The Maryland Terrapins And The Gluten-Free Jelly Donut

Maryland Terps fall to North CarolinsIn the Maryland vs “           “ review, I mentioned the concept of John Wooden’s compliment sandwich. The sandwich was popularized by Wooden as a way to criticize a player while improbably boosting his confidence. By bookending compliments around an area of concern, Wooden was able to cajole the overblown, occasionally drug addled (looking at you Bill Walton), and most importantly fragile egos of college athletes.

What probably made that easier was UCLA teams at that time were stocked full of ludicrously talented players. Wooden lost about as often as he swore (and he never swore).

Well, at the conclusion of the UNC game on Saturday, I got to thinking about what the inverse of a compliment sandwich would be. Two awful things on the outside with something delicious jammed in the center. At first I pictured something out of Fear Factor, complete with Joe Rogan cackling about someone having to fish the croque monsieur from in between two dead tarantulas. But Wooden wouldn’t appreciate Fear Factor, so I moved on to a more realistic option: the gluten-free jelly donut. That jelly is still there, just waiting in the center of the donut to explode into your mouth and bring purpose to your life. But first you have to get through the soul crushing outside where dreams of delicious dough go to die. Let’s move on to the gluten-free jelly donut recap.

1. I’m getting impatient with Turgeon’s impatience

I don’t wear my Turgeon affiliation on my sleeve, so I’ll finally put it out in public: I’m a Turgeon supporter. I think he’s a great recruiter, I like that he preaches defense and rebounding, and even with plenty of imperfections this team plays hard for him.

Having said that, his handling of the bench is beginning to grind my gears. I understand that he uses the bench as a motivating factor to get the most out of his players, but that method is clearly not working for this team. The Terps again came out of the gates sloppy and flat in Chapel Hill, and went down 9-2 early. Less than 4 minutes into the game, Turgeon subbed en masse by removing his complete starting five, and what happened? The deficit increased to 14-3.

The rest of the game, there was no mistaking that the kids on Maryland were playing scared. Jake Layman could barely catch the ball, Dez Wells propped up the offense for a five minute stretch, committed ONE stupid foul, and immediately slunk his head and began walking to the bench.

This team is already having enough trouble finding their identity and playing with any confidence on the road. This zero tolerance benching policy could be prudent for a more experienced team, but it’s frankly scaring the shit out of the Terps. Just once I’d like to see the coach call a timeout and say “listen, we’re in the weeds here, but I’m confident that you guys can get out. I’m not going to pull you, so just relax and play the game.”

2. Dez is the jelly

I’ve waited long enough for Alex Len, and in the mean time Dez has been the only bright spot in the two recent blackouts. Wells is getting more shots, he’s converting at a nearly identical percentage (which as a guard is incredible), and if you watch there’s no question who the leader of this team is.

There are flaws (his three shooting is abysmal, but judging by his percentage last year, it has to get better), but time and again when Maryland was on the brink of embarrassment, Dez took control and carved up the Tar Heel defense. They simply didn’t have an answer for his drives, and neither did Miami. He is the one offensive constant on the team right now, and although Len has the better long-term future, big time situations should run through Wells’ more steady and productive hands.

There have been other signs of optimism: Faust finding his comfort zone at the point, Mitchell returning to his early season beastliness, and Seth Allen’s increased confidence. But there are still obvious ugly patches in those guys’ games. Wells is the only one right now who seems to be completely confident on the floor at all times, and right now he’s just waiting for someone else to reach that state.

3. The point is, Faust is the point

I’m jumping on board early with this, and it’s not entirely because I love the idea of Faust running the offense. It’s because I’ve lost confidence in Pe’Shon running it. Earlier this year, I said the best part about Pe’Shon was that he was even keel, that he didn’t inspire major emotions positive or negative. Well a 0 point 0 assist 7 turnover game can have a way of changing that opinion.

Opposing point guards – and more importantly their coaches – are now figuring out what I’ve seen all season. Pe’Shon just doesn’t have the first step that he used to. That’s a shame for him, but it’s a reality. I thoroughly enjoy referencing the animal kingdom again, but have you ever seen any nature show that involved an alpha male? The alpha rarely gets tested except when it’s aging or hurt, and once it gets toppled it’s all over. Younger guys are starting to get confident testing Pe’Shon, manning him up tight and forcing him to get by them because they know he can’t. When you lose that first step as a point guard, word gets out and the vultures start circling.

As a senior leader, Pe’Shon’s biggest asset should be the ability to keep the team calm and collected in a hostile environment. In Maryland’s two ACC road games, his combined +/- is -23. A change needs to be made. Allen can’t do it because he has no prior experience running an offense. Faust has just a little from last year, but he’s dangerous enough off the dribble that he can create opportunities. Plus, he brings the ability to blanket an opposing one or two guard. Faust has started at point the last two games, and that change needs to hold up.

Patrick Guthrie is a University of Maryland alumnus and co-host of the BSR Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter: @patguth321.