Hola my friends, it's been a while. I'll spare the excuses for not prolifically filing reports about the young and 'developing before our eyes' 2011-2012 edition of the Maryland men's basketball team. Heading into tonight's contest at Florida State (9 p.m. on ESPNU), Mark Turgeon's Terps are 12-4, 2-1 and a win could get people talking about Maryland as a possible bubble team. Right now they are on no one's list, largely because they haven't really beaten anyone good, got clobbered by, um, Iona, and pulled out a series of a single digit, nail-biting victories over the likes of Mount St. Mary's, Florida International, Radford, and Alabany. I am not even making up that list of schools in such a way that would indicate Maryland has played a bunch of softies, those are among the schools Maryland has played against, and they almost lost to all of them.
Ah, but before we get all hyper-critical like an angry Ravens fan calling a sports talk show to complain about Joe Flacco's completion percentage, let's give these Terps a break, huh? They lost their big man, Jordan Williams to the NBA's New Jersey Nets (where he's appeared in 6 games and scored 6 total points and appears to be the last man on the bench... ) their designated foreign 'fundamentally sound guy,' Haukur Palsson to professional ball in Europe, and several decent roster fillers to graduation or the end of their eligibility or whatever it is happens when a college basketball player completes 4 years in a row of competition at an institution of higher learning. (Hey - side note, did you know that former Terp Cliff Tucker, who made that one game-winner against Georgia Tech, walked on the football team at UTEP? It's true. I don't feel like surfing and linking to his bio, but I think he had 2 or 3 catches.)
Anyway, where were we? Full admission, I have watched about 2/3 of the Maryland games this year and don't feel quite as 'plugged in' as I did in the past when I actually covered the team and/or made Terps games appointment TV or attended most home games.
However, I do feel qualified to now provide a journalistically questionable analysis of the top 5 or 6 guys on this years Terps, plus the new coach:
Let's start at the top with that whirling dervish of a two guard, Terrell Stoglin - Put it this way, you WOULD NOT want to have to try to guard Terrell in a pick-up game. He would destroy you and 3 other guys and score basically, all the points. Only problem is that in this made-up game that will never happen, the other guys on Terrell's team might not have a ton of fun watching him do his thing while they, well, watch him do his thing. He's not exactly a big sharer of the basketball, but man can he score. Stoglin leads the ACC in scoring at 21 points per game and without him, Maryland probably loses to Cornell, Albany, Mt. St. Mary's and few others. He's Maryland's only truly legit player, who would likely start for any other team in the ACC.
OK, moving on then, we have Shawn Mosley, the 34-year-old senior small forward from Baltimore, who is the Terps' what? Glue guy? Team leader? Insert cliche about pretty good but not great senior forced to stay for four years here? Mosley works hard, seems to do everything well, nothing great. Players like Mosley are very nice to have on your team if you have 2-3 stars and he can be content to be in the background, but if he's your guy, well, you aren't that good.
James Padgett - power forward. High energy. Leads the ACC in offensive rebounding at over 4 per game, but only gets 2 on the defensive glass. I don't understand this statistic. Padgett sometimes looks like he can take over, sometimes disappears, not sure what else to say here.
Pe'Shon Howard - when he came back from a toe injury about 10 games in to the season, Maryland had a breath of fresh air - a pass first point guard. Like his name, Pe'Shon is flashy, loves the spectacular or difficult pass and can hit an open shot. He is very entertaining and I'm guessing the coaches would say he's playing his way into game shape and will only get better. I like Pe'Shon.
Alex Len - So when Pe'Shon came back from the toe injury, the Terps also gained the services of Alex Len, a 7-1 center from the Ukraine who had to sit out 10 games because, in the eyes of the NCAA, he did something he shouldn't have, like accepted a few bucks for playing basketball.
Len plays a lot like you'd hope a 7-1 center from the Ukraine would play. He's not just gigantically tall, he's athletic, blocks shots, has a good court sense, and seems to be really enjoying himself. On the down side, big Alex isn't exactly the second coming of Patrick Ewing, or even Uwe Blab for that matter. He's a bit thin and got lost in the recent Georgia Tech game, where he scored only 0 points, but got 9 rebounds. Let's hope there are lots of double-doubles in store for this guy - Terps really need him to play well to be a good team.
Off the bench, Maryland gets thin fast, with Ashton Pankey playing a serviceable power forward and another skinny tall foreign white guy, Berend Weijs at center. Also serviceable. Another role player who shows flashes of serious talent is Mychael Parker, but he also seems inconsistent.
Wait, I'm forgetting Nick Faust, the athletic 2 guard from Baltimore's City College high school who started the first 9 games before Howard came back from injury. I think Faust was a bit overwhelmed at first and was shooting like 25 percent through his first 10 games or so but is probably better suited for a role off the bench right now. From what I've seen, he moves gracefully around the court, can make the three, but forces shots and makes plenty of bad decisions. Faust has the potential to blossom into a very good player but he's not exactly an impact guy who can throw his team on his back. The only guy Maryland has in that category is Stoglin.
And last, let me just throw out a few words about the new leader of the Terps, Mark Turgeon. From what I can tell, Maryland basketball is in very good hands. Turgeon not only works hard, coaches hard, recruits hard, he is brutally honest in press conferences. He says things like, "we need to grow up as a basketball team" and has pushed Stoglin with some tough love, including sitting him out to start a couple of games and chiding him for not passing the ball more.
I'm sure it's not easy to coach a guy like Stoglin, a player who can score like few others, but might not exert maximum effort on D or share the ball as much as he should. So far, so good, for these young, improving Terps. A win tonight at Florida State would be a great stepping stone, and might just get Maryland moving toward something more than just a rebuilding season.