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NCAA Basketball Maryland Terrapins

ACC Basketball: Don’t Sleep On the Maryland Terrapins

Joshua S. Kelly-US PRESSWIRE

Don’t sleep on the Maryland Terrapins this season in the ACC, especially given coach Mark Turgeon’s history of improving after his first year with a new school.

Maryland is flying under the radar with much of the talk going to the trio of schools from North Carolina. The North Carolina State Wolfpack have been predicted the early ACC favorites with the Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels not far behind. With a lot of the focus on the state of North Carolina, the Terrapins could emerge as sleepers in the conference.

Replacing former coach Gary Williams was not going to be easy for anyone and Turgeon struggled in his first year with Maryland. Going 17-15 overall and 6-10 in conference play last year, Turgeon wants to get back to the NCAA Tournament this season.

Coach Turgeon’s history shows that his first year on the job with is the worst one has with a new school. His record in the first year at his three previous jobs saw him go 8-18 with the Jacksonville State Gamecocks, 9-19 with the Wichita State Shockers and 25-11 with the Texas A&M Aggies. He’d bounce back in his second season going 17-11 with the Gamecocks, 15-15 followed by five winning seasons with the Shockers and 11 games were the most he ever lost in four seasons with the Aggies.

If Turgeon’s trend of improving in the second season on the job is going to continue, a large reason will be due to the play of sophomore center Alex Len. At 7’1” and 225lbs the player out of Antratsit, Ukraine is looking to improve on his freshmen numbers of 6.0ppg, 5.4rpg and 2.1bpg.

Len missed the first month and a half of the 2012-13 season before getting off to a hot start when he did get into action. He posted a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds in a loss against N.C. State, then had 12 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks in a loss against North Carolina. However, Len struggled to score from February on, only scoring as high as 8 points once after Feb. 4. The positive behind the struggles is Len maintained his effectiveness on defense as he continued to rebound and block exceptionally well.

Considered a skilled big man with nice touch around the basket along with excellent blocking and rebounding skills, Len has first round pick potential. He needs to add strength but at only 19 years old he has plenty of time to pack on muscle.

Maryland’s backcourt will also be a major reason behind the success of the team. With returning players sophomore Nick Faust and junior Pe’Shon Howard, the Terrapins have two tough guards with size that can pass the ball and rebound.

At 6’6” and 175lbs, Faust had 8.9ppg, 4.0rpg and 2.1apg in 2011-12, including a 17 point, 5 rebound and 4 assist performance in a loss against the Tar Heels.

Howard missed more games than he played last season due to injury but if he can stay healthy he will be a huge part of the Terrapins. At 6’3” and 185lbs, he averaged 6.5ppg, 3.7rpg and 3.7apg last season, with a 11 point, 8 assist, 6 rebound game against the Albany Great Danes in his second game of the season. Along with a 10 point, 6 rebound and  4 assist performance in a lost against Duke, proving he can do it against the big boys as well. In Howard’s first seven games of the season, the Terrapins won six of them. For a 17-15 team a year ago, it’s no secret they are better when Howard is healthy.

Dezmine Wells, an Xavier Musketeer transfer, hasn’t had a ruling made on his eligibly for this season yet. If Wells is cleared to suit up for the Terrapins, it’ll be a huge piece added to improve the strength of the team. The 6’5”, 215lbs guard averaged 9.8ppg and 4.9rpg in his first season for Xavier.

Turgeon’s team has the rebounding, defence and toughness to compete with the best in the ACC. Nobody should be surprised if Turgeon gets the Terrapins back into the ACC title discussion and back into the NCAA Tournament.