Unrealistic expectations plague Turgeon’s Terps

The Maryland Terrapins Men’s Basketball team saw their 2018-2019 season come to an end on Saturday when Tremont Waters knocked in a game-winning layup to give the LSU Tigers a 69-67 victory to advance to the Sweet 16.

The Terps got off to a slow start against the Tigers, trailing by nine at halftime. LSU would stretch the lead to 15 early in the second half before Mark Turgeon made an in-game adjustment to switch to zone defense that proved to stifle the Tigers over the last 15 minutes of the game.

It was the type of adjustment that Turgeon haters have been crying for over his tenure in College Park. “Great recruiter, terrible coach” is the consistent cry. This in-game adjustment worked perfectly. Not sure why exactly Turgeon elected to switch back to man-to-man on the final possession, but this move got the Terps back in the game and even took a 64-62 lead with 1:45 remaining.

LSU’s Skylar Mays knocked in two fouls shots before nailing a three to give the Tigers a 67-64 lead with 40 seconds left. A well-executed out-of-timeout play saw Anthony Cowan Jr hit Jalen Smith with a pass for a corner three that would knot the game up at 67 with 28 ticks on the clock.

Waters took center stage at that point as he “traveled” past three defenders for the game-winning layup with less than two seconds left. It was heartbreaking loss for the fan base and for Coach Turgeon:

The Terps finished the year 23-11, including a 13-7 record in Big 10 play. Again, they will not make it to the second weekend of the tournament. Turgeon’s eight-year tenure at Maryland has been under intense scrutiny especially over the last few years as the Terps have only made one Sweet 16 appearance (2015-16).

Let’s take a walk down memory lane to assess Turgeon’s tenure to date and examine whether or not he should be in hot water.

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Gary Williams retired after a great tenure at Maryland, but his last eight years left a lot to be desired. Image Credit: Getty Images

2011-2012

Projected finish: 9th

Actual Finish: 8th

Postseason: DNQ

Gary Williams announced his retirement from coaching on May 5, 2011. In walked Turgeon to take over a club that went 19-14 in Williams’ final season. They had four star recruit Nick Faust coming in to help turn the club around.

They were projected to finish ninth in the ACC and ended up going 6-10 in the conference and 17-15 overall. They did not qualify for postseason play for the second straight season.

They were led by Terrell Stoglin who averaged 21.6 points-per-game on nearly 17 shots-per-game. Stoglin also clashed with Turgeon following a 73-55 loss to Duke in which Stoglin went 4-for-16 from the field and 0-for-6 from three. Stoglin was suspended from school in April of 2012 and declared for the draft.

Faust finished the year averaging 8.9 points and four boards a contest but never really turned into much of a player over his next two seasons.

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Shaquille Cleare’s tenure at Maryland was disappointing. He averaged 3.4 points-per-game over two seasons. Image Credit: Tribune

2012-2013

Projected finish: 6th

Actual Finish: 7th

Postseason: NIT Semifinal

Turgeon’s second-year group went 25-13 on the season, including 8-10 in ACC play. The team was led by transfer guard Dez Wells who averaged just over 13 points, four rebounds, and three assists per contest.

Four star recruits Shaquille Cleare and Jake Layman came on the scene. Cleare would start just eight games his freshmen year, averaging 3.7 points and 2.7 boards. After another disappointing season in 2013-2014 he would transfer to Texas, not living up to the hype there either.

Layman ended up being a find for Turgeon and the Terps. He would grow into a key player the next few seasons. Sophomore center Alex Len flashed his potential this season, averaging 11.9 points and 7.8 boards. He would depart for the NBA.

A disappointing loss in the NIT semifinal to Iowa ended the Terps season.

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Seth Allen looked to be a key piece for Turgeon, but transferred after his breakout season. Image Credit: Press Box

2013-2014

Projected finish: 7th

Actual Finish: T-7th

Postseason: DNQ

This was the third straight season missing out on the NCAA tournament. They would finish 17-15 in their farewell season in the ACC, including a 9-9 record in conference play.

Losing Len would hurt the Terrapins as Damonte Dodd, a four star recruit out of Centreville, would be tasked with replacing the departed big man. Dodd would play just seven minutes a game that season. Him and fellow four star recruit Roddy Peters disappointed throughout their Terrapins careers.

Leading the way for the Terps continued to be Wells and emerging guard Seth Allen. Allen would average 13.4 points-per-game on the season before transferring to Virginia Tech.

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Melo Trimble had a season for the ages in 2014-2015 and may have missed his best chance to go pro. Image Credit: SI

2014-2015

Projected finish: 8th

Actual Finish: 2nd

Postseason: NCAA Round of 32

Allen led an exodus from the program that included Charles Mitchell, Peters, Cleare, and Faust.

Entering the program was five star recruit Melo Trimble who would earn First Team All-Big Ten honors. He was named to the USBWA Freshman All-American team, averaging 16.2 points with four rebounds and three assists per game.

Trimble, with the help of Wells (15.1 points-per-game) and Layman (12.5 points-per-game) would lead the Terps to a 28-7 record and a second-place 14-4 Big Ten finish. The Terps entered the NCAA tournament as a four seed and took down Valparaiso in round one before falling to #5 West Virginia in a game that Wells would only log 13 minutes and commit eight turnovers.

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Despite achieving McDonald’s All-American status, Diamond Stone flopped at Maryland. Image Credit: USA TODAY

2015-2016

Projected finish: 1st

Actual Finish: T-3rd

Postseason: NCAA Sweet 16

With Wells graduating, Maryland got a break as Trimble decided to stay in college despite his rise to stardom.

Joining Trimble and rising senior Layman would be a star-studded cast including number six overall recruit Diamond Stone. The 6’10’ Stone was and still is the most highly-touted player that Turgeon has recruited. Transfer power forward Robert Carter Jr. gained eligibility and the Terps were also able to get grad transfer Rasheed Sulaimon into the fray.

Stone’s tenure at Maryland was uneven at best. The freshmen sensation went for 39 and 12 against Penn State in what proved to be his one shining moment. He would average 12.5 points and 5.4 rebounds a game in his one year at Maryland. He was drafted 40th overall in the draft and has appeared in just seven career NBA games.

Turgeon’s most talented team to-date finished 27-9 and 12-6 in conference play. They took down North Dakota State and Hawaii in the first two rounds of the tournament before falling to number one overall seed Kansas in the Sweet 16.

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Kevin Huerter had a nice two years at Maryland and is off to a great start in his NBA career. Image Credit: Press Box

2016-2017

Projected finish: 5th

Actual Finish: T-2nd

Postseason: NCAA Round of 64

Trimble decided to stick around for his junior season but never really seemed to capture the magic from his freshmen year in either of his last two seasons.

A trio of freshmen joined Trimble in leading the Terps to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances. Cowan, Justin Jackson, and Kevin Huerter would all have nice freshmen seasons, helping the Terps to a 24-9 record and a 12-6 Big Ten record.

They’d fall in the first round of the NCAA’S to Xavier as Trimble shot 1-for–9 from three in the elimination game.

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Justin Jackson’s injury derailed Maryland’s hopes in 2017-2018. Image Credit: Testudo Times

2017-2018

Projected finish: 5th

Actual Finish: 8th

Postseason: DNQ

With Trimble gone, this would be a year to forget for Turgeon and the Terps.

Jackson missed the majority of the season with a torn labrum. Cowan and Huerter both put together nice seasons but the Terps were unable to overcomes the losses of Trimble and Jackson as they finished 19-13 on the year and 8-10 in Big Ten play.

Bruno Fernando led a freshmen class for Maryland that also included Daryl Morsell. Fernando would test the NBA waters but would end up coming back to Maryland for the 2018-2019 campaign.

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Jalen Smith had an up and down freshman year at Maryland. Image Credit: UMTERPS.COM

2018-2019

Projected finish: 7th

Actual Finish: 5th

Postseason: NCAA Round of 32

Departing for the NBA were Jackson and Huerter. Incoming freshman five star recruit Smith headlined a freshmen class that also featured four star guards Aaron Wiggins, Eric Ayala, and Serrel Smith Jr.

The squad finished the year 23-11 and 13-7 in the Big Ten. This season also featured their first road win over a top 25 team under Turgeon when they took down Iowa 66-65 in February.

They battled hard in a round one win over Belmont, despite Cowan shooting 3-for-18 and 1-for-10 for three. The Terps would shoot just 33% from the field in the loss to LSU that ended their season.

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Turgeon has struggled to live up to the expectations of the Maryland faithful in filling the shoes of Gary Williams. Image Credit: UMTEPRS

I find myself often standing up for Turgeon’s tenure at Maryland. Fans have the Williams glory years to compare to Turgeon’s run. The consistent inability to get to the Sweet 16 and even the NCAA tournament itself have fans wanting those days back.

The purpose of this article isn’t to disparage Williams in any way. He is a college basketball legend and 2014 Hall of Fame Inductee. But consider that Williams’ career win percentage at Maryland (.647) and conference win percentage (.552) actually trail Turgeon’s marks at Maryland of .662 and .569 respectively.

Let’s take it a step further. In Williams last eight seasons at the helm, he was 166-99 (.626) overall and 67-61 (.523) in conference play.

From 1993-2002, Williams guided the Terps to seven Sweet 16 berths including back-to-back Final Fours in 2000 and 2001, culminating with the 2001 National Championship. But over his last eight seasons, Williams’ Terps made four NCAA tournament appearances and didn’t reach the Sweet 16.

The problem for Turgeon is that he doesn’t have the history and past success that Williams had to lean on when things got difficult in those final eight years.

Turgeon’s issues are that he struggles to turn what appear to be solid recruiting classes into on-court results. There could be some truth to this. Should the 2015-2016 team have achieved more? Maybe. Stone had essentially been a flop all season and has never made it at the next level. Many of Turgeon’s top recruits don’t seem to live up to the hype either at the NCAA level or beyond.

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Jake Layman has turned in a decent NBA career to this point and some thanks should go to Mark Turgeon. Image Credit: USA TODAY

Maybe that’s entirely his fault but I know that if NBA level talent lives within a player, someone is more often than not able to get it from him. That never happened with Stone or Trimble who were by far his best recruits. Turgeon’s best players at the next level have been Layman and Huerter, lesser-touted recruits that appeared to get significantly better in their tenure at Maryland. Shouldn’t Turgeon get SOME credit for turning Layman and Huerter into every day NBA players?

I have spent a lot of time the past few weeks thinking about what my expectations of Maryland Basketball should be. They should be a tournament team every year. Further than that, I am not sure much more should be expected.

This isn’t your father’s Maryland Terrapins basketball program. It hasn’t been a perennial tournament contender since 2003. In the last 16 years they’re a 50/50 program to make the tournament and have been to one Sweet 16.

Maybe the Terps need to raise their standards and get back to the glory years of Maryland Basketball. Maybe Turgeon isn’t the guy to do that. But NCAA tournament appearances in four of the last five seasons doesn’t feel like a fireable offense to me.

We’re not in the 90’s era of Terps basketball anymore. Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate our expectations.

Image Credit: USA Today

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