Thursday, March 09, 2006

Third time could be a charm

Interesting contrast with last season. Maryland stands in a better position this March in spite of lacking a season sweep, or even single victory, against Duke. They faced a first round opponent in Clemson that had swept them in the regular season and it was widely believed they only needed one win in the ACC tournament to secure an invite. We all know how that turned out.

This year things could be different and I have a feeling, as scary as it is, that Maryland will win tonight and put themselves into the NCAA tournament. Maryland matches up well with Georgia Tech and I doubt the Jackets have a upset in them having lost four of the last five games. The only reason the last game went to overtime was that Maryland had over 26 turnovers. If Maryland doesn't turn the ball over 20+ times they will win, simple as that. Both previous contests were physical with heaps of foul shots and I expect this game to follow the same script. Maryland needs to continue its improved perimeter defense to prevent Anthony Morrow from having a good game. Morrow can't create his own shot with any consistency but can do damage with his spot shooting. Ra'Sean Dickey has had two great games against Maryland's frontcourt and will probably have another tonight. He can't beat Maryland alone though.

Some interesting articles in the Baltimore Sun and Washington Times in which players admitted they were not playing hard on defense all year. It shouldn't be a shock to anyone who watched them I suppose but it is impossible to understand that even after last season this group didn't understand they could not just outscore opponents.

"I think people knew that, but it just wasn't a point of emphasis," junior guard D.J. Strawberry said. "It just wasn't a main point. Everyone knew we had to play defense, but we were going to outscore everybody. We lucked up and outscored some teams and played terrible defense and still won."
I like DJ Strawberry but I just have to read that and shake my head in disbelief.

Blogger turned sports journalist Yoni Cohen had good summary of how the modified RPI formula has benefited some mid-major teams, most notably the Missouri Valley Conference, and inflated their ratings going into this season. With the MVC being a hot topic these days it is mandatory reading. My feeling is that the only MVC team that truly deserves an at-large bid is Northern Iowa. They have wins against Iowa and LSU to their credit, yet also lost to Indiana State which is 161 in the latest RPI. No other MVC teams have impressive out-of-conference wins with the top four quality victories being George Mason (by Creighton), Western Kentucky (by Bradley), Kent State (by So. Illinois) and Northwestern St. (by Wichita St.). That doesn't sound like an conference that deserves four or more NCAA bids to me. Maryland alone has more impressive out-of-conference wins than the top 4 teams in the MVC combined.

All this has me feeling that if Maryland can win tonight and avoid an embarrassing loss to Boston College tomorrow the Terps will be dancing again. Root for teams like Nevada and George Washington to avoid upsets in their tournaments so that they won't gobble up at large bids. Whatever happens it will make for one of the more interesting selection Sundays in a while.

Speaking of George Washington, head coach Karl Hobbs is in damage control mode after a devistating article in the Washington Post this weekend about senior forward Omar Williams and his dubious academic record. Nice to see Hobbs use the race card to defend his actions, just like John Thompson used to do at Georgetown. The folks over in Foggy Bottom are upset at the timing of the article and I guess it isn't pleasant to be confronted with the sordid truth about how they have built their program.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim went ballistic yesterday in a post game news conference after senior Gerry McNamara hit an improbable 3-point basket with only seconds left in the game, McNamara traveled before he shot the ball but Boeheim wasn't complaining about that. Boeheim said that Syracuse wouldn't have "won 10 f*cking games" without McNamara. When Boeheim let lose the profanity there was an audible gasp from the press corps. The problem is that McNamara is overrated, probably one of the most overrated players in the nation, and if they are a 10 win team without him then they certainly don't belong in the NCAA tournament. McNamara is shooting a putrid 36% from the floor and only 33% from 3-point range yet shot over 270 times from outside the arch. It would be charitable to call McNamara mediocre and without a complimentary player like Carmelo Anthony or Hakim Warrick he has struggled even more.

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