Sunday, February 26, 2006

Pack it in

You can't expect a team to be suddenly better than what they have shown in the previous 25 some odd games. This Maryland team is a fairly ordinary bunch that isn't worth mentioning along with the top teams in the ACC. The players on this team are a flawed bunch that don't mesh well together. I feel Gary Williams has tried everything he can the last two years to reach this group and it just isn't going to happen.

What you can expect is a team to compete with their opponents. To at least put forth a good showing in the areas that are not dependent on high levels of skill. Rebounding, defense, getting to loose balls these are all things that even mediocre players can do with some success if they put forth a high level of effort. Highly skilled players can do the first two without complete effort but merely average players cannot. This Maryland team can't hope to give the effort they have the last 10 games and hope to win more than a couple. They didn't just go down to the Dean Dome in the biggest game of their season and lose, that should have been expected, they were never competitive in a 24 point blowout to a good but nowhere near great Tarheel team. It was another embarrassing loss in a season that has had far too many.

Nik Caner-Medley struggled against the long and quick perimeter players for Carolina as he did in the previous meeting. Reyshawn Terry and Danny Green are bad matchups for Caner-Medley on both ends of the floor. He shot a horrid 3-16 while forcing far too many shots. He has started pressing the last few games and his shot selection has gone right down the tidy bowl.

DJ Strawberry has regressed in the last 5 games and had a dreadful night. The utter horror show that was his performance can't be seen in the box score. On defense he's started to wander around like the guy in those old Maxwell House commercials popping in for a cup of coffee with complete strangers. You never know where he's going to show up. Sometimes it is hard to tell who he is even trying to guard. On offense he only runs the offensive sets about half the time before he either drives the lane, without any thoughts of a kick out to an open man, or throws one pass to a teammate who inevitably throws up a shot regardless if he's open or not. I love Strawberry as a passionate player and someone who will try hard every night but he's killing this team right now.

James Gist and Ekene Ibekwe have been largely ineffective on either end of the floor the last few weeks. On offense neither can create anything in the low post unless they have some space or the ability to drive to the lane. Neither understands where they need to position themselves in the low block and often get the ball where they have little chance for a good shot. Reyshawn Terry and David Noel don't have the physical ability of either Gist or Ibekwe but that duo outrebounded them both again. Much was made of all the "layups" that Maryland missed inside and that was an explanation for the 24 point loss, which is total hooey. It has nothing to do with the shots just not going in, this group wasn't a good shooting team before they dropped off the cliff in the last few games. Last season this same bunch had one of the lowest field goal percentages for any team in the Gary Williams era. They have all the firepower of a Daisy air rifle.

It doesn't help that Mike Jones is still in a shooting funk that has seen him go 5-21 in the last two games. He wasn't so totally befuddled on defense as he was against the athletic guards for Georgia Tech and Florida State. Then again you could probably guard walk-on guard Wes Miller with any number of kids playing in high school at the moment. His game consists of spot up 3-point shots and that is it. With a bench that hasn't produced a double digit scorer since Chris McCray flunked off the team Maryland can't afford to have Jones and Caner-Medley play this poorly on offense. The current bench has to be among the worst in the ACC and it places Maryland at a huge disadvantage.

When the lead swelled to 20 points it was obvious that more than a few Maryland players had already quit which was highlighted by the loafing down the court in transition and the fact that Carolina, even with an insurmountable advantage, was outhustling Maryland for most of the loose balls and rebounds. Maryland gave up running its offense early in the second half and would often make no more than 2 passes in a possession, in spite of the fact that the players insisted they were getting good looks, resulting in a putrid 27% shooting night. Carolina's defense simply isn't that good and it is incomprehensible that a group of players on the level of Maryland's could play so poorly. The comments coming out of the locker room afterwards struck me as more delusional than a feeble attempt to keep hope alive. It is hard to fix your problems when the players don't even have a clue what they are failing to accomplish on the floor.

To add insult to injury it is Senior Day for Maryland when they play Miami on Wednesday night. We'll have to ponder this senior class that has been the biggest disaster in at least the last 15 years. Sadly it is about time to look ahead to next year and a fresh start with some new faces.

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