Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Texas blueprint

Losing the best player on the team is never a good thing, but it isn't always fatal either. Last season Texas lost all star player PJ Tucker to academics just around the same time that Maryland lost Chris McCray this year. Although Tucker is a small forward he was much better all around player for Texas than McCray was for Maryland. The Longhorns also lost LeMarcus Aldridge around the same time due to an injury. Lacking two of their best players Texas sat at 14-4 with 12 games remaining in the Big 12, which was loaded with good teams. Things didn't start off too well for Texas as they struggled to adjust to life without Tucker and Aldridge and promptly lost 4 out of 5 games.

The team rallied, however, and under the leadership of seniors like Sydmill Harris, Kenny Taylor and Jason Klotz they righted the ship to finish out 6-6 without Tucker. Junior Brad Buckman and freshman Daniel Gibson also became reliable goto players for coach Rick Barnes. Texas was on the bubble late in the season but squeezed in with room to spare as a number 8 seed.

Maryland now sits at 13-4 (3-2) and in a very nice position. If they can win tonight they will be 4-2 in the ACC and with a 5-5 record the rest of the way be safely in the NCAAs with a 9-7 ACC record. Maryland also possess a good upperclass core of players, with sophomore James Gist the only underclassman who gets regular minutes. You would expect a group of juniors and seniors to be able to absorb the blow of losing a player like McCray and still be competitive.

Georgia Tech has never been an easy place for Maryland to play but this Yellow Jackets squad isn't a bad opponent. They are coming into the game with a three game losing streak and a potentially crippling loss to Clemson at home. With a young team you never know how that will effect their psyche. Tech doesn't protect the ball well and will give up their share of turnovers probably a function of youth, their up tempo style and inconsistent point guard play. They are not terribly efficient on either offense or defense and are not the greatest free throw shooting team. The one thing they do well is rebound. Jeremis Smith is probably one of the better offensive rebounders in the ACC and Ra'Sean Dickey isn't a slouch either. Maryland's frontcourt will have to be active to prevent those second chance points.

Anthony Morrow is a classic sharp shooter and can change a game if he gets hot from outside. His defense is average and he doesn't share the ball much. It will be interesting to see if Gary Williams puts DJ Strawberry on Morrow and forces one of Tech's other backcourt players to beat the Terps. I would guess either Strawberry or Sterling Ledbetter would get that assignment. Neither Lewis Clinch or Zam Frederick are likely to require lockdown defense as both are shooting under 40% from the floor.

I don't think this is a bad matchup for Maryland. It could be a little ugly in the first 10 minutes as both teams are going to be a little tight, Tech feeling pressure from its losing streak and Maryland from the McCray incident. Maryland is the more experienced and deeper group and so I would expect them to pull off a hard fought victory.


irwin robinsonmd said...

Once again you hit the target with your impressions.
I love what you offer and now when I get on my computer here in Fl. the first site I go to is yours instead of the Wash. area newspaper sports media or terrapin times.

dolphinfan said...

Texas went way down hill after losing Tucker last season. The actually lost him at the semister and the team was never the same.

I hope Maryland has better luck!

Paul said...

McCray's a key guy, you could call him the "best player" I suppose. Let's not confuse him with Juan Dixon though. He's a role player on a team full of role players. He is not a carry-the-team guy. He has never done that and I think they still will make the tourney without him. They had pretty crowded rotation before and I think DJ is a better version of McCray anyway.

Esquire said...

I wouldn't say Texas went "way down" last year after losing Tucker. They still made the NCAAs as an 8th seed. Also remember they lost LeMarcus Aldridge at the same time. I'd say making it to the NCAAs in spite of losing two players like that is damn good.

Compliments are always appreciated!