Maryland hosted its men’s basketball media day on Tuesday, which included a viewing of a two and a half-hour practice. Admittedly, there is not a great amount you can learn from watching one practice. The team did a lot of individual drills on top of working on their half-court offense and defensive concepts. However, some players have made clear improvements, while some issues remain unsolved.
Starting lineup is yet to be determined
The players were broken up into a red and a black team during practice. The red team consisted of what I assume are the top seven players in the rotation: Anthony Cowan, Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins, Darryl Morsell, Jalen Smith, Ricky Lindo Jr., and Makhi Mitchell. However, the five that will start the game are still up in the air. Cowan and Smith can be penciled in at the point guard and center spots. Ayala and Morsell started on the wings last year, but Wiggins has looked impressive thus far and will be hard to keep out of the lineup. They could play Morsell at the four in a smaller lineup, but that unit would lack size. CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein predicted that Lindo would slide into the four spot while Morsell comes off the bench. And at the start of the scrimmage Tuesday, it was Ayala who did not start while Morsell and Lindo were in.
Coach Mark Turgeon will certainly have some different lineups to play with. It may take a few games until the lineup is cemented like last season, or it may change on a game by game basis.
Turnovers are still worth monitoring
One of Maryland’s biggest problems last season was turnovers. They were third in the conference with 12.9 per game. Their nearly 1:1 assist to turnover ratio is not a recipe for winning teams. In practice, the Terps focused on this by doing a “monkey in the middle” type of drill where a player would pass around a defender to a teammate, then close out to them and be the defender themselves.
However, in the scrimmage and live-action drills, the Terps still made careless turnovers. Whether it was forcing a pass into a lane that wasn’t there or just miscommunication by two players, bad habits still exist. Obviously judging off of one practice is a small sample size, but turnovers could negatively impact this team’s ceiling.
The depth is real
There has been talk this offseason about how this year’s team is Turgeon’s deepest squad yet and after watching them practice, that just might be the case. Seven of the eight rotation players from last season return with a recruiting class featuring multiple three and four-star players.
When the red and black team faced off in a scrimmage at the end of practice, the physicality was evident. The addition of Makhi Mitchell, Makhell Mitchell and Donta Scott inside all added extra bodies to defend Jalen Smith. The black team had a nice showing from freshman Hakim Hart who scored four of the team’s 13 points.
“I think two or three guys have separated themselves as great players and I think three through eleven are kinda all the same but all really good players,” said Turgeon.
Last year the Terps would play anywhere from seven to nine players, but most of the starters’ minutes extended well into the 30-plus range. With the added depth, Turgeon may be able to find more time to rest for the core.
“It’s a long season, a lot on their plate,” Turgeon said. “Hopefully our depth will allow us to stay fresh and be a better team come March.”
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