People can often get too wrapped up in the offensive side of the ball in basketball. Scoring a lot of points looks good and makes some teams more exciting then others. However, the game has two sides and if Maryland wants to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010, they must become a better defensive team.
Maryland has many issues as a basketball team right now, but none are more glaring then their defense. The Terps have been bad on every level of defense in their 3-2 start to the season, but their guards have struggled keeping opposing guards out of the paint and that is the biggest problem. When you cannot stay in front of the other team’s guards, your defense is incredibly vulnerable. Freshman Roddy Peters in undoubtedly the Terps best option at point guard, but his lackluster defensive effort, has held back coach Mark Turgeon from permanently entering him in the starting lineup. You must have perfect help defense and a good rim protector to cover up consistently poor perimeter defense.
Unfortunately for the Terps, their help defense has been a huge issue for them thus far this season and there are basically no options as a rim protector.
Mark Turgeon has always had sound defenses teams. Defense has always been the staple of Turgeon led ball clubs, but this team has showed very few signs that they will be a solid defensive team. The main problem I see is just players being lazy. Players not stepping up and helping has become where to common of a sighting. You see guys just throwing an arm out to try and stop a driving guard or just not helping at all. It happened a few times tonight against Northern Iowa and was never more glaring in their loss last week to Oregon State, where they gave up 90 points and guard Roberto Nelson went off for 31 points.
If you have poor perimeter defense and weak help defense a rim protector can often cover up those weaknesses. Their ability to alter shots and intimidate opposing players from attacking the basket because of their presence can make an average defense a very good one. However, Maryland just does not have a rim protector that is ready to play. Big men Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell are players who wide bodies who are not known for their leaping ability or shot blocking. Freshman Damonte Dodd is a viable option because of his length and athleticism, but he is just not ready to play at this level. He has seen some minutes, but each time he has been out of position and seemingly lost on the court. He is going to help the Terps in years to come, just not this season.
Maryland’s slow starts and offensive stalls are an issue. There is no denying that, but defense can be a tool to ignite an offense. A few defensive stops and easy buckets can get the momentum on your side and open up the offensive end. Turgeon will keep grilling his team on defense because that is what he does and will need to in order to go dancing this March.