Auslander is in this picture somewhere. The oft-forgotten Auslander
Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
The Maryland basketball rotation for this season was largely set before Seth Allen went down with an injury. Allen, Peters, Faust, Layman, Smotrycz, Cleare, Mitchell, and Dodd were going to see the brunt of the minute allotment. With Allen now out until at least January, the eight man rotation is down to seven. Given how often Maryland plays, those are a lot of minutes being doled out to a few guys, and it seems evident that a player from the bench ought to step up.
There are still a few minutes left, but quite a few candidates. Jonathan Graham, the transfer from Penn State, just became eligible to play and would appear to be the likely candidate for minutes given that he has the most experience of any other player. But there’s also Varun Ram, who has looked pretty good in the preseason and could take some guard duties off the shoulders of Wells, Faust, and Peters. Fan favorite Spencer Barks has size, A.J. Metz a feel good story, John Auslander and Connor Lipinski know the system. One of them theoretically has to get minutes, but who?
Jonathan Graham, 6’8, 225 lbs
Graham, the son of a Maryland legend, seems more likely than anyone else to receive minutes for the Terps. For some absolutely dreadful Penn State teams, he played in 57 (actually 58) total games over three seasons, logging 884 minutes. That’s enough of a body of work to get an idea of what goods Graham delivers. The unfortunate answer is that he doesn’t provide a whole bunch. Poor shooting and turnover prone.
The brighter outlook is that Graham actually does two things well that Mark Turgeon puts a fair amount of stock in: blocking shots and rebounding. Graham may have no offensive game and may also be a pretty bad defender, but as a rebounder he’s actually pretty identical to James Padgett. 10% offensive rebounding percentage and ~15% on the defensive end suggests that he’s fully competent at pulling down boards effectively.
Where he really excels, and where his size should come in handy, is his ability to block shots. Graham’s block percentage was actually 7.7 last year; by comparison, Len’s was 8.0. These statistics usually translate pretty well no matter where you play, and means that Graham is fully capable of being a rim defender. If he had Dodd can be employed in some manner as rebounding defenders and nothing more (they literally can’t do much more), then there’s utility for these guys on this roster. Alleviate some of Len’s absence being felt and you have a spot.
Varun Ram, 5’9, 150 lbs
Ram is like the little engine that could. The spark plug transfer is decidedly fast, and brings some major intensity onto the court whenever he’s out there. Unfortunately, he’s very small and that limits his ability to have any meaningful effect on the game. Still, during the time that I’ve seen him out on the court this year, Ram has actually looked pretty good with the first team.
Not “he should be the starting point guard” good or even “he should get twenty minutes a game” good. More like, when our guards need to sit out a spell, Ram could go in and manage the offense. He’s got a tight handle, and while he does play with a fervent tempo, he still knows how to initiate the offense. His passes looked pretty good against Catholic, and he wasn’t out there making mistakes.
Even though he may be short, he can still hit the occasional three pointer and, more importantly, give some guys a rest at times. The last thing Maryland needs is for their guards to get tired from playing so many minutes early on. Were this a Gary Williams roster, I’d be almost entirely confident that Ram would have a spot on this team, but whether or not Turgeon wants to play him for any amount of minutes remains to be seen.
The Unlikely Ones
John Auslander, 6’7, 220 lbs
The senior Auslander has been a member of the team since the ’11-’12 season, and while he may be more likely to coach at Maryland before he’s ever given any meaningful minutes, that doesn’t mean he isn’t an option. Auslander has decent size, he’s a capable shooter, but more importantly, he understands the offense.
I can see Auslander being used in stints this season should someone get into foul trouble. His athletic upside may be a horizontal line, but his understanding of the game plan that coach Turgeon wants to employ gives him opportunity to come in and help out. Of course, he’s a little too small to guard power forwards and not athletic enough to cover wings, so Auslander would end up getting scant minutes as a zone defender and corner threat.
A.J. Metz, 6’7 walk-on
Metz isn’t going to play for this team — at least not much. I’ve only caught a little of the guy, but from what I’ve gathered nothing really stood out as being particularly impressive. He’s got size, but hes not a great rebounder or defender. He can score a little down low, but not against bigger guys. Metz doesn’t fill a need right now for the Terps, and that’s going to limit his potential.
He could, should someone go down or get into foul trouble, come in for two minute stretches just to bridge the gap. But with the plethora of options on this team, it seems unlikely that Metz will do much else but dwindle on the pine pony.
The Slim To None Chance Of Playing Guys
Jacob Susskind, Connor Lipinski, Spencer Barks
These three aren’t going to play for Maryland, even though Susskind had four points against Catholic in only a few minutes. These are last resort guys, the reserves of reserves. Each one is equally awesome, but against ACC competition that awesomeness would wear off very, very quickly.
Spencer Barks has a ton to work on defensively, Lipinski isn’t a good enough ball handler and is too small, and Susskind doesn’t stand out enough. If these guys are playing, Maryland is belly up.