Well, the season's finally over, and the Terps finished 17-15, which I believe was the same record as in Mark Turgeon's first year. I am personally glad there are no more games to play this year. I say that because it's hard for me to envision this bunch getting sufficiently fired up to really do much damage in the NIT.
And really, being motivated to play in that tournament is an absolute must if you're going to advance. I saw too many lackluster efforts this year. It's not likely the Terps could turn on the switch and really put their collective hearts and souls into actually winning it.
So, what's the state of Maryland Basketball at this point in time? I am not going to sit here and tell the fans that there's no talent on this roster. You don't lose at Duke by two; at home to Syracuse by two; lose to UConn by one; or defeat Virginia in overtime without talent. At the same time, it's painfully obvious that everyone on the roster has flaws or weaknesses in their games.
I prefer to look at the main problem here as falling into the "intangibles" category. I've been evaluating players for a long time, and I have seven main categories in each report: athleticism, shooting, ball-handling, rebounding, defense, passing and then INTANGIBLES. And while not denying that the first six are all critical elements, they lose some luster if a player falls short in that last category.
"Intangibles" covers a wide area. Taking a charge; exerting maximum effort at all times; encouraging teammates; being receptive to coaching; being unselfish; having a strong basketball IQ; maintaining a positive attitude at all times.
In this all-important area, I found the Terps to be seriously lacking. No, I am not going to call out players by name, but the fans saw the games. Failing to get back on defense, taking ill-advised shots, not "working" the shot clock, pouting on the bench, etc. All of those things are factors in teams losing games.
No, it's not all a talent issue in my mind. So, it's mandatory the "intangibles" get a whole lot better if this program is going to go where we all want it to go. Some bad habits are going to have to change, and some attitudes need some serious re-adjusting.
It's so easy to criticize coaches. There's a lot of negativity being thrown around in that area right now. Folks, I am not in the huddle, I am not at the practices, I am not privy to the day-to-day interaction between the staff and the players. I do know that if track records mean anything, then Mark Turgeon is going to be successful here at Maryland. He won a lot of games at a football-crazy school but recruiting tough, smart, underrated players who played well together.
At the same time, I do hope the staff takes a really close look at players who score big in intangibles, maybe even moreso than scoring big points. There's enough talent here to be competitive with most teams, but I think all those little things (i.e. intangibles) that I mentioned earlier have been seriously lacking. That's got to change.
Which freshmen will have the most impact next year?
I will say Romelo Trimble and perhaps Trayvon Reed. I am not sure Reed is ready, but he may have to be. The Terps are in desperate need of a rim protector, and that's what he does. With Trimble, he has outstanding skills, and yes, he scores high in intangibles too. Trimble has areas in which he needs to improve, but the thing with him is, he will work and he will always give maximum effort on the court. As the possible floor leader of this team next year, those are qualities that are absolute musts.
Do I expect attrition?
I do, and I 'd look to the frontcourt as the area that could be affected. It's fairly well known that the Terps are still out looking for 2014 inside players, so it would seem like the staff is well aware that a scholarship or two (or three) could open up.
What's the recruiting philosophy/needs for 2015?
Other than point guard, you can say with a fair degree of certainty that players at any of the other four positions are needed. And again, if the expected attrition occurs, then obviously that will affect who the Terps pursue, and how many recruits will be signed in 2015.
I am somewhat encouraged by the interest being shown to such glue guys as Christopher Clarke (Cape Henry Collegiate/Virginia Beach, Va.) and Josh Reaves (Paul VI/Fairfax, Va.). Again, those may not be splashy national headline guys, but they possess good skills and better intangibles. Simply put, guys like that are winners.
Am I optimistic about the chances of bringing in a big time class?
As I've said before, winning cures all, and 17-15 is not likely going to attract five-star players for the most part. But that's OK. Diamond Stone (Dominican/Milwaukee, Wis.), Jaylen Brown (Wheeler/Marietta, Ga.) and guys like that aren't coming to Maryland, at least not in the '15 class. Give me the four-star players who dive on the floor, play hard all the time, play smart, and are good people. You get enough of those type players, and you will win. I don't believe there were any five-star players on the 2002 national championship squad.
The importance of next year?
It's the fourth year under Turgeon, you're moving to the Big Ten and you're coming off a disappointing season. So it goes without saying that 2014-15 is huge. The Big Ten is tough, you're not used to the competition, everything is new, and you're not likely going to get any breaks from the officials as the new kids on the block. But given good health and all things being equal, Maryland can do some damage next year.
Indiana is down now, Michigan State loses a ton of talent, as does Michigan, as well as Ohio State. The Terps probably won't relish playing Wisconsin (the likely preseason favorite), but while Penn State, Iowa, and even Northwestern have improved a lot, there's still some winnable games to be had.
For that to happen though, the Terps have to play hard and smart, and that surely didn't happen at all times this year.
It's hard to be overly optimistic after a 17-15 season, but I still think the Terps are going to take a step forward next year. At the moment though, there's still a degree of uncertainty because we don't know yet who may be leaving the program and who may yet be signing on. Let's wait a bit and see how those two areas shake out.
You need to keep your best players (Dez Wells, Seth Allen, Jake Layman), hope the others improve and get a boost from Trimble. And most importantly, those intangibles have to get better. Let's put off the future forecast though until May when we know more about the final 2014-15 roster.
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