Maryland: ACC Outlook

Alex Len is still adjusting to college basketball, but he could make a big difference for Maryland in ACC play.

Record to date: 10-3

Strength so far: Ball security. Maryland turned it over 26 times against Iona in a blowout loss in Puerto Rico four games into the season. Since, the Terrapins have averaged just 12.5 turnovers in nine games.

Needs improvement: Free-throw shooting. Maryland gets to the foul line a ton (27.6 times a game), but makes just 64.9%, which is just ahead of Carolina for 11th in the league. In three losses, Maryland has shot 38-of-67 (56.7%) from the charity stripe. Though their percentages have improved recently, in narrow escapes over terrible teams like Florida International and Radford, Maryland has shot 42-of-64 (65.6%).

Most important player: Alex Len. In three games, he is averaging 14 points in 24.7 minutes on 78.9% shooting. That is not a misprint. He’s also averaging 8.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. There are reasons for concern – he’s averaging 3.3 turnovers – and the opponents aren’t exactly murderer’s row. But neither is the ACC, and he has looked the part so far. How quickly he can adjust to college basketball will determine how good a season Maryland can have in league play, because he’s a difference-maker.

Reason for optimism: Len/Pe’Shon Howard are back. In the three games with both back (Len was serving an NCAA suspension and Howard was rehabbing a broken foot), Maryland has shot 80-of-162 (49.4%); the Terps had 223-of-521 (42.8%) before that. In four games with Howard back, Maryland has held opponents to 39% shooting compared to 42.9% in the first nine games. Since Len’s return, Maryland has averaged 76 ppg compared to 67.4 ppg before that.

Reason for pessimism: How bad Maryland was before Len and Howard returned. The two players have helped quite a bit, but they can only do so much. That was evidenced by Maryland squeaking out a 70-62 win over Cornell on January 3rd. Even with Len, Maryland allowed Samford and Cornell to shoot a combined 33-of-56 from two-point range (58.9%). And Maryland will still have to get used to their new-look team, which will take more than three non-conference games. It could be bumpy early in the ACC season.

Surprising stat: Terrell Stoglin has averaged 21.2 points this season on 43% shooting (42% from three) despite being Maryland’s only offensive threat for most of the season. It’s gone under the radar, particularly with all the hoopla surrounding the return of Howard and Len, on a national landscape. He’s been excellent.

Most likely wins (3): Wake (1/11), Ga. Tech (1/15), BC (2/16), Wake (2/18),

Most likely losses (7): @NCST (1/8), @FSU (1/17), UNC (2/4), Duke (1/25), @Duke (2/11), @UVA (2/18), @UNC (2/29)

Toss-ups (6): Va. Tech (1/28), @Miami (2/1), @Clemson (2/7), Miami (2/21), @Ga. Tech (2/25), UVA (3/4)

Best-case scenario: 9-7

Worst-case scenario: 5-11 (Don’t see Maryland losing more than two toss-ups even in worst-case scenario.)

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