Maryland Basketball: 5 Questions Marks for Terrapins Heading into the Season

Ryan SatskyContributor IIIOctober 24, 2012

Maryland Basketball: 5 Questions Marks for Terrapins Heading into the Season

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    For the first time since the 2009-10 season, there's a promising preseason outlook on the Maryland basketball team.

    With three experienced upperclassmen, two stud sophomores, four freshmen and possibly a superstar transfer, all signs are pointing towards Maryland teetering around the bubble come March.

    Whether Maryland sneaks into the field of 68 might be dependent on the eligibility of Xavier transfer Dez Wells, who is waiting to hear back from the NCAA about his hardship waiver appeal. Wells would be arguably the most talented player on the roster.

    The replacement of Terrell Stoglin, development of phenom sophomores and point guard uncertainties all create newsworthy headlines for Maryland heading into the season.

    Here are Maryland's five biggest questions marks as we approach the November 9 opener against Kentucky in Brooklyn.

Who Will Replace Terrell Stoglin as the Team's Leading Scorer?

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    Last season, sophomore combo guard Terrell Stoglin led not only the ACC, but all major-conference players in scoring, averaging 21.6 points per game. Stoglin, who entered the NBA draft early, won't be playing for Maryland this season.

    While he did shoot the fifth-most field goals nationally, 21.6 points per night is still a lot to compensate for. It's difficult to pinpoint who will be most responsible for the replacement of that scoring, but the roster definitely carries some prime candidates.

    Sophomore Nick Faust totaled 8.9 points per outing last season. He's a unique physical specimen with great leaping ability, but struggled with his jumpshot last season.

    Ukraine product Alex Len averaged just six points per game as a freshman last season, but that low total can be attributed to him struggling to get acclimated to American basketball. He stands at a towering 7'1'' and has decent range, but must solidify himself as an aggressive post presence.

    Massachusetts freshman Jake Layman is definitely the most versatile player Maryland has. He measures 6'9'', but plays like a small forward. He can shoot threes incredibly well, but his collegiate production is all speculation at this point.

    Xavier transfer Dez Wells is the most talented, pure scorer on the roster, but he's not yet eligible due to transfer regulations. He's applied for a hardship waiver, and the NCAA should reach a ruling within the week.

    Answer: If eligible, Wells. Otherwise, Faust.

Will Alex Len Develop as Expected?

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    Most NBA scouts have Alex Len pinned as a mid-first round selection in the 2013 NBA draft. That is, if he elects to forgo his final two seasons in College Park.

    He has received such high acclaim due to the hopes that his game will develop more physicality. Its not often you find a 7'1'' player who is fairly coordinated and can hit outside shots, but strength has often been an area of concern.

    During his freshman season last year, Len joined the team 10 games late due to amateurism issues with the NCAA. He never really acclimated to stateside play and had additional difficulties during ACC play.

    Nevertheless, Len is considered a top 20 big man by CBS Sports. He's tacked on 25 pounds since last season, and he finally can communicate with teammates in English. Both were major issues last season.

    Len's overall development is very significant to Maryland's chances of success. If he can fine-tune his interior play and provide solid defense, opponents won't be able to manage his size.

    Answer: Yes, Len will live up to the hype.

Can Nick Faust Improve His 3-Point Percentage?

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    There's no beating around the bush. Nick Faust shot an abysmal 27 percent beyond the arc as a freshman last season, which is a horrendous total for a shooting guard.

    To make matters worse, he missed 19 of his first 25 three-pointers in ACC play. That statistic looks even worse when considering that Faust was supposed to be the aid to Maryland prior outside shooting woes.

    Aside from just his shooting motion, Faust often struggled with shot selection. He frequently settled for three pointers in transition instead of taking it to the hoop, which is one of his major strengths.

    Luckily, Faust has had an entire offseason to correct that weakness. If there's one mechanic in basketball that can be fixed, it's unquestionably a jumpshot.

    It won't be an uphill climb to improve his three-point shooting percentage because Faust can't get too much lower. But if Maryland wants to be an NCAA Tournament team, then their premier scorer is going to need to be able produce around the perimeter.

    Answer: Slightly, but he'll remain an above-the-rim player.

How Effective Will the Freshmen Be?

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    In just his second season as head coach, Mark Turgeon has hauled in quite an impressive recruiting class consisting of shooting guard Seth Allen, forwards Jake Layman and Charles Mitchell and center Shaquille Cleare.

    Cleare was the highest rated departing high school, and he'll fill a huge void that plagued Maryland last season: interior toughness. Cleare is a big body who is an aggressive rebounder and shot blocker.

    Layman was also a top-100 recruit and even was on the USA 18U National Team this summer and won a gold medal. He's your prototypical inside-outside stretch four, but probably possesses more athleticism than most stretch fours.

    Charles Mitchell is often applauded less for his natural skill and more for his hustle, energy and heart. He's not the most physically gifted player and certainly not the most conditioned, but Mitchell is a 6'8'' power forward who has a unique purpose: clogging the lane.

    Seth Allen, the least heralded of Turgeon's freshman class, is a pure scorer who hasn't really played against a high level of competition in his entire life. Allen might challenge Nick Faust and Dez Wells for the most athletic player on the roster, but he carries less poise and maturity than those two.

    So the question is: How effective will the freshmen be despite the possibility that none of them will start?

    Answer: Layman and Cleare will be instant contributors, while Allen and Mitchell aren't quite ready.

Who Will Provide Point Guard Depth?

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    There's no debate to who will be Maryland's starting point guard. Pe'Shon Howard has the role locked up, even if he's not 100 percent healthy following ACL surgery.

    The debate revolves around point guard depth. Maryland only has one other true point guard on its roster, and he's a preferred walk-on named Conner Lipinski. Turgeon will have to trust some two-guards to play point guard when Howard is on the bench.

    Seth Allen, a freshman from Virginia, is the most likely candidate to be the backup point guard. He's outstandingly quick and explosive, but he's primarily a scorer, not a passer.

    Nick Faust may even be more of a small forward than a shooting guard, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Faust take the ball down the court occasionally. If Faust has the ball in his hands, opposing defenses will have to be more alert.

    Logan Aronhalt, a fifth-year senior transfer from Albany, was a solid mid-major player who averaged double figures in scoring for the past two seasons. He's an adequate shooter, but doesn't have much experience as a point guard.

    Those are the likely candidates to provide some point guard depth when Howard needs a rest. So, who has the best chance of assuming that role?

    Answer: Seth Allen. His quickness and ball-handling capabilities will be sufficient.