As far as previews go, this one's late. After all, the idea of a preview is to give an view of the team before they start playing. Maryland, unfortunately, has already played two games, including what will probably be their most exciting contest of the year.
But two games out of a grand total of 30 (at a minimum) isn't a lot in the big scheme of things, and this is preview week on SB Nation D.C., so we're rolling one out anyway.
Now, there are two Holy Numbers in Maryland basketball lore: 3, for Juan Dixon, and 34, for Len Bias. Thirty-four is a bit long for preview purposes, but I can work with 3. Plus, it's never a bad time to honor Juan Dixon. So, why not read a bullet-point heavy preview for Maryland basketball centered around sets of 3 things? Have fun:
The New Big 3
Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes, and Landon Milbourne were Maryland basketball for the past three years. Replacing three players that became synonymous with the team as a whole will be a tough job, but someone has to do it.
- Jordan Williams, F (6-10, So.) - Everyone that cares about college basketball knows the Jordan Williams story by now: a slightly chubby, overlooked big man from Connecticut comes down, becomes Maryland's starter, averages a double-double the final dozen games of the season, finishes second in the ACC in rebounding, drops double-doubles against Duke and Michigan State and gets named to the Wooden Award watchlist in the preseason of the next year. Now he's 20 pounds slimmer and a year more experienced. As long as someone can provide a perimeter scoring presence, expect big things.
- Sean Mosley, G (6-4, Jr.) - Not to fall into the trap of comparing everyone to Maryland's 2002 championship team, but Mosley really is reminiscent of Byron Mouton. Both were prolific scorers before coming to Maryland (Mosley at St. Frances in Baltimore, Mouton at Tulane) but they became glue guys at the small forward spot at Maryland. We never got to see Mouton without Juan Dixon taking the scoring role; we get to see Mosley without Vasquez, though, and he'll be expected to shoulder the load of perimeter scoring in Vaz's place.
- Currently Accepting Applicants. Cliff Tucker, the 6-6 senior swingman? That's the hope. He certainly has the scoring potential and he's looked solid through two games so far this year. But inconsistent play has been a hallmark of Tucker's since arriving at Maryland, and that's disconcerting. Maybe it'll be a freshman or perhaps Adrian Bowie, but Maryland needs to find another player that can consistently give them 10-12 points a game. Otherwise, Williams' production probably won't be enough to compete in the ACC. Tucker looks like a solid bet so far, but I don't want to go about crowning him just yet.
3 Point Guard Options
For the past three seasons, there have been no questions about who would play point guard for the Maryland Terrapins. But now Vasquez is in the NBA and Maryland has a hole to fill at the most important position on the floor. Pe'Shon Howard might've just filled it with his shot last night, but the jury's still out.
- Adrian Bowie, the former front-runner, has been inconsistent his entire career at Maryland, but came on strong at the end of last season. He found more confidence in his jumper, ugly though it may be, and looked more comfortable in Maryland's flex offense. The problem? Most of that comfortable play came at shooting guard, not point guard. Concerns around him remained prominent throughout the offseason despite a guaranteed starting role, and his play in Maryland's debut against Seattle - seven turnovers, two assists - did nothing to settle them. He looked okay against College of Charleston, but not for a single second of play has he looked like the best point guard on the team.
- That honor falls to Pe'Shon Howard, a freshman built like a linebacker with more than enough confidence and swagger. There's a reason he's the one taking Vasquez's No. 21 and has lovingly been nicknamed MVPe'. In terms of personality, he and Vaz seem to share just about every trait. And he's the guy that did this. But it's more than the shot: he led Maryland with eight assists against Seattle, added four more yesterday, and was 6-7 shooting against CoC. His confidence on the ball is unmatched among Terrapins and is exactly what Maryland needs. That said, he's not a guarantee to start: two games and one shot aren't going to sway Williams too much in the grand scheme of things, and he's notorious for giving seniors a lot of time to prove themselves (maybe too much time).
- The final option is Terrell Stoglin, and just hours ago he might've been the favorite. He's perfectly fine on the ball, if a tad turnover-prone, and has a fantastic scorer's mentality. He's particularly savvy on the fastbreak and is the state of Arizona's second-leading prep scorer of all-time, behind only Mike Bibby. He'll factor in for major minutes at point guard, certainly, but Howard just took a definitive lead.
Pre-Charleston, Bowie had the starting job for the foreseeable future. Now, there's a sort of point guard controversy in College Park. Watch it closely.
3 Names to Know
Want to sound smart to your casual Terrapin fan friends/roommates? Drop these guys' names a couple times.
- James Padgett, F (6-8, So.) - Some thought that Padgett, who came into the program at the same time as Williams, would be the guy to start first for the Terrapins. Didn't happen. Padgett is ultimately a garbage man that will get trash buckets, but points are points. Without Landon Milbourne, Maryland needs Padgett's length, athleticism, rebounding and post presence. He'll be Maryland's first big off the bench and will challenge to start as the season wears on.
- Haukur Palsson, G/F (6-6, Fr.) - The one thing no one can get around with Palsson: he's Icelandic. As in, from Iceland. He played a year of high school ball in Florida before picking Maryland over South Florida, and there were some questions raised among the hardcore Terps. But he's been one of the first freshmen off the bench, has a nice stroke from deep, and is a classic "Gary guy": he hustles, rebounds, and is "coachable." His ceiling is higher than most will give him credit for.
- Berend Weijs, C (6-10, Jr.) - Weijs is an even more interesting story than Palsson: originally from the Netherlands (his name is pronounced "Bear-end Wise"), Weijs played JuCo at Harcum College in Pennsylvania. He and friend came down to UMD to play pickup and a few current Terps were there. They were so impressed that they told Gary Williams to offer him a scholarship and, after watching him in person, he did. He's an amazing shot-blocker - he set Harcum's record for blocks and had two in his first minute against Seattle - and the longest player on the team. Hopefully he takes the Boom Osby route of being an eminently-interesting, awesomely-named JuCo big man.
3 Chances at Résumé Out-of-Conference Wins
The smart money is on Maryland being a bubble team this year. One of deciding factors is always out-of-conference wins, which Maryland should know well by now after their win over Michigan State got them a tourney spot two years ago. With a relatively difficult OOC slate, the Terrapins should have more than a few chances at it. The three best shots:
- vs. Pittsburgh, 11/18, Madison Square Garden - Pittsburgh is a bona fide top 10 team this year, but they had their struggles against a decent Rhode Island team. Under the bright lights at MSG, the Panthers will have to cut down on turnovers, as a lack of execution kept RI in it. There's also the bonus storyline of figuring out who Maryland commitment Sterling Gibbs will root for: his future team, or his brother, Ashton, who's Pitt's starting point guard?
- vs. Temple, 12/5, Verizon Center - The BB&T Classic is always good for a big name to play Maryland (though still no Georgetown, which holds it back from being an elite tourney). This year it's Temple, which is coached by Fran Dunphy, a Gary Williams disciple. The Owls had one of the best defenses in the country last year and have an overlooked star in 6-9 forward Lavoy Allen.
- @ Villanova, 1/15 - This is probably Maryland's best shot at a signature victory. The Terrapins under Gary Williams are well-known for improving as the season goes on, and the Nova game will come in the middle of the ACC circuit.
3 Big Strengths
We've been through two games and know pretty well what's good and what's not. The good side is very good...
- Jordan Williams. Over/under on number of double-doubles: 29.5. Williams has two, easily both times, in his first two games. He's slimmer, better at rebounding and should be the focal point of the offense at all times.
- Forcing turnovers. The Terrapins have their well-publicized turnover issues of their own, but through two games they've forced nearly 25 TOs a game.
- The transition game. Maryland has their struggles in the halfcourt set offensively, but in transition, they've been perfectly effective. This team is loaded with athletes and generally solid decision-makers on the break, and that should lead to a lot of easy fastbreak buckets.
3 Big Weaknesses
- Point guard play and turnovers. Self-explanatory. 29 against Seattle, 22 against College of Charleston and a general lack of direction offensively. They need to find the first and cut down on the second, because they won't win a game against high-major competition turning the ball over 26 times a game.
- Man-to-man defense. When Maryland's not forcing a turnover, it's a good bet they're giving up an open shot. Andrew Goudelock was sensational last night but had plenty of nice looks; likewise, Seattle got more open looks than they took advantage of. The stats don't look bad there at all, but in watching it, it's unsettling when players have career days in two straight games.
- Deep shooting. They were 2-7 from beyond-the-arc against Charleston and 2-8 against Seattle. Without Hayes and Vasquez, the team is desperate for a deep threat. Both Tucker and Mosley have come up short in that aspect early; it may be Palsson.
- By the end of the season, the starting rotation is Pe'Shon Howard, Cliff Tucker, Sean Mosley, James Padgett, and Jordan Williams.
- Williams will end up as an All-ACC First Teamer, but struggles in conference play due to the lack of a perimeter threat will ultimately keep him from greater national recognition.
- Maryland will lose one game they shouldn't out of conference, win one they shouldn't in conference, and end up somewhere on the bubble; that's an all-too-familiar formula, but it's still valid. The expectation at this point is making the tournament; with a game-changing talent like Williams has the potential to be, anything less would be a disappointment. I (won't) go out on a limb and say they get in, but don't advance past the first round.