater in the lane and pull-up jumper "because when I come off screens, I'm so wide open, they're waiting for me to drive. If I can just stop and knock that jump shot down, it will affect my game and I can play much better."
GRAHAM'S GROWING ROLE
The slow development in center Shaquille Cleare's game, coupled with the recent poor play of fellow sophomore forward Charles Mitchell, has opened up some playing time for junior transfer Jonathan Graham (Calvert Hall).
After playing just 19 minutes in his first five appearances as a Terp, and not getting off the bench at all in three other games, the 6-8 forward from Baltimore has played a total of 66 minutes in the past four games, including 21 against Boston College.
While not much of a scorer (2.2 points a game), Graham has pulled down 13 rebounds and blocked seven shots over the past four games while giving the Terps some toughness and attitude they have lacked collectively.
Turgeon wouldn't say Saturday whether Graham's role would continue to expand.
"If he's more consistent, I think that helps," Turgeon said. "I think his role has expanded. How much more can it? I don't know. I just can't answer that."
Cleare's averages of 4.1 points and 2.8 rebounds in his 16.6 minutes per game are only a small improvement over last year's (3.7 points, 2.7 rebounds) despite his starting role and increased playing time (16.6 minutes this season, compared with 12 as a freshman.)
After averaging 12.3 points and 7.5 rebounds off the bench in the Terps' first four games, Mitchell has scored just twice in double figures since. He also has had two double-figure rebounding games since his fast start.
Forward Damonte Dodd has not been given much of a chance. Since playing 13 minutes against Morgan State and eight at Ohio State, where he pulled down five rebounds, the 6-9 freshman from Centreville has played a total of five minutes. He didn't play in wins over Boston College and Florida Atlantic.
Considering Maryland's lack of a shot blocker and consistent rebounder at the back of what's been a porous defense (67.8 points allowed per game, 116th in the country), Turgeon should think about giving Graham and Dodd some of the minutes belonging to Cleare and Mitchell if the two sophomores don't improve.
"We're just trying to figure out who our best big guys are, and who can help us the most," Turgeon said. "Their inconsistency makes it tough. But I do have choices at that spot with Shaq, Charles, Jon Graham and Damonte. If one's not playing well, I'll try another one."
BROWN DEFENDS TURGEON
Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown is aware of the heat his former Kansas captain has taken during Maryland's slow start. While Brown acknowledged Saturday that "it's part of being a coach at a major college in a program [that] they expect great things," he also considers it premature for Terps fans to be down on Turgeon.
"You've got to understand that you replace a guy like Gary Williams, it's just a natural thing," Brown said. "They forget yelling that Gary didn't recruit anymore. All of a sudden, you get a new coach and they realize how special Gary was.
"With that in mind, it's not easy following people that had such an impact on a program. I'm sure Gary went through the same stuff following Lefty [Driesell], even though it wasn't immediately after Lefty. Mark also lost the kid, [center Alex] Len. His team is so young."
Brown said Maryland fans should look at what Turgeon has been able to build through recruiting.
"Look at the impact he's had in the community in terms of being able to keep kids around," Brown said. "So many kids in that area list Maryland as one of their possibilities. There's no other place Mark would be than where he is right now."
Brown has been through it himself.
"Hey, we made the playoffs in Charlotte [in 2010], and I was fired by [the next] Christmas," Brown said of his time with the NBA's Bobcats. "And my idol [Michael Jordan] fired me. You've got to be a football coach. Go 6-6 and go to a bowl game. I'm not critical of football coaches, but shoot, 6-6?"