In a conference like the ACC, which boasts the No. 1 team in the nation in the North Carolina Tar Heels as well as a top 10 team in the Duke Blue Devils, it would seem unlikely that a team like the Maryland Terrapins would stand a chance.
Although the road may be a tough one to come by, this team lead by a new head coach and solid young talent might be able to prove the doubters wrong. In his first season from Texas A&M, Terps head coach Mark Turgeon has experience with winning programs and in turn could start winning games in a hurry.
A team with far less experience and significantly less talent than both Duke and North Carolina, Maryland will certainly have their hands full. In order to compete with these powerhouses, the Terps will have some work to do.
Here are the eight things Turgeon and his Maryland Terrapins need to do in order to compete for an ACC title this season.
Without the leadership of Jordan Williams on the inside, the leading rebounder in the ACC with 11.8 rebounds per game, the Terrapins will have to fill the gap that Williams has left.
Developing the young big men for the team will be crucial to a successful season for the team. The play of freshman center Alex Len, freshman forward Ashton Pankey and junior forward James Padgett will have to clear the glass effectively and control the paint on both ends.
Despite the loss of Williams, two young talents in Len and Pankey could prove to be valuable assets going forward if they play to their potential. In the opening exhibition match against Northwood, the three combined for 11-for-16 from the field and 20 rebounds.
Len will serve a 10-game suspension to begin the season, as the play of Pankey and Weijs will be key to start the season.
All in all, based on talent, a good sign to say the least for the Terps going forward.
If there’s one thing these Terrapins proved last season, it’s that closing the season out is ultimately what separates this team from being a team that is a guaranteed top three in the conference.
To finish off the 2010-2011 season, the Terps would lose six of their last nine games to go from 16-8 to 19-14 and on the outside looking in for the 2011 NCAA tournament.
If the team wins just half their games to close out the season, the Terps put themselves in a promising position to earn a bid to the 2012 NCAA tournament.
A 7-9 record in the conference just won’t cut it.
On the other hand, if there’s one thing the Terrapins did exceptionally well with last season, it’s the simple fact that they never lost a game to a significantly lesser quality opponent. Games that were supposed to be won were won, and convincingly.
Yet against some tough ACC opponents, plenty of which were not necessarily as good as the Terps, the team struggled to pick up wins. There were stretches last season where the team would pick up three wins in a row in the conference, yet there were also those to end the season where the Terps would drop three of four.
Consistent, winning basketball in the conference will make this team all the more nationally recognized, as nine of their 14 losses last season came in ACC play.
The Terrapins cannot dwell on the fact that Williams is no longer running the show in Maryland after 22 seasons as the team’s head coach.
Although the transition was both abrupt and unexpected, it is important that the team keep its composure and maintain the discipline on and off the court. Turgeon has seemed to show utmost confidence in the current squad, as it would seem this team is focused and ready for the 2011-2012 season.
Not to mention Turgeon has proved he is a coach capable of winning ball games with top-notch programs in the nation. Turgeon has been coaching since 1998 and more recently lead Texas A&M to four-consecutive seasons of at least 24 wins.
It may not be the easiest point to prove, yet mentally it can be difficult for a team to transition from one coach to the next, especially with a guy like Williams who had such an extensive, successful tenure.
Terrell Stoglin is without question the most talented, proven player the team has. In his freshman year with the team, Stoglin was the second-leading scorer on the team with 11.4 points per game and shot 82.7 percent from the free-throw line.
Despite his 46 percent shooting from the field last season, the number is deceiving when considering the amount of layups and shots around the rim the starting guard takes.
In order to have Stoglin improve as a player and help the Terrapins make the most of their possessions, he will have to take smarter shots and less contested looks.
However, as the team’s main scoring threat, it is important that Stoglin take plenty of shots and take on the role of being the team’s main scorer.
In their first exhibition game of the season, Stoglin lead the way with 23 points in a victory over Northwood, as it would seem he has gotten off on the right foot.
As solid a talent as sophomore guard Pe’Shon Howard is for the Maryland Terrapins, the team cannot let the injury take a hit on them mentally.
Pe’Shon Howard broke his foot prior to the start of this season, an injury that has him sidelined 10-12 weeks.
Howard is a strong player that would have made life easier for Terps offensively as well as defensively, yet at the same rate it also gives players like Stoglin and Nick Faust a significantly greater role on both ends.
The bottom line: Despite the amount of talent a guy like Howard brings to the table, his services will not be available and other players must step it up in his absence in order to help the Terps win basketball games.
One of the more highly regarded recruits in the country, freshman guard Nick Faust has had quite the fortunate situation to start this 2011-2012 season.
With Howard appearing to be out for nearly the entire season, Faust will able to get solid minutes in order to improve and show Turgeon what he can bring to the table.
In the win over Northwood to open the season, Faust was able to chip in 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting in 27 minutes of play.
Not half bad for a guy playing in his first game of his college basketball career. If Faust can provide solid play in the backcourt, and if senior Sean Mosley and Stoglin continue to add to the equation, it gives the team arguably one of the more talented backcourts in the ACC.
Sean Mosley, Berend Weijs and James Padgett are essentially the three leaders of a young, inexperienced Terrapins team. The play of these three throughout this season will arguably be the biggest factor in helping the team to compete for an ACC title.
As the main leader of the team and with a Howard-less backcourt, Mosley knows he must bring his “A-game” from the get-go. Last season, Mosley averaged 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game. These numbers are solid, yet figures that must improve in order to give the team a fighting chance.
Weijs and Padgett will need to help improve the game of center Alex Len, who has shown a significant amount of potential and is predicted to be a force for the team over time.
Their leadership as upperclassmen will be crucial to the team’s success this season.