So the Jeckyll and Hyde show made another appearance in Chapel Hill Feb. 4. Now, I wasn't expecting a knockout win, but certainly expected a better show than what we got. It wasn't so much the victories over Miami and Virginia Tech that gave me blind confidence, because let's be honest, neither team is very good. In fact, the Hokies are really bad.
But still, the sloppiness, the defensive breakdowns, the poor shooting all were present and accounted for against the Heels. And North Carolina is no more than a decent team, certainly not a group up to the usual standards we're accustomed to. The Terps have eight games left, and Tuesday's effort was simply not acceptable at all. It's a movie Terp fans have seen before, and frankly, it's getting hard to watch.
Florida State comes to town on Saturday, and they spanked the Terps pretty good last month in Tallahassee. That said, I don't think it's too much to ask for a superior effort by Maryland. I hope, and expect, the Terps will play like its their last game of the season, win or lose. I think they owe that much to the fans, to the coaches, and to themselves. When the talent and cohesion is just not there, you've got to give maximum effort at all times, play smarter, and at least give yourself a chance to win.
Your opponent is always going to try and beat you -- you've got no chance to win when you assist them in that endeavor.
Standing at 13-10, it sure looks like this season is going to mercifully end with the ACC Tournament, and that's only five weeks away. It's probably not too soon to look at each Terp, assess their performance, and try to figure out where this program is headed. So, by class, here we go...
Dez Wells: Wells always plays hard, and if this team has a leader, he's it. He's hit some big shots, brought the energy, and is still the team's best player. The turnovers have been a problem, but remember, he played a good bit of point guard earlier, and that's certainly not his position. I have to assume he will be back for his senior year, because the NBA certainly doesn't look like much of an option now.
Nick Faust: You roll the dice with Nick, because you never know what you're going to get from him on a game to game basis. He's an outstanding defender at times, and can make some spectacular offensive plays on occasion. The consistency has never been there, however, and his decision making still has fans scratching their heads.
Evan Smotrycz: Smotrycz has put up some decent numbers this year, and has rebounded pretty well. His outside shooting has been spotty, but effective at times. He's not much of a defender, and has marginal athletic ability. Again, like virtually everyone on this team, consistency has been a major issue.
Jon Graham: Graham's pretty limited, skills wise, but plays with a purpose. His energy level, his enthusiasm, and flat out effort have been welcome additions. He'll never put up big numbers, but will get the tough rebound, and score some "junkyard dog" points at times. Graham's been a contributor, and a welcome addition.
Seth Allen: Allen's return did boost the team, and he's probably the best pure scorer on the team. At the moment, he's also the best option at the point, although I've always preferred him off the ball. Allen's a talent, but can be erratic, and needs to improve defensively. But, for a team struggling to score, Allen has to play major minutes.
Shaq Cleare: The fans have been hard on Cleare, and it's a shame, because he reportedly works very hard, and the staff regards him as their best interior defender. But it's pretty obvious that his overall production just hasn't been there, particularly on offense. Cleare's getting close to a crossroads..where does his career go from here?
Charles Mitchell: Nothing has changed with big Chuck. As we've said all along, at 6-7 and earthbound, Mitchell will struggle to score against the elite opponents he faces, and his free throw shooting has been horrendous. His defense has improved some, and he gets high marks for his work on the boards, having posted some very impressive rebounding numbers. He seems more suited to being an energy guy and rebounder off the bench from here on out.
Jake Layman: Layman's game has really come back to Earth lately, even though he shows flashes of being an excellent player at this level. He's top notch athletically, but has shown an inconsistent (there's that word again!) shot, struggles putting the ball on the floor, and doesn't seem to respond well to physical play. The potential is there, but he'll have to get stronger and more aggressive. All that NBA talk can be shelved for now.
Damonte Dodd: In fairness to Dodd, you have to give him an "incomplete" grade, because he simply hasn't had many opportunities to play. It's been a huge jump for him from high school to this level in just two years, and he's looked lost on occasion out there. He has shown some aggressiveness and a willingness to defend. Let's give him some time and see what develops next fall and winter. For a team who desperately needs to improve defensively, I do think, in time, he can help protect the rim and grab some boards.
Roddy Peters: Peters had it going on earlier this year, breaking down defenses and delivering some sharp passes. His defense had a long way to go, and though it's improved some, now it seems he's lost all confidence offensively. Defenses are laying off him, daring him to shoot, and he's been turning it over as well. Peters has clearly hit the "wall," and it's important for him to have some good games going down the stretch, in order to give him some confidence going into his sophomore year.
Without trying to be harsh, I just can't pinpoint one Terp who's been consistently productive this year. They've all had their moments, but that will happen in a 30 game season. For some reason, this group just cannot put it all together on the same night, be it breaking down defensively, or not hitting shots, or just simply playing sloppy basketball. Though there is always the possibility of attrition, I would think most of these players will return next year, begging the question, Is there reason to believe things will be better in '14-'15?
At some point, you have to wonder if the talent level is simply not there. It's going to be an interesting last stretch of games this year, because though I don't regard the incoming freshman class as necessarily the "answers," they are at the very least, four new options. And, unless things turn around quickly, I'd have to think Mark Turgeon and company will be looking at anything in order to turn this thing around.
Very little to report at the moment, but Cape Henry (Virginia Beach, Va.) coach Mark Hall told me late Tuesday that "Turgeon will be calling me this week." Could that mean an offer for 6-5 Christopher Clarke? We shall see, and again, though he won't be rated as high as some other well known wings, I still say his talents and motor would definitely be welcome here.
We've been encouraged by the recent numbers posted by Trayvon Reed, particularly on the offensive end of the court. Either he is getting more touches, or he's pounding the offensive glass. I originally didn't expect major minutes from Reed as a freshman, but given how this year has gone, I see no reason to not give him a legitimate shot to play.
Good to see the Terps offer Allonzo Trier, the 6-4 scoring machine from Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.). I was a little surprised that it took this long to offer him, because it was clear to me in December that this kid can score with the best in the country, and was a very aggressive athlete to boot. Getting this Seattle native though might be an uphill climb.
After speaking with Marcus Sheffield Sr., this week, I do think Maryland is still very much in the thick of things with Sheffield Jr., a 30 point per game scorer. VCU and Alabama were both in to see him this week, and you still have FSU, Georgia, Xavier, Maryland, Clemson and others battling. If you're looking for a pure scorer at the 2/3 slot, Sheffield's probably Maryland's best bet right now.
Power forward Alex Owens, 6-8 (Fla.) is still listing the Terps, along with in-state favorite Florida, Louisville, Miami, and others. Owens is a rugged rebounder, goes about 240 pounds, and will battle down low aggressively. He's quoted as saying the Terps are among those schools showing the most recent interest. I'm not holding my breath right now, but again, at 13-10, the staff has to look at any, and all, options.
Jordan Murphy (Brennan HS/Texas) still looks like someone who will officially visit Maryland in the fall, and the Terps appear to have increasing interest in Paul VI standout Joshua Reaves, a 6-4 wing. I like Reaves, who has really improved, but don't see him as someone who'd make a huge impact as a freshman. Still, he is intriguing, and a player from an outstanding local program.
Malik Ellison (Life Center Academy/New Jersey) continues to play well for Life Center Academy, and could be another of those kids (like Clarke) who could explode nationally this spring on the AAU circuit. With his skills and upside, I'd have no problem taking a commitment from him today.
Folks, the bottom line is that, after looking at this season to date, one can pinpoint all sorts of issues, but when you tie it all into recruiting, it's pretty clear -- the Terps need athletes, need more cerebral players, need tougher players, and overall better players.
Maryland has to accomplish whatever they can in these final games, and the coaches then need to hit the recruiting trail with maximum effort.
TTDan's Hoops Dish
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