Thursday, March 31, 2005

Football Outlook

The spring game is about a month away so it isn't too early to examine the state of the football team for the 2005 season. I'll spread the analysis out since this is usually a dead period for most college sports. The official outlook from Maryland's website had some interesting news in it.

  • Tim Cesa will be tried out at fullback this spring due to a lack of depth and glut of it at his normal linebacker position. The door was left open for him to return to the defensive side of the ball. If Dave Navarre, a 2005 signee who graduated early and joined the team in the spring, looks good at the FB position my guess is Cesa will be moved back to LB.
  • Dane Randolph has been moved to offensive tackle as a backup to senior starter Stephon Heyer at LT. Unless Randolph has put on 30 lbs in the offseason this move doesn't make much sense. At his listed 6-5 240lbs he is far too light to ever play OT. While it is true that he played at guard while in high school this seems like a desperation move by Friedgen. One of the big problems the last two seasons has been depth on the offensive line and that likely won't change again this season.
  • Look for Jamie Thomas to beat out sophomore Donnie Woods for LG.
  • Scott Burley will also give Brandon Nixon a serious challenge at the RT position.

This team starts practice on Saturday and there are many unknowns heading into the fall. The quaterback position is a mess with Jordan Steffy being the early favorite among the returning players. The other offensive skill positions are also unknowns. With Josh Allen's devastating knee injury sidelining him at least another year the position is wide open and no clear favorite has yet emerged. Talented freshman Morgan Green may get a long look when he shows up in August if the staff isn't wowed by the spring practices. The wideout position is very thin, with only 5 scholarship players on the roster as of spring practices. Besides the dynamic Vernon Davis who will play multiple receiver positions there are no game breaking talents. The staff is likely relying on at least one true freshman to step up in August and be a solid backup if not starter. Darrius Heyward-Bey or Isaiah Williams are the two most likely candidates to earn significant playing time. Sophomore Drew Weatherly also played a bigger role as the season wore on and is a big and physical wideout, though he lacks break away speed. He could supplant one of the two returning senior starters.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Goodnight, sweet prince

Maryland loses to South Carolina 75-67

I'm not going to poo poo the NIT run that the Terps put up like some spoiled Maryland fans. They may not have played great, they may not have even played good at times, but they did play hard, even when losing by almost 20 points last night. That was something that had been missing in the previous 4 game losing streak to end the ACC season. Caner-Medley made his usual bone head decisions in collecting a putrid 5 turnovers, which looks better when you consider he had 6 in the opening NIT game versus Oral Roberts. He certainly wasn't alone, 5 Maryland players contributed two or more turnovers. Even though the announcers and camera crew could not keep the focus off John Gilchrist in the final 10 minutes of the game his participation in the game probably would have not changed the outcome. After all Maryland was 2-6 on the road with him, consisting of the celebrated win over Duke and a double OT win at Virginia. It was hardly some sort of new low even though the Post tried to make it seem that way, not surprising it was a fill-in and not the regular Maryland beat reporter.

Nothing went right, to put it simply. Maryland out shot SC from the field and 3-point line, matched them in rebounds and even had more assists but still lost. The culprits were 21 turnovers, 40 free throws by SC, and 18 offensive rebounds yielded. South Carolina had an incredible 13 steals many of which resulted in points. Ekene Ibekwe and Travis Garrison were incapable of stopping SC from getting second chance baskets in the decisive phase of the game. More often than not it was the result of the help defender getting himself out of position hoping to come up with a spectacular block which left them totally out of position for the rebound. South Carolina wasn't able to hit many outside shots but didn't need to as they slashed through the Maryland defense with aggressive moves to the basket.

Mike Jones continued to struggle on defense and while he probably is the best clutch shooter on the team he will still thrown up some cringe inducing airballs from time to time. My buddy Kaiser pointed out that Jones would be better served to round out his offensive game instead of seeing himself in the "sniper" mold. He has shown the ability to do that.

Gist and Bowers were a non-factor in the game yesterday and it isn't really clear why. Bowers played all of one minute. Maybe it was a consideration of defensive matchups but unless this changes next year the front court will be a huge problem again next season.

Sterling Ledbetter struggled badly. He forced the action at the wrong time and made some costly turnovers while also appearing shaky when South Carolina pressed. He attempted to "make plays" while making many of the mistakes which perhaps helps to lessen the blow. He finished with more turnovers (6) than field goal attempts (5). His desperation 3-pointers at the end of the game were a little ugly. Before the Gilchristians pile on Sterling let me point out one item.

Gilchrist had 3 games this season in which he had 5 or more turnovers, including 6 in the celebrated win over Duke in Cameron. Last season he had 5 games with 5+ turnovers including a 9 TO game versus Virginia.


Other notes:

Bonnie Burnstein was behind the bench in a red suit, looking fine as always.

Apparently a drunk fan was removed from MSG for heckling Gary Williams, he serves as a great metaphor for the Maryland fan base. Drunk, fat and stupid is no way to go through life, sir.

ESPN announcer Ron Franklin made a ridiculous assertion that Caner-Medley intentionally tried to injure a South Carolina player while diving for a lose ball. Apparently if you work for ESPN you either have to avoid making any critical observations or totally fabricate a controversy.

University of Pittsburgh fans are suing the university in a class action for the extortionist season ticket seat "redistribution" that they have attempted.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Final Four

I've been a little under the weather lately so this won't be as long as normal.

Maryland outlasted TCU 85-73 at Comcast on Saturday. The game was much closer than the final score indicated. Maryland held a razor thin 69-68 advantage with 5 minutes left in the game. They pulled away with the help of 8 points by Nik Caner-Medley and salted the game away with 6 straight free throws by Chris McCray. TCU shot a ghastly 34% from the field in the 2nd half and only 18% (2-11) from 3-point range. I'm sure some will look at Medley's 20 points and assume he had a great game, when in reality part of the reason the game was so close until the closing minutes was that he had played so poorly for most of the game. He was totally unable to play the smaller TCU three guard with straight man defense which contributed to the Horned Frogs shooting 50% from outside in the first half. He has always been a defensive liablility and will continue to be so for the rest of his time at Maryland.

Sterling Ledbetter was shaky at times but again played well when Maryland needed him to. He struggled guarding Corey Santee, who finished with 21 points, but limited him to only 6 points in the 2nd half. McCray, Garrison, Mike Jones and Ibekwe all contributed solid performances in the win as Maryland shot almost 50% from the field.


Maryland has played in the friendly confines of Comcast the last three games and relied on an up tempo style that wore out smaller teams in the 2nd half. South Carolina is used to playing a faster pace in the SEC and will not wilt in the 2nd half like the other opponents did. Maryland will have to control its turnovers and contain Carlos Powell (16.4 ppg 6.5 rebounds) to come away with a victory. Even with Powell underneath Maryland will enjoy a rebounding advantage and is a better free throw shooting team. USC will rely on scrappy defense and hope to keep the game in the 60s.


Notes
So that is what my Terrapin Club dues pay for...
Maryland's "Fear the Turtle" team bus has a DirectTV hookup so the team caught all the NCAA action on Sunday.

For a few of the players this was their first visit to New York City. I recommend Sarabeth's for breakfast and the Pizza Joint on the Upper West Side for the best burgers and pizza in the city. Having lived there for a few years I can tell you that Manhattan women will not be impressed that you play basketball unless it is for the Knicks, fellas.

The NIT semi-finalists all were treated to a reception at Tavern on the Green. Hope they enjoyed it.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Horned Frogs here, Hoyas check out

The much anticipated match up between local powers Georgetown and Maryland will not happen as Georgetown was beaten by South Carolina last night, 69-66. I'm being generous in referring to Georgetown as a "power" since they haven't been much of a factor in this area in a long time. The lingering bad feelings between the schools is still evident and it was rumored that each side demanded that they not have the possibility of meeting till the semi-finals in New York as a condition of participating in the NIT. There will be no renewal of the "rivalry" between the schools anytime soon. Georgetown had to travel to South Carolina, which illustrates the drawback of playing home games at the MCI center since the site is often unavailable. Georgetown got to play Cal State at McDonough Gymnasium but that was the last game that the NIT would allow at a facility that holds less than 3,000 people, regardless of the "atmosphere".

TCU, Horned Frogs

Maryland will play a "major" conference foe for the first time in the NIT when Conference USA member TCU comes to Comcast. TCU finished 8th in the C-USA with an 8-8 record, 21-13 overall. They also finished ranked 91 in the RPI and 79 in the Pomeroy. Their marquee wins are against Florida State, Texas Tech, UAB and Memphis. Like Maryland's previous two opponents TCU plays a three guard set and likes to shoot from the outside. Their two big men, Femi Ibikunle and Marcus Sloan, both 6-9, combine to average a little more than 8 points and 10 rebounds per game. The team revolves around the play of Corey Santee, Nile Murry and Marcus Shropshire, an experienced trio of two seniors and a junior. Despite being the three top scorers for TCU none are particularly good shooters and all shot less than 40% from the field in C-USA play. Even if they may not hit many that doesn't stop the trio from launching it from downtown as Shropshire and Santee have both attempted more than 200 3-pointers. In comparison TCU's trio has attempted more 3-pointers this season than Maryland's entire team.

Their offense isn't particularly efficient but when they are hitting those outside shots they can pull an upset on a superior team. Free throw shooting is another achillies heel of TCU as they shot an abysmal 59% from the line. Their gritty defense may have give them a chance to keep the game close for a while. TCU does play a deep bench with 10 players averaging over 10 minutes a game, but they do not have the frontcourt players to keep pace with Maryland. The script will be familiar to Maryland fans as TCU may stay close with outside shooting in the first half only to fade in the second. Look for James Gist to have another big game.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Finding A New Identity

The post John Gilchrist era has started in College Park. In pregame warm-ups Gilchrist told reporters that he was "done for the season"and then realizing what he had said, retracted the statement. He was made unavailable to the media after the game. As I said last week, Gilchrist has played his last game in a Terps jersey. Maryland wore down and outlasted a feisty Davidson squad last night at Comcast, 78-63. Davidson built a early 16 point lead on some hot outside shooting and Maryland mistakes but saw it evaporate in the last 4 minutes of the half when Maryland went on a 16-0 run. Davidson was clearly worn down by the fast pace and, with their legs failing them, shot only 25% from the field in the 2nd half.

Davidson was able to build a large lead because of the poor play of Travis Garrison and Nik Caner-Medley(who combined for 5 points on 2-10 shooting) and some costly turnovers. To be fair no Maryland player excelled in the 1st half of play. In his first start Sterling Ledbetter showed some jitters at the start but calmed himself and put up 5 points and 2 assists in the last 1:30 of the half. Fortunately both Garrison and Medley turned it around in the 2nd half and posted a combined 19 points and 10 rebounds on 6-16 shooting. Both were very aggressive on the boards in the second half. Mike Jones struggled badly on the defensive end and was yanked quickly after a couple of mistakes, as was Will Bowers.

If I have any critique of Gary Williams this season it has been his substitution patterns in regards to Jones and Bowers. There have been many moments I have noticed Gary pull Bowers off to the side and instruct him on a point of technique or strategy, but I can't think getting yanked moments after you make a mistake is going to help your development. When Caner-Medley makes the unacceptable mistake of griping about a non-call under the basket and lets his man get free on the break, like he did last night, he should be benched for that too. He doesn't, and there in lies the problem. This season has been a trying one for Gary and he has desperately tried to juggle the line-up in hopes of getting some consistency out of a bunch of players that he can never be sure will play well game to game. Hopefully in the offseason he will become more trusting in some kids and just let them play.


Read between the lines:


"He's legitimately got a bad wrist and bad ankle," Williams said. "We'll see what happens. To play and re-injure it might not be in John's best interest now."

"Sterling's more of a pass-first guard, so it changes the mind-set of how you're going to play the game," said junior Chris McCray, who had 11 points and six rebounds. "He's been playing great since the end of the season, and we're 2-0 with him starting."


Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Pearl Gets Redemption

Now that Bruce Pearl is sitting where every coach in college basketball wants to be this week, with his team in the Sweet 16, it is hard to imagine how long and difficult his road has been to this rare station. He'll lead his plucky 12th seeded University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers against the mighty Illini this Thursday. Sounds like a good story by itself but it doesn't begin to explain the ties that bind these teams.

Back in the 1980's Bruce Pearl was an assistant under Tom Davis at Iowa. In 1989 Iowa had been coming off Elite Eight and Sweet 16 appearances the prior two years, but things were about to take a turn for the worse when Iowa began recruiting Deon Thomas. Illinois was also recruiting Thomas and both were very eager to land such a top talent. What happened next seems to depend on whether you live in Illinois or somewhere else. Pearl taped a phone conversation with Thomas in which Thomas confirmed that he had been offered $80,000 and a Chevy Blazer to attend Illinois. Pearl promptly turned over the tape the the NCAA offices.

In the resulting firestorm Illinois was "cleared" of violations in the Thomas recruitment. During the investigation Thomas denied he had ever been offered any inducements and made counter allegations that Pearl had offered to "double" whatever Illinois had offered him. Further allegations were made by Thomas' mother that Pearl threatened to "go public" with her drug dependency and Thomas' stepfather claimed an NCAA investigator told them they would drop the investigation if he went somewhere else. Thomas has since claimed his grandmother "didn't trust [Pearl's] eyes" and that is when he decided he didn't want to go to Iowa. In recent interviews he has gone so far as to call Pearl "evil".

These vile and scurrilous accusations seem ridiculous but the Chicago Sun Times doesn't seem concerned that these baseless and unverified assertions don't even have a whiff of credibility. Then again why not further reinforce the persecution complex that is already well developed among Illini fans in regards to this incident. No matter that the NCAA investigation did find rampant recruiting violations going on at Champagne and slapped them with sanctions that banned them from the postseason for one year, reduced their allotted scholarships and even froze the salaries of their coaches. The impermissible contacts, loans from coaches, free NCAA championship tickets to recruits, their family and high school coaches, discounted hotel rooms and credit for car loans can all be explained away by the willfully ignorant. To them the real villain is Bruce Pearl for ruining the good thing that Lou Henson was building and it didn't matter that it was built upon habitual cheating and lies. Then again Illini fans are used to their programs getting caught with their hand in the cookie jar, with the repeated violations of their football program in the 1980s and the infamous "slush fund" scandal in the 1960s it seems like the way things are done in Champagne. Nobody noticed when the Chicago Bears played on Illinois' field while their own stadium was being refurbished a few years ago, perhaps because they were used to seeing athletes who were "paid to play".

The most depressing aspect of this was the consequences for Pearl. After the incident he was persona non grata in much of the Midwest and was banished to Division II Southern Indiana. But Pearl had so much success there that by the time he won a national title for SI he was back on the radar screens. In 1999 he was listed among the hottest coaches by Sport Magazine along with Paul Hewitt, Mike Brey and Buzz Peterson. None of them had to swallow their pride and go to work at a Horizon league doormat like UWM. Pearl had been blackballed for the unpardonable sin of telling the truth and letting the chips fall where they may. Much like the culture of corruption in a police force, college coaches know who cheats but choose not to say anything even if they are honest. Even Dick Vitale was rumored to be among the whispering critics that prevented him from getting a desirable head coaching positions.

An amazing thing happened, however, Pearl turned UWM into a Cinderella, and in the process has redeemed himself. He first knocked off Alabama and then Boston College, his alma matre and the program that cut him as a walk on, where his assistant coach duties also required he wear the mascot costume during games. Now he shows up with a High Noon style showdown with the program that cost him so much. The Illini fans are guaranteed to act boorish and vulgar towards Pearl and frankly they don't know any better, but Pearl will have the satisfaction of being the only one with a national title on the court Thursday. My hope is that he gets a chance to coach a big time program, maybe even in the Big Ten, and shows the world of college basketball that honesty does pay, sometimes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Davidson and Goliath

True, it is a cheesey way to start the entry, but I'm not above going for the easy mark every once in a while.

Davidson (23-8) comes into Comcast Center after winning their first two NIT games. Conincidentaly those were the first two NIT victories in school history. Davidson used a 26-5 spurt to put away VCU in their first game and then bombed 15 3-point baskets to defeat SW Missouri State. Davidson likes to shoot from the outside, setting a school record for 3-point baskets with 276 this year and attempting 718! They have three players with over 100 3-point attempts.

SF Brendan Winters leads Davidson with 16.7 ppg and shoots 43% from 3-point range. The inside game is supplied by Logan Komalski (Baylor transfer) who puts in 11 ppg and 8.4 rebounds. Kenny Grant is the only pure PG that the Wildcats have and while he can dish out over 5 assists a game he also averages over three turnovers. Davidson rarely sees the level of quickness they will on Wednesday and it will likely result in mistakes and transition opportunities for Maryland. Davidson opened with a victory over Missouri but then followed with losses to Duke, Georgetown and St. Joes. If Davidson can take care of the ball and get hot from the perimeter they have a chance to steal the game but it will be unlikely in what amounts to a home game for Maryland.


Davidson is 3-6 all time versus the Terrapins with the last game coming in 1968. They won that meeting 83-69, the Davidson coach at the time was Lefty Driesell. Driesell left Davidson after nine seasons the following year for College Park.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Possible addition for 2005

Recruiting for the 2005 class is largely over at this point and jockeying for the 2006 class is in full swing. However, according to the Washington Post there is another possible 2005 recruit that Maryland may add to the current lone SF Shane Clark. David Neal, a PF at O'Connell high school, is being recruited on a "wait and see" approach by Maryland and and Georgetown. Maryland has told Neal they will wait till after the season to decide on whether to offer him a scholarship or not. Georgetown has offered him the chance to join the team as a walk on. Neal has offers from Loyola, Manhattan, St. Louis, St. Bonaventure and Holy Cross. He is holding out for the possibility of playing for a major program like Maryland. Notre Dame and George Washington are also sniffing around. Neal is not very athletic but at 6-7 225lbs he is solid and has European type skills. He has a perimeter game and can score on the inside as well.

His coach said:
He gets to the ball quickly and has a great feel for the game. He makes soft shots around the rim, can shoot the three and can put the ball on the floor. He's like a European player who knows the game and you don't think he's that quick, but he's a little quicker than you think he is.
He averaged 19.9 points and shot 75.5% from the FT line in his senior season at O'Connell while making 1st team WCAC. Other 1st team WCAC players include:
Mamadi Diane-DeMatha (Virginia)
Nigel Munson-DeMatha (junior, getting 2nd tier major interest)
Chris Wright-St. Johns (highly recruited top 10 player in country for 2007, soph)
David Neal -O'Connell
Marcus Ginyard -O'Connell (North Carolina)

Marcus Ginyard committed to North Carolina last year and averaged 20.9ppg and there is a feeling he was vastly overrated. O'Connell finished ranked 4th in the area with a 28-3 record. Neal posted 28 and 19 in two games versus #1 ranked Dematha this season. He also scored 34 in a game versus Paul VI. The most obvious analogy would be to Lee Melchionni from Duke. Neal probably has more inside presence but not quite the outside shot, though he does have significant range.

Don't be surprised, if there is more offseason attrition on the Maryland roster besides the obvious Gilchrist departure, when Neal is added to the roster in the late spring. He will be a good bench player and a decent addition to a thin frontline. The junior college ranks don't seem to have any promising frontline players and the remaining group is so thin that marginal top 100 players like Uche Echefu from Montrose are getting attention from schools like Kentucky.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

NIT

Maryland pulled away from a pesky Oral Roberts squad last night, 85-72. Attendance was somewhere in the 7,000 range which is less than half of what these players are used to seeing at Comcast. According to the newspapers the squad woke up after a technical by Gary Williams and went on a 17-0 run. Maryland avoided the "we'd rather be on spring break" malaise that Notre Dame and Indiana clearly had in earlier games, at least for now. The NIT has set up the easiest path to Madison Square Garden for Maryland of any team in the tournament.

Mike Jones again showed an ability to score in bunches. He put up 10 points in under 2 minutes in the 2nd half. There will be games next season where Jones will be unstoppable. He has not put together a complete set of skills yet, but there are few players with his natural ability to score.

Will Bowers is making his case to be the starting center next season.

Travis Garrison followed form by posting a double-double after making some wonder if he had even dressed for the ACC tournament.

Chris McCray was benched to start the game for missing an "academic appointment", whatever that is. This is the second time this season that a player has been benched for academic related issues, the other being Gilchrist for the Wake Forest game. Slightly concerning and makes you wonder if next season Maryland will have a Sean Banks or PJ Tucker situation.

The next game will be against the Davidson and SW Missouri State winner on Saturday. Interestingly former Maryland coach Lefty Driesel coached Davidson in the 60's.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Hand wringing

Interesting article in the Baltimore Sun today about the recent fortunes of Maryland basketball. It's relatively balanced and makes some good points. In pointing out that a number of programs have struggled recently the article makes you wonder about the frequency of these "blips" among high profile programs. In addition to Duke's forgotten '95 season in which they went 2-14 in the ACC and didn't play in any post season tournament, there have been a number of recent examples that probably would send most Maryland fans to St. Elizabeth's to munch on Xanax with John Hinkley.

  • Syracuse 1996-7: after losing to Kentucky in the national title game the Orange lost in the first round of the NIT, at home, to Florida State the following season.
  • Oklahoma 2003-4: After playing in the Final Four and Elite 8 the prior two seasons a young Sooners squad had their bubble burst and were send packing to the NIT where they lost to Michigan in their second game.
  • Oklahoma State 1995-6: After playing eventual national champion UCLA in the Final Four the prior year Oklahoma State fails to return to the tournament until 1998.
  • Connecticut 1996-7: The Huskies were flying high in March of 1996. They had secured a number 1 seed by virtue of their being ranked #3 going into the NCAA tournament. An early sweet 16 exit at the hands of Mississippi State must have left a bitter taste in their mouths but not as unsavory as the NIT bid they received the next season.

Recruiting

Clearly several of Gary Williams recent classes have not lived up to expectations since they arrived in College Park. While the proverbial jury may still be out on the younger players, the 2002 class that came in fresh off the heels of Maryland's glorious championship has dashed the high expectations that accompanied them.

Travis Garrison, a McDonald's All-American from local power Dematha, has shown an aversion to playing the game anywhere near the rim. During his high school days he showed a propensity for drifting out of the lane and taking jumpers, something that the coaching staff has been unable to cure him of even though they've work wonders with far less talent. He offense wilts when confronted with physical play and his low post defense is so poor that he usually has to resort to fouling to prevent his man from scoring. While some felt he may have not deserved the hype his burger crown bestowed on him most felt he would do better than the 7.0 ppg and 4.8 rebounds he has averaged over his career. While not the spectacular bust that Shavlik Randolph has been he doesn't have the myriad of injures and bad luck that Randolph can claim.

Nik Caner-Medley was seen as a physical and high flying SF with a decent outside shot. The fact that he played against low high school competition did not scare off schools like Maryland and UConn. When Maryland landed him it was hoped they would have the kind of scoring, slashing SF they had not had since Terrence Morris. A severely sprained right ankle in a sweet 16 game versus Michigan State ended his promising freshman campaign. He was the only player in his class to earn a starting job his freshman year. Gary Williams gave Garrison every chance to unseat the equally streaky Tajh Holden but he folded under the competition. He has improved his offensive play though he is still prone to streaky shooting. A career 33% 3-point shooter, Medley can knock down a few shots when he's hot but more often than not will struggle to consistently hit the outside shot. His favorite spot seems to be the right corner. He has yet to develop a good sense for shot selection and game/time situation when he has the ball. He is far better when given the ball in transition or while cutting to the basket than off the dribble. His defense is often porous. He gambles on shot blocking which often leaves him out of position for defensive rebounds and can be easily taken off the dribble by quicker players. This requires him to play off his man which leads him to be vulnerable to the outside shot. His ball handling skills are mediocre.

Chris McCray always wanted to be a Terrapin. A renowned scorer at Capitol Heights, McCray has not brought that part of his game to College Park. A defensive scrapper, unselfish to a fault and a "glue" guy he has not yet shown the ability to carry the scoring load for Maryland. He shoots an anemic 34% from behind the arch for his career, but is savy enough to get to the free throw line where he is an excellent 85% career shooter. His play during the stretch run has given a glimmer of hope for next season. Over the last nine games McCray posted 18.7 ppg, 4.9 reb, 4.4 assists and shot a scorching 48% from 3-point range. If he can carry that into next season he will become a total package of offense and defense. While not a flashy player there are no glaring weaknesses in his game and the assist average he posted in his last 9 games would put many PGs in the ACC to shame.

I wrote some about Gilchrist in my post ACC tournament wrap up. I am sure in the next few weeks that I'll have the opportunity to sum up his career when he decides to finally leave Maryland and pursue his NBA dream.

As for the sophomore class of 2003 a few thoughts:

  • Mike Jones: was the most hyped of any of the current players on the roster. His lack of defense and McCray have kept him coming off the bench. Has shown flashes of being a streaky shooter who is unstoppable when hot. Rebounds well and has a solid frame. Should be able to score inside or outside.
  • Ekene Ibekwe: has the most hideous looking shot in all of college basketball. Can't understand why the staff didn't break down his shot mechanics and rebuild it into something resembling good technique. Lanky and slight, he gets bullied around the basket but will mix it up on the inside more than Garrison. Has little or no post moves beyond a pivot and falling extention to the rim.
  • DJ Strawberry: the most versatile player on the team. Not a great shooter but has shown improvement. Disruptive defender and essential to Maryland's full court press. Unclear how he will return from his knee injury.
  • Will Bowers: showed dramatic improvement in the last half of the season. Learning how to use his massive size on both offense and defense. Limited Sheldon Williams in the two victories over Duke. Can develop nice hook shot and already has good shot mechanics on his free throws. Likely will shoot 75%+ from the line next season. Can be a better Luke Schenscher if he works hard.
  • Hassan Fofona: felt he deserved more playing time and transferred when passed on the depth chart by Bowers. Could have progressed if he committed to training and crafting his game. Like most African born players he had raw physical skills but weak basketball acumen. Showed to lack the discipline needed to improve his game. Departure leaves a gap in post rotation.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Who is Oral Roberts?

Maryland's first round opponent in the NIT will be Oral Roberts(25-7) on Wednesday night at 9pm in College Park. The Golden Eagles were the Mid-Continent regular season champions who were upset on ESPN in their tournament championship game by Oakland(12-18).

In spite of that Oral Roberts(OR) is a dangerous first round opponent for a slumping and injured Maryland team. Their athletic department was quick to point out that the last time a 25 win team that won the regular season but lost in its conference tournament that did not get an invitation was Southern Illinois in 1990. Their players and coaching staff must be annoyed at this and will be looking to prove they were unfairly overlooked. On cue comes Maryland, only three years removed from a national title, with a big bullseye on it's shell. This may be a home game for Maryland but OR has already won 14 away games this year, including a neutral site shellacking of Georgetown in Hawaii.

The are coached by the youngest son of infamous cheater Eddie Sutton, now the head coach of Oklahoma State. Scott Sutton is in his 6th year at OR and ranks second in school history in wins.

They are lead by two first team All-Mid-Con sophomores in Caleb Green (19.2 ppg, 9.1 rpg) and Ken Tutt (17.0 ppg, 40.4% 3pt). Green and Tutt join Luke Spencer-Gardner as 1,000 point career scorers. A perimeter oriented team(15.6 3pt attempts per game) that plays 4 players over 30+ minutes per game they will barrage the Terps from the outside and force them to work for decent looks on the offensive end. With the exception of 6-10 senior Mickey Michalec(Texas Tech transfer), OR is not a very big team but with Maryland's injury issues the Terps may struggle to exploit their size advantage and depth. OR moves the ball every well as evidence by their 17.5 assists per game and 5 players with over 2.0 assists per game.

This it the end, beautiful friends.

All streaks must come to an end and this Sunday saw the sun set on an illustrious period in College Park. For 11 straight years Gary Williams' teams heard their name called on selection Sunday. As long as Gary stays as coach of the Terps this is not the end of an era but certainly is a transitional period for the Program that Gary built. The offseason will begin after a few meaningless NIT games and there will be great uncertainty in the halls of the Comcast Center. Will DJ Strawberry return healthy and with the same quickness before his knee injury? Can Mike Jones, Ekene Ibekwe and Will Bowers all improve their game in the offseason to become major contributors? Will James Gist explode and become a star?

The biggest question surrounds the mercurial point guard of the Terrapins. To say that John Gilchrist had a tumultuous season would be an understatement. It is unclear whether he wants to come back and if the feeling is mutual among his teammates and coaching staff. The smart money says that Gilchrist has possibly played his last game for Maryland. He sprained his ankle in the ACC tournament debacle versus Clemson and is questionable for Maryland's first round game against Oral Roberts. My feeling is that he won't be ready for that game and will try to rest himself for the pre-draft camps that will go a long way in deciding his NBA draft fate. Assuming that is true, his tenure at Maryland resulted in a disappointing 14-18 regular season record and 17-19 including the ACC tournament run last year. He showed glimpses of a strong, scoring point guard who could bully his way past any guard in the league and out rebound most small forwards. He also showed weak on the ball defense, an inability to score when unable to drive past the defender, unwillingness to run the flex offense and an immaturity that alienated teammates and coaches. He crumbled under the weight of expectations after a stellar three games that landed him tournament MVP in the ACC last year.