For six days last week all the problems that Maryland faced for the last month of the regular season vanished. Once Melo Trimble hit the game winning three-pointer to beat Michigan State on senior day the Terps ship seemed to have been righted just in time for the NCAA Tournament.
Maryland’s Melo Trimble wasn’t enough to help them advance in the B1G Tournament and will have to be better to get them back to the Sweet 16. (Twitter photo)
The momentum they lost from the start of what looked to be a promising season was suddenly back. After losing four of six games during a February spiral, the winds of March seemed to sail them through the Big Ten Conference (B1G) Tournament which was played at the Verizon Center in D.C.
Then came the loss to Northwestern on March 10, where all the elements to their demise reappeared during what amounted to be a home game diminishing the hopes for a deep run in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Maryland was again pounded on the boards by a more physically mature team. They blew another big lead because of another scoring draught and the inability to, once again, get a critical defensive stop. Without the presence of a legitimate low post scorer and the reluctance to drive to the basket the Terps couldn’t ride the momentum of what was a home crowd less than 30 minutes from campus.
Teams that play deep into March are normally peaking now but Maryland is not. This young team – who teased fans into believing this year could become something special – must face the harsh reality that they will probably be one and done after facing Xavier in Orlando. The Terps are talented but not tough. They rely too heavily on young guards who are inconsistent while Trimble can’t win games all by himself.
Turgeon is a master recruiter who played guard at the University of Kansas, so Maryland is a perimeter oriented team. His philosophy of shooting three point shots and reliance on interior players to play subordinate roles worked from November through January, but during the dog days of late February and March, it turned into a recipe for disappointment. It has played out once again this year to close the B1G schedule and there doesn’t appear to be much hope for things to change once the madness begins this week.
The Terps live by three point shots which also seals their fate. When the shots are falling like they did for nearly three quarters of the B1G Tournament game they had the look of a team that could play into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. However, when they aren’t – as was the case down the stretch last on March 10 – teams pack their defense inside the goal area and take their driving lanes away.
The creativity of guards like Trimble, Anthony Cowan, and Jaylen Brantley is being stunted because when they drive into the basket the only options are to find open players on the perimeter. They still haven’t developed a legitimate scoring presence inside and have yet to identify who could be the primary option close to the basket to compliment the creativity of the backcourt. This is a team that could have used Shaquille Cleare or Diamond Stone but neither played beyond a year at Maryland because of their frustration with the way Turgeon’s offense treats its big men.
Teams who play defense and rebound are referred to as “tough outs” during the NCAA Tournament. Those championship traits never take the night off nor slump. They travel across town and across the country. If Maryland hopes to make it to the Sweet 16 for a second consecutive year they better shape up or Florida could be a quick season ending trip.