The Washington Times / D1scourse's Patrick Stevens is a long time friend of the blog. He's also very, very good at what he does. Stevens covers the Maryland Terrapins and D.C. area college sports with a tenacity matched by few mortals (I mean, the guy has watched 68 different college hoops teams in person this season).
You can read Stevens' excellent insights and analysis over at The Times' D1scourse blog and also follow him on Twitter @D1scourse. Below, we asked Patrick some questions on the Terps to preview tonight's Eagles game down in College Park. Our questions and his answers below.
BC Interruption: Through 10 ACC games, Maryland has had a pretty disappointing season. But taking a closer look at the schedule, the Terps haven't exactly played a bunch of slouches in conference play by any stretch of the imagination. Four of six losses have come against Duke (x2), Carolina and Florida State, with two upcoming games against Virginia and another against UNC. Would you say it isn't fair to judge Maryland's ACC performance on record alone given the very difficult schedule?
Patrick Stevens: Based on the available personnel, I'd say Maryland is pretty much exactly where it should be. Yes, its schedule (the only team in the league to draw both Duke and North Carolina twice, plus two meetings with both Miami and Virginia) is a factor in fairly grading the Terps. But so is the fact Maryland played all season with between seven and nine recruited scholarship players.
In conference, Maryland played Florida State tough for a half. It lost by five at N.C. State. It pestered Duke and North Carolina. It took Miami to double overtime on the road. Realistically, this is probably about the record most rational folks figured Maryland would have at this stage, both overall and in the conference.
BCI: Sophomore Terrell Stoglin is averaging a ridiculous 21.6 points per game, up more than 10 PPG higher than his freshman campaign. Break down Stoglin's game. How is he been able to be so successful this season? What's the difference from last year to this?
PS: Some of it is a function of being by far the Terps' most credible scorer. Maryland lost big man Jordan Williams to the NBA after last season, and no one has emerged as a consistent scoring option. Absent that, Stoglin at times plays as if he must carry his entire team (which at times is true). Hence the volume shooting and scoring, which wasn't present much until late in the season.
Two things going in Stoglin's favor: He is both a fearless and especially creative shooter. He is plenty willing to absorb contact to make it to the foul line, and he's shown an ability to squeeze through small spaces and get a good look at the basket. Most games Stoglin will make two or three "what-the-heck-was-that?" shots -- to the point it is almost routine now.
BCI: Assess Mark Turgeon's performance to date in year one. How has he been received by Terps fans?
PS: Turgeon received an endorsement almost immediately from former coach Gary Williams, which certainly beats the alternative. He's also a remarkably candid and unpretentious fellow, blunt in his assessments while making certain to mix praise into his honest assessments of players (and other things) in his public comments. Considering the Terps haven't suffered a truly catastrophic loss (though some less basketball-savvy folks might not understand a setback to Iona), complaints have been minimal.
Of course, the bar wasn't particularly high this year. Maryland was picked ninth in the ACC and it played nearly a third of the season with seven scholarship players. Assuming there were no legal run-ins and the team played hard, Turgeon was going to be fine. Heck, there was a legal run-in (assistant Dalonte Hill was charged with DUI last month) and it didn't seem to matter.
Ultimately, Turgeon's done a fine job given the personnel limitations. He'll be judged going forward by how well he restocks Maryland's roster and how quickly the Terps can return to the NCAA tournament.
BCI: The WSJ recently took a look at the ACC's declining basketball attendance, citing the fact that Maryland's home attendance is down 24 percent over six seasons. A convenient excuse is conference expansion, but there's got to be more to it than that, right? (Say yes)
PS: Yes, there's more to it than conference expansion. Games that looked like they were well short of sellouts in the past were listed as such for many years in College Park. The numbers the last couple years have more consistently matched what has been seen in the arena on game day. Interpret that how you will.
There's the issue of competitiveness. Maryland hasn't fallen deep into the second division at any stage, but here are the Terps' ACC tournament seeds since 2005: 8, 6, 5, 6, 7, 2, 7. That's not bad, but it isn't quite the back-to-back Final Fours that preceded the opening of Comcast Center back in 2002.
Does expansion play a role? Maybe a little. No one in the fanbases of the more recent additions wants to hear people pining for the good old days, but the truth is the loss of the double roundrobin (regardless of who participated) hurt the league's basketball identity. Did it impact Maryland's attendance, though? If so, probably not as much as other things.
BCI: When Syracuse and Pitt join the fold, Maryland's primary hoops partner will be ... Pitt? Huh? Maryland got the short end of the stick here, yes? If you are Commissioner John Swofford, how would you have set up the annual hoops sched.
PS: Maybe a bit. But if the ACC was going to go with one primary partner, the Terps were going to be squeezed by the perennial problem of not being anyone's obvious rival. Duke has North Carolina, Virginia has Virginia Tech. Of course, the Baltimore-D.C. area has spirited rivalries in football (Ravens-Steelers) and hockey (Capitals-Penguins), so maybe this will fit in with that dynamic.
There's no good way to do a basketball schedule for a 14-team confederation. But I like one plan put forth by the Raleigh News & Observer's Joe Giglio: ACC Old (Original 7 schools still left) and ACC New (BC, Cuse, Pitt, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami) in separate divisions. Now, there's no chance that will ever happen, but it would be sort of fun for the traditionalists.
As it stands, the recently unveiled format is probably the best way to make the numbers work. If there was some way to preserve a few other rivalries regularly (like UNC-N.C. State), it would be ideal. But when you get too unwieldy in terms of total schools, some less-than-ideal things are bound to happen.
BCI: Last question. Prediction time. Who ya got? What's the final score?
PS: Maryland has done enough to slip past the teams in the bottom half of the ACC. Boston College has mostly done just enough to lose low-scoring games. So the pick is the Terps 56-52 in game very similar to many the Eagles have played of late.
BCI: Thanks for joining us Patrick.