Only four games left in the regular season, and yes, it's very possible the Terps could wind up with a .500 record. Syracuse and Virginia at home will obviously be tough to win, and I've watched Clemson lately, and they are tenacious defensively. Add in the fact that game is on the road, and well, it's not going to be easy. I would expect a victory here against Virginia Tech, though the Hokies took the Cavs to the wire on Tuesday night.
No matter how you slice it, no one, certainly not me, would have predicted a 15-12 record at this point, but it is what it is. The good news, and maybe I'm looking for a silver lining here, is that Maryland, despite losses at Carolina, at Virginia, and that heartbreaker at Duke, is actually playing pretty good basketball. I said six weeks ago that I wasn't giving the postseason a thought at all, but was merely looking for improvement. That is happening, and that does give hope for the future.
While this team still has its lulls offensively, and at times seems to be sleepwalking, overall, things are looking up. It's good to see Damonte Dodd get some run, and I thought Roddy Peters played pretty well against Wake. It's so easy to bury freshmen at times (and fans tend to do that), but most of them need time to develop. Like it or not, the Terps don't have a Jabari Parker, an Andrew Wiggins or a Julius Randle. It's way too early to give up on them.
Despite all the ups and downs, the team, somehow, is 7-7 in the ACC, and without the pressure of being on the NCAA bubble, you'd have to think the guys will really put forth maximum effort in these last four regular season games. To some extent, as they say in the pros, they're "playing for their jobs." It's an audition, and with four pretty talented freshmen arriving next year, you'd think the Terps would really want to make a lasting impression on Turge and the staff as the season quickly comes to a close.
About three weeks ago, I was pretty encouraged about the ladies, as they were playing well, had taken down Carolina, and I thought they had a great chance to win the ACC, though I didn't see them as serious national contenders.
Ah....I spoke too soon. What followed were losses at Virginia, N.C. State, and then the recent pounding administered by Duke. The Terps are looking like a No. 3 seed at the moment.
It looks like the defense , or lack thereof, has again been the main culprit. Terps fans have to hope Brenda Frese and company can right the ship before too long. I said awhile back that this team should, at the very least, be an Elite Eight team based on its talent and depth. I'm not so sure anymore. Alyssa Thomas has been one of the all-time Terps greats, and her career here is winding to a close. It would be a shame for her to go out early in the Dance. UMD aficionados have to hope the ladies have one more run in them.
Now's the time to pick it up, as Thomas is leaving, and though there's a nice talent base left (Lexie Brown, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Brianna Jones), Alyssa deserves a chance to shine on the national stage. She's been a warrior, a great player and a wonderful ambassador for Maryland women's basketball.
Surprisingly, there's not a lot of buzz out there with new names associated with Maryland. Well, perhaps it's not that surprising, as a 15-12 record is not, in most cases, going to cause a long line of blue chippers knocking on your door. I'd expect the staff to be out on the road a lot here in the next two weeks, as playoffs are coming up, and the schedule (two games in 12 days) will afford the coaches a chance to really show some love to the class of 2015.
We're going to be comprising a longer list of 2016 names, but really, the Terps need help now. With the junior class, not a lot has changed from what we can gather. I am still looking at a class of three signees, as things now stand, and I do still think some attrition is possible.
Other than Georgios Papagiannis (Westtown/Westtown, Pa.), who has a Terps offer, I truthfully don't see any other viable big-time candidates at this point. I do think Dodd will get some more minutes next year, and incoming recruit Trayvon Reed is playing very well now for Life Center Academy. Both can be rebounders and rim protectors if nothing else. Charles Mitchell does not possess ideal size for a pivot man, but I classify him as such, since he doesn't have the range or mobility to play the "4." Overall he's been playing well lately. With Shaq Cleare, the improvement has just not been there, his minutes have dwindled, and you have to wonder just how he fits in the rotation next year, assuming he's still here.
Evan Smotrycz, who's been both inconsistent and effective at times this year, will have to be replaced after next year. The Terps want a skilled power forward, someone who can play off the dribble, hit a mid-range jumper and still do the job on the boards.
While Horace Spencer and Alex Owens still get some Maryland mention, Ohio star Esa Ahmad (Shaker Heights) has clearly separated himself from all other candidates at this point, and the Terps seem to be putting on a big push for the 6-7+ junior. A worry is that some schools are selling Ahmad on playing the wing, such as West Virginia. It will be interesting to see if the Terps can get this one done. Ahmad would be a very nice pickup.
Nick Faust and Dez Wells will be gone after next year, and I still think it's very possible the Terps could bring in two wings to replace them. Those with offers include Jordan Murphy (Brennan/Austin, Texas), Marcus Sheffield (Chattahoochee/Alpharetta, Ga.), Malik Ellison (Life Center Academy/Burlington, N.J.) and Allonzo Trier (Montrose Christian/Rockville, Md.). Others, such as Paul VI's (Fairfax, Va.) Joshua Reaves, and Cape Henry's (Virginia Beach, Va.) Chris Clarke, are being evaluated. Pulling Murphy from Texas could prove difficult, and I don't see Trier as a viable possibility at this time. Sheffield, who's having a monster year for a poor team, is a strong possibility, and I think Ellison has sincere interest as well. Offers to both Reaves and Clarke would not surprise me, and both seem to like Maryland a good deal, but again, they'll have to pull the trigger pretty soon on them, certainly before the Spring AAUs get cranked up.
Franklin Howard (Paul VI) and Donovan Mitchell (Brewster Academy/Wolfeboro, N.H.) still get some Maryland mention, but I don't expect either of them to pick the Terps, however.
Bottom line: The list of potential recruits isn't extensive, but there's some very good talent on that list. As I've said repeatedly, if you're not being a major player on the national stage, you can't expect to reel in national recruits.
Getting Ahmad, and at least one of those wings, however, would certainly be quality pickups. Combined with a strong '14 class, it would appear, at least on paper, that the Terps would be in decent shape going forward. Then again, I thought that for this year, and here the Terps are at 15-12.
NOTE: Don't forget, the Baltimore Catholic League and WCAC playoffs begin later this week, and the Maryland State Playoffs will be kicking off soon too. Lots of players with Maryland connections will be playing (Melo Trimble, Joshua Reaves, Dion Wiley, and some nice young talent in Charm City).
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