November 7, 2012 in Preview
By Staff Writer John Manuel:
Taking a change of pace from the Redskins, Orioles, Nationals, Cerrato and college football talk. I am excited for Friday's college basketball opener for the Maryland Terrapins. Not only is it just the opener but it’s against the defending champions and newly reloaded Kentucky Wildcats. It will obviously be a great test for Mark Turgeon's crew when they take the floor against Kentucky, but looking long term across the season I expect good things from this Maryland team and here's my 2012-13 Season Preview.
Starting at the top with Coach Turgeon, Terps fans have to be excited about the future of Maryland basketball. To go from a legendary coach like Gary Williams and hopefully not miss a beat with Turgeon should keep Comcast Center one of the best venues in college basketball. Turgeon not only took a suspect team and made them competitive last season but he also did it in a likable way. Turgeon doesn't BS the media or the fans and tells it like it is. More importantly he has quickly upgraded the talent base in a span of months and the future looks bright as he works with a strong coaching staff.
Much talk about Maryland will start with the loss of ACC leading scorer Terrell Stoglin. He is gone and so are his points but you have to think that many in College Park are not that disappointed not having Stoglin on the roster. Sophomore Nick Faust will obviously be the first one to be looked at to fill Stoglin's void. Many expect Faust to have a breakout season but the challenge of playing multiple positions is there. Faust will have to become more of consistent scorer than fellow Baltimore high school star Sean Mosley was. Terps need Faust to be more Vasquez than Mosley.
The Terps also get the return of Pe'Shon Howard back from multiple major injuries in his sophomore season. Howard may not be flashy and a big time scorer but he gives Turgeon a reliable leader on floor. Something you need when you are looking to put a lot of new pieces together. Howard is a fan favorite that deserves a solid and healthy season.
The Terps also add two new freshman wing players who should get plenty of minutes right away in Jake Layman and Seth Allen. I feel that Allen is going to have some Juan Dixon type magic in him. I am not saying he is going to be Dixon, maybe more of a Drew Nicholas type but he was Turgeon's first recruit and I think he found something in Allen.
As for Layman, he will be someone to watch grow all season. And now it’s breaking that Dez Wells is eligible to play this season is a difference maker. Wells will possibly be the team’s leading scorer since the NCAA has now done the right thing. Turgeon also snagged an Albany transfer in shooter Logan Aronhalt to add much needed shooting depth lost with departure of Stoglin.
Up front the Terps could be strong especially on the boards. Alex Len returns after getting acclimated to the college game as a freshman. Now in more ACC ready shape, Len's game should improve as unfortunately NBA scouts will be watching. Add returning senior James Padgett up front with Len and you have your returning front court. I was very impressed with Padgett last season on how he improved his offensive game from his first two seasons. The Terps added much needed front court size also in solid recruits Shaq Cleare and Charles Mitchell. Cleare is the more heralded, but Mitchell dominated the boards last week versus IUP. Both of these guys should get plenty of run with the departure of Ashton Pankey.
As for the schedule and the outlook, after Kentucky, the Terps do not have a strong non-conference schedule heading up to ACC play. The team should be able to build up some wins unlike past seasons before facing the ACC teams.
And to me the ACC doesn't look as strong as in the past, but many have said that in recent years and have been mistaken. NC State sits in the preseason top 10 and Duke and UNC are Duke and UNC. In the final year of the 12 team ACC I think the Terps can challenge for the top 4 spots and the ACC first round tournament bye.
I think this is a NCAA tournament team and if Dez Wells is deemed eligible I am willing to call it a lock barring major injuries. Turgeon and his staff have this program heading the right way. I got 20-11 and a return to the NCAA's after a strong showing in the ACC Tournament.