Gavitt Games bring first test for Maryland; Butler visits College Park
After performing well in wins over Stony Brook and Maryland-Eastern Shore, Maryland faces a true test Wednesday night with Butler visiting the Xfinity Center as part of the Gavitt Games. The “Butler Way” has been quite successful over the years, beginning with current athletic director Barry Collier and continuing on thanks to the work of coaches such as Todd Lickliter, Brad Stevens and most recently Chris Holtmann. But with Holtmann taking the Ohio State job in June, the head coaching job at Butler is now the responsibility of a man who had a role in the program’s growth as a player.
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LaVall Jordan has taken over at his alma mater, a name Maryland fans are likely most familiar with due to his time on John Beilein’s staff at Michigan. This is Jordan’s second head coaching job in as many years, as he spent one season at Milwaukee before getting the call to return to Butler. Butler certainly has some holes to fill within its rotation, with three of its top five scorers from last year’s Sweet 16 team having moved on led by forward Andrew Chrabascz. But there’s some good talent on that roster as well, led by returnees Kelan Martin and Kamar Baldwin and freshman point guard Aaron Thompson.
Martin, a 6-foot-7 senior, is one of the best front court players in the Big East and he’s performed well in Butler’s first two games. Averaging 20.0 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game, Martin has the ability to score both inside and out. Martin attempted 15 three-pointers in Butler’s first two games, and his willingness to play on the perimeter as either a shooter or dribble penetrator will make for an interesting matchup for Maryland given the fact that Butler uses him as a three. It’s tough to envision Maryland going “big” to account for Martin’s presence as a power wing of sorts, but how they account for his presence will go a long way in determining the outcome.
As for the aforementioned Kamar Baldwin, he was one of the best newcomers in the Big East last season. A bit overlooked at the start, Baldwin emerged as a consistent option within the Butler rotation. Baldwin started 23 games, averaging 10.1 points and 3.7 rebounds per game as a freshman. In Butler’s first two games this season he only played 22.5 minutes per contest, due in part to foul trouble, but is averaging 11.0 points per game. For the most part he shot the ball well in wins over Kennesaw State and Princeton, but he’s got the ability to be a more influential figure than he was in either of those games.
Thompson, who some in the area are likely familiar with due to his attending Paul VI Catholic and playing for Team Takeover, has been one-half of Butler’s two-player attack at point guard. Coming off the bench, Thompson followed up a seven-point, five-assist, three-rebound performance against Kennesaw State with 15 points, four rebounds and two assists in the win over Princeton. He’s been good at attacking defenses off the dribble, and with no three-point attempts in either of those games one would imagine that Maryland will sag off of him some to take away that aspect of his game.
Starting at the point has been George Washington transfer Paul Jorgensen, who averaged 10.5 points and 3.0 assists in those two wins. In addition to those numbers, the man given the nickname “Prince Harry of Harlem” back in his high school days has yet to commit a turnover. He remains poised and does not get rushed, which should make for an interesting matchup with Anthony Cowan. Jorgensen and Thompson can play together on the court given their ability to set up teammates with there also being differences in their games as Jorgensen is the better perimeter shooter at this time.
The starters who have yet to be mentioned are forward Tyler Wideman and center Sean McDermott, with the former second on the team in scoring with an average of 12 per game in Butler’s two wins. Wideman’s an efficient interior scorer who will do the majority of his work in ball screen situations (as the screener) and with his back to the basket when called upon. He isn’t a pick and pop forward who’s going to shoot three-pointers; he did not attempt one against either Kennesaw State or Princeton and has taken a total of three in his Butler career. But he can be an effective supplementary option offensively, and Wideman should be more productive on the glass (3.0 rpg) than he has been given his numbers as a sophomore (5.7) and junior (5.0).
McDermott and Nate Fowler split time in the middle in Butler’s two games, with guard Henry Baddley seeing time on the perimeter to add depth there. Butler essentially works with a seven-man rotation, with the presence of multiple players being able to make plays from various spots (Martin, Baldwin, Thompson and Jorgensen) making this team a little deeper than one would assume based on how many guys are seeing credible minutes.
Butler struggled with its perimeter shooting in the first two games, doing a better job of working the ball inside not turning it over. Making the Bulldogs a perimeter-oriented team will be key for Maryland, and if they can do that the Terrapins would have to like their odds of remaining undefeated.
Quick Thoughts On Maryland’s 2-0 Start
Not sure how much of an impression the wins over Stony Brook and UMES will make from a resume standpoint, although it should be noted that Stony Brook gave UConn a good run before Jalen Adams took over late for the Huskies Tuesday night. That being said, Maryland taking care of business against two teams it should – is a positive. Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter both shot the ball well in those wins, making 60 percent of their looks, and while Justin Jackson didn’t shoot as well he managed to contribute in other areas (rebounding, some facilitating). Below are three quick thoughts on how those games went and what can be applied moving forward.
1. Cowan’s ability to get to the foul line will be big for Maryland if it continues.
The sophomore point guard attempted 14 free throws in the two wins, making 13, and was one of two Terps to reach double figures in free throw attempts (Michal Cekovsky, 10). As a freshman Cowan did a good job of this, with his free throw rate of 70.0 ranking 20th nationally according to Ken Pomeroy’s numbers. With Melo Trimble gone it goes without saying that Cowan has even more freedom to make plays, and if he can continue to take advantage of his quickness off the dribble that will result in opportunities to score from the foul line as well as open things up for his teammates.
2. Bruno Fernando is just what the front court rotation needs.
The expectations for Fernando as a freshman were high, and he showed some glimpses of his potential in the win over Stony Brook. Fernando was active offensively, scoring ten points in 13 minutes of action to give Maryland additional front court scoring on a night that saw both Jackson (11 points) and Cekovsky (ten) score in double figures. No surprise that Fernando was moved into the starting lineup the following game (in which he blocked two shots while also scoring six points), replacing Ivan Bender.
Fernando does have some strides to make when it comes to rebounding and playing alongside Cekovsky, which was an issue early on against UMES. But it’s important to consider that the game was played on a quick turnaround, so having additional time to break things down should help the freshman.The potential for him to be a key figure is certainly there, and getting consistent production from Fernando would be big moving forward.
3. It’s good to see Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens get off to good starts.
Wiley and Nickens, lauded for their abilities as perimeter shooters when being recruited, have struggled to establish much in the way of consistency in that area during their time at Maryland with Wiley also having to deal with injuries. With that being the case it was good to see both knock down perimeter shots at a good clip, with Wiley going 4-for-9 from three in the two wins and Nickens making all four of his attempts. If they can build on this start that would go a long way in not only ensuring that Maryland returns to the NCAA tournament but possibly factors into the Big Ten race instead of simply floating above the middle of the conference pack.