Tony Bennett’s crew will try to solve its road problems at Maryland.
After taming the Clemson Tigers in a 78-41 home victory, the Virginia Cavaliers (16-6, 6-3 ACC) head to College Park for a Sunday afternoon encounter with the Maryland Terrapins (17-6, 5-5 ACC). Will the Wahoos register their second ACC road victory of the season or fall to 1-4 in league games held away from the John Paul Jones Arena? Find out in the Maryland Primer.
1. Team Introduction. Last season, Maryland finished 16-14 (6-10 ACC), with 2 of those losses coming on the road (71-44) and at home (75-72 in overtime) against UVa. The Terps then capped off their season by topping Wake Forest (82-60) before losing to UNC (85-69) in the ACC Tournament. Coach Mark Turgeon’s second season in College Park looks a lot like Tony Bennett’s sophomore campaign in Charlottesville. Both inauspiciously lost their star players (Sylven Landsberg and Terrell Stoglin), both signed large, promising freshman classes, and both have their teams play a slow tempo game that is better on the defensive end of the floor. In the preseason ACC media and coaches polls, the Terrapins were tabbed to finish sixth in the league.
It’s rare to find a team that played a worse out of conference schedule than Virginia, but Maryland is that rare team. According to KenPom, UVa played the No. 330 non-conference slate in the nation. Maryland’s was ranked No. 343. Maryland’s best nonconference foe was Kentucky (No. 17 in KenPom), who beat the Terps at the Barclays Center, 72-69. Otherwise, the Terrapins were 12-0 with their best wins coming against America East conference leader Stony Brook (No. 75 in KenPom), at Northwestern (No. 82 in KenPom), and against George Mason (No. 122 in KenPom).
In league play, Maryland stands at 5-5, with the 2 games it would most like back being home (65-62) and road (73-71) losses to Florida State. Otherwise, the Terps have won all of their home games (wins over Virginia Tech, NC State, Boston College, and Wake Forest) and posted road losses to Miami, UNC, and Duke with a win over Virginia Tech (60-55) in Blacksburg on Thursday night. On the season, Maryland stands at No. 62 in RPI, No. 56 in KenPom, and No. 57 in TAPE.
2. Offense. Like his mentor, Larry Brown, Turgeon runs a motion offense. He runs this offense out of a few different sets, with the predominant one being the 1-2-2 (double stack) set. In this set, two Terps start in the low post while two start in the high post. The point guard then takes the ball to either sideline, and the low posts set high ball screens for the high posts. From there, curls and additional screens can lead to feeding the post or guards catching and shooting in space. I would say that about half of the Terps’ offensive plays feature these high ball screens. About the other half of the Terrapins’ offensive plays feature double baseline screens to free open shooters, as I wrote about in last season’s Maryland Primer.
As you can see, this is a pretty vanilla offense, which has resulted in Maryland ranking a mere No. 103 in adjusted offensive efficiency. The team definitely has some offensive firepower, but it has been muffled by issues at the point guard position and Turgeon’s lack of creativity with half court sets. One area, however, where the Terps excel is in offensive rebounding, where they rank No. 9 nationally. Given the Cavaliers’ front court attrition, this is the biggest area of concern in this matchup.
3. Defense. What this tells you is that Turgeon puts primary focus on the defensive end. Maryland plays rugged man-to-man defense, but it is essentially a prevent defense that is designed to sag and stop drives to the hoop rather than force turnovers. Maryland comes in ranked at No. 33 in adjusted defensive efficiency, but it is not because the Terps force turnovers. Instead, they rank a terrible No. 344 nationally in opponent turnovers per offensive possession. Where the Terrapins get you is in forcing (and sometimes blocking) bad shots. Maryland is No. 17 in opponent effective field goal percentage.
4. Player Turnover. As noted, last season’s leading scorer, shooting guard Terrell Stoglin (21.6 PPG), was dismissed from the team. We’ve also seen the last of swingman Sean Mosley (10.2 PPG), who is now lacing them up for Kotwica in Poland. Power forward Ashton Pankey (4.7 PPG) transferred to Manhattan. Another transfer was small forward Mychal Parker , who landed at NAIA Georgetown College. Space-filling center Berend Weijs (1.9 PPG) is also gone and playing pro ball in his native Netherlands.
5. Possible Starters. The first five for the Terps …
Point Guard: Nick Faust (No. 5), a 6’6″ , 205-pound sophomore, likely will start at the “1” for the Terps. After spending most of his freshman campaign at the point due to injuries to Pe’Shon Howard, Faust’s offseason was focused on preparing to play his more natural role as a “2,” and he indeed played as an off-guard in non-conference games and early ACC contests. But, with neither Howard nor freshman Seth Allen being consistent enough at the “1,” Faust has become the default starter at point guard. Faust is a tremendous athlete who still hasn’t lived up to his high school reputation as a shooter. He really has struggled to average 8.3 points per game, connecting on a mere 36.3% of his field goal attempts, 29% of his 3-pointers, and 69.5% of his shots from the charity stripe. Faust does, however, use his athleticism and length to corral 4 rebounds a game. In terms of handle, passing, and court vision, Faust is sub-par for an ACC point, and he averages 2.9 assists against 1.9 turnovers a game. The fact that he’s playing out of position at the point also hinders Faust at the defensive end; he’s a quality defender but can be exposed by quicker guards.
Shooting Guard: It’s been an interesting year for Dezmine Wells (No. 32), a 6’5″ , 215-pound sophomore, who averages 12 points and 4.7 rebounds a game. Wells was expelled from Xavier after the school’s conduct board found him guilty of sexual assault. But, after a grand jury refused to indict Wells, the NCAA cleared him to play for the Terps this year just as the season was starting. Like Faust, Wells has athleticism to spare, and he will slash to the hoop with abandon … and often abandon the ball. Wells averages 3 turnovers a game, which nearly cancels out his 3.1 assists per game. Wells also might lead the nation in missed dunks although he is a solid enough finisher around the hoop. And around the hoop is where he will take most of his shots, which explains his 53.5% field goal percentage despite the absence of a knock-down jumper. Recently, Turgeon has been experimenting with Wells initiating the offense when the Terps go small, similar to Mustapha Farrakhan under Tony Bennett. Defensively, Wells is a decent enough but nothing special; he averages .9 steals a game.
Small Forward: With Jake Layman (No. 10), a 6’8″, 205-pound freshman, it has always been a question of “when,” not “if.” That “when” has been the last 5 games. After starting 2 of his first 18 college games, Layman has been in for the opening tip against BC, Duke, Florida State, Wake, and Virginia Tech, and averaged just less than 11 points per game on 52.8% shooting (48% from 3-point land). That’s more than double his season average of 5.4 points per game, with considerably better accuracy (41.9% from the field and 33.8% from 3 on the season). The well-coifed freshman has an excellent all-around game and a high basketball IQ, and his insertion into the starting line-up seemingly has allowed both his confidence and assertiveness to improve. Offensively, Layman has a nice inside-outside game and can score from all over the court. Defensively, Layman is a solid defender on the perimeter but needs to bulk up a bit in the offseason to bang a bit more down low.
Power Forward: After coming off the bench in 6 of the Maryland’s first 8 ACC games, James Padgett (No. 35), a 6’8″ , 235-pound senior, has started the last 2 games for the Terrapins. At this point, Padgett is pretty much a known quantity in College Park who has plateaued in his final year. As I wrote, “Padgett has some nice moves in the post, including spins and drop steps; he loves contact and gets good elevation for his size. He’s also able to finish down low with either hand … Padgett, however, has a weak handle and isn’t much of a threat to score outside the paint; he also isn’t known for his ability to pass it out of the post.” The song remains the same this year. Padgett’s points per game have actually dropped from 8.8 to 6.0, but his shooting percentage has increased from 51.5% to 59.8%. That’s because Padgett is taking an even higher percentage of his shots from within a few feet of the basket. If you can keep Padgett off the blocks, you can keep him from scoring, but that might be a tall task for Virginia given its frontcourt attrition. That attrition also means that UVa is unlikely to be able to exploit Padgett’s defensive weakness against larger offensive players.
Center: Maryland’s starting center is 7’1″ , 255-pound sophomore Alex Len. While Padgett has maximized his potential, Len is still just starting to scratch the surface of his. Len, the projected No. 8 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft according to nbadraft.net, has more than doubled his shot attempts (9 vs. 4.3) and points (12.6 vs. 6.0) per game from his freshman season. Len runs like a gazelle and has excellent length, athleticism, and a soft touch around the basket. And yet … he could still be more assertive. In his last 4 ACC games, as Len should be taking over, he’s shooting just more than 6 shots and averaging just 8.5 points per game. One thing that has remained consistent is Len’s defensive prowess; he’s a terror in the paint, combining length with quick hops to block 1.9 shots per game.
6. Key Reserves. Some of the other key names for Maryland …
Point Guard: Pe’Shon Howard (No. 21), a 6’3″, 190-pound junior, averages 22.3 minutes per game but has played only a total of 24 minutes and scored a combined 2 points in his last 2 games. Howard is the truest “1” on Maryland’s roster, and he does a creditable job distributing the ball, with 4.3 assists against 1.9 turnovers per game. But, after a broken foot and a torn ACL last season, Howard has clearly lost at least a step and, like former Hoo Majestic Mapp, will never quite be the player that he once was. Howard is simply not an offensive threat, with his 3.2 points per game coming on 27.4% shooting (24.3% from behind the arc). Defensively, Howard has trouble staying in front of his man, and his steals per game have nearly been cut in half (.5 vs. .9) from a year ago.
Combo Guard: Seth Allen (No. 4), a 6’1″, 190-pound freshman, sees the floor about 21.1 minutes per game. A former UVa recruit, Allen has played a good deal of his freshman campaign out of position at the “1” when he’s really more of an undersized “2.” Allen has great hops and a pretty 3-point shot (35.8% accuracy on 3.5 attempts per game), but he currently lacks the court vision or passing skills to play the point at the ACC level. Allen has also struggled with his shot, scoring 7.4 points per game on just 39.7% accuracy from the field. The frosh seems to have some potential as a defender, but, at this point, he blows too many defensive assignments.
Shooting Guard: Logan Aronhalt (No. 2), a 6’3″, 205-pound graduate transfer from Albany, has basically one role in his 12.6 minutes/game: launching 3-pointers. 3.4 of his 4.4 field goal attempts per game come from behind the arc, where he has a 47.4% success rate.
Power Forward: Charles Mitchell (No. 0), a 6’8″, 260-pound freshman, is an agile and explosive BIG who averages 16.1 minutes a game. Mitchell scores most of his 6 points a game on a low post spin move and put-backs that come on 2.1 offensive rebounds a game. Where Mitchell really struggles, though, is on the defensive end, where the effort (particularly in fighting through screens) isn’t always there.
Center: Shaquille Cleare (No. 44), a 6’9″, 265-pound freshman, is a big, physical center. In ACC play, he’s been too physical. While playing 12 minutes a game, Cleare has as many fouls as points: 25. In 3 minutes on the floor against Virginia Tech, the big man picked up 4 fouls.
7. Prediction. 504-C Brandon has this game as a 56.1-55.9 Maryland victory, with the Terps having a 50.7% chance of winning.
I agree with him on both counts. This should be a close game, with the Wahoos coming up just a little bit short. If the Hoos had either Mike Tobey or Darion Atkins playing at close to 100%, I might like their chances. But with Tobey out and with it being questionable whether Atkins will even play, I just don’t see how UVa can keep Maryland’s bigs from scoring down low and owning the offensive glass. Given the Terps’ offensive struggles, I think that the Cavaliers keep this one close but ultimately come up short in a 57-53 loss.