Now that “One Shining Moment” has played, and the nets in Atlanta have been cut, its time to look back on Maryland’s season. I can’t remember following and being a part of a more up and down season as this one. At times this season was a lot of fun, but then it would take a turn for the worse. There were several rock bottom moments, and just as many moments when it looked like a corner had been turned.
I have been battling with the question of whether this season was a disappointment or a step in the right direction. Its easy to take a look back at the preseason expectations and where Maryland finished and say that this season was a disappointment. The team was picked to finish 6th in the ACC, and once Dez Wells was ruled eligible, many had this team pegged as a NCAA Tournament. With how the ACC schedule looked, it felt as if the team could contend for an ACC Title (Miami not having Reggie Johnson for the lone meeting, NC ST struggling early, Duke twice without Ryan Kelly, and UNC looked middle tier at the start of ACC play).
What ended up happening in conference was a string of inconsistent play. Many of the team’s flaws were exposed, and what they did best in non-conference play was no where to be found. Maryland never had a true point guard running the show throughout conference play. A revolving door of players was used, but no one between Pe’Shon Howard, Seth Allen, Nick Faust, and Dez Wells could find themselves comfortably running the point. The inconsistent point guard play had a trickle down effect. It lead to a league leading turnover rate, inability for the team to fully utilize 7’1″ Center Alex Len, and extended scoring droughts.
All was not lost this season though, there were positives to take with us into the off-season. At times in ACC play we saw what this team was capable of, and they looked great. Wins against Duke (twice), North Carolina State, at Alabama, and at Wake Forest showed us promise for a bright future.
Maryland started this season with a lot of question marks. Not all have been answered, but next year will have significantly less. Dez Wells has emerged as the teams go-to scorer and leader, especially on the road. Jake Layman and Seth Allen grew up throughout the year, but both really came on down the stretch. Both show us how good Coach Mark Turgeon an his staff can be on the recruiting trail, and solid building blocks for the future. Front court mates, Charles Mitchell and Shaq Cleare also look to be a strong combination for the future. Once the game slows down for Shaq he could develop himself into one of the top big men in the nation. For now we know for sure that we are getting a wide body big who can defend one on one in the post. As for Charles Mitchell, his ability to rebound was one of the constants throughout the year. Like Shaq, once the game slows down for Charles and he controls his emotions, he can go down in history as one of the top rebounders in Maryland history.
There is still a lot to improve upon for this team and the Maryland basketball program. We all knew that once Coach Gary Williams left, that the next coach would have to do some rebuilding to get Maryland back to a top program. While the results this year weren’t exactly what we wanted as fans, Coach Turgeon has shown us that we are closer than before. The freshman progressed, and look to be one of the best classes Maryland has had in awhile, and the mix of transfers has shown the staff’s ability to always be looking to take advantage of opportunities to improve.
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