Thursday, December 01, 2005

Seven year itch

The ACC won the seventh ACC/Big Ten Challenge, a made for ESPN event, in seven years. For the numerologists out there that is every event since it was started. The Big Ten isn't as bad as that record would indicate but this event seems fairly boring to me at this point. Maybe they'll do a better job of mixing opponents, but how exciting can it be to wonder if Maryland is going to play Wisconsin every year. The juice has been squeezed out of this event, though it makes you wonder why the other conferences don't get into this action. The SEC, Big XII, Big East and Pac-10 all stand around like dorks at the prom while the ACC and Big Ten prance around like Rodgers and Astaire. Does it really boil down to something as simple as the programs in those conferences don't have the twig and berries to play these high profile early season games? If the ACC can get NC State to play a decent team in the first month of the season the other conferences should be able to convince their members.

But, I digress.

Maryland survived a scare by the Gophers last night. Yes, they survived with a 17 point win. The slow start model that Maryland has been following since last season has been mentioned even on the radio so it can't be that important to discuss here. The real difference is last year's squad would have folded like origami after going down 23-8 as they did last night. I had the same feeling last year when they got torched by Clemson the first time. It was almost impossible to believe. I think I whispered something about point shaving to no one in particular when I saw the score. It was a bad first 10 minutes, not Iowa vs NC State bad, but hard to watch. Then Caner-Medley made some steals, who knew he played defense, and Mike Jones hit some threes and before you knew it Maryland was back within six at the half.

Once Dan Monson got ejected for a Network "I'm mad as hell" moment you knew it was over for Minnesota. They were scrappy and kept the score respectable for most of the game. The Gophers were not the pushovers that everyone assumed they would be without Vincent Grier, who had that look in his eye on the bench that said, "if I was playing we'd be killing them". Probably true. I'll spare you the cliched "trap" or "letdown" game discussion. Let's move on and discuss the play.

Travis Garrison got the start with both Ibekwe and Gist still weak from some stomach thingy. You could tell that both were drained, as they both missed free throws off the front rim. So Travis had his day with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Nice stat line, but the Gophers' early advantage was in some part due to his dreadful play in the first 6 minutes. In the second half Minnesota let him do the only thing he's very good at, spotting up with jumpers at the high post and shooting foul shots. If you prevent Travis from doing either of those he simply cannot hurt you. Despite grabbing 10 rebounds he let a decent rebounding Minnesota totally dominate Maryland on the glass. The final tally was 43-31, with 20 offensive rebounds, which makes me think we need a young priest and an old priest for the backboards in Comcast. I suppose I should accept Travis for what he is and rest easy that he isn't getting into the starting lineup any time soon. Back to the bench TG.

There are the various Mike Jones supporters who will claim he saved the game or maybe even a few diehard Caner-Medley fans who have been stuck on a desert island and just returned last night...nah, not even that would ever happen, but it was DJ Strawberry who really saved this game for the Terps. He took over in the 2nd half and his ferocious defense even seemed to rattle the other Gophers he wasn't even guarding. In the first two and a half minutes of the 2nd half Strawberry did the following:

  • Assist to Ibekwe for a monster dunk on first possession
  • One steal and another not credited to him but knocked into Garrison's hands for an easy layup on the press
  • Made two shots including a 3 point play
By the time he was substituted for Mike Jones with 17:26 left Maryland had routed Minnesota with a 13-1 run. He scored 12 points in the 2nd half on 4-7 FG attempts, made all 3 free throws, had two steals all with nary a turnover. Now do we understand why Gary Williams loves him, kids?

Gary will have plenty to work with in practice the rest of the week: defense, rebounding, shot selection. Still, considering Chris McCray disappeared for a large part of the game and the Terp's two best big men were stricken with an illness, it wasn't that bad of a night.

Did you know?
Maryland has six players averaging double digits in points at the moment? James Gist is some bad pizza away from making that seven players. There is no team in the league with better depth.

Other Game Notes

Duke vs Indiana: Killingsworth gave the Dookies all they could handle. 34 points on Sheldon Williams? Unbelievable. If the Hoosiers had anyone else who could score they may have won. Paulus looked very shaky against the Indiana pressure. Oh, and Redick scored 29 points on 10-17 shooting. Yeah, he stinks.

Georgia Tech vs Michigan State: Didn't see much of this game but it seemed to be similar to the Maryland game. Lightly regarded foe suprises overconfident favorite. Spartans looked flat to me. Tech played very well in a hostile environment. This will pay dividends later for Paul Hewitt. If Ra'Sean Dickey can play at that level in the ACC, look out. Still the Jackets will have more downs than ups this year.

NC State vs Iowa: Naismith was rolling in his grave last night. Whatever it was, this gruesome beast of a game wasn't basketball. Imagine sitting at halftime and having someone tell you that at 25-22 it was going to be even worse in the 2nd half? Both teams played so badly the CIA was whisking the tape of the game off to those secret prisons to replace the tortured bunny sounds used in the interrogations. I hear they even got how Osama likes his coffee. Iowa did everything possible to give the game away, but NC State would have found a way to lose even if you spotted them 4 points. I have a dreadful feeling that this is the way State is going to play more athletic teams(meaning every ACC foe) all year since it seems the only way they'll be able to win. Nice to see Herb Sendeck whining after Evtimov's phony attempt to get a foul called on his desperation chuck at the end. When you have to give the ball to Evtimov at the end of a game and hope he makes something happen, you're in trouble Herbie.

Northwestern vs Virginia: They're both very fine schools...oh yeah the game. Do I have to talk about this? If UVA can get this out of Reynolds and Diane on a regular basis they might have a fighting chance in the ACC, but they probably won't. It was on ESPNU, what else is there to say?

Must Read
Great article by Wilbon on why people in this town love Juan Dixon, and why you should too.

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