Maryland fans have been known to wince when they examine the team's early-season schedules. In recent years, the slate has had its share of "guarantee games" against mid-majors. These are contests in which teams are paid to come to Comcast Center without Maryland having to return the favor by playing in the visitors' gyms in future years. The games enable Maryland to fill out their home schedules -- and that's important for budget reasons. The bottom line, right?
The schedules sure can be forgiving. Last season, the Terps didn't play a true road game until traveling to N.C. State on Jan. 8. Coach Mark Turgeon has said future Maryland schedules will look different. He'd like his team to experience an away-game atmosphere a bit sooner in the season.
Next season, the Terps will play in an opposing arena sooner (the Northwestern game Nov. 27). We know so far that the school also will host games against LIU-Brooklyn, Morehead State and Lafayette.
Here's the thing: It may not be such a bad thing next season for the Terps to play their customary early string of winnable home games. The team will be so young. I still believe as many as three newcomers may emerge as starters by the end of the year. The Terps will need time to become acclimated to one another. But -- financially necessary as these guarantee games may be -- I can't help but wince sometimes when clearly overmatched teams come into Comcast Center.
Maryland landed a commitment Sunday from Logan Aronhalt, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard transfer from Albany who will be eligible to play for the Terps immediately. What can Maryland expect from Aronhalt?
Matt Bracken: With Terrell Stoglin's premature departure last month, Maryland's backcourt options for the 2012-13 season consisted of two freshmen (Sam Cassell Jr. and Seth Allen), one sophomore (Nick Faust) and one junior coming off his second major injury in a year (Pe'Shon Howard). While nobody's expecting Stoglin-esque contributions from Aronhalt, the former Great Dane will certainly earn his scholarship money this season.
I won't predict a starting job for Aronhalt, who's still recovering from minor knee surgery. But I do think it's safe to assume that he'll be part of Maryland's regular rotation. The ACC is a long way from the America East, but if you can average 13.8 points and convert better than 35 percent of your 3-point attempts in a mid-major conference, you can contribute at the high-major level.
Aronhalt was a top-three player on a decent Albany team, and he fared well against the big boys -- Maryland (13 points), Syracuse (20 points), Pittsburgh (13 points) -- on the Great Danes' 2011-12 schedule. He shouldn't have much trouble finding a role on the Terps, potentially as the first shooting guard off the bench
Aronhalt could make his biggest contribution to Maryland behind the scenes. Sean Mosley certainly did his part to ease the transition from Gary Williams to Mark Turgeon, but with the former St. Frances star's graduation, the 2012-13 Terps appear to be leaderless. Now certainly Howard or Faust or James Padgett could fill a bit of that void, but Aronhalt is a guy who already has experience leading teams. The son of a high school coach, Aronhalt was a two-time co-captain at Albany. Turgeon said in a news release that Aronhalt's "experience and ability will really be helpful on a team that will feature so many underclassmen.
Both parties are winners with this move. Maryland gets a rotation guy at a position of need who can mentor young players. And Aronhalt -- a 3.78 student at Albany -- gets his master's degree paid for while also having the opportunity to finish his college basketball career at the highest level. If there was ever an argument to be made in favor of the NCAA's graduate student transfer rule, this would be it.
Is there a downside to Mark Turgeon signing so many players this year?
Don Markus: As far as next season, the more players Turgeon brings in, the better for the Terps to be competitive in the ACC. Along with the freshmen, I think Logan Aronhalt is a great one-season bridge player, and getting Evan Smotrycz from Michigan for the two seasons after will certainly help Maryland become an NCAA tournament regular again.
But I think there's eventually going to be a logjam at some positions, particularly in the backcourt, and a couple players he recruited this year might leave, as Smotrycz did with Mitch McGary coming in at Michigan. College basketball is so different now, and I think Turgeon is just doing what other coaches in the same situation have been doing the past few years.
I'm sure Turgeon is looking around the country and seeing what a guy like Tom Crean has done at Indiana, and he's following the same kind of blueprint. I think Turgeon's goal is to have a competitive enough team next season to attract top recruits for the next few years.