Terps Trio: Final ACC hoops schedule, Vertrail Vaughns, Stefon Diggs & Tavon Austin

April 26, 2013

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

Is the Atlantic Coast Conference being vindictive with Maryland regarding its basketball schedule for its final season?

Don Markus: After seeing that the Terps have to go play at Duke and North Carolina, without a return game from either the Blue Devils or Tar Heels, my reaction was it was a, uh, going-away gift for leaving for the Big Ten in 2014. One of the reasons I wrote about the end of the Duke-Maryland rivalry back in February was that I expected this to happen.     

In reality, the ACC actually gave Maryland a relatively easy home schedule: aside from “travel partners” Virginia and Pittsburgh, the Terps will play ACC newcomers Notre Dame and Syracuse, along with Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. Aside from the Irish and the Orange, there might not be a sellout in the bunch unless Mark Turgeon’s team takes it up a notch.

The road schedule is also not as daunting as it could have been, considering there is no trip to the Carrier Dome, which automatically takes over as the toughest homecourt in the ACC. (For those who believe it’s still Cameron Indoor Stadium, playing in front of 30,000 in a dome is more daunting than playing in front of 9,000 plus, no matter how close they are to the court.)

Aside from three trips to Tobacco Road (N.C. State, too) as well as Virginia and Pittsburgh, the Terps go to Florida State (which was half-empty when Maryland played there last season), Virginia Tech (which was less than half-empty)  and Boston College (which was less than half  than half-empty). The last time I checked, Clemson only sells out Littlejohn Coliseum for Duke and Carolina.

So in reality, the ACC might be taking a shot at Maryland’s already shaky athletic coffers (the reason for the move to the Big Ten in the first place) by not having guaranteed sellouts for the Blue Devils and North Carolina, but the schedule looks like it could help the Terps reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in four years.

And that might be the best going-away present of all.   

The Maryland basketball program is involved with George Mason transfer Vertrail Vaughns. What would the fifth-year grad student potentially bring to the table?

Matt Bracken: Over the past week the Terps have been linked with three transfers: Memphis point guard Antonio Barton, a Lake Clifton alum who will graduate this summer and can play immediately; Eli Carter, a shooting guard from Rutgers who led the Scarlet Knights in scoring as a sophomore; and Vertrail Vaughns, a shooting guard from George Mason who took a medical redshirt his freshman year and is eligible to play right away.

As soon as Barton and Carter hit the market, high-major schools across the country scrambled to get involved. Maryland, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Tennessee and Syracuse are among the schools interested in Barton, while Carter is looking at the Terps, Florida, Pittsburgh, Creighton, Memphis and Buffalo.

Vaughns’ recruitment, however, will be quite a bit different. The 6-foot-2, 184-pound 2-guard posted on his Facebook page that he would visit North Texas and Maryland. According to Jeff Goodman, Texas Tech and Georgia Tech have also expressed some interest.

A quick glance at Vaughns’ career stats with the Patriots is somewhat underwhelming. The Mesquite, Texas native averaged 5.8 points, appearing in 107 games and starting 33. In Maryland’s 69-62 win over George Mason last December, Vaughns took a dreaded DNP – coach’s decision.

So what can we make of Maryland’s interest in Vaughns? For answers, I caught up this week with Ryan Kish, a 2006 George Mason grad who runs the popular GMUHoops.com blog. Kish said Vaughns – who was recruited as a point guard but is “definitely a 2” – had his best year as a redshirt freshman in 2010-11.

“Freshman year, he turned the ball over constantly. But he turned into a really good shooter, especially from 3-point range,” Kish said. “He was a perfect spot-up shooter.”

That season, Vaughns averaged just 4.5 points but shot 49 percent from 3-point range, helping the Patriots to a 27-6 record and the second round of the NCAA tournament. After the season, Jim Larranaga took the Miami job, and former Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt took over the Patriots. Vaughns’ role changed significantly.

“He started every single game [as a sophomore], and you could tell he wasn’t the same player,” Kish said. “Teams focused on him – he can’t really create his own shot. He can shoot 3-pointers [and he’s] also a pretty good defender. But he’s not a point guard.”

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