Basketball Q&A with Testudo Times: Hokies Meet Maryland Saturday.

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Kirshner of Testudo Times was gracious enough to join me for a rapid-fire Q&A in preparation for this Saturday's game between Virginia Tech and Maryland in Blacksburg.

Two teams trying to find themselves at the midpoint of the ACC season. The difference between Maryland and the Hokies is that Maryland will still likely find itself in the post-season despite its relative struggles. The Hokies have lost seven straight ACC games, and there is still a possibility the team could set the all time school loss record with 20.

Maryland enters the game 12-9 with a 4-4 record in the ACC. And many fear that what we see is what we get from Maryland, and that there isn't a higher ceiling. Losing Alex Len perhaps a year too early to the NBA draft was a significant blow, and then losing projected starting PG Seth Allen to injury has proved costly in early season home stumbles in what would have been winnable contests.

While the Hokies have lost seven ACC games in a row after winning their ACC opener in Miami, Maryland has staggered to a .500 record beating BC, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, and Miami....not a murderer's row, but winning those games they usually expect to win. They have lost to Florida State (badly), Pitt twice, and North Carolina State. Three of the four losses for Maryland are against top five teams in the league, and their schedule down the stretch is manageable enough to ensure they stay comfortably in NIT range. Honestly though to me, if Maryland finished .500 in the ACC this year with THIS group, I'd be hard-pressed to defend the overall quality of the ACC to any outsider.

Now I will  introduce Alex Kirshner of SB Nation's Testudo Times. Alex this is a bit bittersweet considering Maryland is moving out of the ACC and we likely won't have cause to do another one of these until we're both Final-Four bound in two years. So until then this will have to do. Thanks for joining us. Let's begin.

GC: MD has a 12-9 record, with shaky home losses to Oregon State, George Washington, and Boston University, on their resume. How do people who watch the Maryland program closely feel about the progress (or lack thereof) that Coach Mark Turgeon is making?

TT: The lack of progress hasn't been encouraging. Turgeon has recruited an excellent class for next season, but the on-court results have been mediocre, and there's been virtually no betterment from the team that missed the NCAA Tournament a season ago.

GC: How much did losing out on  the Harrison twins (who instead play for Kentucky) hurt Maryland's prospects this season? And while it sometimes pays off to go after big out of state targets, particularly in TX where Turgeon has inroads, would he have been better served staying in state, and attempting to repair the damaged AAU relationships Gary Williams left in his wake?

TT: It's probably hurt them a lot. Seth Allen's a nice, talented player, but he's not a true point guard and has been injured, and Roddy Peters is too raw to play heavy minutes in the ACC. In that sense, the Harrisons' polish would have been especially useful. It's easy to say in hindsight that Turgeon should have tried other avenues, but I wouldn't begrudge the man for making an upside play with the possibility of snagging a couple of game-changers like the twins.

GC: Nick Faust. Finally fInding some sanity as a bench player. Is he going to be looked at more fondly or less fondly than DJ Strawberry when he is done? I'm actually not convinced DJ didn't just undergo some cosmetic repairs just to get four more years.

Faust sometimes plays out of control, but his athleticism and experience are valuable. I'm OK with his play this season, though he needs to slow himself down from time to time.

GC: Shaq Cleare. Will he ever be more than a guy who aspires to be skinnier than Mike Sweetney (forrmer Georgetown standout who ate himself out of the NBA)

Cleare hasn't developed at all this season, and he's shown virtually zero offensive availability in the year and a half he's played for Maryland. He played four minutes the other night against Miami, and it was tough to notice that he was even on the floor. Cleare's stock has never been lower. He's a so-so defender who averages fewer than four points per game and shoots sub-60 percent from the stripe. There's nothing to see here.

Editor's Note: Don't hold anything back, Alex.

GC: Maryland is not a good passing team and they are not a good defending team per the numbers on SCACCHoops.com, has the return of Seth Allen been a difference-maker? Or will it be more of the same down the stretch?

TT: That's about right. Maryland moved the ball better against Miami than they have in a while, but this isn't a very good sharing team.

GC: Jake Layman. Rich man or poor man's Nik Caner Medley (who i believe made a Euroleague all-star team last year)?

TT: We'll see. Layman has more upside than anyone on the team, and he's been devastatingly good at times this season. He does tend to fade for stretches, but Layman's dangerous. Since he's likely to be drafted at some point, I guess I'll say "rich man."

Editor's Note: Wrong, nobody in that mold can be Caner-Medley's equal. Sorry for the trickery.

GC: What will be the key performance indicators in a MD win at VT this Saturday?

TT: The Terps need to avoid turning the ball over 15-20 times and focus on shot-making. These are simple things, but they've meant a lot to the Terps on the nights when they've played well.

GC: What might the reasons be if they were to lose to the 8-12 Hokies?

TT: Alas, that would mean turning the ball over and not making shots. Also, it might have something to do with the lack of any consistent post presence on either end of the floor.

GC: Do you think Dez Wells can gun enough to break Greivis Vazquez record for points (41) by an ACC opponent in Cassell Coliseum? He certainly dominates the MD offensive usage rate stat, funneling 25% of possessions into madcap drives and off balance jumpers.

TT: Dez Wells is a tremendous basketball player who could go off for 40 sometime, but I wouldn't put that on him (or any other college kid, for that matter). I expect he'll have a decent night.

GC:  How does it feel knowing that MD broke up the ACC's blissful marriage? Couldn't even stick it out for the sake of the kids? Is the advance money all spent? I know competitive cheer needed new megaphones.

TT: The ACC's been pretty good to Maryland over the years, and I think Maryland's been pretty good to the ACC, too. It's a shame the school and conference are slogging through such an ugly divorce, but I think the history books will record the ACC-Maryland relationship as a reasonably successful partnership. A lot of fans will miss the conference in a lot of ways, but I think most are excited for a run in the Big Ten.

Editor's Note: And I only baited him because I am going to miss having Maryland in the ACC. Being from Northern Virginia I grew up watching more Maryland than VT, in the 1980s. Maryland from my "northern" vantage point IS THE ACC. It's a shame that a successful, title winning athletic department like theirs can't maintain fiscal solvency while offering the multitude of sports they offer their student-athletes. Ultimately, that's what this move is about, money to continue their way of life in College Park. I do applaud them for that.

And I'll take this opportunity to say that I wouldn't wish their first two seasons' Big _____ football schedules on anyone. In a bold stab at prescience, I am going to say Randy Edsall doesn't survive beyond the first two seasons in the Big ______.

That's my inflation adjusted two cents. Farewell Terrapins.

Mi Cassell es su Cassell

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