Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Go see the Wizard

For a long time I was a Miami Dolphins fan. One of my favorite players during the 16 years or so that I cheered for the franchise was linebacker Bryan Cox. You may remember him as a fiery and at times volatile character. His most memorable moment may have been his double finger salute to the Buffalo fans after they directed some racist taunts at him. I followed him when he went to the Bears after Jimmy Johnson took over the team and I stopped rooting for the 'Phins. I'm sure you're wondering what the hell this has to do with the sad state of Maryland basketball. Let me explain why I bring up Mr. Cox.

After an embarrassing loss to the Packers Cox had had enough of his teammates accepting mediocrity. In the locker room after the 37-6 rout by the Packers in Soldier Field Cox erupted. "Some of us need to see the Wizard because we don't have a lot of heart," Cox spat to reporters, "Search the waiver wire. This ain't college. If people are not doing their job, let's get out and get some people in who want to play."

Now I'm sure there were some out there who didn't like what he had to say. He was being a loudmouth or had violated some "code of the lockeroom" or some such nonsense. I bet his teammates, specifically the ones who knew he was talking about them, didn't like it either. What he said wasn't popular but then again often the truth often isn't. Which brings us back to the 2005 Maryland Terrapins. In the wreckage of the loss to Clemson last night Nik Caner-Medley came as close to saying about his teammates what Bryan Cox said about the Bears all those years ago. He didn't mention a tin man, cowardly lion or brainless scarecrow, though this team has a few of each, but the message was the same. Said Caner-Medley after the game:

"Teams are shooting better against us than they do against any other team in the league. Really what it comes down to is you can play team defense all you want, but you have to be able to stop your man. At this level, you have to take pride in that. I just think that right now everybody has to do a lot of soul-searching on this team, and look themselves in the mirror and think about how bad you want to win, and how bad you want to prepare, and how bad you want to dedicate your life to this game. That's what it really comes down to."

Harsh, but true. The painful fact is that Clemson's collection of sad talent simply wanted to win more than Maryland's players did and it showed as Clemson played energized and aggressive defense and got to more loose balls. With the exception of Caner-Medley, who seems to be the only player who hasn't packed it in yet, this group went down and got outworked by a bunch of NIT level players who had not won a game in almost a month. I think it is safe to assume that for the second straight year the NCAA tournament will be without a Maryland squad at this point. They do have five games left but will be favored in probably only one of those contests. Given this groups inability to compete in road games I don't see them winning the 2 out of 3 road games they will need to have a shot at the NCAAs. The Terps' RPI is still a healthy 43 as of this morning but it has been sinking with every game. The game at Chapel Hill against the Tar Heels who are currently 22nd in the RPI looms large, though if they can't beat FSU or Georgia Tech between now and then it won't matter much.

I haven't mustered the stomach to analyze the game yet, but as always I have some thoughts about it. I'll post them by tomorrow I hope.


dolphinfan said...

I'm still a Dolphins fan and loved Bryan Cox (hated Jimmy Johnson though) from the time he took on the entire Bengals bench as a rookie because someone took a cheap shot on one of the Miami players.

Esquire said...

The treatment of Don Shula really soured me to the Dolphins. I still loved Marino but couldn't stand Jimmy Johnson. It was the end of an era for me.

I think it was Miami's kicker Pete Stoyanovich who got sprawled out by a block on a kick return. Cox saw some Bengals laughing about it and decided he needed to do something about it. More amazing given that he was a rookie!

That is the kind of guy you would want as a teammate.

soupreheated said...

I think they need brains, not heart. Whenever the going gets tough, the Terps get ragged. This is a function of panic, of not thinking through situations, of not settling into an offense. Wish I could say this is a phenomenon limited to the teams of the last two years, but Gary's teams get rattled. It's a function of bad coaching and poor on-court hoops IQ, unfortunately. Gary and Nik and everyone else can whine about "effort" and "desire" and "pride" and all that other crap. This team's dumb, it's coach is stubborn, and neither one of them can keep their cool. That's the problem.

Esquire said...

I think fans see different things in this team which is probably a function of their inconsistency. As Caner-Medley said in an interview it isn't just one thing that is killing them but lots of little things.

When I see players loafing down the court, not getting to loose balls, getting beaten for rebounds, throwing lazy passes that get stolen, giving up wide open shots on defense and all in a critical game against a team that is 3-8 in the ACC, to me that is about a team content to be mediocre.

As for Gary's teams getting rattled in the past I'm not sure what you mean, or if that is even accurate. I suppose you could say any team that lost got "rattled" at some point in the game. As for "bad coaching" by Williams, if that was true this team would be sitting next to Wake Forest right now at the bottom of the ACC with all the problems of the last two seasons.