Monday Terps Mailbag: Tournaments, Turgeon and Pe’Shon Howard


“Oh my goodness I love mailbags. They are my favorite. I love them so much I have to SCREAM.”

Welcome to the Monday Terps Mailbag. Questions, answers, all that jazz.

(Related note: Submit your questions via email to alex.prewitt@washpost.com or on Twitter. Thanks, friends.)

What do they need to do to get the the Big Dance? (@JimRaley1)

Win. Win. Win. And probably win some more. If the Terps can close out the regular season on a three-game winning streak, their first since that 13-game run through non-conference play, they’ll likely revisit the bubble just in time for the ACC tournament. They’re currently in line for the sixth seed which, depending on how the regular season’s remaining two games shake out, would match them up against one of the conference’s perennial bottom-feeders (think Georgia Tech, Clemson, Boston College or Wake Forest). Win that too, and they’ll have a chance at more meaningful victory in the ACC quarterfinals.

Maryland probably can’t afford to split against Virginia and North Carolina. Doing so would put far more pressure on its ACC tournament showing, because beating any of the aforementioned low seeds won’t help. But I’m not a bracketologist. Not by a long shot. So here’s what other, more reputable NCAA tournament analysts have to say on the matter:

 

 

 

For what it’s worth, Davis also went on 106.7 FM this morning and agreed when the hosts said Maryland had “no shot” at reaching the tournament. Suffice to say, Maryland needs to make moves to reverse the current perception.

We are closing up Turgeon’s second year. How do you feel about where he has taken the program and the future of it? (@CU_TAO)

Interesting question. I wasn’t fortunate enough to witness Turgeon’s debut season first-hand, but by all accounts (both internally and from fellow reporters), this season’s installment is far more talented and the future far brighter than if Turgeon had held over last season’s crop of misfits.

Now, the argument could be made that Turgeon actually did a better coaching job getting that aforementioned group to 17-15 than he’s done with these Terps, who just reached their 20th win against Wake Forest. This Maryland team wasn’t supposed to suffer letdowns against Boston College and Georgia Tech, and after Dez Wells became eligible, the expectations soared to NCAA tournament-level. Plenty more evaluation will be done after the season wraps up, but I don’t think anyone around the program would say that the Terps have accomplished what they’re capable of thus far.

As for the future, Maryland loses James Padgett, Logan Aronhalt and, assuming the NBA allure proves too enticing, Alex Len. Its four freshmen, Dez Wells and Nick Faust will be one year older and wiser. Transfer Evan Smotrycz will be eligible in the fall, and the Terps will bring in both Roddy Peters and Damonte Dodd. Based on practice reports and word of mouth, Smotrycz figures to contribute immediately, while Peters and Dodd probably will endure the typical freshmen growing pains as their quartet of predecessors this season. If Len leaves, the Terps will have one open scholarship (assuming they don’t reshuffle things) for whatever they see fit. Bringing in a Wells- or Aronhalt-type transfer would do wonders for Maryland’s chances next season, but as it stands, there’s no reason to think next year will be a step back for the Terps.

Do you think Alex Len is really ready for the NBA? Seems to be playing smaller and not as strong as he needs to. One more yr? (@BigBen613)

Another week, another Alex Len-to-the-NBA question, and I’ll respond in the same exact way I usually do. I don’t think many scouts consider Len NBA-ready. Not by a long shot. But again, teams don’t typically draft European frontcourt prospects based on immediate impact. With Len, it’s about potential to develop through more intense training and NBA instruction. It’s about the raw tools they see, be it his athleticism down low or speed in the open court.

Never mind the disappearing acts or times Len has backed down to lesser opponents (Boris Bojanovsky, anyone?). Len’s NBA value is based almost entirely on what could be, not what already has happened. I don’t doubt that one more season in college would help Len’s game, but eschewing millions of dollars in a weak draft class to return to Maryland won’t be an easy decision.

Do you think Pe’ is 100% physically? Does Turgeon perceive he has major PG issues as many fans do? (@ckstevenson)

I think, like any person recovering from multiple major injuries over the past calendar year, Howard will experience some setbacks in his recovery. But he certainly looked quick enough defending Wake Forest guard C.J. Harris, probably better than Howard has played in any game since ACC play started. He notched 30 minutes, executed solid defense and spoke with the media for the first time all calendar year. That last part is plenty significant, if only because the former captain hadn’t played nearly well enough to warrant a journey into the interview world. A healthy and smart Pe’Shon Howard will only help the Terps, so they’re hoping he has turned the corner.

I didn’t have a place for this in the postgame blogs, but Howard was asked about his rocky season, and showered some praise on Turgeon. Turgeon has publicly backed Howard at times but also criticized him for disappointing play, culminating in a one-game suspension for violating team rules.

“It’s just been up and down,” Howard said. “With Coach, he’s done a great job communicating with me. He’s always had my back and told me to get it together, and once I get on the court, make sure I play better. He’s always had confidence in me; he’s always let me know that. That’s one thing I appreciate. A lot of coaches will shun you off when you’re not on the court. He did a great job keeping me positive, and making sure I stayed ready and putting confidence in myself.”

As for the point guard situation, there’s not much Turgeon can really do at this stage other than work with what he has and hope a patchwork system gets the job done. It’s Maryland’s most exposed weakness, the one mentioned ad nauseum during every discussion about these Terps. But what’s Turgeon to do? I expect the Terps to address the issue this offseason, whether by drilling a certain player to become the starting point guard or searching for outside help. Turgeon undoubtedly recognizes the issue, and I get the sense that it baffles him to no end. But short of mixing and matching and tweaking with the current situation, his hands are somewhat tied.

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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Alex Prewitt · March 4, 2013