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.
What has Maryland been most lacking this season in going 17-15?
Jeff Barker: A rim protector? Some semblance of luck? A few more road wins?
Let's start with somebody to protect the basket when Maryland urgently needed a stop.
How does the song go? "You're gonna miss me when I'm gone." That's how center Alex Len might have felt in 2012-13. Sure, Len was still developing post moves and was not always a fan favorite. But he could rattle opposing scorers. His size and athleticism afforded Maryland a luxury it didn't have after he departed for the NBA – a last line of defense in the paint.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon calls such a presence "a rim protector." How valuable do you think that would have been in Thursday's Florida State game that ended with center Boris Bojanovsky's game-clinching dunk?
Without a true center, Maryland's rebounding margin went from plus-8.6 last season to plus-3.3.
Opponents' shooting percentage increased from 38.5 percent to 41.7 percent. That's the result of many factors, of course, but the center certainly plays a role.
Maryland surrendered 67.7 points per game – up from 64.0 a year ago – and too many to suit a defense-oriented coach like Turgeon.
The Terps were not a balanced team offensively. Like many coaches, Turgeon likes to employ an inside-out offense. But Maryland's frontcourt scorers weren't effective in posting up and scoring near the basket. Maryland's points in the paint seemed to come more commonly from Dez Wells or Seth Allen driving to the basket.
Turnovers were also an issue. But the Terps actually reduced their turnovers per game from 15 in 2012-13 to 12.8 this season.
Somehow, the play that will endure for me is Charles Mitchell's shot falling off the rim at Duke, allowing the Blue Devils to escape at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Or the faulty possession arrow, denying the Terps an important opportunity in a close game.
Maryland got just two true road wins this season, the same as the previous year. A win at Duke would have been one of the most memorable road victories in years.
If invited, should Mark Turgeon approach this year's NIT any differently than he did last year?
Don Markus: A year ago, Turgeon was trying to keep the momentum going from a strong finish to the regular season. Maryland did that by reaching the semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament, getting its win total up from 17 his first season to 25 his second.
Everyone said that the Terps had progressed and pointed to this season as the year Turgeon would bring Maryland back into the NCAA tournament.
That didn't happen, as we've known for awhile and found out with some certainty when the Terps lost to Florida State in the second round of the ACC tournament in Greensboro on Thursday. Now as Maryland awaits Sunday night's NIT announcement, the feeling about the direction of the program has changed.
So should Turgeon's approach if the Terps are invited to the second-tier tournament.
Turgeon has already started to look toward next year by playing sophomore Seth Allen more at shooting guard with Roddy Peters at the point. I saw a few offensive sets with junior guard Dez Wells in the low post to take advantage of his quickness and strength.
But I'd take it a step further: if Turgeon thinks he's going to need a bigger, stronger lineup in the Big Ten than he did in the ACC, then he should see what he's going to get by playing Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell together, or Mitchell and Damonte Dodd, something I suggested earlier this season when Cleare was struggling.
At least two incoming freshmen are expected to play significant roles next season: Melo Trimble, a McDonald's All-American who many expect to step in and start at point guard; also 7-1 ½ center Trayvon Reed, who could be the kind of shot-blocker that the Terps have faced all too often this season.
I would also love to see what Jake Layman can do if he played more on the wing and set up less in the corner. You saw some of Layman's athleticism against Florida State on Thursday when he faked his jumper and drove across the lane and dunked, or when he got out on the break and dunked.
Some of what Turgeon will do could be dictated by Evan Smotrycz's back injury, which kept the junior on the bench in Greensboro. I know Turgeon won't do anything to risk further injury, and unless Smotrycz is completely healthy, I think Turgeon shouldn't jeopardize the forward's future – and his team's – in the NIT.
I know it will be difficult for Turgeon not to try to win the NIT, but Maryland fans are not going to view this season any differently than they do already. It's been a disappointing year – admittedly one of the most diffiicult in Turgeon's 16-year career – and holding up a trophy at Madison Square Garden is not going to mean the same thing that it would have a year ago.
What's next for Dez Wells?
Jonas Shaffer: This is admittedly an open-ended question. It's a choose-your-own-adventure kind of question.
What's next for Dez Wells? He'll return to his place and his schoolwork in College Park, having fallen in the second round of the ACC tournament, and await word of the Terps' next opponent, if there is a next opponent this season. Maryland was projected as a No. 4 seed in one National Invitation Tournament bracket as of last week. That should be safe enough.
What's next for Dez Wells? With a U.S. District Court Judge on Wednesday upholding much of his lawsuit against Xavier, the former Musketeers star likely will take his old school to court over his expulsion and the subsequent fallout from 2012 sexual-assault charges. Only minor claims were thrown out, meaning Wells' legal odyssey is still far from over.
What's next for Dez Wells? It's not the NBA. Not reasonably, anyway. Wells is nearing the end of his best collegiate season — 14.8 points per game, third-team All-ACC honors, et cetera — but that changes little about who he is. Which is to say: a 6-foot-5 shooting guard who this season has shot only 30.2 percent from 3-point range and averaged more turnovers (2.5) than assists (2.3) per game. He is not listed among the 60 picks in two separate 2014 NBA mock drafts. Nor is his name anywhere in the 2015 projections.
So what's next for Dez Wells? This season has been a battle, an adventure. These next days, weeks and months will be no different.