Friday, February 03, 2006

Terps disgust Williams

There was no ambiguity as to how Gary Williams felt after the 77-62 debacle against North Carolina. Williams said he was "disgusted" with how his team played in their first home game since January 21. I'm sure many Terp fans shared his feelings after watching one of the more wretched performances of the last few seasons, which there have been too many to choose from. I guess it serves me right given that I had written about their improved offense that this group of players would find a different way to lose against North Carolina. Sometimes the task in playing basketball comes down to something as simple as getting the ball through the hoop. This team has never been a collection of good shooters, with the exception perhaps of Mike Jones, but they collapsed in a spectacular fashion last night. It was another disheartening loss from a group that had produced more than their fare share of them.

One could start with the obvious problem which would be the dreadful 35% shooting, but it goes deeper than that. Why Maryland shot so poorly cannot be explained by simply saying they are not good shooters. Very few of the shots that Maryland took were "good" shots that had a decent chance of success. Little of the credit was due to North Carolina, which merely played adequate position defense for most of the night, most of it was extremely poor decisions by Maryland on offense. As Williams alluded to in his postgame comments the team rarely actually ran the offense in the half court. The settled for quick shots that had little chance of going in and would often press transition when Maryland did not have the numbers. They simply made North Carolina's job fairly easy given that they often only had to defend one or two passes before Maryland would chuck up a shot. The team seemed to have no patience or confidence that running the cuts and screens would allow them a better shot.

The defense in the half court wasn't particularly good either, although they forced the turnover prone Tarheels into giving away 24 . North Carolina also amassed 22 assists and shot 45% from the floor but the overall defensive efficiency for Maryland was 97.7, which isn't good but isn't horrible either. When your offensive efficiency is a putrid 81.8 then you won't win much if you play just mediocre defense.

The guard play was mediocre at best as both Sterling Ledbetter and DJ Strawberry struggled to orchestrate the ball movement in the half court. The both would often force passes and pick up their dribbles in bad positions. Not that their teammates helped them much by creating good movement or keeping the proper spacing. From top to bottom this club doesn't understand the basics of passing. Ledbetter is virtually no threat to score and shows poor understanding of the offense. Too often Strawberry is sloppy with his passes and ball handling and will force one-on-one moves when he shouldn't. I felt that Mike Jones was not used properly in the game and by the time he was shooting desperation threes when the game was already decided it was too late. Jones needs to have offensive sets run for him to give him good looks at the basket. He can't create much on his own. Gary Williams needs to recognize this and modify his offense to accommodate his personnel.

Nik Caner-Medley was coming off two 30 point games but you wouldn't know it for his dreadful shooting and poor shot selection he showed last night. Against the long and quick wing players for Carolina he struggled to score off the dribble. Caner-Medley is the kind of player that needs good matchups to really play well and he didn't have any advantage over the Tarheel defenders he saw last night. He got frustrated and began forcing bad shots in the second half when the team needed him to be a steadying force.

I'm at a loss to explain the disappearance of the frontcourt in the last few weeks. Ekene Ibekwe has seemed to regress and was a non-factor in the last two losses. He has been totally unable to develop any kind of consistency this season. James Gist struggled for most of the game but did finish with the best production out of the frontcourt with 11 points and 9 rebounds. Maryland must have more production out of both Gist and Ibekwe if they are to make a run at the NCAAs. Travis Garrison was his normal ineffective self and has also developed an annoying habit of shooting whenever and where ever he gets the ball on offense. Will Bowers played some solid defense on Tyler Hansbrough and clearly got under the skin of the freshman. He is without a doubt the most reliable low post defender on the squad.

The coaching staff didn't have a great night either. The team seemed totally unprepared for this game even though it was at home and they had three full days of preparation. I thought Williams failed to call timeouts when the game was going in North Carolina's favor and then wasted a bunch when it was already too late. It was an all around dreadful performance.

Given that Maryland really only has one game that seems to be a likely win in the rest of their schedule, Georgia Tech at home, it will be very hard for this group to make the NCAAs. With a road trip to NC State and a home game against Duke in the next 8 days it doesn't look very promising. With four road games out of the last six it is hard to be optimistic about their chances, especially for a team that plays poorly on the road.

Note on efficiency ratings:
These ratings are a measure of the points per 100 possessions that a team will score on offense or allow on defense. This enables us to examine how a team fares independent of its tempo or method of play. So therefore a rating of 97.7 means that in 100 possessions the team will score 97 points. Dean Oliver, now of the Seattle Sonics, has advocated this method to evaluate basketball teams and players.

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