Originally posted on College Chalktalk  |  Last updated 1/30/13
Howard may be the player most vital to team success. (Credit: Greg Fiume/Maryland Athletics) After a close loss to Kentucky to open the season, Maryland went on a 13-game winning streak, 12 of them non-conference games. Just what the doctor ordered.  Right? Well, maybe.  Mark Turgeon’s second Maryland team is a bit on the young side and they needed some confidence-building wins. But did they need them against an RPI-destroying collection of basketball non-entities?  It works if the momentum generated by beating the Monmouth’s and South Carolina State’s of the world carries over. But Maryland goes to Florida State tonight 3-4 in the ACC, losers of four of their last six games.  Their RPI is 64, their strength of schedule a sobering 94. There’s no question that Maryland has some top-tier talent.  Center Alex Len and wings Nick Faust and Dez Wells have next-level abilities.  All three are sophomores. But Maryland only has two recruited upper-classmen.  Power forward James Padgett is a senior and he’s been a starter in the past.  But he’s losing minutes to freshman Shaq Cleare and has only played 21 minutes in Maryland’s last three games. Then there’s junior point guard Pe’Shon Howard.  He has battled injuries for much of his career and he’s had some off-court issues.  But Howard started the season on the Cousy watch list and justified that early on, having a 13-assist game against LIU-Brooklyn. That’s four more assists than Howard has had in his last six games combined.  Howard is shooting less than 30 percent from the field and averaging a modest 3.5 points per game.  He had seven turnovers in a 62-52 loss at North Carolina two weeks ago. Howard has been losing PT to freshman Seth Allen.  Turgeon held Allen out of the first half against Duke. It seems Allen had been late to a team meeting. “The thing holding us back is maturity,” Turgeon said of the Allen situation. “We have to learn the hard way.” Allen played 10 minutes in the second half. But Howard didn’t get the starting nod in his absence.  Instead, Turgeon went with a jumbo lineup that went 7-1, 6-9, 6-8, 6-5 and 6-5, with Faust handling the ball.  Shakily. This lineup worked early, as Maryland bludgeoned Duke on the boards.  When Duke started grabbing some defensive rebounds, Maryland didn’t have a Plan B.  Hence, their 84-64 loss. When asked what he liked about his team’s performance in the Cameron cauldron, Turgeon mentioned that his team “didn’t throw the ball all over the place,” as had been their recent habit. Maryland had 14 turnovers, which suggests the depth of Turgeon’s frustration. Then again, that is an improvement over the 18 turnovers against Florida State, the 21 against North Carolina. The Terps also have to do a better job of getting the ball to Len, their athletic and skilled 7-1 Ukrainian center.  Len is shooting over 54 percent from the field this season but has only 44 points in Maryland’s last four games. Turgeon is integrating four freshmen into the rotation, so growing pains are inevitable.  Maryland does have a win over NC State and has more chances to bolster its resume and SOS with rematches against Florida State, Duke and North Carolina. “We don’t have a Mason Plumlee to rely on, a Seth Curry to rely on,” Turgeon said after the Duke game. “We competed in a pretty tough environment against a team that really wanted to play well.” It’s tempting to focus on Maryland’s youth, while ignoring their short-term possibilities.  But any inclination to play wait-until next year should be tempered by the NBA’s infatuation with Len, who projects as a top-10 pick and may well be receptive to the siren call. Teams with RPIs in the 60s tend to be disappointed on Selection Sunday.  There’s still time and opportunity to get on the right side of the bubble.  But there’s lots of work to be done. Related Posts:Can Maryland be an ACC contender?ACC Notebook: Maryland’s inside/outside comboDez Wells eligible for Terps: What it meansHoops programs at Maryland, Rutgers need the fresh Big Ten…State of the ACC: Blue Devils point the way, others follow
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