Nobody expected the University of Maryland’s basketball team to be an ACC title contender this season.
Playing behind the legendary teams that are the Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels, the Terps are on the outside looking in when it comes to a top-three finish in the ACC.
That being said, this Maryland team is not one to be taken lightly. Winning nine of its last 11 games and going 2-2 in conference play thus far, the Terps are showing that when they are a complete team they can be extremely dangerous.
The following is a list of reasons why no one in the ACC should mark down two checks in the win column against Maryland just yet.
It seems like there is always one coach in sports each year that surprises the nation.
For first-year head coach Mark Turgeon, this could be his year.
With no one viewing the Terps as a legitimate threat in the conference, Turgeon is poised to have a breakout season.
He has incentive as well to end the season with some big wins and a respectable conference record. Simply put, it is his responsibility to carry on the Maryland tradition that he lauded in the offseason.
He has made such a splash so far that the fans have turned “Fear the Turtle,” one of the school’s historic phrases, into “Fear the Turgeon.” They may have hit the mark with that saying if he can coach his team to a good finish.
An ACC Player of the Year candidate on the Maryland roster?
Very few analysts in the preseason saw this one coming.
The potential of Stoglin has always been known. He made the ACC All-Freshman team last year, but this season he has blown up in terms of points performance.
Bringing in 31.6 minutes of solid court time, Stoglin is averaging an amazing 21.2 points per game, including 27 and 25 points in the two losses to Florida State and North Carolina State respectively.
Any team in the nation would love to have this talented player add depth to its chart, and Stoglin could, with this level of skill, help a good team become championship-level great.
If he can keep up this dominating play and increase the defensive facet of his game, then all those that face the Terps are going to have quite a few reasons to worry.
The reason most people watch the non-conference games of the college basketball season is to watch the elites put on a show against inferior teams.
Then again, the good teams cannot forget that every game is a necessary win when it comes to postseason seeding. For Maryland, losing three games early on may spell doom in terms of ACC standings.
It seems as though the Terrapins have realized the need to win now as their play during the early conference schedule has steadily increased.
In terms of ACC rankings, Maryland now sits at No. 3 in three-point success percentage, moving up five spots from No. 8 when the non-conference schedule is factored in.
The Terps also have remained at No. 3 in the offensive rebounds and rebounding percentage category for the ACC.
This increase in some of the rankings may be due in part to a falter in play from the other teams in the conference. Yet, one cannot dispute the fact that Maryland has seen an increase in team productivity since the conference schedule began.
Can the potential of a player really be considered a factor in the legitimacy of a team?
In the case of Alex Len, the answer is yes.
This Ukrainian player stands on eye level with giants at 7’1’’ and has a crazy dunking ability. The power that Len can bring to the frontcourt is going to be key to making Maryland a well-rounded team.
Yet the reality is that Len has not been nearly as effective as his teammates or coaches expected him to be. His points have dropped in every game (except for one) since his debut, culminating in a zero point total against Georgia Tech and a pitiful three-point effort against Florida State.
If Turgeon decides to put all of his eggs in Len’s basket, he had better hope for a turnaround from this freshman.
Then again, if Len can become the star that everyone is expecting on the frontcourt, the Stoglin-Len partnership could work some big magic.
This is not to say that Maryland has already written off this season, but the truth is the Terrapins have a long shot at getting into the tournament.
It is up to this team to make a name for itself this year so that come next season the nation will be ready. The Terps are tired of playing in the shadow of North Carolina, Virginia and Duke and want to bring back some of the success of past seasons.
By playing with nothing to lose the rest of this schedule and finishing comfortably among the middle-tier teams in the ACC, and hopefully knocking off some of the elites along the way, Maryland will begin to demand attention from the college basketball world.
With Coach Turgeon at the helm and a talented set of players on the roster this team has nowhere to go but up.