‘Tis the season to be jolly! It is also the season where everyone starts compiling their Christmas wish lists in hopes of getting that new PS3, Pea coat, or piano key necktie. Since this is a sports website, I’m not here to bore you with the fact that I’d like nothing more than tickets to a DJ Tiesto concert tonight, but I will try not to bore you with my Christmas wish list for the Maryland Terrapins basketball team. My demands aren’t unreasonable, but they are plentiful, given the expectations for this team being so high.
Wish #1: Please cut down on the turnovers. (Odds of getting the gift: 40%)
Look, Maryland may in fact be the best passing team in the country at this point with Pe’Shon Howard at the helm and the fluidity with which they move the ball as a team. They play like a team should play, and while Howard may dole out the majority of the assists, the entire team has displayed quite a bit of cohesiveness as a whole. No one on the court is overly selfish, which is a stark contrast to last year’s Stoglin-led Terrapins that averaged only a 45.6% assist percentage. Unfortunately, there’s this glaring issue with the team that has yet to be resolved: they commit more turnovers than Vinny Testaverde in his heyday.
So what is the problem? Well, as I have previously documented, and Alex Prewitt of the Post even more recently showed, it’s not necessarily the point guard that is committing all the turnovers. More likely, it is an issue of youthful exuberance from the whole team and the urge to try and score early with a “home run” play, rather than making the easier, veteran pass. Dez Wells is guilty of it, Howard is somewhat culpable, and Faust is equally at fault in the same manner. Entry passes and alley-oops in an attempt to score early cause a lot of turnovers, and it’s why the Terrapins had a season-high 23 last game.
Can it be fixed? It’s really 50/50 at this point. The easy passes are there, and the team can continue to be unselfish while not trying to make the pretty, jaw-dropping dimes. Then again, it’s tough to correct things that are so ingrained into players without an offseason of work. Time will tell on this one, but with ACC play coming up and a tough opponent in Virginia Tech for the first game, so they’d better do it quickly.
Wish #2: Nick Faust to start hitting his shots (Odds of getting this gift: 75%)
Anyone who watched Nick Faust last year knows that his improvement in decision making has been dramatic. Statistically he is better, yes, but it goes further than that. His understanding of the game has improved, and he generally seems to be just as concerned with shooting as he is with making plays for other teammates. That is what separates him from being a cut-and-dry chucker guard and a versatile beast who can kill you with an array of skills (rebounding, passing, and scoring). The sad part is that he really isn’t shooting that well.
Faust may be the third best scorer on the team at 10.9 points per game this year, but with the amount of shots he takes a game, that number should be better. The sophomore guard is only connecting on 38% of his shots, and an even worse 26% from long range. Faust has shot even more three pointers than last year, but he’s shooting them slightly worse, which is a big reason why he is having trouble getting that number higher.
Faust’s shot selection isn’t always the issue, although he does often make things harder for himself with those fadeaway, Nick Young-style running jumpers that never go in except in NBA 2K13. The real problem is that he just isn’t connecting on the open shots he gets. He finally hit at least five shots against terrible Monmouth, but before that? March 8th of last season against Wake Forest in the ACC tournament. He has only managed to hit five or more shots six times in his entire career, which is a number that has to get better.
Faust has improved all aspects of his game, but when we need him the most I’m concerned that he may not come through with big shots. Though he does get to the line, in order to be a lethal scoring threat, he has to hit more shots.
Wish #3: Maryland wins 7 or more games in the month of January (Odds of getting this gift: 30%)
Maryland plays nine games in January, and eight of those games are against pretty talented ACC opponents (VT, FSU twice, MIA, NCST, UNC, BC, Duke). Currently, three of those opponents are ranked, and I am anticipating Virginia Tech being ranked by the time the Terrapins play them. Seven wins against these opponents is a tall order to ask, which is why I only have the Terrapins accomplishing that at 30%. Beating N.C. State will put the nation on notice, and as usual games against Duke are going to be obscenely tough and ill-mannered. Then there are grind-em-out games against Florida State and Virginia Tech, with another very tough one against UNC (who is always good). Combine those and you see how difficult this task will be.
Maryland needs to win the games they’re expected to if they expect to be ranked, and pull off a few upsets in the process against powerhouses like N.C. State and Duke. I think Maryland is a better team than UNC, but I’m not so certain about Duke or N.C. State, given the way they score the ball. Both teams shoot incredibly well, but then again, Maryland is playing some of the best defense in the NCAA’s, so the games will be extremely close.
Either way, January is by far the Terrapins toughest month, and their ability to weather such a tough month will more than likely ultimately decide if they make the tournament or not. That’s not even an exaggeration. For more reasons than just my wish list, they really need to win at least 7 games in January.
Wish #4: Dancing in March!
Yes, it’s a ways away, but I’ll wait for this Christmas gift to be received.