2013-14 Season In Review
For Nick Faust, 2013-14 was supposed to be a breakout year. Junior season, ample amount of minutes, a starting job with no challengers. For Faust, the dream season was right around the corner with a chance to lead the Terps to the NCAA tournament for the first time in what feels like forever. Instead, Faust got the exact opposite.
Faust finished the first two months of the season (November and December) shooting a disastrous 17-of-61 from three point range and connecting on 35% of his shots. Faust was committing as many turnovers (28) as assists (28), and not really providing the scoring (10.0 points per game over 14 outings) Maryland so desperately needed after Seth Allen went down. Eventually, Coach Turgeon relegated Faust to the bench by the end of the month and his dream season was over before it began.
But still, faced with the scorn of the fan base and extremely lowered expectations, Faust started to blossom. Over the next 14 games and two months (7 in January, 7 in February), Faust was actually one of Maryland’s better players. He cut down on his turnovers, increased his shooting percentage to around 44%, and still maintained his passing and scoring versatility. In that regard, Faust helped Maryland to a 6-8 record during ACC play and some very close games against Duke, UVA and Syracuse.
Unfortunately, Faust wasn’t able to sustain those numbers, as his productivity fell off a proverbial cliff over the small sample size in March. Without going into the numbers, his final stat line of the season was the epitome of the full circle experience Faust went through this season: 1-of-5 shooting, six points, 5 assists…and seven turnovers.
Lost in all the muck of Nick Faust’s pretty crummy season is the fact that he did improve on a few things which likely won’t be picked up on in any statistical book. Faust was almost unquestionably Maryland’s best on-ball defender, and was consistently given the job of guarding whoever the opponent’s best guard or wing player was. Given how poorly Maryland’s other guards played on-ball defense, Maryland was usually in bad shape whenever Faust wasn’t on the court for them.
It’s hard to pinpoint specific moments when Faust was completely strapping up a defender, but the reality was that he did it every game and worked his butt off on the defensive end. Faust was never the person you could get frustrated with about not putting his hands up, getting back in transition and finding his man, or not providing help defense. Faust got up every game for the challenge of guarding tough opponents, and that was a huge help for Maryland.
And perhaps the most underrated aspect of Faust’s game: he continued to become a better passer and cut down on his turnovers. Faust is a dynamic playmaker when he needs to be and his only limitation seems to be decision making. Faust’s February was the bright spot, as he dished out 19 assists to only eight turnovers. His March, however, was hampered by his final game of the season in the ACC tournament (seven turnovers).
He was also great during conference play. Faust elevated his PER from a 14.4 overall to a respectable 15.9 during conference play. That’s commendable because it’s not easy to improve your game substantially against even tougher competition, yet Faust managed that. How did he pull that off? He stopped shooting three pointers (attempting only 2.7 in conference play) and started getting to the line. Those two things are what make guys like Faust thrive, and he found a healthy balance in the ACC.
You never want to hear the term “maxed out” when discussing a player’s potential, but that’s where we’re at with Nick Faust. Three straight years of only marginally better play suggests that Faust may well have hit a plateau. That’s not necessarily the worst thing that could happen; he’s a glue guy, plain and simple, and can help Maryland out in a lot of different ways (a little D, a little O, a little spark).
Again, it isn’t a bad thing to know you have a sixth man type player and a consummate teammate, it’s just not what some fans were expecting from the four-star product. The expectation of a lot of fans was that Faust would cut down on the mental errors and emerge as an elite scorer his junior year; the reality is that the more minutes that Faust gets, the less efficient he becomes:
Those numbers in bold are telling, because Faust really doesn’t get a lot better with extended minutes. In smaller dosages, however, he’s great (i.e. a sixth man role). He doesn’t have to try and do it all and can orchestrate an offense without having to make tough decisions…like who to pass to.
As a starter, Faust is just really not great. It’s as if he sees all the weapons he has at his disposal (Dez on the break! Jake in the corner! Smo outside!) and gets overexcited about what he should do with the ball. Faust is oozing with talent, but it has to be reigned in, lest he be given the green light to drive erratically into the lane or jack up three’s deeper than a Nirvana track.
And while we’re on the subject of his three point shot, Faust was terrible at that. He started the year off 5-of-25, and never excelled after that. Faust connected on 30% of his deep attempts, and at that rate he’s just hurting the team by throwing them up. The issue is that he found himself so wide open on some shots, how could you ask him not to take it? Faust is so great at moving off the ball that he always finds himself open in the corner…but he can’t hit corner threes!
Its like a never ending circular argument with Faust, because he’s got all the tools to be a successful player, but he doesn’t put it together on a consistent basis. He doesn’t get to the line as much as he did his freshman year, and he isn’t really shooting it any better either. I have no doubt that his mechanics are improved, and that there are other aspects of his game that he’s gotten better at. The issue is that Maryland needs steady scoring, and Faust doesn’t provide that in any manner. Maryland has enough guys who can shoot 40% from the floor by settling for outside jumpers (Smotrycz, Layman). They need a guy who can get them easy buckets in the lane and dissect defenses, and they thought it would be Faust.
But it’s wasn’t.
Overall Grade: C-
Little improvement over the past three seasons and crippling decision making cost the Terps dearly.