The season that could have been. Maryland came into the 2013 season with high expectations: They finished an up-and-down 2012 season strong with a run in the ACC tournament before falling to North Carolina in the semifinals, a run to the NIT final four before losing to eventual champion Iowa, and a premier local point guard in Roddy Peters coming in from the 2013 recruiting class. The perceived thought was that Peters could come in, work his way into the lineup during the out-of-conference schedule with cover from sophomore Seth Allen, and eventually take over the reins.
Boy, were we wrong. Before the season began, Seth Allen went down with a foot fracture with Connecticut looming as the first opponent of the season. Playing against Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatwright is not exactly what you want your freshman point guard to experience the first time on the floor. And Mark Turgeon thought the same thing, opting to start Dez Wells at the point instead of Peters, while giving Peters the backup role. The end result was a one-point loss where Maryland just had no answer at the point with regards to getting players into an offensive set. Peters would become primary backup at the point, but not before it was clear that he was not ready for primetime, and had little confidence in his offensive game besides driving to the basket. Maryland would finish the Out Of Conference schedule 9-5, with the only notable win coming against Providence when Maryland won the Paradise Jam.
Seth Allen returned in early January, but it took him most of the month to get back to true form. Meanwhile, it was becoming clear that Maryland had little to no inside presence with starter Evan Smotrycz preferring to hover around the 3 point line and starting center Shaquille Cleare being replaced by the energetic Charles Mitchell, who brought a spark but was woefully undersized against ACC opponents. The end result of the poor inside game: A two-point loss to Duke, with an unreal tip-in from Charles Mitchell on a set play hovering on the rim before eventually falling off in the last second of the game.
See the trend? More losses to marquee opponents by two or less points. For all of the individual talent that Maryland possesses, they could just not put it together. Next came Syracuse, fresh off their first loss of the season. Again, another two-point loss. There were so many missed opportunities in all of these losses that you couldn't point to just one thing.
Well, there was one thing. Offense. What was Maryland trying to do on offense? Throughout the season, many Maryland fans speculated on this, as Turgeon comes from the Larry Brown pipeline of coaching, similar to Roy Williams and Calipari who run motion offenses. Sometimes we thought we saw it, but more often than not players would just stand around, passing the ball hoping that someone would become open. As the season progressed, there was more motion, but not much more scoring. If the play broke down, players reverted to what they knew, and that was trying to win it by themselves.
Maryland went into the ACC Tournament without much hopes of making the NCAAs, but the schedule did line up nicely. They were fresh off a win against #5 Virginia, and had FSU in the first round who they had split the season with but handled easily in the second meeting at Comcast Center. Then was a matchup with Virginia, and a matchup with Pitt. There were quality wins to be had. But Maryland lost in the most ironic fashion: A last second put in off a set play by FSU, what they couldn't convert against Duke, and handing them another one possession loss for the season.
The High Point
From a pure which game was the best perspective, I would have to say beating UVA at home, in OT, to end Maryland's last regular season would be the high point of this season. Beating a long time rival, then ranked in the Top 5 of the country, was definitely a fitting way to leave the ACC. From an individual standpoint, I would say Seth Allen dropping 32 on FSU on the second half of the home and home was the high point from any player on the roster this year. We all knew Seth could get hot, but he finally showed that Maryland had someone else besides Dez Wells who could carry the team.
The Low Point
The low point this season had to be going 2-4 in February, seemingly ending the teetering bubble status that Maryland had somehow maintained throughout the year. Even worse, Maryland went 0-4 against teams that would of given them a Marquee win (or two) on the year, with close losses to both Duke and Syracuse in the last minutes of the game. February was the dagger to the season, exposing how little grasp the team had on the offense that Turgeon was trying to employ.
Following the season Shaquille Cleare, Roddy Peters, and Nick Faust all opted to transfer. The face value of this would seem terrible, as Faust played the sixth man role off the bench and was Maryland's best defender, while Peters was just a freshman but came in with tremendous potential. Offsetting this, Maryland is bringing in the 8th ranked class in the nation, headlined by five star PG Romelo Trimble along with two seven footers in Trayvon Reed and Michael Cerkovsky, sharpshooter Dion Wiley, and SF Jared Nickens. Trimble will replace Peters at the point, with all of us hoping he is able to provide what Roddy didn't: the ability to take over quickly so Allen can move to his true 2 guard position. Reed is a true center, standing at 7'1 and providing Maryland the needed height inside. The 7'0" Cerkovsky hails from Europe, and appears to bring a game similar to that of Alex Len, who left Maryland before the season to be picked #5 overall in the draft.
Maryland will hope that their freshmen can develop quickly as help is needed on the inside, and Seth Allen is more suited to play off the ball to utilize his amazing scoring abilities. Next up, we'll team up with Pete Volk from Testudo Times and have a roundtable discussion on who shined from this season and what we should expect next.