Good evening from Comcast Center, where second-seeded Maryland (22-12) tips off against seventh-seeded Niagara (19-13) in the National Invitational Tournament first round at 7 p.m. The Purple Eagles won the MAAC regula -season title but got bounced in their conference tournament’s second game. Win this, and the Terrapins host the winner of Denver and Ohio, most likely on Thursday in College Park.
You know the drill. Pregame notes and links are below, the discussion thread is open and I’m on Twitter. Thanks for reading. Enjoy the game.
>> Alex Len might have himself a field day against Niagara, which fields zero players taller than 6 feet 8. Then again, he may perform one of his trademark disappearing acts (see: Boston College against Eddie Odio). Len appeared to have turned a corner against North Carolina, scoring Maryland’s first six points and generally dominating inside whenever he received the rare low-post touch. Len finished with 20 points on 5-of-7 shooting, his most productive scoring day since the season opener against Kentucky.
Len now has reached double figures in four straight games, which came on the heels of a five-game stretch where he averaged just 7.8 points per game. Asked whether Len’s impending offseason decision might be wearing on the 7-foot-1 center, Turgeon shrugged that off.
“I have no idea if it was wearing on him,” Turgeon said. “I thought Alex was great against North Carolina. Four spread, didn’t have a big 7-foot guy banging on him. McAdoo was in foul trouble, so that helped him. Great spacing on the floor for him, opened things up. He was really good. He was really good in that game. I keep saying he’s one of the most improved players in the league. Whether it’s weighing on him or not, I don’t know. We’ll see in a couple weeks.”
>> Between Shaquille Cleare’s DNP-CD against Virginia and James Padgett’s DNP-CD against Duke, Turgeon seems to be making a concentrated effort to trim the rotation, something he’s wanted to do all season. Chances are someone gets left out against Niagara, unless the Terps can impose their will inside early.
“I had no intentions of not playing Shaq,” Turgeon said. “The Duke game was going so well, I didn’t want to screw it up. So we just stuck with it. Wake Forest, they played small, we went small, we were down, that limits you on how many bigs you can play. Niagara’s not the biggest team in the world coming in here too, so probably will be a small lineup game again. Is it a conscious effort? Maybe. Yes and no. But I’m trying to win as many games as we can in March.”
>> Turgeon had some interesting comments when asked about Maryland’s NCAA tournament profile and the selection committee’s treatment of the ACC, placing Duke and Miami as No. 2 seeds and North Carolina as a No.8.
“I think perception rules everything when it comes to the NCAA tournament,” Turgeon said. “I’ve noticed that over the years. The perception of our league wasn’t great. We had some bad losses early and it stuck with us. Teams like us and Virginia just didn’t get it done on the road. If we would have won on the road a little more, I think we both would have gotten in.
“Was Carolina an 8? No. That was a bad draw. Sometimes I think they put Roy Williams back in Kansas City against Kansas. That’s not right, but they did it. Big draw, a lot of stuff to write about leading into that. I just think there was so much talk about the Mountain West all year, a 9-7 team got in in that league. I just think that’s the way it works. Next year, when the season starts, ACC’s going to be the leader from the beginning.”
In today’s WaPo: Terps seek redemption with NIT run
Game preview: Maryland vs. Niagara
On the blog: Monday Terps Mailbag: A forward glance