Maryland Season Preview

You’ll have to excuse me, as I’ve had Big Ten tunnel vision for the past 5 years or so, but is Mark Turgeon a bad guy? And I mean that not in the “does he fail to re-rack the weights at the gym,” or in the “he voted for Joe Arpaio” kind of way, or even in the “does he know how to attack a zone” kind of way, but rather in the “he makes everyone around him feel bad about themselves” kind of way.

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I ask because five players—many of whom were seeing plenty of court time—transferred out of Turgeon’s program this past offseason. While it’s very likely that at least one or two of these guys would have left for their own personal reasons that had little to do with the coach, it’s hard to dismiss the departure of five players. Transfers are nothing new to the Turgeon era, either (Ashton Pankey, Mychal Parker, and Pe’Shon Howard have previously exited the program in recent seasons). Oh, and he’s also lost a couple of the assistants he brought with him originally. To his credit, Turgeon seems to acknowledge this might be his fault. Of course, that’s all secondary if the team doesn’t start winning again. Since his arrival, the Terps gone 23-29 in ACC play, and have yet to make the NCAA Tournament. As he enters his fourth season, it’s fair to wonder whether he’s on the hot seat.

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Turgeon came to Maryland after stops at Wichita State and Texas A&M. He turned around the former program, which had not enjoyed much success prior to his arrival, and led the team to an NCAA Tournament berth. At Texas A&M, he maintained the lofty performance of his predecessor, Billy Gillespie (though you can’t really claim he improved on it).

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Turgeon’s teams have traditionally been better on defense than on offense. The past two seasons, the Terrapins have had a top-40 adjusted defensive efficiency, but an offensive efficiency that ranks around 100. You really have to go back to the Wichita State days to find a pattern of Turgeon offenses outperforming Turgeon defenses. The defensive calling card is typically rebounding, though his defenses at Maryland have also been awfully foul-prove, which is especially troubling because Turgeon’s teams do not take a lot of gambles trying to cause turnovers.

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Offensively, Maryland has not had much of a consistent identity since Turgeon arrived in College Park. The team initially shot a lot of free throws (which is consistent with his Texas A&M offenses), but did not do much of that last season. Last year’s team was also an aberration in that it shot a lot of three-pointers, which is a rarity under Turgeon (hello, Evan Smotrycz!). So it’s anyone’s guess as to what the offense will look like this year, although it’s fairly likely that Dez Wells will be the focal point. Wells is something like a rich man’s Rayvonte Rice, in that they are both guard/forward hybrids with suspect outside shots. Wells’ offensive game is better than Rice’s, though Rice is the better defender.

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Smotrycz is the likely second fiddle, and you may remember him from his two seasons at Michigan. Frankly, that transfer never made sense to me. Smotrycz seemed perfect in Beilein’s offense—his 58.9 eFG suggested he was thriving in it—and while he’s not the world’s best defender (mostly because he fouls a lot and doesn’t alter shots), he at least rebounds. That’s a lot better than most stretch 4s you’ll find. Why Smotrycz decided to move from a 3-pointer happy offense to a guy that generally shied away from that, I can’t say. Also 6-8 forward Jake Layman, who has a similar offensive game as Smotrycz, figures to be a primary contributor as well.

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Maryland also welcomes a nice incoming class, which includes 4 top-100 players. The centerpiece is top-50 combo guard Melo Trimble. The scouting report says he can score, though I have to take that at its word as Trimble’s AAU affiliation did not post stats that summer (FYI, Nike has been doing this for a couple seasons, Under Armour does now, and oh hey here’s Adidas). Fellow classmate Dion Wiley was impressive in his AAU season, leading his team in scoring and showing a lot of confidence (59% 3PA%) and accuracy (48% 3P%) in his outside shot. Those two are likely to see a lot of early action.

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Still, despite their lofty rankings, Trimble would greatly exceed expectations were he able to simply replace the departed Seth Allen. And although Nick Faust was not a perfect player (an eager three-point shooter than made just 30 percent of such attempts), his 101 offensive rating is easily better than the average freshman ranked in Wiley’s range (RSCI #53). And then there’s the matter of replacing Charles Mitchell’s rebounding—for all his free throw line adventures, Mitchell is one of the best rebounders in all of Division I.

As for sophomores, the highest-rated freshman from last season (Roddy Peters) is gone, so it’s hard to project a lot of leaps there. Overall, unless Slovakian center Michal Cekovsky is an immediate impact player, this team seems like one that takes a step back from last season, and that means missing the NCAA Tournament again. Ultimately, it’s hard to rebuild if half the bricks are removed from the structure.