Welcome to a second season of Morning Shootaround. We will follow the Terps throughout the 2013-14 season, but this year in this space we will provide a look ahead rather than looking 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 Mark Turgeon and his team are doing.
Here are a few things to look for as the Terps get ready to play at Duke at 6 p.m. Saturday night.
Maryland and Duke are much different in makeup and approach than they were a year ago, when the Terps beat the Blue Devils at Comcast Center as well as in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Greensboro, N.C.
The Terps got the ball consistently to sophomore center Alex Len in those games, particularly in the first two, including a regular season loss in Durham, N.C. Len responded with two of his best games at Maryland, coming against Mason Plumlee.
The game in Greensboro was thought to be Dez Wells’ coming-out party but the guard, now a junior, has not had many repeats of his 30-point performance against Duke in the ACC quarterfinals.
Maryland is much more of a perimeter team this year, while Duke now has much more of an all-court presence with the development of freshman sensation Jabari Parker and sophomore transfer Rodney Hood.
“They went deeper, they started playing nine or 10 guys,” Turgeon said. “He’s playing whoever’s hot. He’s changed his starting lineup. And they’re defending better. They flat get after you. They pick you up when you get off the bus.”
The bigger difference has been Parker. The 6-foot-8, 235-pound forward, who has drawn comparisons to former Duke great Grant Hill for his explosiveness going to the basket, started the season well before going through a mini-slump in late December and early January.
Starting with a 23-point, seven-rebound, three-steal performance Jan. 18 against North Carolina State, Parker has averaged 20 points and more than 11 rebounds in his last seven games, including career-highs of 29 points and 16 rebounds with three blocks at Boston College last Saturday.
Parker is going to be a difficult matchup for a team that has trouble guarding, particularly inside. He is too big for Nick Faust (City) Maryland’s best perimeter defender, and much too quick for either Evan Smotrycz or Jake Layman.
Though the 6-8, 215-pound Hood has trailed off a little lately, he too will present matchup problems if he’s shooting the ball well.
“We’ll throw a lot of guys at ‘em, they’re exceptional players,” Turgeon said. “Depending on foul trouble, which way we go. Across the board, they’ve got guys who can score.”
SLOW DOWN OR SPEED UP
Turgeon had an interesting gameplan against Virginia in Monday’s 61-53 loss to the Cavaliers. Instead of trying to run with a grind-it-out team, the Terps played a bit of slowdown themselves, taking a chunk of time off each offensive possession with a weave that had me whistling “Sweet Georgia Brown” at press row.
It worked for a while against Virginia, but in the end it was done to both take time off the clock and mask either Maryland’s inability to get the ball inside or Turgeon’s unwillingness to put the ball in the hands of players such as Charles Mitchell, Shaquille Cleare and Jon Graham.
Turgeon is expecting to have a different kind of attack against the Blue Devils.
“This is a different animal,” Turgeon said. “[Against] Virginia, you can run your offense. Duke doesn’t try to let you run your offense. We’ll have to space the floor a little bit more and run more of our motion, which we’ve been running the last month. Hopefully, we make good decisions.”
Turgeon said that his team’s ballhandling responsibilities will be “by committee,” but that sophomore Seth Allen and freshman Roddy Peters will get a majority of the minutes at the point.
“I think Dez [Wells] and Nick [Faust] can handle it for us, Jake [Layman] can handle it for us, Evan [Smotrycz] can handle it for us,” Turgeon said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys ... practicing different things getting ready for them. Hopefully, we can do a lot of things to relieve pressure.”
Duke associate head coach Steve Wojciechowski said defense and rebounding has been the difference in a stretch of eight games in which the Blue Devils have lost only to now No. 1 Syracuse, in overtime.
“We’ve played as hard or harder than anyone we’ve faced during that stretch,” Wojciechowski said.
I wrote in a blog Friday about how Wells and Faust grew up as Duke fans rooting for the Blue Devils against Maryland. Early on, it was the opposite for Wojciechowski.
Some of Wojciechowski’s earliest basketball memories growing up in Severna Park included watching Len Bias, whose breakthrough performance came in leading the Terps to the ACC tournament championship over Duke in 1984.
“I remember watching him and being amazed at his ability,” Wojciechowski said Friday.
Wojciechowski’s allegiances changed when Bobby Hurley showed up in Durham in 1989, leading the Blue Devils to the NCAA tournament final as a freshman, and then along with Christian Laettner to back-to-back NCAA titles in 1991 and 1992.
“When I fell in love with the game, I identified with the Bobby Hurley-led Duke teams,” said Wojciechowski, who later starred at Cardinal Gibbons.
Wojciechowski never went to a game at Cole Field House until he played there as a freshman in what was a difficult season at Duke. Krzyzewski left the team early in the season after complications following back surgery.
“It was a long year,” Wojciechowski said.
Wojciechowski said Friday that he was sad to see the rivalry with Maryland come to an end with Saturday’s game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Though the game is certainly not on the national level that it once was, Wojciechowski said, “I think our students are very excited.”
So are the Duke players who can recall the two defeats to the Terps last season.
“If you’re a competitior, you know the people who beat you last year and if that can add fuel to the fire and you do it a positive way, that would be great,” Wojciechowski said.