Wednesday, November 15, 2006

If they can make it there...

Gary Williams' merry bunch head to New York to battle St. Johns tomorrow. Maryland has played some decent teams but this is their first real test against an athletic and deep squad in the Red Storm. Maryland has looked good in their first three wins but will have to make improvements to win in Manhattan.

Maryland blew Florida A&M out in the first few minutes in their last game. Mike Jones lead the way with 16 points and 9 boards and four other Terps scored in double figures. Greivis Vasquez also had his best night as a Terp so far with 13 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists. Vasquez has the range of skills to post a triple double and may well do that before his career is over at College Park. At times Maryland got sloppy with the ball as evidenced by 17 turnovers, many of them unforced, but ran the offense well and continued to be unselfish with the basketball. Gary has this group buying into getting the best look before jacking up a jump shot which is a welcome departure from the last few years. The wings are using their slashing ability to set up shots for their teammates and it is getting open looks for the outside shooters. The stats may not show it yet but this team will be far superior to the last few years in perimeter shooting.

A main point of weakness that Maryland must improve is rebounding and post play. Ekene Ibekwe and James Gist must dramatically improve if this group is to meet their potential. Neither has played well in the first three games and at times they have looked downright awful. James Gist has no excuse to walk away with only 3 rebounds in 25 minutes of play. Against larger and more athletic frontcourts, like St. Johns, Ibekwe and Gist would get abused on the offensive glass. Maryland looks to be in good shape in the backcourt but the frontcourt, which was supposed to be a strength, looks like a weak spot. If they are not careful Bambale Osby may see more time at the expense of one of the starters.

Efficeincy ratings
Offense: 117.1
Defense: 72.1

Notes on the 2006 Schedule
The schedule may not look daunting at the moment but Maryland plays some decent mid-major competition this season. Here is a breakdown of the preseason Sporting News predicted finish of the out of conference opponents:

Mid-Eastern
2nd Hampton
3rd Florida A&M

America East
2nd Vermont

Big South
1st Winthrop
3rd High Point

Mid-Continent
3rd University of Missouri -Kansas City

North East
10th Mount St. Mary's

Patriot
4th American

Metro Atlantic
3rd Siena
4th Iona

Atlantic 10
7th Fordham

There are only a few stinkers in that group. Maryland could find itself in a dogfight in a number of those games. Don't be shocked if this young group even loses to one of that group as happened the other night when Vermont upset 14th ranked Boston College. Three of those teams made the NCAA tournament last season. It may not be Oklahoma or Kentucky but this group along with St. Johns, Illinois, Notre Dame and either Texas or Michigan State will expose any weaknesses that Maryland has at this point in the season. Either way Gary Williams will know where his teams stands going into ACC play. Unlike other ACC programs that play West Florida, Alcorn State and Appalachian State and think that winning by 30 points proves something Maryland will be better in January because they've been tested.

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