Editor’s note: Pick & Pop, for those who are unfamiliar with the format, pegs two of our writers against one another to gauge their opinions on a variety of game-time subjects. In this case, we have Chris Bengel (@DurtyPuckHead) and Michael Bohlin (@TerrapinStationMD, among others) going head-to-head on the heated Duke-Maryland matchup this Saturday at 6PM. Give them a follow and enjoy their banter.
1.) Your starting five for the Maryland Terrapins against Duke, and why?
Chris Bengel: With Pe’Shon Howard now suspended for the foreseeable future, the ideal starting five looks a little bit different. Howard would’ve been a nice insertion into the starting lineup. He is the lone floor general on the roster and has experience. Now that all goes out the window. My ideal starting five would be Nick Faust, Dez Wells, Jake Layman, James Padgett, and Alex Len. A case can be made for Seth Allen and I wouldn’t be surprised if Mark Turgeon started the freshman guard over Faust. However, Allen is much better off the ball and is more of a scorer. He also is more suited to come off the bench to give the offense a spark, which is something that the Terrapins may need if they fall behind Duke early.
Len, Wells, and Layman are shoe-ins to start. Wells is shooting the ball extremely well from three. In his last six games, the Raleigh native is shooting 53.3-percent (8-for-15). In the first 18 games this year, Wells shot a pedestrian 22.2-percent (6-for-27). The recent play of Padgett earns him a spot in the starting five. The senior forward played very well against Wake Forest and Virginia Tech but only played six minutes against Virginia last Sunday. I’d go with experience over youth.
Allen, Len, Wells, Layman, and Cleare. Originally I had Pe’Shon Howard penciled in as my starting point guard for tomorrow evening but with the news that he has been suspended for a violation of team rules just recently breaking it is time to re-evaluate my stance on this. Turgeon stated in his presser that he thinks he will start three freshmen and two sophomores tomorrow evening against the #2 Duke Blue Devils. While neither Allen or Wells can be labeled as a traditional point guard they will have to get the job done for the Terps tomorrow evening if they want to have a chance at pulling off the upset bid.
Seth Allen brings a different element to the floor when he is in the game with his ability to put the ball on the floor and find ways to get to the rim. With the uber athletic Dez Wells presumably on his wing the Terps will have one athletic backcourt which could allow for Maryland to get Duke into early foul trouble. Couple the pair of attacking guards with the size and strength of Cleare and Len on the inside and the Terps could have one potent inside/outside attack should they take care of the basketball.
One element Seth Allen brings to the team which Howard does not is the threat of the outside shot. With both Allen and Layman on the floor as presumed starters the Terps would have two legitimate threats from the outside for Duke to have to contend with. Allen and Wells slashing abilities should draw helpside defenders their direction ultimately freeing up open looks for Jake Layman on the outside.
2.) Who is the most important player for the Terrapins on Saturday?
CB: I realize I’m not going to shock many people with this selection but I have to go with Alex Len. Which Len will we see against the Blue Devils? The one that dominated Nerlens Noel in Brooklyn or the one that has disappeared during major stretches of ACC play? If The Ukrainian big man shows up and plays to his potential, he can dominate Mason Plumlee inside. I’ve never been sold on Plumlee’s defense. Len needs to establish himself inside and draw contact against Plumlee. When Plumlee gets in foul trouble, he plays soft and doesn’t want to pick up more fouls. That’s when the Terrapins can attack. Personally, it would be awesome to see Oleixy play with the fire that we’ve seen from him against N.C. State and Kentucky.
MB: While it is important for Dez Wells and Alex Len to be the catalysts of the offense on the inside and outside respectively if Maryland can get a big game out of freshman Jake Layman the Terps could be in business. Layman gives Maryland length on the defensive end at the SF position as well as the ability to step out and knock down a jump shot from the outside. Layman has started to make a living by rotating around the perimeter making himself an active receiver by moving into the passing lanes for his teammates to drive to the paint and kick the ball out to him for an uncontested three pointer. Since Duke runs, for the most part, a three guard rotation Layman should have no issues getting looks on offense over smaller defenders.
3.) How can the Terps limit Duke’s 3-pt shooting?
CB: Maryland will have to limit the double teams to guys like Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry. If they double team a Blue Devil in the post, you’re leaving guys like Rasheed Sulaimon and Quinn Cook open for the trifecta. Sulaimon absolutely punished the Terrapins from beyond the arc in the first meeting this season. The Houston native scored 25 points including shooting six-for-eight from three. Sulaimon made his first six three-point attempts and looked absolutely unconscious. The Duke swingman had wide open looks and the Terrapins just didn’t seem to close out on the shooters, no matter if it was Sulaimon or not. I wouldn’t mind a fair share of man-to-man defense to try and limit the open looks from long distance. Maryland is a very strong defensive team and can hang with anybody when their defense is flustering opponents. If Maryland can jump out to an early lead and stifle Duke, the crowd could make things mighty hostile for the visitors.
MB: Close out better, simple as that. The last time these two teams met the Blue Devils connected on 11/22 three point attempts and Rasheed Sulaimon, in particular, was a driving force behind that number as the freshman went 6/8 from beyond the arc at Cameron Indoor. It is hard to imagine Sulaimon to duplicate that performance in what should be a raucous Comcast Center Saturday evening but should the Terps give him, as well as the other sharpshooters on the Blue Devils, open looks for 40 minutes it could be another long night in College Park.
4.) Will the loss damn the Terrapins tourney chances?
CB: If the Terrapins lose to Duke on Saturday, I think their tourney chances go out the window barring a deep run in the ACC tournament. Maryland doesn’t really have a marquee non-conference win. They lost to Kentucky on a neutral court to start the season and their strongest victories include Northwestern and George Mason. The Wildcats stands at 13-12 while the Patriots are currently 15-10. Neither team is exactly lighting the world on fire. Otherwise, the Terrapins beat a bunch of cupcake teams. During ACC play, Maryland has struggled mightly and has coughed up their fair share of games including a pair to Florida State. I think the Terrapins have to upset Duke on Saturday and beat North Carolina and Virginia to close out the regular season. Basically, they put themselves in an uncomfortable situation where they almost have to run the table. One loss wouldn’t kill them but they have to beat Duke, North Carolina, and Virginia. Virginia may not seem like a big win but the Cavaliers are a top-three ACC team and are also on the bubble. We’ll see what the Terrapins are made of starting this weekend.
MB: Any loss at this point in the season certainly hurts your NCAA Tournamnet chances, a loss to Duke would be no different. I wouldn’t go as far as to call this match up an elimination game or a “must-win” for the Terps however. Would it make the journey to March Madness much much easier were Maryland to win tomorrow? Absolutely, it would. A loss to Duke wouldn’t be damning though, were the Terps to take care of business against UNC as well as the rest of their remaining schedule and win a game or two in Greensboro, NC at the ACC Tournamnent and Maryland certainly could find their way into the field of 68…it would definitely behoove the Terps to take care of business against Duke however.
Maryland wins 68 – 63
The Terps basketball team knows how much it needs to win this game tomorrow, there is no sugar coating the situation they have put themselves in with their up and down play this season. I expect to see a team take the floor with the attitude of having nothing to lose and everything to gain come 6:00 pm Saturday. The Blue Devils have been far from world beaters away from Cameron Indoor in league play as they only boast a 3-2 record away from their home floor. These games include escaping Chestnut Hill, MA with a one point victory over the lowly Boston College Eagles as well as a five point win in Winston-Salem, NC over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Neither of those universities boast the type of home court advantage that the Terrapins do so it isn’t out of the question to think that the road struggles for Duke could very well continue tomorrow evening.