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Jalen Smith is good (duh), Maryland’s bench is questionable, and other thoughts from the Terps first three games of 2018

Plus a look at the game day experience at Navy and the continued development of Bruno Fernando

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Navy Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Good

Jalen Smith is as good as advertised:

It sure didn’t take long for the five-star freshmen to turn some heads in College Park. In his first two games as a Terrapin, the uber-talented forward averaged 15 points, 9 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks, earning Big Ten Freshmen of the Week honors in the process.

He followed that up with a 12 point, 5 rebound night against North Carolina A&T, which, in a vacuum, would be a nice little outing but looks a little pedestrian when compared against his first two games.

All of this said, it should come as no surprise that Smith is now looked at as a consensus lottery pick in the 2019 NBA Draft — should he choose to forgo the remaining three years of his collegiate eligibility. The former 15th overall rated recruit in ESPN’s 2018 prospect rankings, Smith has had the pedigree of an Association player since before he signed his Letter of Intent. If he continues to produce near the level he’s at now, his turning pro will become more of a forgone conclusion with each passing game.

Talk about a double-edged sword for Terps Nation.

Maryland and Navy should play every year:

While Allen Fieldhouse, The Palestra, and Cameron Indoor Stadium get all the publicity, Alumni Hall remains a hidden diamond in the rough amongst college basketball’s cathedrals.

An intimate 5,700-seat no frills venue, it’s layout alone makes it a fun place to take in a game. But when you place it smack dab in the middle of the Naval Academy and pack it with cadets, you get a game day atmosphere with almost no contemporaries.

The fact that Friday’s matchup between the Terrapins and Midshipmen was the first since 1985 is a travesty, especially when you consider the two institutions are separated by only 30 miles.

Commonsense alone should dictate we get this game every year, so let’s make that happen Marky T. and Eddie D.

The Bad

Maryland’s bench looks way thinner than I anticipated:

Throughout the offseason and in my season preview, I figured the only two players set as key contributors off the bench for Maryland were Ivan Bender and Joshua Tomaic. It seemed like a logical track to take at the time, as they were the only two scholarship players with collegiate experience on the Terps’ roster outside of coach Turgeon’s projected starting five.

However, one would merely need to check the boxscore on any of Maryland’s first three games to see that hasn’t quite been the case.

Bender has at least appeared in all three Maryland wins, albeit only averaging 6 minute and .7 points per game. Tomaic, on the other hand, was a DNP against Navy and has been scarcely used in the Terps other two games, getting six minutes of run against Delaware and five minutes of court time against North Carolina A&T.

Instead, coach Turgeon has elected to lean heavily on his freshmen stable of combo guards, dishing out a majority of his bench minutes to Aaron Wiggins/Eric Ayala (the two have flip-flopped starting so far), Serrel Smith Jr., and Ricky Lindo Jr.

The trio has been relatively effective, so Turgeon electing to go small when giving a breather to Bruno Fernando or Jalen Smith is working out so far. However, put me down as being skeptical that this rotation holds up once Big Ten play starts. Lacking physicality off the bench could be a recipe for disaster in conference play and I’m of the mindset that teams benefit when they get older going to the bench and not younger.

The Other

Bruno Fernando for Big Ten Coach of the Year:

In a blink-and-you-missed-it moment from Friday’s game against Navy, Bruno Fernando showed maturity beyond his years as he provided instruction to the Terps freshmen phenom in a semi-unconventional way.

With Fernando on the bench midway through the first half and Jalen Smith serving as the Terps lone big man in the game, the sophomore could be seen and heard giving instruction to the freshmen as he made his way up court following a lost offensive possession.

While not an earth shattering moment, it was cool to see Fernando show this type of leadership and it bodes with Smith’s development that Fernando has taken the young buck under his massively large wings.