Admittedly, a lot will be asked of the young people, for the natural progression of sophmores Nick Faust, Alex Len and even Ashton Pankey, and for the needed production of freshmen who have yet to bounce a ball in a college practice much yet game. This team has really, in the period of a little more than a year, has already become Mark Turgeon's team. Gary Williams' main guys have hit the highway pretty much with Nick Faust becoming as much a Turgeon recruit than a Gary recruit in that sense.
The first thing we can hope for is that everyone stays healthy and plays the whole year. PeShon will hopefully be totally healed and ready. I genuinely hope he can get over the season-ending slump he experienced before getting injured and play with the swagger and confidence that he exudes.
Beyond that, what can we expect and what should the team look like? Certainly while the freshmen look solid and have high ceiling, not really comes in with the high expectations of instant stardom and one-and-done potential to the NBA. Perhaps Shaquille Cleare fits the bill as if he even shows potential, with his size, the NBA vultures will always be hovering ever so close. Still, what can we as fans expect from this coming edition of Turgeon's Terps?!
Losing the glue of Sean Mosley may be as hard as losing the scoring of Terrell Stoglin. The team will have to identify its leaders quickly. Again, statistics aside, PeShon Howard has the personality and the swagger to be that player. A backcourt of Howard and Faust will be a defensive force at 6-2 and 6-5 respectively. The team, sans Stoglin, will definitely be more cohesive and offensively balanced by the sheer necessity. Throwing the ball inside to Pankey and Padgett was definitely an adventure though by the end of the year, Padgett proved himself a viable option (though really has to mix up his moves and not head-fake left, head-fake right, shoot - defenders have caught on to that real quick!).
Looking at the main players in the rotation (Shaquille Cleare, Alex Len, James Padgett, Ashton Pankey, Charles Mitchell, Jake Layman, Nick Faust, Sam Cassell, PeShon Howard and Seth Allen), that is a roster that looks very competent. By the same token, no one player should strike fear in anyone's heart either, so the real answers must come from the system itself. You can believe this team will resemble the Texas A&M teams that Turgeon guided to the NCAA tournament every year, defensively stout, ball movement, rebounding the ball, mentally tough.
Looking at the depth charts, assuming two deep at every position, I would guess the starting line-ups would be along these lines in terms of having balance:
o C - Alex Len, 7-0 / James Padgett, 6-9
o PF - Shaquille Cleare, 6-8 / Charles Mitchell, 6-8
o SF - Ashton Pankey, 6-8 / Jake Layman, 6-8
o SG - Nick Faust, 6-5 / Sam Cassell, 6-4
o PG - PeShon Howard, 6-2 / Seth Allen, 6-0
That would be outstanding depth if everyone plays to their potential. I am sure many would wonder why I would put Ashton Pankey in the starting line-up considering his inconsistent production and what many perceive as attitude problems (I am sure half the fans predicted he would be one of the players to transfer or leave). For myself, attitude can be adjusted and he has shown a decent ability in the paint and to rebound/defend. This line-up should start the season but it may be juggled once the ACC season starts if some players play better and vice versa.
I look for the offense to make sure the ball gets inside to Len and Shaq early and often. I look for Faust to continue his attack of the rim (he really showed great talent to get to the rim and finish!) and be more selective on his 3-pt shot (though again, it became more consistent late in the year). If he progresses, he could be a genuine 2nd or 3rd team all-ACC as a sophomore. And I am predicting that Shaquille Cleare will be there for freshman of the year in the league as well. Memo to ACC - he is a beast and if he can stay out of constant foul trouble, will be a handful for every team he faces.
End prediction - a team that will break through and get into the NCAA tournament this year, especially again in a down ACC year that will be depleted by transfers and the NBA draft. Look for the Terps to finish no worse than 4th in the league and depending on the progress of its front line players, make some real noise in the big dance.
And from here on, the best is yet to come!