Mark Turgeon’s debut as head coach at Maryland wasn’t exactly a rousing success, with the Terrapins limping to a 6-10 finish in conference play and a 17-15 record overall.
With team-carrying scorer Terrell Stoglin (responsible for 31.4 percent of the Maryland offense by himself) off to the NBA as he flees a disciplinary suspension, Year Two under Turgeon might get worse before it gets better.
For all the challenges the Terps face, though, there are more reasons for optimism in College Park than you’d think. Maryland is actually in a surprisingly good position in the 2012-13 ACC because…
Losing Stoglin isn’t all bad
At the start of last season, two of Maryland’s five projected starters were out of commission: point guard Pe’Shon Howard was down with a foot injury, and center Alex Len wasn’t yet eligible.
That meant Stoglin needed to take an inordinate number of shots to compensate for the missing offensive threats…only he never shifted back out of that mode once the Terps had their lineup intact.
Stoglin’s impressive scoring numbers came at the expense of his taking 30.5 percent of Maryland’s total field-goal attempts, including nearly half of their three-pointers.
Obviously, replacing 21.6 points a game is a major hurdle for Maryland, but at least the rest of the team will have a chance to develop into a coherent offense this time around.
Alex Len has the potential to be the conference’s best big man
With apologies to Duke’s Mason Plumlee, the ACC isn’t exactly a stronghold for elite post talent these days. One player who looks positioned for a breakout season is 7’1” rising sophomore Len, who has the potential to become the one of the best centers ever to wear a Maryland jersey.
Len sat out 10 games in an eligibility-related suspension to start his college career, but put in some solid performances in his U.S. debut—for the season, he averaged 6.0 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game.
If those don’t sound like overpowering numbers, they aren’t, but they bode very well for Len’s development. Consider Illinois’ Meyers Leonard, who barely played as a freshman and still blossomed into an all-conference honoree in the post-heavy Big Ten for his sophomore season.
A similar leap on Len’s part as he makes the crucial freshman-to-sophomore transition is by no means implausible—especially when he'll be getting help from one of the conference's top incoming big men, 6'9", 285-lb freshman Shaquille Cleare.
Next season’s ACC is wide-open
The ACC sent five teams to the Big Dance this March, of which only one (NC State, which barely made the field as a No. 11 seed) returns its best player.
Florida State and North Carolina were gutted by graduation and the draft, respectively, while Duke (Austin Rivers) and Virginia (Mike Scott) lost stars who were very nearly as valuable to their offenses as Stoglin was to Maryland’s.
Duke, with Mason Plumlee and a healthy Ryan Kelly back, will presumably be the favorite, but this is hardly an invincible Blue Devils team, as Lehigh showed everyone in March.
Expect something similar to last year’s revolving door at the top of the conference, and look for Maryland—assuming Turgeon can get his team to play somewhere near its considerable potential—to be among the teams vying for the top spot throughout the conference season.