Midway through the second half of Maryland men’s basketball’s 96-43 win over Maryland Eastern Shore on Sunday, center Sean Obi checked in for his first minutes of the game.
Forward Bruno Fernando returned to the court about five minutes later, and despite having rarely practiced a lineup with Fernando and Obi playing together, the duo remained on the floor for the next few minutes before being replaced by a herd of walk-ons and a redshirt freshman during a Maryland timeout.
Coach Mark Turgeon acknowledged Maryland’s variety of lineups and rotations through the first two games of the season reflected uncertainty entering its first real test Wednesday against Butler.
“I’m just trying to figure it out, I really am,” Turgeon said. “We have a lot of good players. There hasn’t been a lot of separation yet.”
After Fernando came off the bench in the season opener at Stony Brook, Turgeon moved the freshman into the starting lineup against Eastern Shore to give him a chance to “see what it felt like.”
He missed more than two weeks of the preseason due to an ankle sprain, hindering his development and slowing the team’s adjustment to bringing in three new impact players. Given the departure of former guard Melo Trimble, that lost time was especially costly.
Center Michal Cekovsky started alongside Fernando against the Hawks, forming a big lineup. But Turgeon quickly downsized by inserting guard Dion Wiley after the Terps began the contest out of sync.
“It’ll vary game to game which lineups you’ll use,” guard Kevin Huerter said. “I don’t think we even know what our best lineup is yet.”
When the Terps watched Butler on film in preparation for Wednesday’s game, Turgeon said they saw a much more refined team than their own. So while he’s excited for his players to be pushed for the first time this season, he’s concerned the Bulldogs might have an advantage entering the contest.
“[Butler] went on a summer tour, and they look like they’ve played seven or eight games,” Turgeon said. “They’re just a little bit further along than we are because we’ve only played two games. We weren’t together in the summer.”
Though Turgeon’s uncertainty about how to best utilize his roster can be concerning given the acceleration of the season after an easy first two games, it actually comes from a relative embarrassment of riches, he said.
“The good thing for me, it reminds me of our [2014-15] team that won 28,” Turgeon said. “There’s a lot of pieces, so if this guy’s not playing well I can try this guy. … Our depth will help us win games that we probably wouldn’t have won because we have a lot of good pieces.”
For now, Turgeon will continue to shift lineups and try new things, mixing and matching strategies and players in search of the best balance. So while teams like Butler may appear more polished than the Terps, they don’t believe that will hold them back for long.
“In practice, it allows you to play a lot of different guys and get to know your teammates a lot better,” Huerter said. “We’re still experimenting.”