TTDan's Hoops Dish

Dan Painter analyzes the Terps heading into the ACC tournament and their chances with their top 2015 targets.

Well, 17-14 isn't what Terps fans hoped for this year, and yes, at times it was maddening, frustrating, and almost impossible to watch. But to me, it's not all doom and gloom.

This may not be the popular opinion, but Maryland got better as the year went along. During the past month, the Terps played everyone pretty tough. And there is a very fine line between dancing and not dancing.

When you look at the most excruciating losses you will find:

George Washington by two points; UConn by one point; Syracuse by two points; Duke by two points; Virginia by eight points; Pitt by four points; Clemson by four points. That's seven losses by 23 points, or an average of 3.3 points per game.

Obviously, they're all still losses, but just reverse three of those results, and suddenly the Terps are 20-11 and most likely dancing. My point is that, though the process is painfully slow, and the results aren't what anyone wanted, Maryland's getting closer -- and it's hard to dispute the progress that was made during the latter part of the season.

So, right now at least, I'm feeling better about where the program is, and where it's headed. Now, that's subject to change should the Terps lay an egg against Florida State in the ACC Tournament, but again, I do believe better days are ahead.

The season's not over yet, but looking ahead, here are some quick notes on what the returning Terps need to do to step their games up next year and make the NCAA tournament.

Shaq Cleare: Develop some confidence (easier said than done obviously), polish up the offense a bit, and continue to work hard as always.

Charles Mitchell: Pass the ball out of the post. Practice free throws until you can't lift your arms anymore.

Damonte Dodd: Come up with some type of offensive go-to move. Get a better understanding of the system.

Jake Layman: Get stronger, become more assertive, and create some offense off the bounce.

Evan Smotrycz: Make a concerted effort to improve your defense. Lose the occasional bad body language.

Jon Graham: Develop a mid-range jumper, and get a bit stronger.

Dez Wells: You attack the rim beautifully, now extend your face-up game, which will keep the defense honest.

Nick Faust: Concentrate on your strength which is your defense. Be patient offensively.

Seth Allen: Attack the rim. Trust your teammates.

Roddy Peters: Spend all summer shooting the basketball. Let the game come to you.

As for the ladies, it was disappointing to see them lose to Carolina in the ACC Tourney, since they handled the Heels easily during the regular season. Now, there's not a lot to complain about with a 24-6 record, but again, this is Alyssa Thomas' swan song, and although the Terps have gone 105-27 during her time here (80 percent winning percentage), she deserves a long run in the NCAAs.

The Terps have failed to get past the Elite 8 during her career as a Terp, and it might be awhile before we see anyone else like her in this program, so Terps fans have to hope head coach Brenda Frese can get them on a run and make some noise in the next couple of weeks.

Recruiting wise, things are in limbo right now, and it's going to be tough on Maryland (and all Division I coaches) this spring, as there's only one "open" recruiting weekend (April 25-27).

So if the staff is not really "sure" on a player, they certainly aren't going to have a lot of opportunities to make a final call on that recruit, at least not in the spring. They will still be able to evaluate in July, but it's quite possible with the new visitation rules, that some high schoolers may want to commit prior to the summer.

For a recruit like Esa Ahmad (Shaker Heights, Ohio), it won't be an issue. Clearly, the staff loves this kid, and if he wanted to commit tomorrow, there's no doubt Maryland would take that commitment and run like a thief in the night. Of course, now Indiana has offered, and supposedly Michigan and others are possibly getting into the mix. That does nothing but make this recruitment more complicated than the staff would like, but again, head coach Mark Turgeon and assistant Dustin Clark have done all the preliminary work, got in with the kid early, and now simply have to hope they can close the deal.

It sounds like West Virginia and Maryland will get visits in the ensuing months, but you have to hope more of the "big boys" don't come calling. Ahmad is a key recruit, because Maryland wants a versatile inside/outside forward, and to be honest, I don't see any other viable options on the board at this time.

Texas prep star Jordan Murphy (Brennan/San Antonio, Texas) might be the other forward with which Maryland has a decent shot, but until he trims his list, it's hard to be overly optimistic.

Jalen Adams (Cushing Academy/Boston, Mass.) and Terance Mann (Tilton Schoo/Tilton, N.H.) are the latest juniors to receive offers, but from here, it would seem the Terps have some work to do with both to realistically have a shot. Adams has offers from UConn and Kansas, and both programs had solid years and are tough to beat on the recruiting trail.

With Mann, Georgetown seems to be the team to beat, and some are surprised Mann hasn't already popped to the Hoyas. Still, we'll keep them on the list and see what happens. Adams is a 6-2 , explosive scoring machine. Mann, 6-5, does a little bit of everything, and can play multiple positions.

Marcus Sheffield (Chattahoochee/Alpharetta, Ga.) and Malik Ellison (Life Center Academy/Burlington, N.J.) both remain targets, and the Terps seem to have positioned themselves well with both. Sheffield has top 50 potential. We think Ellison is one of the more underrated swing men around, and we'll not be surprised to see him blow up this spring on the AAU circuit.

Chris Clarke (Cape Henry Collegiate/Virginia Beach, Va.) now has a Maryland offer, and the Terps still seem enamored with Paul VI's (Fairfax, Va.) Josh Reaves as well. Both of these big-time athletes would fall in the "glue guy" category, and honestly, Maryland needs more players like that.

They are going to need some wings (with Faust/Wells graduating) who can defend, distribute the ball, slash, and provide energy.

I could see Maryland taking Clarke or Reaves (but not both) in the class of 2015. Either of those committing probably wouldn't create national headlines, but could prove to be very valuable additions in time.

For now, fans have to hope the Terps can get by Florida State March 13 (they split with the Noles this year), and then perhaps have a return date with Virginia. Maryland made it harder than it needed to be in the March 9 victory over the Hoos, but they've played them tough in both contests. It would be nice to get the program to the point where storming the court after a victory would not be necessary -- simply because the fan base was used to winning on a consistent basis.

I've been wrong before, but with modest improvement from the returning Terps, and with an influx of talent in this year's recruiting class, I really don't think things are as bad as some might think.

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