Mark Turgeon has his team grinding out tough games. PHOTO: Mitch Stringer-US PRESSWIRE
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WUSA) -- Despite battling and almost winning their match up against the University of Connecticut, the Maryland Basketball team still needs to make changes before they solidify themselves as a tourney team. Most of Friday's game was reminiscent of last year's team - turnover prone and consistently forcing bad shots.
Despite shooting themselves in the foot repeatedly with turnovers, the biggest problem was at point guard. With Seth Allen out for two months, head coach Mark Turgeon decided to make Dez Wells the primary carrier. At first, I loved the idea. It's a strategy that we are seeing a lot in the NBA; having your best scoring threat bring the ball up the court and making him a passing threat as well.
That idea never really came to fruition as Wells struggled in his new role. He was more concerned with running plays and setting up his teammate that he completely forgot to establish his best weapon - his scoring. He rarely searched for his shot, and as Maryland's best scorer, he was hurting the offense by not doing so. When freshman Roddy Peters, a natural point guard, took over the duties, we saw an entirely different Dez Wells. Wells became the slasher and the aggressive scorer we all expected him to be for the Terps.
This leads me to change number one: start Peters at point until Allen returns. He made some terrific passes, and before Wells woke up, he was the only guard to slash to rim for layups. I understand the coaching staff my want to foster and develop his budding talent, but I'm a huge fan of throwing a player in the fire. Let him learn to adapt to the college game and improve through experience. Besides, Wells can create more space for himself off the ball.
This brings me to my second suggestion, for Peters to start, Junior guard, and longest tenured Terp Nick Faust will need to come off the bench. As much of Faust fan as I am, he shoots far too many threes than he ought to. Couple that with the many forced up shots he takes, the decision is a no-brainer. With Faust on the bench, Turgeon now has a guard he trusts coming off the bench. Besides, you can't bench anyone else.
Sophomore Jake Layman seems to have overcome the confidence issues that plagued him a year ago and is shooting lights out. He had the green light on Friday, shooting 42% from the field, including connecting on two from deep. He didn't make many poor decisions, either.
Evan Smotrycz was the other standout from the Connecticut game. After waiting a year for eligibility, Smotrycz proved he is the perfect fit for Turgeon's offense. The stretch forward finished with 13 points and a game-high 9 rebounds Friday night. He also spaced the floor connecting on 3-5 from three point range. He will create a bunch of matchup problems for rival teams and is too valuable to bench, at least for right now.
Shaq Cleare, despite his improvement from last season, should be switched out of the starting lineup for Charles Mitchell. I am actually expecting a big year from the sophomore. Now that he's in shape, he can be a Jordan Williams, double-double machine if he stays out of foul trouble. He has what my colleague Dave Owens likes to call "Junkyard Dog." He's a scrapper and one of the few this team has. While Cleare is a serviceable player, Mitchell minutes are more valuable.
To recap, based off the first game of the season, my starting lineup would consist of Roddy Peters, Dez Wells, Jake Layman, Evan Smotrycz, and Charles Mitchell. This group should give the Terps their best offensive output. To get defensive, sub Faust in for Peters. If I get this analytical over one game, can you imagine how I'm going to react to the season?