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Friends with Bennies: Maryland

Alex Kirshner from the Testudo Times was kind enough to answer a few questions about the Terrapins going into the season opener

1) UConn's biggest weakness this year figures to be the rebounding department. Do the Terps have enough inside to gain extra possessions and make them pay?

Yes. The Terrapins were an excellent rebounding team last year, and even without departed big men Alex Len and James Padgett, they figure to do well in that area again. Charles Mitchell, a sophomore forward, is the team's best rebounder even though he's not that big. Their two other bigs who figure to get a lot of minutes, sophomore Shaquille Cleare and junior Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz, figure to be pretty good as well. But mainly, Mitchell and the Terps' cavalry of big, athletic swingmen (Jake Layman, Dez Wells and Nick Faust) should give us an advantage on the glass in almost every game they play.

2) Conversely, do they have the backcourt ammunition to keep up in a fast-paced shoot-out with two of the best guards in the country in Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright?

That's to be determined. Wells is one of the best players in the ACC and Layman is everybody's breakout pick for 2013, but point guard Seth Allen's injury leaves the Terps short at that position. Freshman Roddy Peters has gobs of upside but will take some time to reach it, so Wells will start out of position at the 1, next to Faust and Layman at some combination of the 2 and 3 spots. All are good players, but there are some moving parts, and they're as much swingmen as pure guards. I do think they can keep up with Napier and Boatright, but whether they will or not is anyone's guess. Whoever guards each will have a size advantage; keeping up with their speed will be the challenge.

3) Mark Turgeon was replacing a Maryland legend. What do people think of him so far? How is he measuring up compared to his predecessor on the recruiting front?

Turgeon's recruited well and made on-court progress, though not as quickly as everyone would have liked. He's 0-for-2 in NCAA Tournament berths, which isn't good, but the team did get better last year. He's recruited an elite class for next season, ranked fifth in the country by ESPN, to supplement a solid group of current sophomores. Turgeon's a smart guy with a sensible plan, and I think most in College Park see him that way.

4) Sorry about the injury to Seth Allen (and Stephon Diggs, seriously why can't anyone in a Maryland jersey stay healthy, can Under Armor fix this?) how well equipped are you at point guard behind him?

This could go either way. Wells isn't a point guard, but he's good enough that he can probably fill the hole for a while. Peters is a freshman, but he's talented enough that he'll at least have a development opportunity. Reserve guard Varun Ram got some run in an exhibition win against Catholic last weekend, but I wouldn't think Turgeon is inclined to use him much against UConn. The Terps have talent behind Allen at point guard, even if they don't have certainty. Perversely, the benefit of his injury is that it lets the Terps reasonably put Wells, Faust and Layman in the starting lineup at the same time.

5) Prediction?

UConn 68, Maryland 64. It'll be tight to the end, and the Terps should have a solid chance. But Connecticut's shown a penchant for game-closing that these relatively young Terps haven't, and I expect it'll be more or less a home game for them, given the geography.