The Teams: Maryland Terrapins (0-0) vs Catholic Cardinals (0-0)
The Time: 1 p.m.
The Location: Comcast Center, College Park, Md.
TV/Radio: 570AM in Washington D.C. and 1300AM in Baltimore.
The Backstory: The Maryland Terrapins start off the season with their annual exhibition tuneup game. Local squad Catholic gets the honor this season and it’s actually a much-needed barometer of where this Maryland team currently is. The team did lose a good amount of leadership with center Alex Len, forward James Padgett, and guard Pe’Shon Howard departing and they will need to replace that production.
After practice on Friday morning, coach Mark Turgeon provided an update on point guard Seth Allen. Allen will miss 10 weeks and had a clean break in his foot. A screw was put in and he should return around the second week of January if all goes well.
Keys to the game/Storylines:
1.) Dez Wells Running The Point – As soon as Allen went down, Turgeon indicated that Wells would start at the point in Sunday’s game against Catholic. According to Turgeon, he isn’t committing to Wells as the team’s starting point guard from here on out. It looks like it’ll be a trial run on Sunday afternoon and they’ll see how it goes.
While losing Allen is certainly a big setback, Wells is a suitable replacement. Wells did turn the ball over a considerable amount last season (2.8 turnovers-per-game). However, he did average three assists-per-game, which was a big step up from his 1.1 as a freshman at Xavier. When given the opportunity, Wells is a very sound passer and is incredibly dangerous with the basketball in his hands. He also has a knack for attacking the rim and that could draw defenders, freeing other players for open jumpers for the Terps.
Junior Nick Faust and highly-touted freshman Roddy Peters will also see some work at the point guard spot. It appears that Turgeon doesn’t want to heap too much responsibility on Peters so early in his collegiate career. Peters has reportedly been coming off the ball quite a bit in practice. As for Faust, he’s not quite as well-suited running the offense. His primary strength is being a slasher and knifing his way into the paint due to his size. It would make more sense to see Peters with the ball in his hands more than Faust. Honestly, it looks like it’ll be Wells’ show unless he proves otherwise against Catholic.
2.) Progression Of The Frontcourt – This could be even more of a pressing issue than the point guard situation. It would appear as though redshirt junior Evan Smotrycz and sophomore Shaq Cleare would comprise Maryland’s starting frontcourt. The Terps don’t have much on terms of rim-protectors, other than Cleare. Obviously last season, that wasn’t something that Turgeon need to worry about with Len occupying the center position. Offense shouldn’t be a problem as Smotrycz and sophomore forward Charles Mitchell have proven that they can score the rock.
Defense will be the big concern heading into this season. We will get a decent glimpse of where the Maryland frontcourt is in this exhibition contest. The Terps do have the height and the athleticism to compete with most teams in the ACC. It’s just going to be about knowing their defensive assignments and playing hard. Cleare definitely has a chance to be a pleasant surprise in the Maryland frontcourt. During his freshman campaign, he seemed to be overwhelmed by the speed of the collegiate game and just not ready. The Bahamas native is in much better shape and looks primed to make a difference for the Terps. If Cleare can be even anywhere close to the type of player that Len was as a sophomore, Maryland will be in great shape throughout the season.
3.) Is Jake Layman Ready For A Breakout Season? – This topic was touched on in last weekend’s intrasquad scrimmage preview, but I think it bares repeating. Forward Jake Layman could be ready for a big year for the Terps. Layman has made both CBSSports and ESPN’s lists for potential breakout players in college basketball. The Massachusetts native creates several mismatches while on the court and can play multiple positions. Layman should be a starter for Maryland with Allen being out for the next eight to 10 weeks. He’ll likely play on the wing and could see time as a stretch four as well. It’ll be interesting to see how Layman’s game has improved.