Monday, November 28, 2005

Basketball is rolling

Maryland rebounded from the opening loss to Gonzaga in the Maui Classic to rip off two wins. The kids look sluggish and unfocused in an early morning game with Chaminade but pulled away for the easy win in the 2nd half. They had a tougher time against Arkansas who was coming off a single digit loss to Connecticut and a single point win against Kansas. Arkansas is a tough team and will be in the mix for an NCAA bid out of the SEC. The have a decent inside-outside game and a go to guy in Ronnie Brewer. The game was fairly even till about 10 minutes left when Arkansas' shooting went cold and Maryland pulled away. DJ Strawberry fouled out and Maryland showed it may be able to weather that storm if they need to later in the year. Sterling Ledbetter came in the game and, along with Chris McCray, was able to run the game with efficiency.

Don't look now but...

I almost don't want to mention it for fear of jinxing him but Ekene Ibekwe is becoming a force in the middle for the Terrapins. He has scored in double digits in 4 out of 5 games this season, leads the team in rebounding and, most shocking of all, is shooting 80% from the free throw line. He led the surge which put away Arkansas and added 4 steals and 3 blocks to go along with 16 points. All of a sudden he has a collection of low post moves and is very active on the defensive end and rebounding. With James Gist experiencing some growing pains while staying in the starting lineup, mostly due to some poor shot selection, Ibekwe has been a revelation. With Ekene his flaw has always been his inconsistency so we'll see if he can keep this hot streak going.

We have a point guard, for now anyway. DJ Strawberry will likely come out November with an excellent 2.8 assist to turnover ratio. His defense is still very good, though he gambles too much sometimes, and he has more steals than turnovers for the season. Regardless of who you are playing 12 assists and no turnovers, Strawberry's line from yesterday's game against Nicholls State, is an impressive stat line. He's doing exactly what Gary Williams wants him to do at the position and seems to already have a better feel for when to take his own shot or get his teammates involved than departed PG John Gilchrist ever had in the last two years.

ACC/Big Ten Challenge
More than a few are saying it but this could be the first year that the Big Ten wins the challenge in six tries. I think it will be close and a 6-5 record by whichever conference ends up winning. The ACC will need a few road upsets to win and I don't think that is likely to happen. The only complete "lock" win for the ACC might be Maryland over Minnesota. With Miami and Virginia Tech looking like weak sisters I doubt either will be able to go to a hostile Big Ten campus and pull an upset.

The Future is Bright
Maryland added another elite 2007 recruit over the weekend. Jeff Jones (6-3, 190lbs, 19.5 ppg) is a shooting guard from outside Philadelphia who is a 4-star player by most recruiting services. He is already an early top 100 player and top 15 at his position with a good possibility of moving up the board even further this season. He is regarded as a scorer with the ability to create his own shot and a dangerous perimeter game. Maryland got involved with Jones late in the recruitment and snatched him out from under Villanova and Georgia Tech. Rob Moxley landed Jones with only about a month worth of contact. Jones cited the chance to play in the ACC, proximity to his home and the tradition of Maryland's program. Jones is also considered a very good student. He played in the last two Philly All-City Hoop Classics that produced Duke's Gerald Henderson(#3 SG in the nation for 2006) and UNC commit Wayne Ellington(the #1 ranked SG). In those tournaments he put up 20 points a game and it is likely that his ranking will rise with Jones following in the footsteps of elite guards like those two.

In looking at the 2006 class that was largely unheralded they will still finish as a top 25 group. Now in 2007 Maryland has already landed two top 100 players in C Braxton Dupree and Jones. Another 4-star player, PF Dino Gregory, is rumored to be on his way to Maryland as well. With the three players committed or likely to commit the Terps already have a top 25 class that could finish as one of the top classes in the country if Moxley can land a few other elite players. Several elite recruits like C Kosta Koufos, PF Julian Vaughn and PF James Hickson are on Maryland's list. The early momentum from Jones and Dupree could snowball into a number of other early commits for 2007. Though Vaughn has been enamored with UNC and Duke for some time it is possible that the waves that Maryland is making will catch his attention. Vaughn is one of the best low post players in the junior class with a polished game and ability to score inside or outside, think a less physical Marvin Williams. Clearly he would be a phenomenal catch.

No comments: