Terps Trio: Basketball toughness, deceiving record and quarterbacks

January 11, 2013

Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Don Markus and editor Matt Bracken weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in Maryland sports.

Mark Turgeon commented after the Florida State loss that his team needed to be tougher. What was he referring to, and is this a significant concern?

Jeff Barker: The Maryland coach talks about toughness a lot. He did so last season as well.

I've talked before about how -- in his second season in College Park -- Turgeon is still molding a team that looks like him.

Anybody remember what sort of guard he was at Kansas? "Tough" comes to mind. Centers and power forwards often get credited for being tough-minded. But I've long felt the boldest guys on the court are often the spindly guards who sacrifice their bodies driving into the lane. 

I think Turgeon was talking specifically about crunch time in the 65-62 loss to Florida State. Consider that the Seminoles collected 14 offensive rebounds against the Terps -- and 10 came in the second half.

That's too many to surrender for a Terps team that boasts a 7-foot center (Alex Len) and plenty of size at forward as well.

What is to blame? I'd say youth and perhaps scheduling.

One of the ways that freshmen and sophomores mature is by realizing what is required of them. It's hard to simulate in practice what happens in the closing stages of a tight game. Rebounds are contested more fiercely. There are often more fouls in the lane -- not all of them called. Toughness is at a premium.

I'm not sure Maryland's nonconference schedule prepared the Terps for what was to follow. With the exception of Kentucky -- which Maryland dominated on the boards -- the Terps didn't face a team that was their physical equal.

Maryland's 2012-13 schedule came together before Turgeon knew what sort of team he had. He didn't know, for example, that he would have Dez Wells. I think the coach will elevate the nonconference schedule in future seasons to match the challenges ahead.

After what happened against Florida State, did Maryland's 13-1 start give its players, coaches and fans (as well as the media) a false sense of how good Mark Turgeon's team will be this season?

Don Markus: I think the 65-62 loss to the Seminoles will be a good wake-up call, not only for the players, but for Turgeon as well. He admitted that he panicked, as did his players, when the shots stopped falling and Florida State mounted its second-half comeback at Comcast Center.

But if you look around the country, there are only a handful of teams that have been consistently good every night, and last I checked, there's only one in the ACC -- Duke. I characterized it as a bad loss on Morning Shootaround Thursday morning, but in retrospect, it might have been more of a lost opportunity since Florida State is the reigning ACC tournament champion.

It's not as if the Terps lost at home to Boston College or Wake Forest.

I think what it showed me was that Maryland is still a young team, and having this many freshmen playing key roles -- including Seth Allen taking the last shot againt the Seminoles -- means that the Terps will be going through some growing pains.

What's important is for Maryland to go out and steal a game -- maybe by winning Sunday at Miami or at home next week against nationally ranked North Carolina State. That would certainly help erase the memory of the seven-minute scoreless stretch in the second half Wednesday night or the way Allen botched the last play.

As for Turgeon, I think it's time for him to figure out who his best players are and give them the majority of the minutes. It's one thing to be a deep team, but there are times when he seems to make substitutions -- particularly with Alex Len -- based on making sure some guys get playing time.

I still think the Terps are going to finish high enough in the ACC to merit serious consideration for the NCAA tournament, but Wednesday's game might have tempered my own feelings that Maryland might be the second- or third-best team in a rather weak ACC.

Maryland announced this week that Devin Burns is transferring. With his departure, what might the Terps' quarterback depth chart look like heading into the fall?

Matt Bracken: Quarterback battles are often waged in spring practice, but with C.J. Brown expected to be "limited" and Burns, Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe out recovering from their respective injuries, Maryland was never going to learn enough this spring to come up with a legitimate depth chart. So we'll account for Burns' exit and skip ahead to the fall, when the Terps should have six healthy quarterbacks vying for snaps.

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