Maryland basketball vs. Marist: Previewing the Paradise Jam opener

November 22, 2013

(Getty Images)

THE INFO

Who: Maryland (1-2) vs. Marist (0-4)
When: 4 p.m.
Where: University of the Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center, St. Thomas.

TV: CBS Sports Network.
Online: YouTube Live
DMV radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM, 980 AM.
Coaches: Terps — Mark Turgeon (third season, 43-30). Red Foxes – Jeff Bower (first season, 0-4).

THE SCRIPT

Greetings from the beach in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the Maryland men’s basketball team enters as the prohibitive favorite – according to Kenpom.com – in the eight-team Paradise Jam tournament field. That status, analyst Ken Pomeroy writes on his Web site, has plenty to do with the Terrapins’ first-round foe: Marist. The Red Foxes rank among the nation’s worst in scoring rate and haven’t come within single digits of any opponent this season, so if Maryland takes care of business, Friday’s game should be the easiest. That said, the Terps have struggled to take care of any sort of business through three games this season, overcoming a miserable first half but losing to Connecticut, overcoming an even worst first half to crush Abilene Christian and then never overcoming a terrible defensive effort to lose to Oregon State. “The looks on their faces after the game, they were kind of shocked,” said Coach Mark Turgeon, who sank to below .500 through three games for just the second time in his career. “But they responded well today. They came out with confidence, they played hard. I think it’s up to the coaching staff between now and Friday, 5-o-clock island time, that we give them confidence and teach them to play well.”

THE QUESTIONS

1) Play defense? A pretty straightforward task, but it’s something the Terps have struggled with through three games. Oregon State won its first true road ACC game ever by hanging 90 points on a stationary Maryland defense, which for 40 minutes became a particularly inviting doorman to the lane. The Beavers scored 48 points down low, mostly on open layups, and sliced up the Terps’ ball-screen defense with ease. The Red Foxes almost certainly won’t be able to score at that clip, but Maryland can begin the Paradise Jam on the proper note with a stifling defensive effort, hounding Marist into turnovers – something Turgeon’s teams have never done well, ranking 334th nationally in both 2012-13 and 2011-12, again according to Kenpom.com – and protecting the rim, two big early weaknesses of this current Maryland installment.

2) Handle business? All week, the narrative of this tournament has juxtaposed with the team’s summer foreign tour to the Bahamas. Then, it was about having fun and building chemistry. Now, it’s about “business.”

“This is a business trip,” Charles Mitchell said.

“We’re taking this as a business trip,” Roddy Peters said.

“This will be business,” Turgeon said.

“Bizness trip,” Nick Faust posted on Instagram.

So … there you go.

3) Execute the offense? Again, another straightforward task Maryland hasn’t performed particularly well thus far. If Roddy Peters moves into the starting lineup, the freshman’s presence may jump-start things, much like he did with 10 points and six rebounds against Oregon State. But the Beavers mostly ran zone, and the Terps’ man-to-man motion offense sometimes devolves into one-on-one basketball, abandoning all rotations after just one time through. Maybe Maryland can get by in the Virgin Islands on talent and athleticism alone – entirely possible, given the compacted format – but Turgeon wants to see schematic improvement, and that means crisp passing without the sloppiness that’s marked his team’s first three games.

THE STATS

33.5: Percent chance of Maryland winning the Paradise Jam, according to Kenpom.com.

93.8: Dez Wells’s free throw percentage this season. Last year, a 70.5 percent mark was his career best.

24.6: Charles Mitchell’s rebound rate, second in the ACC.

THE LINKS

Poor defense vs. Oregon State ‘shocked’ Turgeon | Terps abandoned it 

‘A good chance’ Roddy Peters starts | Freshman strong in loss

President Obama attended, Maryland players say they didn’t notice

THE QUOTES

“I think you’re seeing some of it in practice. Not as many in practice. All you do is move forward. Today was a great practice. Guys really tried hard, played a little smarter defensively, too. Talked about our mistakes, tried to correct them. Were we perfect today? Absolutely not. But I think we got better today, and that’s all you can ask. It’s November 19th. There’s a lot of basketball ahead of us and a lot of opportunities for us to improve as a team and get this thing going in the right direction.” – Turgeon.

“Before the season, that was summer, that was for chemistry building. This is about winning games and helping our record. We’re not focused on going to the Virgin Islands to have fun. We have to handle business and win games.” – Mitchell.

THE TERPS TUNE OF TODAY

“Kokomo” by The Beach Boys.

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 | November 22, 2013