Who will start for Maryland Saturday when the Terrapins host Wake Forest?
Count on Dez Wells being on the floor. Alex Len is a good bet as well. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess who coach Mark Turgeon will employ.
In his elusive search to develop a successful formula, Turgeon has used seven different starting lineups in eight ACC games. The merry-go-round continues on Saturday.
“I would like to have the same starting lineup,” Turgeon said. “I like to have guys knowing when they’re going to play and when they’re not going to play. If you look at me historically, I’ve done that. This has just been a very strange year for that.”
With five losses in the last seven games, the search appears more desperate. Wells and Len have been the lone constants in the starting lineup. Over the last seven games, three different players have started at point guard. The only time Maryland has stuck with the same starting group for consecutive games was after a win over North Carolina State. The next outing, at North Carolina, the Terps struggled through their worst first half this year.
By now, the mathematical possibilities are starting to dwindle for unique lineup combinations.
“The hardest thing for me with personnel decisions is I never know what I’m going to get,” Turgeon said. “The hardest thing that I have to do during the game is figure out who’s playing well. You gotta guess right sometimes with this group.”
There’s little doubt regarding the depth of Maryland (15-6, 3-5), which has rotated 10 players throughout the season. While none has played his way out of the rotation, few have demonstrated that they should be starting.
The search continues on Saturday.
“I’ve tried to shorten the bench,” Turgeon said. “I’ll say, okay this team, this guy, I’m not gonna play this guy. Then the other guy’s stinking it up, and you’ll put him in, and he plays well.”
Senior guard Logan Aronhalt said it is incumbent on the players to perform when it is their turn.
“Coaches, sometimes they have a quick trigger with lineups and playing guys. You just have to be ready,” Aronhalt said. “You never know when your name is going to be called. You might play 30 minutes one night and 10 the next. You might score 20-25 points one night, maybe none at all the next. Roles are gonna change nightly. It really depends on who we play, whose playing well that week, injuries. Guys just have to be ready.”
Against Wake Forest (10-10, 3-5), Maryland will look to get two of its most-talented but struggling players on track. In his last two games, the 7-1 sophomore Len has taken a combined 12 shots, scoring just 12 points. The lull for freshman Seth Allen has been more pronounced. Since earning his first ACC start at Miami six games ago, Allen has hit 10 of 40 shots, including 2 of 19 from beyond the arc, with a combined five assists and five turnovers.
“Most young kids let their offense affect the rest of their game,” Turgeon said. “He let his offense affect his defense and his running the team and all that stuff the other night. You see it with young kids.”
Allen’s drop-off came after his best stretch of his rookie season, averaging 14.3 points over four games. He was benched for the first half at Duke after failing to arrive on time for a meeting. Earlier this week, Turgeon didn’t sound concerned when he explained that the punishment was levied because of an accumulation of minor offenses.
“He was making some shots early in the year. Now he’s not making them. That’s alright,” Turgeon said. “He just needs to keep playing — defending, running the team, getting out on the break. He needs to get some easy ones, take good shots. He’s just letting his offense affect his whole demeanor.”
Notes: Wake is led by 6-7 F Travis McKie (15.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg) and 6-2 G C.J. Harris (14.8 ppg). Devin Thomas (7.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg), the younger brother of Maryland women’s All-America Alyssa Thomas, has emerged lately. On Jan. 22, the 6-9, 240-pound freshman had his best game, scoring 25 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in an 86-84 upset of No. 18 North Carolina State … Turgeon said that junior G Pe’Shon Howard, who missed the trip to Florida State with the flu, would be ready on Saturday.