Trying to figure out why a team lost is hard, particularly when fans have a vested interest in one team or the other. The Terrapins dropped a tough one to North Carolina last night, 62-52, and in doing so basically hurled their NCAA Tournament chances in front of an incoming 18-wheeler. But how did they lose? Well, I spent all morning watching film from the game, and a few things stuck out to me as being particularly pungent aspects of the Terrapins game.
First and foremost, it’s a well known fact that Maryland is terrible at entry passes. There were several instances during this game where the Terrapins just failed to make the entry pass at the right time, and instead stranded our big men out in no-man’s land on the second entry pass. Let’s break down this clip below involving Len, Faust, and Wells.
Len establishes position in the paint against McAdoo and calls for the ball, which is in Wells hands. Wells either doesn’t feel like he can make the pass, and hesitates, forcing Len out further to demand the ball from a different angle. Wells gives up on the play and proceeds to swing the ball around the perimeter to Nick Faust. At this point, Len swings underneath and sets up in the post on the other side, expecting a quick pass from Faust. Faust is slow on the direct entry pass, and gives it to Len at the wrong angle, which puts him in no-man’s land.
This is where things really go wrong. Len draws the double team even though he is too far from the basket, and correctly kicks it out to Faust again. Faust then gives it back to Len to the right of the free throw line, and tries to use him as a screen, but then falls over and loses his shoe. Len then sees a chance to drive to the basket off a one-on-one, and proceeds to head into the lane before attempting a weak jumper.
So who is to blame for this instance, which is one of plenty? It starts with Dez Wells, who should have gone with the early look to Len when he had perfect positioning down low. His inability to get Len the ball at the proper time sparks the rest of the disaster. Next up is Nick Faust, whose sloppy entry pass to Len forced him way too far away from the basket for any big man to be. He then doesn’t curl tight enough around Len’s screen and roll to be a viable threat, and allows Paige to slip between Len and guard him effectively. Of course, he loses his shoe and is taken out of the play.
A proper decision there would have been to recognize the double on Len, realize that Pe’Shon was wide open, and swung the ball to Padgett, who would give it to Howard for the wide open look. Unfortunately none of that happened.
Finally, Len is at fault for not defecting to one of his guards, and instead putting the onus on him to capitalize on a broken play instead of resetting. It should be noted that there was only five seconds left on the shot clock, but other players are better suited taking that shot than Len. He admittedly did not have good positioning on the pass from Faust, but he did command a double team and kicked it out correctly. Either way, complete lack of direction from the entire team blew the play up.
And this is yet another clip of a similarly terrible entry pass by the Terrapins, made to Len in the post, that comes from the free throw line extended.
In this case, Wells sees that McAdoo is over committing on Alex Len (who just came off a Padgett screen) to deny the entry pass into the post. Wells then tries to make a quick pass to Len further away from the basket, noticing that McAdoo would intercept the other pass. The ball is either too far from Len’s reach, or is tipped by Len, but either way it results in a turnover. How was that play incorrect?
For starters, if Dez Wells makes a better pass to Len, there is the opportunity to score. The errant pass kills the entire play as it sails out of bounds. Second, if there is a little more patience with the ball, a lob option (which Len likes so much), may have been available with the type of defense that McAdoo was playing on Len. Third, Dez could have just reset and not made that pass at all, opting for a new set.
Here’s another clip that exemplifies the guard errors made by the Terps this game:
This play begins with Dez Wells, who swings the ball to Pe’Shon around the perimeter. Howard sees that Padgett is in the paint down low, and gets him the ball against the undersized Hairston. Marcus Paige, seeing the size disadvantage, sags off Pe’Shon to double team Padgett. Padgett, sensing the double team, passes it out to Pe’Shon, and this is where things go wrong.
At the same time as all this is happening, Logan Aronhalt cuts low using Len as a screen to get an open three point look in the right corner. Pe’Shon gets the pass from Padgett and swings the ball, correctly, to Dez Wells. Strickland, noticing Dez has the ball decides to cut off his lane to the basket and in the process completely ignores Logan. If Wells makes a quick swing pass to Logan, the Terrapins have a wide open three pointer from one of the best in the biz. Instead, Wells tries to beat his man off the dribble, goes into a crowd of players in the paint, and makes a bail out pass to Padgett, who is standing in the paint trying to back down his man, which results in a turnover because of the ball’s poor placement.
Mental errors and not making the easy play resulted in yet another turnover for the Terps. We can also add that making entry passes from beyond the free throw line extended tend to be bad decisions, but luckily this one worked out.
Now here we have an instance where the Terrapins actually manage to do something correctly, and Len fails to make the proper play.
We’ll start with the pass to Jake Layman from Wells. Layman is being pressed defensively and is unable to make an entry pass to Alex Len, who attempts to post up in the paint. He wisely resets up top so the offense can initiate again. Seth Allen swings underneath, using Len as a pick, and gets himself some space at the three point line.
Layman notices and makes a pretty bounce pass to Allen, who catches it in stride. At the same time, Len comes off the screen and establishes position down low. Allen quickly notices the option and makes a very accurate pass to Len in a spot where only he can get it. This is where things go wrong.
Len has options here. He can either A) Go hard to the rack and hope to draw a foul while attempting a layup. B) Get physical, back down his defender, and try a post move. C.) Wait for the double and kick the ball back out or quickly to Mitchell. Or D.) Throw up an ugly hook shot.
Len chose D, and it was probably the worst option. If you look closely, you’ll see that the man guarding Mitchell went left him to double Len. Were Len very quick, he could have quickly given the ball the Chuck for an easy layup/dunk, as he had the rim to shield him from a block. He also could have thrown it right back out to Allen or Layman, whose men collapsed into the paint as well to fend for a rebound. There were a lot of options available, and Len chose one that wasn’t really the best.
This is just a breakdown on the offensive end of things, and just a few instances of the mental errors that plague Maryland at the guard position. It also highlights some of the lack of assertiveness that the Terrapins (Len included) big men show in the post.
Now, instead of continuing to break down the missteps by Maryland, and delving into an hour long read about why Maryland stinks sometimes, I’ve created a blooper reel of sorts, which highlights similar plays, bad passes, not fighting through screens, and an overall poor offensive and defensive performance by the team. It shows a little of how North Carolina was able to score so much, and why the Terrapins weren’t. Watch it at your own peril.