MVP: Dez Wells
This one isn’t even really close, to be honest. Dez Wells was the best player for the Terrapins, and without him the team was demonstrably worse on the court, making him a prime candidate for the most valuable player.
Wells lead the team in scoring (14.9 PPG), was third in field goal percentage (48%), second in assists and steals, and first in PER (20.0). It’s near impossible to separate most of Maryland’s victories with Dez Wells, because in nearly every game Maryland won, Wells was one of the biggest reasons. Other players solid performances came and went (Seth Allen against Florida State, Pt. II, Jake Layman against Morgan State), but Wells was always solid.
Three. That’s the number of times Dez Wells scoring in just single figures all year long (one of which was during a blowout against Abilene Christian). Wells made sure he was always available to play minutes for the team; foul trouble didn’t deter him and neither did fatigue. He constantly battled back against adversity and got Maryland into games with his second half theatrics.
Most would say Wells needs to learn how to play an entire game, but those who claim that are missing the forest for the trees. The best part about Wells game is that he isn’t selfish. He’s always actively trying to get his teammates involved on the court, and doesn’t take over until absolutely necessary (whether it’s too late or not). That’s what separates him from being someone like Terrell Stoglin, who bordered on team killing with his high usage rate and lack of passing prowess. Wells was the MVP, and should probably be absolved of much criticism this offseason as a result.
Least Valuable Player: Shaquille Cleare
The unfortunate part of doing these awards is that you’ve got to give credit where credit is due, and Shaquille Cleare deserves plenty of credit for not performing up to snuff. I can point to numerous games this season where the problem was mainly “Maryland has no center.” The unfortunate part of things is that Maryland did have a center, he just didn’t do anything particularly well.
Shaq Cleare came into the season with high expectations by most outside observers. With his size and length, most assumed he would fill in nicely for the departure of a 13 point per game, 7-foot center in Alex Len. Boy were they wrong. Cleare regressed in points, rebounds, field goal percentage, rebounding rate, turnover percentage…everything. Worse still, he made very few strides offensively and actually appeared to regress defensively. Nothing came easy for him, and despite his massive size down low, Cleare played with a cautious approach that went completely against what he should have been doing.
That killed Maryland’s productivity in many ways, unfortunately. Without a stable presence down low to score and collapse a defense, the Terps struggled against zone, they struggled to get shooters open, and overall never became a lethal force that they could have because of a major one dimensionality.
He was also a problem on the defensive end. Cleare had 14 blocks on the season, which is both a terrible number but also looks way worse when you note that only four of those came during conference play. Four. Maryland’s guards blocked shots better than Shaquille Cleare did (that’s not a joke, as Dez, Jake, and Nick all sent away more). For the Terps big man to be that ineffective at swatting shots is a major red-flag moving forward.
In retrospect, we should’ve known that Cleare might not be great. His rebounding rates weren’t good last year and neither was his scoring. He wasn’t a swatter, either, or a passer. Nothing suggested that he’d become this machine overnight, and yet that’s what Maryland expected. In reality, Cleare is (maybe) a four-year player who has a ton of work to do if he wants to contribute to this team, given the players coming in and knocking at the door.
Best Performance: Dez Wells vs Boston College (33 points, 5 rebounds)
No disrespect to Seth Allen, but what Dez Wells did against Boston College defied logic. Wells scored 18 of his career high 33 points in the games final seven minutes, and displayed what would eventually be his trademark “Dez Takeover” schtick in the second half. Wells was a one-man army against Boston College on the road, and at the time it seemed like Maryland was beating a somewhat underrated Eagles team for their first ACC win.
Turns out, Wells did it against one of the worst teams in the conference, but it didn’t change how impressive it was. Transition dunks, scoring in six seconds or less, Wells did it all. I can’t remember the last time a Terp had a more impacting performance offensively than that one, and it’s even more fascinating that it happened in the second half of a close game.
Most Improved: Seth Allen
If there’s one thing that I don’t even like to think about, it’s what would have happened had Maryland started the year off healthy at the point guard position. Roddy Peters missed most of his senior year, but it was Seth Allen’s broken foot that hurt Maryland the most.
Allen missing the first ten games of the season saw Maryland struggle mightily out of the gate, and he wasn’t really fully up to speed until late in the season. You have to think someone like Allen would have shredded Connecticut, provided an alternative to Nick Faust against Oregon State, and could’ve been the difference between winning and losing against George Washington. Losing your second-best player won’t help anyone’s chances of winning, but it killed Maryland’s.
That’s because Allen improved so much from freshman year, where he was largely just a chucker, to his sophomore season where he was a heady guard with a far more potent outside shot. He became a better shooter, fixed his turnover issue from last season, and the offense just looked considerably better when he was out there.
Allen still hasn’t reached his ceiling yet, and so I fully expect him to come back next year even better than before. Had he fresh legs all year, Maryland is a much better team. But his continued improvement is huge for Maryland to be successful, Melo Trimble or not. He did his job last offseason but injuries derailed it. Let’s hope next year isn’t the same.
Least Improved: Nick Faust (wait for it)
Conference Advanced Stats:
Everyone knew this spot would be occupied by Nick Faust, who appears very primed as a candidate for having hit his peak of productivity. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It just wasn’t what we expected going into the season.
Faust started the year off shooting horrendously from the floor, taking far too many three pointers, and crushing the team with turnovers. Fans wanted his head, and worse still no one knew exactly what was going wrong. As it turned out, Faust slowly dialed back his three point attempts throughout the year and got back to his standard playing style, and mostly leveled his productivity out to career averages.
Faust ended up shooting his career average in field goal percentage, and despite not hitting as many three pointers as he typically did, actually improved overall as a shooter. What you may find even more surprising is that Faust was even more efficient as a player and turned the ball over considerably less during each of his possessions. Even more surprising is that Faust was an even more effective player during conference play, as only Wells and Allen posted better PERs than Faust.
What felt like a lost year for Nick was actually probably a case of being so bad early that no one cared how he finished the year. I say that mostly because the least improved player is…
With Layman, it was the exact opposite of Faust. Layman started off the year incredibly strong by mauling some really bad teams with his outside shooting. But unfortunately as the season progressed, Layman just got progressively worse. The even more frustrating part was that Layman just neglected to show up against better teams a lot of times.
From his freshman to sophomore season in conference play, Layman’s true shooting percentage took a major dip, he actually wasn’t much better at blocking shots or rebounding, and got worse as a passer. I mean, literally, nothing improved substantially, and in many respects it got worse.
Now, Layman was definitely better on the defensive end of the floor. His freshman year he was a cone, but his sophomore season he was second on the team in blocks and led in steals. That’s really impressive. His help defense improved by leaps and bounds, and you could rarely accuse Layman of just giving up on plays or not hustling his butt off.
Unfortunately, his shooting was awful, and his one dimensionality on offense ultimately cost the team some points. Layman wasn’t aggressive enough on the offensive end, and would chuck quite a few shots out regardless of whether they were going in or not. Layman has to get better next year about varying his game up and passing a bit more, lest Maryland find someone else to give minutes to.