Seth Allen’s decision to leave the program Friday afternoon put everyone on monkey stilts for the remainder of the weekend. After all, Allen was most certainly regarded as a fan favorite upon his return from injury, and was critical in a number of wins last season with his sharpshooting from deep. Everyone, including Coach Turgeon, anticipated that Allen was not a variable on the roster; he was going to play a big role next season.
But times change, as they say, and Allen now makes for the fifth transfer from the Terps this offseason after Faust, Peters, Cleare, and Metz. Those are a lot of players to depart with, and a few of them were pretty solid contributors; Allen’s transfer still felt like the death blow. But was it? After all, the team really didn’t wow anyone last season, and they weren’t even an NIT challenger at the end of the season. Some departures were probably even necessary to foster an environment in which players more capable of competing at higher levels could come in and succeed with a clean slate.
Where Will Allen’s Impact Be Felt
Obviously, the Terrapins are going to miss Seth Allen in the scoring department as he was their second leading scorer. Not only that, he was often the catalyst that got Maryland out of some of the offensive lulls they were prone to throughout the season. In terms of points scored last year, Allen accounted for 11.8% of the total number scored. Given that Allen missed 12 games due to injury and only sopped up 9% of the Terps total minutes played, it’s evidence how important he was to the offense.
It wasn’t so much that Allen was a point guard and a facilitator for others, it was that he opened things up for everyone. It’s hard to argue that the Terps were a lot better when Wells was allowed to play off the ball, and that was largely due to Allen being the primary ball handler. And before you think Allen was this big turnover machine for Maryland, realize that he had the highest assist-to-turnover ratio on the team (1.7). That’s not much, but don’t let that lead you into the false assumption that he was a turnover machine; he improved a fair amount from his freshman season.
Because of this solid three point shot and his ability to get to the line, Allen was one of Maryland’s more effective scorers, with a True Shooting percentage of 51 (third on the team) and an effective field goal percentage of 51.8 (higher than even Dez Wells). Allen could score in a myriad of ways, and while he may have only shot 44% on 2-pt attempts, he did enough in other areas that it more than made up.
But Allen’s departure will be felt more harshly than any of the other departures because he didn’t just score sometimes; Allen was Maryland’s best or second-best scoring option against anyone. Against top fifty opponents, Allen was as effective as Wells, who as we all know had a propensity to play well in bigger games. By guard standards, Wells had a staggeringly high 59.8% True Shooting percentage against top fifty opponents. Allen? 58.9%. Those two led the team, no one else was remotely close, and in that regard Allen’s departure is painful. It’s not losing a lottery pick (as was the case with Len), but it is losing a valuable contributor.
Where Will Allen’s Impact Not Be Felt
This is not to say that Allen is an insignificant player in any regard, but as I just mentioned before, Maryland isn’t losing a lottery player. Let’s not be revisionist or dramatic in our analysis here on both ends. For as great an offensive player as Allen was, he was one of the worst backcourt defenders on the team (beaten only by Peters). Not a lot of height or length, and not a ton of commitment to the pursuit of shooters, and not a ball thief either.
Let’s hearken back to one game in particular from last season against North Carolina. Allen was tasked with guarding Tar Heels sophomore point guard Marcus Paige for the game. Paige, at 6’1 and about as slim as Allen, figured to be a good matchup to gauge where the Terps guard was competitively against some elite talent. He failed miserably.
Paige ate Allen up for 25 points and 7 assists that game, and forced Allen into foul trouble straight away. He also held Allen to 4-of-13 shooting on the offensive end, but that’s neither here nor there. Allen had to eventually be taken off Paige because things were going so poorly. He wasn’t the main reason Maryland lost that game, but his lack of defensive intensity allowed UNC to obliterate the Terps. It points to the other problem Maryland had when playing Allen: he just had no length as a defender and the Terps got burnt from deep whenever he was on the floor.
Really, if you look for any other areas that Allen contributed outside of shooting well, you can’t find many. He was a mediocre defender at best, he really wasn’t an amazing passer, averaged slightly more steals than Evan Smotrycz, and was the worst rebounder on the team. Allen was great on offense, sure, but there’s no use giving him credit for things he didn’t do when you’re analyzing, and those things he didn’t do were: just about everything else.
While I think Allen was a leader in the locker room and far from a team cancer as some may suggest, when you abandon your teammates in pursuit of self-interest, it probably severs any emotional ties they had with you for the time being. In that regard, they won’t miss some of the constant optimism and enthusiasm for the game that Allen provided as much. Judging by some of their tweets, the current rostered players and coaches are okay with it and moving on rapidly.
Can The Terps Recover?
At this point, the question of whether the Terps can recover is almost approaching a philosophical question and reflects on your worldview. It also depends on what your definition of recovery is, as being the same team as last year and making the tournament are two different kinds of recovery.
If your expectation is that this Terrapins team needs to be at least as good as last year’s team, then you might be in luck. Look, Maryland lost their best passer, their second best scorer, and one of their top wing defenders last year; that easily hurts on paper. But they lost some good players on a mediocre team; this wasn’t losing good players on a good team. This wasn’t losing Alex Len, and it wasn’t losing Jordan Williams. There was and always has been room for improvement, and for two straight seasons the guys who left didn’t improve the team much. Sometimes (as was the case with turnovers and terrible shots and the pervasive selfishness on the court some felt occurred) they hurt it.
In many ways, the transfers were trimming the fat off the roster; Allen was just trimming a little more than you wanted. Maryland lost him, but as you’ll come to see, he and Melo Trimble are not incredibly different players. If you were comparing abilities at respective ages, Trimble is light years ahead of where Allen was his freshman year. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again: Trimble is around or near where Allen is right now as a player. He still needs game experience and is going to go through some major growing pains, but if he gets those out of the way early, Maryland will have a formidable squad. I’ve seen Dion Wiley play enough times to know that when he is on fire, his effect on the game is not dissimilar to Dez Wells effect in his ability to score with ease. Same goes for Nickens; he’s one of the best shooters you’ll find. This is saying nothing about the returning guys.
The Terps are still loaded with talent, and even some big name analysts still believe this team could be a power. That is to say, they’re not trotting out Jin Soo Kim/Choi and Berend Weijs for 40 minutes a game. Sure, analysts are wrong, but it just goes to show you that all hope isn’t lost. Things just have to finally start going Maryland’s way. Asking a team with this much talent to be as good as a 17 win squad isn’t asking a lot, really. That’s almost asking them to be par for the course, regardless of age.
If your expectation is that the Terrapins need to be a tournament powerhouse or nothing else matters, then you will probably be disappointed. Losing Allen wasn’t part of the overall plan, and it forces some freshmen into early roles. Most freshmen point guards aren’t ready to start from day one, so why Trimble would be any different in just guesswork. There’s also the center issue, and whether or not anyone is ready to start from day one.
Losing Allen leaves a lot of points to get scored, and when you add in Faust and Peters, it’s a hit that the Terps may not be able to overcome. So will they recover into a tournament team? Smart odds say no, but that doesn’t mean (much like Allen’s emergence) there won’t be a lot of surprises along the way. Every recruit brought in this year is considered a better player than Allen was coming out of high school, so one of them could certainly surprise.
Neither view is wrong; they’re just opposing takes. Regardless, it’s going to be interesting.