Maryland Basketball: Five Things to Work on During Cupcake Season
It could be worse for the 3-2 Maryland Terrapins. Then again, it could be better.
Would have been nice if they could have stolen one of last week's games against No. 4 Pitt or No. 19 Illinois, but they fought valiantly and showed a lot of promise in the losing efforts.
Hey, at least they didn't lose to College of Charleston.
Coming into this season, close observers knew there would be stretches like this; the Terps are most likely a bubble team this year. But bubble team means tournament-caliber. Make no mistake—this team has the weapons to make the dance.
At the same time, several areas for improvement came into focus these past two weeks. Starting tonight against Delaware State, Maryland plays nine more or less easily winnable contests. Now would be a good time to iron out those deficiencies before ACC play starts in earnest on January 9.
What is my assessment of those deficiencies? So glad you asked.
1. Free Throws, Free Throws, Free Throws
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Maryland currently ranks 10th in the ACC and 234th nationally in free throw percentage, making 64 percent from the line. That number actually seems a little high to me.
In their 79-70 loss to Pittsburgh, Maryland shot 47 percent (14-of-30) from the line. If they shoot 75 percent, they win that game.
Team leader Jordan Williams is not a leader here, hitting only 55 percent at the stripe. As this article from The Washington Post points out, as Jordan's profile grows, teams are fouling him more. His inability to make them pay at the line is hampering his effectiveness.
Hopefully this is nothing some late sessions at the gym can't solve. But as of this moment, free throw shooting is officially A Thing for these Terrapins.
Unlike free throw shooting, Jordan Williams is a team leader in this area. Problem is, no one's following.
Williams currently grabs 12.4 boards a game—that's tops in the ACC. Yet as a team they rank sixth in rebounding margin.
Starting power forward Dino Gregory is averaging five rebounds a game in 27 minutes of play. Bigs James Padgett and Berend Weijs are combining for 2.4.
The Terps were outrebounded 43-25 against Pitt (when freshman Panther Talib Zanna fully controlled the paint en route to a game-high 12 boards) and 35-31 against a smaller College of Charleston team.
The good news: Maryland out-boarded Illinois by 13, so perhaps a new trend is afoot.
Bottom line: If you want to be an effective rebounder, there's no substitute for boxing out your man and getting to the ball first. Not to overstate it, but it is something of a measuring stick for a team's toughness, desire and execution. We'll see if Maryland's frontcourt can clean up their dirty work during this soft part of their schedule.
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The previous slide segues nicely into my next point. With four freshmen, two sophomores and one JUCO transfer in Maryland's rotation, there are plenty of guys who could use more seasoning on the hardwood.
Point guards Terrell Stoglin and Pe'Shon Howard are playing 14.6 and 17.8 minutes per game, respectively, and that's great, although they happen to be playing at a need area (more on that in a second).
Post players Padgett and Weijs (who averages a block a game) and scorers Mychal Parker and Haukur Palsson are only averaging about 8.2 mpg between them. They will be far more effective tomorrow if they get more rounds with live bullets today—even if they're fired from a Derringer.
A gap between the starters and the bench is inevitable, of course, but here's hoping coach Gary Williams fully capitalizes on blowouts and such by getting these newer guys some valuable PT.
4. Three-Point Shooting
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Maryland has taken 62 threes but made only 17. That's a 27 percent clip, good for ninth in the ACC.
I'm not expecting anyone to become Steve Kerr overnight, but a little more judiciousness would be helpful. If shooting the three is addictive, a couple Maryland players may need a little intervention.
Sean Mosley (1-of-9) and Pe'Shon Howard (2-of-10), I'm looking in your directions.
5. Traffic Jam at the 1
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When it comes to point guard, most of the talk among Maryland fans centers on whether Howard or Stoglin will emerge (at the moment, most of the money is on Howard).
But Adrian Bowie has refused to go quietly, averaging a respectable eight points on 56 percent FG shooting and a team-leading 3.6 assists per game, all while throwing in 3.6 boards and solid defense.
Meanwhile, Howard and Stoglin have shown serious potential but haven't yet found consistency.
On the other hand, Bowie and Stoglin have 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratios and have displayed poor decision-making at times.
On the third hand, Howard has indeed been the best floor general, but at 5.6 points per game his scoring is far below that of Bowie and Stoglin, who leads the group with 11.4 ppg—while playing the lowest number of minutes.
So yeah...logjam. Good luck with this one, Gary.