1.) This team has had some bad luck, and is still figuring out how to close
After that double-OT loss to Clemson, it’s pretty obvious that, among other things, Maryland had just had some very bad luck this season. You can always point to stats and raw numbers as an indication that the Terps are failing to do specific things, but “luck” that some teams always have more of than others is intangible.
Six of Maryland’s 14 losses this season have come by five points or less; when margins of victory and defeat are that razor-thin, it’s more an indication of bad luck and bounces than poor play. Of the Terps 14 losses, only three can even be deemed “blowouts” (15+ point losses); at Florida State, at Ohio State, and at Pittsburgh. The rest? Maryland may have been playing poorly, but they were definitely in every single one of those other games. Which, of course, makes it all the more frustrating.
A good bounce here, a Charles Mitchell lay-in, some Jake Layman free throws, and the Terps are a few more games above .500. It’s hard to watch a team compete so much and come away with such bad results, and it’s just a clear sign that the team has to work on developing a closing mentality. It also tells me that Mark Turgeon has to do a better job with game management down the stretch. The ball has to be in the closers hands, and you can’t hold onto timeouts during crunch time and expect your team to do the right thing. Nick Faust did it last week, and this week we saw similar iffy late-game clock situations.
2.) Jake Layman has been extremely inefficient all season in conference play, and that game just made it glaringly clear
Matchup issues aside, I said earlier in the week that Jake Layman has been pretty bad this season in conference play. He’s shooting under 40%, averaging less than 10 points per game, and for all the talk of him being a sniper from deep, is shooting 32% from long range during ACC play. Those aren’t numbers for a star player, they’re reserved for bench guys who shouldn’t be getting a ton of minutes.
Fans like to point out someone like Nick Faust’s flaws offensively and his poor decision making skills at times, but guess what? You could easily argue that Layman has been slightly less effective than even Faust most of the time. After all, Faust has the edge in scoring, shooting percentage, a slight disadvantage in three point percentage, and puts up about the same numbers across the board. Layman hasn’t been anywhere near the player Maryland needed him to be this season.
Worse still, he is shooting 31% on the road this year. His 1-of-14 shooting performance against Clemson pretty much says everything you need to know about the guy on the road. That’s got to change.
3.) Can the Terps build any momentum for the ACC tournament?
Right now, there’s a 0% chance Maryland makes the tournament. OK, it’s more like .01% or something impossible like that, but you get the point. That said, Maryland can still finish the season on a strong note by beating a top five team and perhaps approaching 19 wins with a couple conference tournament wins. That’s obviously not the season they envisioned, but it’s important to end things on a positive note rather than brood during the offseason about your team just giving up.
Maryland’s not going to the tournament this year, but they can certainly prove that they at least have heart by beating a few opponents and sending the Cavaliers home disappointed with one final win. Or they can collapse entirely and face some serious questions about the stability of the program. It’s that simple.