Len, Allen power Terps past LIU

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Len, Allen power Terps past LIU

One of the most important jobs any Division One coaching staff has is in putting its schedule together. The process is a lot more art than science and entails projecting what kind of team you expect to have in a distant two or three years.

My guess is that Mark Turgeon could never have imagined the dramatic improvement in his program over the course of a single year when he and his staff put this year’s schedule together. If they had, then we might actually be seeing a different approach to the one we will see over the next six weeks. While there is certainly a fair share of challenges, what the current schedule will allow the Maryland coach to do is to continue to integrate and assimilate all of the new parts in his program.

It won’t always be pretty.

Tonight Maryland’s depth and size eventually pummeled the Long Island University Blackbirds into submission before a crowd of 13,000 at Comcast Center. The deceptive final score of 91-74 probably doesn’t reflect the efforts of a Blackbird team that found itself down by only seven points late in the second half. Even with that, one of the enduring lessons that come out of games like this is that there are an awful lot of teams on the Terps schedule this year that are going to have similar struggles with that same size and depth.

For the most part, the results from tonight’s game were positive. Sophomore center Alex Len continues to look like a different man than the guy we saw last year and finished with 18 points and 7 rebounds. Better than that is how active he is on the defensive end. He blocks plenty of shots and influences twice as many as he blocks.

Sophomore Dez Wells played his best game of the season by far and pitched in 15 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks while playing three different positions in 33 minutes. After the game, Wells made an interesting admission about his performance in the season opener against Kentucky. When he was asked about his struggles in that game he said, “I was caught up in something I didn’t understand and something I couldn’t control. After I was declared eligible I didn’t have the chance to think about it and pray on it and it cost me in that first game.”

He went on to say that it was a conversation he had with Turgeon the afternoon of the game that changed his approach. Turgeon simply reminded him that he had plenty of good players around him and there was no need for him to feel like he had to be The Man at every turn.

Maryland’s one-two punch at point guard – junior Pe’Shon Howard and freshman Seth Allen- both excelled in different ways. Howard was almost flawless running the point and had 13 assists and committed just one turnover. Consider the second half he cobbled together: he hit is only three point attempt, made each of his two free throw attempts and had 9 assists and no turnovers. You simply cannot play the position a whole lot better than that.

Allen excelled but it may have been at the expense of a Terp who struggled. When sophomore wing Nick Faust endured a completely forgettable first half going 1-6 with 2 turnovers and a host of bad decisions he left Turgeon with little choice but to try some alternatives in the second half. Freshman Jake Layman started in Faust’s spot but it was Allen who played like he didn’t want to give it back. He shot 5-6 from the three point line (7-10 overall) and finished with 19 points with 4 assists and only one turnover.

Seventeen assists and two turnovers from your primary ballhandlers? Take it and run.

Faust wasn’t the only one who struggled in this game. Big men James Padgett and Charles Mitchell each had problem covering the mobile Blackbird big men and also had turnover issues.

Each of the three came back to make important contributions to the 52-point second half Maryland was able to fashion.

The run of non-conference games continues on Tuesday night against the Lafayette Leopards at Comcast Center. The Patriot League opponent features a wiley coach and a three point attack. More importantly it offers another chance for a young team to continue to get better.

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Grading the Caps' offseason moves: Re-signing Marcus Johansson

Grading the Caps' offseason moves: Re-signing Marcus Johansson

The quest for the Stanley Cup doesn't begin on the ice, but during the offseason as general managers build their teams for the upcoming campaign.

The Caps have made a number of moves this summer to try to make their team better and get over the playoff hump.

Let's break down and grade each move the team made this offseason to help figure out whether it was the right move for the team.

Today's move: Re-signing Marcus Johansson

Just one year after going all the way through the arbitration process, the Caps and Marcus Johansson looked poised to do it all over again this summer.

Johansson tallied 46 points in 2015-16, just one point shy of the 47 he posted the season before. No doubt he sees himself as a top-six player, but he will likely find himself playing wing on the third line. So for the second year, the Caps had a different value of Johansson than what he could find on the open market.

Both sides began talking seriously on the day of the hearing, howver, and Johansson agreed to a three-year deal worth $13.75 million which carries a yearly cap hit of $4.583 million.

RELATED: ORLOV, CAPITALS REMAIN IN TOUCH

“I'm just happy we could figure it out in the end,” Johansson said after narrowly avoiding arbitration. “To be able to be part of this team for three more years, that's important to me. I think both parties are happy with it. There's obviously the cap in the NHL and you have to find a way to stay under it and we finally came to the agreement that made both parties happy.”

Johansson is one of the most polarizing figures in the organization when it comes to the fans. There are two main reasons for this. First, when he first came into the NHL, he was touted as the solution to the Caps’ hole at center on the second line.

Did he live up to that billing? No. Johansson was not able to cement himself in that position—proving to be more effective as a winger than a center—and joined a long line of failed “solutions” for the position including Brooks Laich, Mikhail Grabovski, Mike Ribeiro, Jason Arnott, Brendan Morrison, Eric Belanger and Michael Nylander.

The second reason Johansson is so heavily criticized is his perceived lack of physicality. While it would be fair to say that the physical aspect of the game has never been his strong suit, it would also be fair to say Johansson was noticeably more physical in 2015-16 than we had previously seen. No one is going to mistake him for Tom Wilson, but he at least showed improvement.

In terms of production, Johansson has proven himself to be a 40+ point player with 44, 47 and 46 points in his last three seasons. With Jason Chimera’s departure, Johansson is now most likely the fastest player on the team. As speed is so important in today’s NHL, that certainly ups Johansson’s value.

Johansson was also one of the few players willing to screen and crash the net this season, one of the few noticeable weaknesses of the Presidents’ Trophy winning Caps team. Again, that is not his strongest suit, but it should be noted that he was at least willing to fight for the dirty goals.

Grade: B+

Yes, I know this one is going to spark some disagreement.

Johansson may not be Washington’s favorite player, but he does clearly provide the Caps with speed and offensive production. The fact that he can also play wing and center is also a valuable asset. When Jay Beagle was out with injury last season, Johansson played well in his place at third line center. That kind of flexibility brings value that most NHL players do not.

Let’s also consider where the team stands and what Johansson’s role will be next season. The Caps are in it to win it. With several contracts expiring and several prospects nearly ready to become full-time NHL players, this team may look very different next year meaning this may be the last year that championship window is open for Washington.

With that in mind, the Caps need players who provide value now. Johansson most likely will play wing on the third line next season. Even his staunchest critics have to admit that having talent like that on the third line is an asset.

Does it come with a hefty price tag? Perhaps. When comparing his contract to other players with a comparable cap hit, Johansson’s production is a bit underwhelming. Mats Zuccarello of the New York Rangers is signed through 2019 with a $4.5 million cap hit and tallied 59, 49 and 61 points over the last three seasons. Clearly Johansson does not stack up to that comparable.

The Caps were not going to walk away from Johansson in the offseason, however, because there is zero benefit to walking away from a player of his caliber for nothing in return. Of course they were going to re-sign him because it would have been foolish not to.

Is his cap hit a bit high? Yes, but Brian MacLellan was able to sign him and still add Lars Eller and Brett Connolly while keeping the rest of the roster largely intact.

Plus, his contract is not immovable if they decide to move on after this season. Johansson has a modified no-trade clause after the first season of the deal, but he can only name five teams in which he does not wish to be traded. It also does not offer him automatic protection in next year’s expansion draft.

With the Caps still gunning for the Stanley Cup, this team is better for having a player like Johansson on the third line. If after this season the team decides his value is greater as a trade asset, then moving him becomes an option thanks to his multi-year deal. For now, however, it makes all the sense in the world to have a player like Johansson back for at least one more run at a championship.

MORE CAPITALS: GRADING THE MOVES: CAPS FIND OFFENSIVE DEPTH WITH ELLER

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Former Wizards' draft pick arrested on assault and drug charges; AK-47 found

Former Wizards' draft pick arrested on assault and drug charges; AK-47 found

Former Wizards' draft pick Glen Rice Jr. was arrested in in Georgia on July 25 on charges of felony robbery, aggravated battery and marijuana possession.

On Friday, new details were released on what took place and it does not look good for the oft-troubled son of former NBA star Glenn Rice.

According to the police report obtained by TMZ.com, Rice Jr. got into a an altercation with former Tulane basketball player Jordan Callahan in the parking lot of a Kroger grocery store.  A fight between the two broke out, with Callahan reportedly suffering a broken jaw and being left in a pool of his own blood.  

A witness told police they saw Rice Jr. flee the scene on foot with two bags. Police found the two bags — containing an AK-47 assault rifle and a Taurus .38 special — hidden underneath nearby leaves. When the cops arrested Rice, they found him in possession of roughly $2,700 in cash and six cell phones.

Rice Jr., who was drafted by the Wizards with the No. 35 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, was suspended three times during his short career at Georgia Tech before being dismissed from the program following a DUI arrest in 2012. He then spent a season in the NBA D-League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers before being drafted by the Wizards. 

He appeared in just 16 games in two seasons before being released by the team in January 2015, two months after he was shot in the leg at an Atlanta-area restaurant. Rice Jr. was charged with reckless conduct and possession of marijuana.

RELATED: WHY DID BRADLEY BEAL PASS ON THE OLYMPICS?

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DeSean Jackson on 2016 Redskins: Nobody believes in us. We don't really care

DeSean Jackson on 2016 Redskins: Nobody believes in us. We don't really care

RICHMOND - DeSean Jackson streaked down the right sideline, Josh Norman running with him in close step. Then, suddenly, Jackson planted his feet, cut in toward the hashmarks and veered away from the Redskins new $75 million cornerback. Within seconds, Kirk Cousins fired a pass to a location that the speed receiver grabbed out of the air. It was offensive precision.

Sure, that was only a training camp drill in July, but it also served as a reminder to how dangerous Jackson can be. With arguably the NFL's best corner from 2015 covering him, D-Jax showed his unique blend of vertical speed and lateral quickness. And though he wouldn't say it, Jackson has a track record of strong performances against the NFL's best secondaries, which could mean many more spirited practice matchups against Norman.

"We're here to get better and make each other better," Jackson said Thursday of the drills against Norman. "It's always a great addition to have a guy like him."

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During the 1-on-1 drills, Jackson and Norman talked back and forth, and the wideout explained that was "a little bit of fun, talking, kind of communicating, going back and forth."

Bringing in Norman could help a Redskins defense that struggled at times last season. Depending on the metric, Washington's defense ranked as mediocre (17th in points allowed) or bad (28th in yards allowed). An improved defense, to go along with an offense that looked explosive late in the 2015 season, could mean a much improved Washington squad.

"Pushing for another year to hopefully redeem the [2015] NFC East championship. We have a lot of work to do," Jackson said. "We got a lot of good stuff started, we just got to continue to build."

Building for Jackson could mean better health, after a 2015 season where he started just nine games. Remember Jackson injured himself in training camp last year in a bizarre incident where he hit a blocking sled before a more severe hamstring injury Week 1. It's also worth noting that Jackson enters 2016 in the final year of his Redskins contract.

"You’ve got to take advantage of every opportunity you get," he said. "That's regardless of your last year or your first year."

Asked what the team can accomplish this season, Jackson explained that while last year was a good start, it was far from any ultimate goals.

"We got to the playoffs and lost the first game. No one is really happy about that," Jackson said. "We feel like we have a lot to prove still. Nobody believes in us, we don’t really care. We believe in ourselves, we're the ones putting in the work."