3 healthy cen­ters, 3 dif­fer­ent strengths con­sti­tute a puz­zle

Baltimore Sun - - COLLEGE BASKETBALL NBA NHL - By Don Markus don.markus@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/sport­sprof56

Mark Tur­geon likes to say about his Mary­land men’s basketball team what col­lege coaches have been say­ing about their teams for a long time: It doesn’t mat­ter who starts, but who fin­ishes.

While it seems that Tur­geon has set­tled on four of his starters — ju­nior guard Melo Trim­ble along with three fresh­men in guard An­thony Cowan, wing Kevin Huerter and for­ward Justin Jack­son — the cen­ter spot is un­de­ter­mined.

Tur­geon used red­shirt sopho­more for­ward Ivan Ben­der at the po­si­tion when se­nior Da­monte Dodd suf­fered a con­cus­sion against Tow­son and the sta­tus of ju­nior Michal Cekovsky was still in ques­tion be­cause of a sprained foot.

Now all three ap­pear healthy and Cekovsky is com­ing off his best per­for­mance as a Terp: a 16-point, eight-rebound ef­fort against Kansas State in Satur­day night’s 69-68 cham­pi­onship win at the Bar­clays Cen­ter Clas­sic in Brook­lyn. Will Tur­geon make a change?

Tur­geon is the su­per­sti­tious type, to the point that the small­est changes in rou­tine can throw him off. With Mary­land 7-0 go­ing into Tues­day’s Big Ten/ACC Chal­lenge game at Xfin­ity Cen­ter against Pitts­burgh, there likely won’t be any im­me­di­ate moves.

Here’s an­other rea­son Tur­geon might not make a change: As long as the op­pos­ing team doesn’t have a dom­i­nant, back-to-the-bas­ket big man, the 6-foot-9, 235-pound Ben­der has enough size to com­pete in the post de­fen­sively and he’s a bet­ter passer out of the low post than ei­ther Cekovsky or Dodd.

And here’s one more rea­son it might be bet­ter to bring Cekovsky off the bench: The 7-foot Slo­vakian is the team’s best of­fen­sive big man, and with back­ups such as Jared Nick­ens, Dion Wi­ley and L.G. Gill strug­gling to score con­sis­tently, Cekovsky could be a huge boost to the sec­ond unit.

So where does that leave Dodd? It will be in­ter­est­ing to see what Tur­geon does with the 6-11 se­nior, who has been a solid de­fender the past cou­ple of years and, when he doesn’t move on his screens on of­fense (or the guards al­low him to set them), is good at do­ing some of the lit­tle things that Tur­geon so ap­pre­ci­ates. Big Ten/ACC Chal­lenge Tues­day, 7 p.m. TV: ESPN2 Ra­dio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM Mary­land’s Michal Cekovsky, right, puts back a dunk against Kansas State on Satur­day night. Cekovsky’s 16 points and eight re­bounds were his best per­for­mance as a Terp.

Tur­geon cred­ited Dodd with set­ting the screen that freed Trim­ble to score the win­ning bas­ket Satur­day. Dodd played well in a lim­ited role at both ends. Com­ing off the bench could also help Dodd stay out of very early foul trou­ble.

Tues­day’s game against Pitts­burgh will present an in­ter­est­ing matchup for the Terps. The Pan­thers were picked to fin­ish in the bot­tom half of the At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence, but they are beefy and sim­i­lar to some of the phys­i­cal teams — Kansas State, Ge­orge­town and even Tow­son — that have caused prob­lems de­fen­sively for Mary­land this sea­son.

Pitts­burgh’s Michael Young, a 6-9, 235pound se­nior for­ward, will be dif­fi­cult to han­dle, as Kansas State’s D.J. John­son was in scor­ing a ca­reer-high 26 points against the Terps on Satur­day. Young is av­er­ag­ing 23.3 points, and the Terps will likely use their depth up front to try to wear him down.

It would be sur­pris­ing to see Tur­geon change his start­ing lineup, even at cen­ter, un­til af­ter the Terps lose their first game. Mary­land’s three-headed cen­ter com­bined for 26 points, 10 re­bounds and four blocked shots (three by Dodd) against the Wild­cats.

That’s a pretty good stat line — one that any coach on any level will take, no mat­ter who starts and who fin­ishes.

MICHAEL REAVES/GETTY IMAGES

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