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January 13, 2014

Terps short on talent?

If nothing else, the beat downs administered by Pittsburgh and Florida State over the last week have served the entire state of Maryland with a reality check. It might just be time for Mark Turgeon and Maryland fans to reevaluate exactly what they have in their 10-7 Terrapins.

While he is not yet at full strength, Seth Allen is back. Evan Smotrycz, in his first year on the court in College Park, has long been acclimated to playing with his teammates. Turgeon has experimented with four different big men. None have emerged. And Jake Layman, the team's best hope for a breakout performance, has averaged eight points and shot 29 percent since Christmas.

Yet the Terps still too often turn the ball over. Their offense remains harmless anytime it's having an off night or facing a suffocating defense. They are too frequently torched by opposing offenses, as they now allow their opponents to connect on a stifling 38.1 percent of their three pointers (308th in the nation) after Florida State drained 16 a night ago.

The sky is not officially falling yet. After all, the Terps are a respectable 2-2 in league play after starting with three of their first four games on the road, two coming against teams in Pitt and FSU that Turgeon figures will finish among the top five in the ACC. But it still might be time to start looking for cover.

Asked to comment on his team's talent on a Monday afternoon conference call, Turgeon replied, "Now that we're healthy, there is enough depth there for us. Now can we win the league where we are? I don't know. I think we can be competitive and win some games. Are we playing the way we want to? No. But we're constantly trying to figure it out."

There was hope they had made strides when they burst out of Christmas break with three impressive wins, but the Panthers and Seminoles have quickly reversed that momentum. The Terps have now lost to all five of the teams they've played in ESPN's RPI Top 50 (as of Monday afternoon) and have been blown out in three of those contests, none of which took place at the Comcast Center. It would appear that the players at Turgeon's disposal aren't good enough.

So what happened?

The coach is in his third year after he inherited a team with only six remaining players on scholarship. They still reside well under the scholarship limit of 13, but that is likely to change when next year's highly touted foursome arrives in College Park. Until then, the Terps seem to be coming up short on talent.

"It's a number of things," Turgeon said. "Numerous players we inherited have left and we could never really get caught up. You don't want to just sign players to sign players. You want to try to sign good players. I think that is more what's happened. We tried to get a player late last year and we couldn't get it done and we were '0'-fer in trying to get the right piece."

"We still feel like we have enough players if guys stay healthy and we perform to our ability. It was more just where the program was. It's hard balancing the classes. It's hard to sign players. It's hard to sign really good players. Next year we have a good chance to be at 13 scholarship players for the first time since I've been here. So it takes time."

Allen healthy but ineffective in Tallahassee

While his head coach has insisted he wasn't near full strength, Sunday night was the first time Allen showed it on the offensive end. The sophomore point guard had only one point against the Noles and missed all eight of his attempts from the field as the Terps shot 33.3 percent in the loss.

The good news is that Allen's hasn't experienced a lot of pain in or after the last two games. He's been practicing every day now, but still seems a little rusty from a physical standpoint. According to Turgeon, the dominating and athletic Florida State defense exposed his lack of conditioning.

"He's not back. He's not in shape," Turgeon said. "That's probably the biggest thing. Last night his foot didn't bother him. He just didn't play well."

Turgeon was disappointed that Allen's foot didn't respond better in practice after the team had six days between games last week. As the level of pain dissipates, Allen can continue to concentrate more on basketball and less on his foot.

"I think it's two or three more weeks until he's completely back to where he needs to be," Turgeon added. "It hurts a little bit after, from talking to him, but it's a step in the right direction. If we can get rid of most of the pain he can practice hard and practice longer and get in shape. It's been frustrating for him."


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