Friday, January 27, 2006

Into the owls nest

The basketball team was able to enjoy the victory against Georgia Tech for a night and now it's back to work preparing for the Temple Owls and their zone defense. Last season you may recall it was the Mike Jones(21 pts) and Nik Caner-Medley(35 pts) show as Maryland won at Comcast center, 80-69. It was a close affair that was tied with just over 5 minutes to play before Maryland pulled away in the closing moments. The two teams are largely the same squads that met last year as recently suspended guard Chris McCray did not play in the previous meeting due to an injury.

Temple always plays a hard nosed defensive style that reflects their coach's personality. John Chaney is a legendary coach with a fiery personality, much like Gary Williams. In recent years he's let his temper get the best of him as demonstrated by the "Goongate" incident last season that earned him a suspension. In the past he also threatened to beat up then UMass coach John Calipari at a wild post game news conference. I can't really blame Chaney for wanting to beat up a little weasel like Calipari, but you hate to see a coach with his stature sully his reputation in the twilight of his career.

Temple lacks a true offensive superstar but has a collection of very solid players like Mardy Collins, Mark Tyndale, Antywane Robinson and Dustin Salisbery. That quartet all play over 30 minutes per game so the bench for Temple isn't likely to contribute much. Collins, their massive 6'6" point guard, is probably their most skilled player. On offense the Owls are, well, offensive. In the 81-79 win over Xavier the other night they almost equaled the total points scored in their previous two losses. In most major offensive categories Temple is either at or near the bottom of the A-10: field goal %, free throw %, points per weighted shot, offensive rating. The one thing they do well is protect the ball with a miserly 12.1% turnover rate.

Defense and rebounding have normally been trademarks of John Chaney teams but this year the Owls have not done either particularly well. They come in last in the A-10 in both categories with a 98.6 defensive rating and 26.2 rebounds per game. The rebounds can partly be explained by their slow tempo which limits the number of total possessions in the game but they are still not a great rebounding club. Expect Maryland to try to feast on second chance points like they did against Georgia Tech.

The zone defense that Temple plays will require some decent outside shooting and slashes to the basket from the perimeter. When you talk about outside shooting the conversation begins and ends with Mike Jones. He's really the only reliable outside threat. Nik Caner-Medley had a career day against Temple last year by doing what he did well in his last explosion against the Yellow Jackets, slashing to the basket and scoring in the paint. I expect him to do the same thing, though maybe not as well, against Temple. Hopefully he won't try to force things coming off his transcendent performance on Wednesday night.

It's impossible to say if the great effort in the last game was a transient wave of emotion coming off the McCray suspension or an early sign of cohesion for the new look Terrapins. This game will certainly help us see which is the better explanation right now. My guess is that this group still wants to prove that they can win without McCray and that kids like Mike Jones want to show they are up to the challenge. Temple has the advantage of being at home but unless Maryland continues to be sloppy with the ball and the Owls get out of their shooting funk for one game I think Maryland will pull away with its fourth win in a row.

More Logan-El fallout
The media is now taking notice of the mockery that was Logan-El's commitment announcement at Baltimore's ESPN Zone. The Baltimore Sun has now weighed in on the shabby display by both Logan-El and Penn State. For his part Logan-El seems like he just doesn't get what all the fuss was about. In the Washington Post he tried to explain away the series of events which led many Maryland fans and the staff to feel they were lied to when he chose Penn State.

"Since my suit was black, the red and black combination was a nice combination," he said. "It wasn't like I thought I'd let them see me in red and black so they can think I'm going there."
"People said I shouldn't have worn my Maryland jersey, but I'm going to a Maryland game, what am I going to wear, my Wake Forest jersey? Or I'm going to wear a Penn State jersey? That's disrespectful."

I'm not sure if that makes Logan-El a very disingenuous kid or the biggest fool on the earth. You make your own decision.

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen for one wasn't very happy about the turn of events or what recruiting has become. The coach told the Baltimore Sun, "The kids, their egos and their perceptions of themselves just goes beyond anything you've ever seen before. In those five years I was away, the Internet became an integral part of recruiting. It's just amazing to me. There's a lot of people making a lot of money off of these kids. And look at what's happening to the kids' egos. They eat this stuff up. The people who are around the kid - relatives, parents and street agents - all help to inflate the balloon."

Big Ralph probably has never spoken truer words.

Logan-El said he regretted how the annoucement turned into a controversy and even tried to call and smooth things over with the staff. It was predictable how his efforts were received. "It didn't go well," Logan-El said. "He was pretty upset that I'm not going to the University of Maryland. Same with Coach Sollazzo. I appreciated how they handled everything with so much class and they kind of went over the deep end, but it's okay now."

Perhaps it would be better if you actually had a clue how your actions looked to the outside world, Antonio. The Maryland staff has been doing this since before you were born and they couldn't possibly be happy about the way you handled your recruitment. I can't imagine they like reading in the paper that they "went over the deep end", whatever that means. The sad part is that Logan-El, and the adults around him, were the one who went off the deep end but like many of these little Terrel Owens he just doesn't get it. This event will send shockwaves through the high school football scene that will reverberate for a long time. Expect the Maryland staff to start looking more outside the state for future recruits.

Update: Now some in the national media are also commenting on the Logan-El announcement. This stunt has really started to boomeranged on those who were hoping to embarrass the Maryland staff. Now he's being cast as a symbol of all that is wrong with college recruiting.

The Stomp part II
I couldn't believe I was seeing it when Virginia Tech's Deron Washington kicked Duke's Lee Melchionni in the face last night on national television. In a heated game that also saw the Hokies' Jamon Gordon get a technical foul for shoving Greg Paulus in the back and a spectator throwing objects on the court Virginia Tech got another public relations black eye. Following up the Marcus Vick stomp and subsequent expulsion from the football team would be hard to do but it appears the basketball team has picked up the torch. With five technical fouls since the first Duke game to their credit I have to assume that the Hokies have the most in the ACC. Clearly the Tech players became frustrated when it became obvious that Duke would blow them out after such a heartbreaking loss at Cameron. Deron Washington was suspended by Virginia Tech for their next game against Wake Forest.

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