Cumberland Times-News

April 13, 2014

Terps need to move and move quickly

Mike Burke
Cumberland Times-News

— The good news is Maryland will never have to play another basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Goodbye, good riddance, sayonara, smell ya, no more of you, stay classy, we won’t let the door hit us on the way out.

Until we see you in court.

The cold hard truth news is it doesn’t matter if Maryland is a member of the Big Ten or the AMAC next year, the Terps need to win and they need to win, at the very least, fairly big. We’re not talking cutting down nets in Chicago, we’re talking at least 20 wins and a return to the NCAA Tournament for first time since 2010.

Maryland will be entering the fourth year of the Mark Turgeon era with 59 wins in 102 games and its longest NCAA Tournament drought since the 1989-93 run of turmoil. Last season was almost unwatchable, as there seemed to be no rhyme nor reason to anything the Terrapins attempted to do with the basketball. And the sorry thing about that is the ACC was so bad that Maryland still managed to finish with a .500 record in conference.

Not all of that falls on Turgeon as the cupboard was pretty much bare when he came to College Park from College Station (by the way, anybody see the great decision-maker Jordan Williams lately?). But one player who was there, a player Turgeon had to urge to re-commit to Maryland after Gary Williams retired in 2011, was guard Nick Faust, who, along with center Shaquille Cleare and guard Roddy Peters, will now transfer from Maryland.

The good news is all three for them, all three the top Terps recruits in their respective classes, requested and received their release to transfer from the program early and all at once, allowing Maryland to add to what was already regarded as a top 10 to 15 recruiting class. And though it would seem, based on their performances as Terps, not one of them will be greatly missed, their exodus, along with the impending departure of assistant coach Scott Spinelli, who is said to be close to taking the same job at Boston College, doesn’t look good. But then neither do all of the fans who flock to Comcast Center dressed as empty seats.

Maryland should finally have a point guard, or at least somebody who is being groomed to be a point guard, in Bishop O’Connell’s Melo Trimble, the Most Valuable and Outstanding Player respectively of the last two Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournaments and the first McDonald’s All-American to commit to Maryland since Mike Jones. That will free up Seth Allen to finally assume his natural role of shooting guard. Incoming freshmen Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens are rated as top shooters, but whether or not they can defend in the Big Ten remains to be seen.

The departure of Cleare, at the time the most prized recruit of Turgeon’s, seemed to have been hastened by the arrival of Trayvon Reed and Michal Cekovsky, two incoming 7-foot freshmen who are expected to play immediately. How they will mesh with Jake Layman and Dez Wells in the frontcourt also remains to be seen.

That’s pretty much been the lay of the land for Maryland basketball since last we saw Greivis Vasquez. Everything remains to be seen because there has been very little to see. There have been no signature wins, no signature moments, no real dominating team character trait. Of course, when you have no point guard or inside presence it’s easy to become bland and seem directionless.

Many of us hope this is not the case because Turgeon puts all he has into leading this program and seems genuinely committed to making Maryland basketball a winner again. But it can be said he, more than anybody, has been sold an unintentional bill of goods. After all, he left a pretty good gig at Texas A&M because he wanted to coach in the ACC, which the circumstances forced him to do on the run for just three seasons.

In truth, the ACC hasn’t been the ACC for some time now. That its football has actually become more interesting to follow than its basketball has been isn’t saying much, but it is telling. And it’s what the ACC and all of the conference-jumping schools wanted to begin with because football pays the bills and builds the coliseums worthy of crumbling yet another empire.

With all due respect and appreciation to the eras of Jim Tatum, Jerry Claiborne and Bobby Ross, if you pry to the core of most Maryland alumni and followers, you will find basketball. And regardless of the conference, it’s time for Maryland basketball to be found again. Pronto.

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at mburke@times-news.com