Dec 29, 2012; College Park, MD, USA; Maryland Terrapins center Alex Len (25) dunks the ball against the Delaware State Hornets during the second half at Comcast Center. Mandatory Credit: Paul Frederiksen-USA TODAY Sports

Pick And Pop: Maryland Basketball And ACC Play

The Pick and Pop is where Mr. Bohlin and I (the Willis), go toe-to-toe on a variety of issues, as we rarely agree on anything except Terps dominance in all facets. Period. These articles usually provide entertainment.

With all the tinkering that has gone on within the Terrapins starting five in the non-conference schedule what is your starting lineup and why as we head into ACC play this weekend?

Willis: I think the starting lineup will almost certainly not include Charles Mitchell, as I don’t think coach Turgeon was too impressed by his performance against IUPUI in his first start. So with that said, I think the lineup is Pe, Faust, Wells, Padgett, and Len to start off against Virginia Tech. With that starting five they have size, three players who are very good at getting to the basket and scoring down low, and great ball movement.

Yes, it leaves them with a little less outside shooting than one would like, but that’s what the bench is for. Seth Allen and Logan Aronhalt provide that as they spell Faust and Howard. As for the down low presence, Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare ensure that there won’t be a significant drop off in their post presence. This is one of those instances where I actually think the bench will be just as offensively threatening as the first unit. The team is deep, and there won’t be much of a drop off in production provided Dez Wells plays the majority of the minutes at the three with both units.

Bohlin: Playing a weaker non-conference schedule allowed head coach Mark Turgeon the luxury of taking his roster and experimenting with different rotations in hopes of finding the combination of players that would offer Maryland the best chance of being successful come time for conference play. Well, conference play is upon us after Maryland took care of business against IUPUI to come into league play riding a 12 game winning streak and the question still remains; what five is the best five to start for the Terrapins?

As much as the freshmen have shown up until this point I am of the belief that Maryland will need to rely heavily on the, for lack of a better term, veterans on this roster to pave the way. The lineup I would go with, were I Mark Turgeon, would be the one we saw on opening night of Pe’Shon Howard, Nick Faust, Dez Wells, James Padgett and Alex Len.

The emergence of Charles Mitchell and Shaq Cleare as legitimate options in the post for the Terps cannot go unnoticed however neither have displayed the type of consistent play necessary to garner a starting spot alongside Alex Len. James Padgett has been around the block once or twice in the ACC as a senior and can provide the type of stability and experience in the starting lineup that the rest of the Terps frankly do not have.

Who has been the Terrapins “Non-Conference MVP” this season?

Willis: I think that award, while somewhat insignificant, has to go to Dez Wells. Despite not even knowing if he was going to be able to play this season, Wells has fit in perfectly and given the Terrapins a dynamic player who provides a spark whenever the team needs it. Wells season averages (12 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists) aren’t All-ACC numbers on paper, but watching him go to work shows why he has been the most important player on the Terrapins roster.

His passing makes this team explosive, his ability to grab defensive boards and initiate the fast break gives this team lots of transition buckets, allowing them to go on runs easily. Wells plays smart basketball, and in closer/big games against Stony Brook (19 pts, 6 reb), George Mason (25 pts, 6 reb), and Northwestern (23 pts), he has played better than anyone on the floor.

Bohlin: Pe’Shon Howard. The Terrapins junior point guard might not be getting all the attention that his sophomore teammates Alex Len and Dez Wells have received but the way that Howard has taken care of and distributed the ball to his teammates has been extremely impressive. Howard is leading Maryland with an average of just under 6 assists per game. Howard also boasts an assist to turnover ratio of 3.2:1 which is good enough to land Howard in the top 25 of all players in the country with regard to that statistic. As a team, the Terrapins rank fifth in the nation in assists per game largely due in part to the play of Howard.

Maryland was picked to finish 6th in the preseason (Behind UNC, Miami and FSU) by the coaches and media alike, 13 games into the 2012-2013 season where do the Terrapins stack up with regard to the rest of the ACC?

Willis: As much as it pains me to say, I do not think the Terrapins are the best team in the ACC — but it’s close. Duke is currently the only undefeated team in the ACC, and they have run roughshod over every opponent this season, so I think it’s safe to say they are the best team in the conference. They’re top 25 in the nation in points per game(81 PPG) , assists per game (16.5 APG) , and field goal percentage (48%), and have five players scoring in double figures. From top to bottom, the team is absolutely loaded.

One can’t overlook North Carolina State, either, who has been more than formidable this year. They have their flaws (particularly in the rebounding department), but they have the highest field goal percentage in the country and are nowhere near a pushover. After North Carolina State, though, the ACC is wide open and I think the Terrapins probably slide nicely into the #3 spot. While North Carolina and Georgia Tech are solid, the Terrapins get the slight edge for better performance to this point.

Bohlin: The coaches and media got this one wrong. It is worth noting that these selections were made prior to Dez Wells being deemed eligible to play this season for Maryland but going back on the notion that these Terps were the ranked as the sixth best team in the preseason ACC polls at this point in time is almost laughable. UNC has shown they are not the team that the general public thought they were as they have suffered double digit losses to Butler, Indiana and Texas already this year. Florida State has four losses on the year including bad beats to South Alabama and Mercer as well as a 25 point drubbing by in-state rival Florida. Miami, the other team outside of Duke and N.C. State to be picked ahead of Maryland, has lost back to back games including a 19 point loss to Arizona and a home loss to Indiana State.

Clearly, Maryland is in a better place at this point in time than those three schools record wise. The Terps should be looked at as the third best team in the ACC heading into league play despite their soft non-conference schedule. Duke and N.C. State have played tougher schedules and are ranked because of their success up until now because of it. Maryland will need to show that they belong in the same discussion with those two teams as they have not been tested to the point the Blue Devils and Wolfpack have. However, their record speaks for itself. The Terrapins are riding a 12 game winning streak into league play with games against Va Tech and FSU on the horizon, were the Terrapins to make a statement in those first two games I would expect for the national recognition to follow.

What must Maryland improve upon in order to compete for an ACC crown?

Willis: Turnovers and slow starts. Those two problems, and you can quote me on this, are ones that will cost the Terrapins at least a couple close games against tough opponents. Look at the IUPUI victory as an example of how quickly the Terrapins can get behind against anyone by way of their sloppy play. If you think going down by 12 in the first five minutes of the game (by turning the ball over a bunch) against Duke is something that the Terrapins can overcome, you’ve got another thing coming.

Slow starts and turnovers are intertwined in the first place, and they are complementary. Get rid of the turnovers, potentially get rid of the slow starts. It’s that simple, really. Maryland gets into a groove in the second half of games, and when they do, they can play with any team in the country. Unfortunately, the second half isn’t in the first, and that’s what might damn them.

Bohlin: Turnovers have been the most consistent of the issues that have the potential to plague this Terrapins team going forward. For a team that has proven its ability to be unselfish in sharing the ball to provide quality scoring opportunities for one another the Terrapins give away far too many possessions by turning the ball over. Fifteen giveaways per game might not have come back to bite Maryland in the backside in the non-conference schedule but were the Terps to continue to be that careless with the ball going forward it absolutely will be their downfall in league play. The competition in the ACC will be too good to continue to give the ball away at the rate Maryland has up until this point. A lot of this comes with the fact that Maryland has relied on as many freshmen as they have but we’re getting to the point in the season where all of those freshmen who have proven their worth as contributors so far need to show that they have adapted to the college game and value every possession on the offensive end.

The Terps face their first real test since the BB&T Classic on Saturday, what does MD need to do to come out victorious?

Willis: Show up.

In all seriousness, they actually just need to shut down Jarrell Eddie and slightly slow down Erick Green. Green is going to score his points (he’s averaging 24 on the season), but if Jarrell Eddie isn’t shooting well then the Hokies don’t win a lot of games. Their interior presence is not that great, and they don’t shoo the ball exceptionally well. They are skidding at a time when they don’t need to be skidding, having lost to Colorado State and BYU badly, not to mention that home loss to Georgia Southern.

If Maryland plays the way they have been playing all season, they should be able to blow out Virginia Tech in a game that won’t be close from start to finish.

Bohlin: The start of ACC play means the end of the run of non AQ schools which the Terrapins made the bulk of their non-conference schedule out of. Of the Terps first 13 contests the season opening loss to Kentucky and the win over George Mason University in the BB&T Classic stand out as only real tests this Maryland team has faced and in those games they were 1-1.

This all ends Saturday, however, as the Hokies come to College Park to kick off league play. The Hokies feature one of the top scorer’s in the country in Erick Green who is currently averaging 24.4 PPG for his 9-4 Virginia Tech team that has dropped three of its last four contests coming into this weekends tilt against the Terps. For Maryland to kick off ACC play with a win they will need to not let any of the other Hokies beat them. It has been made pretty clear this season that Green will continue to get his every night the Hokies take the floor. But, with Green having scored 97 points in the Hokies last four games, three of which have been losses, its been proven that if Maryland is able to contain the rest of the Hokies roster they should be able to get past the Hokies for their first ACC win of the season.

Predict the finish of the regular season and your first team all conference selections?

Willis: I’m not a huge fan of predictions, but I’m going with the stock pick of Duke to win the ACC this year. If they’re healthy, that starting five isn’t going to lose many games. While they have their flaws, Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry don’t really miss too many shots. Quinn Cook is a fantastic passer as well, and his flexibility on offense keeps this team humming along. I honestly am not sure they are going to lose more than two games all year.

That being said, this might be a homer pick and all, but I think the Terrapins will be runners up. Maryland plays the type of defense that can beat any team, and they are one of the best rebounding teams in the nation. They also pass incredibly well, and have a center who can shut down anyone and beat up anyone on offense. Dez Wells, when he is on, turns the team into a powerhouse. After that, I’ll go with N.C. State to round out the top three.

Darkhorse: Georgia Tech. They have one guy averaging more than 10 points per game, but they have four more players 3 or fewer points off that average. Basically, they’re surprisingly deep. Georgia Tech plays pretty solid defense as well, and I think they will surprise some people this year.

All-ACC

PG: Erick Green, VT

SG: Seth Curry, Duke

SF: C.J. Leslie, N.C. State

PF: Mason Plumlee, Duke

C: Alex Len, MD

Bohlin: Time to do some projecting, since I am such a keen observer of the human element this should be no issue for me whatsoever. As much as it pains me to say it the Duke Blue Devils have separated themselves from the rest of the pack in the ACC to this point in the season and don’t appear to be letting their foot off the gas anytime soon. Without further ado, my post non-conference schedule projections for the 2013 ACC regular season.

1) Duke
2) Maryland
3) N.C. State
4) UNC
5) Miami
6) Virginia
7) Virginia Tech
8) Georgia Tech
9) Clemson
10) Florida State
11) Boston College
12) Wake Forest

First Team All-ACC Selections:

G: Lorenzo Brown – N.C. State
G: Erick Green – Virginia Tech
F: C.J. Leslie – N.C. State
F: Miles Plumlee – Duke
C: Alex Len – Maryland

Dark Horse ACC Pick: Maryland. The Terrapins might not be considered a “Dark horse” candidate in and around College Park but on the national scene there are still plenty of pundits that are taking a wait and see approach with Maryland. The Terrapins are a deep and talented team that shares the ball and rebounds with the nations best. The group of freshmen have proven their ability to be contributors and the sophomore heavy starting lineup plays well beyond their years. Maryland might not be Duke right now, but they will get two shots at the currently top ranked Blue Devils this year, the first of which coming later this month, and history has proven that anything can happen in a Maryland-Duke matchup.

Tags: ACC Duke Basketball Maryland Basketball Maryland Terrapins

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