Thursday, March 29, 2007

Roy Shottenheimer

I certainly didn't mean to imply that Roy Williams is not a great coach in many areas. There may not be a coach in America with a better recruiting record than Williams. At North Carolina I think he has even raised his already impressive recruiting prowess with players like Hansbrough, Wright, Ellington, Marvin Williams, Lawson and the rest. His ability to draw elite high school talent is obvious.

His coaching has not been so stellar. When he came to UNC it was true that the program had endured a historically awful season but it was a team that had quit on coach Matt Doherty and was loaded with talented players who had not reached their potential. There were four first round draft picks on the 2005 Carolina squad that won Williams only national championship. I'm not suggesting that anyone could have won a national title but it wasn't as if the cupboard was bare in Chapel Hill either.

Last year Carolina lost to George Mason as the Colonials made their Cinderella run through the NCAA tournament. It was a huge upset that only looked slightly better after George Mason upset the underachieving Connecticut Huskies. This year Carolina lost another game, this time to Georgetown, that may not have been as big an upset but was a game that Carolina let slip away in the final moments when they had controlled the majority of the contest. There isn't a great deal of shame in the one seed losing in the regional finals but it has to be a disappointment for a team that had to end up sharing the regular season title in the ACC.

Williams' record at Kansas also seems to demonstrate that his teams don't play particularly well with high expectations. For example:

1990 Kansas as a 2 seed looses to 7 seed UCLA in the second round

1992 Kansas as a 1 seed looses to 9 seed UTEP in the second round

1995 Kansas as a 1 seed looses to 4 seed Virginia in the Sweet 16

1996 Kansas as a 2 seed looses to 4 seed Syracuse in Regional Final

1997 Kansas as a 1 seed looses to 4 seed Arizona in Sweet 16

1998 Kansas as a 1 seed looses to 8 seed Rhode Island in second round

Out of the four times that Kansas was awarded a 1 seed under Roy Williams they only made the Final Four once. Only twice did his teams reach the Sweet 16 or beyond as a 1 seed. The 1998 Kansas team went 35-4 with NBA lottery picks in Raef LaFrentz and Paul Pierce yet lost in the second round as you can see above. His team was loaded with talent in 2002 and 2003 yet seemed to come up short in the bigger games they played against Maryland and Syracuse. Williams does seem to have an amazing ability to lose to the eventual national champion when his team does get knocked out. I used to be convinced it was just bad luck, after the last two seasons I'm not sure that is true.

This season he did far too much tinkering with his rotations and as a result Carolina never evolved into a good enough defensive team. In the end that is what did his squad in when they lost to Georgetown. I'm not sure I can think of a game this year in which I thought his coaching made the difference in UNC pulling out a victory.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Reader Questions

I'm a tad bored with the Final Four right now although I was very impressed with UCLA and their defense. No team of the four left in the tournament plays defense at a level comparable to the Bruins. To me they are the team playing the best basketball on both ends of the floor. They may not be pretty but I think they are a purist's dream team.

Was the collapse of North Carolina Roy Williams' fault? I'd say largely it was. His constant tinkering with the rotations prevented the Tarheels from finding any rhythm on offense but more importantly it was especially damaging on defense. North Carolina wasn't a great defensive team this season beyond defensive rebounding and ranked 54th in the nation in effective field goal percentage defense. Not terrible but very low among tournament teams. Out of the top four seeds in each bracket UNC ranked 11th out of 16 teams in effective field goal percent defense. In a sense it isn't surprising that the high percentage Princeton offense that Georgetown uses would be difficult for the Tarheels to defend. The Hoyas scorched the nets shooting 57% in the game while Carolina shot 35% and only 25% from 3-point range. Roy Williams is the Marty Schottenheimer of college basketball for both good and bad. Roy is an excellent recruiter and can build a program into a Cadillac within a few seasons. In big games Williams has never distinguished himself and seems to lose games even when he has superior talent. Roy Williams certainly is one of the better coaches in college basketball but losing games like this deep in the NCAA tournament seems to be a disturbing pattern.

Now onto a question from a reader:

I know it's not Maryland related, but what are your thoughts on McRoberts leaving early? Surprised me a bit, and I think he may wind up regretting it. I think he could use some more time in college to shore up his post game, and maybe find an outside shot in the 15-footer range. I find it hard to believe he will be successful in posting up in the NBA. Also, any thoughts on DJ's chances in the NBA draft?

Josh McRoberts seems to have been a tad overrated coming out of high school but he is a very skilled 6-10 player. He may have been the second or third best ball handler on his team this past year and during the times when Paulus was struggling McRoberts was a primary ball handler. There have been rumors that he isn't well liked on his own team and tends to blame teammates for his own mistakes. If that is true it would explain him throwing his name into the NBA draft. I don't pretend to know a great deal about what NBA teams look for in the draft, and if recent drafts are any indication then the NBA scouts themselves don't seem to have a much better idea than me. Having said that I think the experts who are saying this was a huge mistake for McRoberts are probably off the mark. He has excellent ball handling skills and passing ability for his size. He isn't a great shooter or defender but that hasn't stopped 6-10 players with potential from getting drafted in the past. I'd be surprised if McRoberts wasn't selected towards the end of the lottery. He hasn't shown the ability at Duke to be the kind of featured player you would like him to be and there are some questions about his maturity so he certainly has his negatives but I see some team taking a shot at him.

As for DJ Strawberry I think he has a shot at being drafted late in the 2nd round if he does well at the pre-draft camps. His shooting deficiencies are going to hurt his chances to a degree. His defense and quickness are going to get him some looks but unless his shooting improves he is a defensive specialist. Those kinds of players rarely get taken in the first or early second round. Still his size and quickness give him an outside shot at making a roster. He is a better professional prospect than Chris McCray or Nik Caner-Medley and they both made the roster of NBA teams, at least for a while.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


What is with the horrid officiating this NCAA tournament? First there was the two shooting fouls at the end of the Virginia Tech versus Illinois game that were never called on the Hokies, then the phantom charge call on DJ Strawberry (perhaps the winner of blow call of the year) and last night the missed travel on Georgetown's Jeff Green that should have nullified the Hoyas' winning basket over Vanderbilt in the Sweet Sixteen matchup. Each call determined the outcome of the game and were beyond a judgement call that could have gone either way, these were blatant goat screws.

Of all these travesties I think Vanderbilt got the worst of it. The Commodores outplayed the most overrated team in the entire tournament for most of the game and deserved to advance to the Elite Eight. How Jeff Green got away with a blatant travel after picking up his pivot foot is beyond comprehension. This isn't the NBA this is college basketball where the officials are supposed to call traveling, Big East Player of the Year or not. At least the Hoyas will have no chance to advance past North Carolina in the next game but Vanderbilt was robbed of an Elite Eight birth and Georgetown gets another game they didn't deserve. It was the worst case scenario for the ending of such an important game.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sweet 16 Sour for ACC

For most of the season many sports commentators and coaches from the ACC were touting the league's strength and superiority in college basketball. It may still be true that, top to bottom, the ACC was the most balanced and, in that sense, strongest conference in the nation. It is also apparent that the league had a bunch of talented but flawed teams that had little chance for a deep run in the NCAA tournament. I felt going into the tournament that only North Carolina had a decent chance to make a run to the Final Four out of the seven ACC teams that made the NCAA tournament. Turns out they were the only team that was able to even make the Sweet Sixteen and, for the first time since 1979, only one ACC team was able to make it out of the first weekend. This was the first time ever since the tournament expanded to its current configuration in 1985 that the ACC only had a single representative in the regional semifinal.

So much for expansion helping ACC basketball. More weak teams in the NCAA tournament that have little chance to do much once they get there isn't what made the ACC the preeminent basketball power in college basketball. When was the last time that a ACC regular season champion didn't make it past the round of 32? That would be 2003, widely regarded as one of the weakest years in recent memory for the ACC, when Wake Forest was the regular season champions but lost to 10 seed Auburn in the second round.

There has been some suggestion that the ACC should expand the regular season to 18 games, which is at least a start in the right direction, but that won't cure the flaw in league play with the unbalanced schedule in effect. There isn't any total cure for this problem. The league expanded and this is what fans are stuck with now. The ACC is just like any other mega conference in college sports these days as this year's NCAA tournament has demonstrated. The ACC may not have been overrated in the technical sense. The entire field of college basketball has become more dispersed in talent and mediocre parity has ruled the sport the last few seasons. It explains how talented but fundamentally flawed teams like Connecticut and Duke from last season and virtually every one seed this season are viewed as powerhouse teams. The ACC may just have been the best conference, by a small margin, in collection of weak conferences.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Butler 62 Maryland 59

The final game of the season for Maryland wasn't pretty but it shouldn't sour the legacy of this Terrapin squad. They went some of the way in reestablishing the Maryland basketball program as a perennial NCAA tournament selection. I know many fans may be disappointed that they did not take advantage of a great opportunity to knock off a vastly overrated Butler team and advance to the Sweet 16 but it shouldn't prevent them from reflecting on the achievements of this group.

It was an ugly half court style of game with a pace that would make only a glacier jealous. Afterwards the Butler players claimed they didn't try and slow the game down and were just taking what Maryland gave them. Either they are fairly stupid at Butler or they just wouldn't admit that they couldn't beat Maryland by playing any other way. Still, Maryland played poorly enough to let Butler play the kind of game they wanted and they were able to convert that into a nip and tuck victory. Besides dominating Butler with an amazing +15 rebound margin Maryland didn't do anything else well that had propelled them to a seven game winning streak that salvaged their season. Sloppy turnovers, uninspired defense, impotent offensive possessions and lack of on the court leadership doomed the Terps.

Overall Maryland played poorly in its last three games. There was the abysmal performance against Miami and then a near defeat at the hands of Davidson in the first round, followed up by a flawed performance against Butler. In not one of those three games did Maryland show the level of play they had when they ripped off seven straight wins at the end of the regular season. Maybe the team got complacent when it appeared they made the NCAA tournament or maybe they just went into one of the swoons they have been known for the last few seasons. This senior class hasn't been known for its toughness outside of DJ Strawberry and this loss was emblematic of the struggles of this group since coming to College Park in 2003. It was noted that they are the first Maryland class to fail to reach a Sweet 16 since 1993 but that hardly tells the whole story. The 2002 class only escaped that dubious distinction because they played on a team with Drew Nicholas and Steve Blake. Moreover the 2002 class didn't possess the character, on or off the court, that this group of seniors has shown.

The loss to Butler served as a reminder of why this group struggled to uphold Maryland's legacy of excellence in college basketball. In the final game of their careers Mike Jones still couldn't play adequate defense, Ekene Ibekwe lacked the required effort to be an effective force on the inside and DJ Strawberry struggled to provide the scoring that Maryland needed to pull the game out. Strawberry was suffering from the flu to be fair and I think it obviously had some effect on his poor play. For the game Strawberry shot 3-10 for 8 points along with 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 turnovers in 37 minutes of play. One of those turnovers was a controversial charge call in the waining moments of the game, so without further delay let's examine that call.

With 41 seconds on left in the game Maryland got the ball inside to James Gist who then passed to a cutting Strawberry on his way down the lane. It was the same play that Maryland had run in a previous possession that got DJ Strawberry to the foul line. On this play Butler forward Brandon Crone (shouldn't he be in the cast of The O.C. with a name like that?) slid underneath Strawberry and the resulting collision was called a foul. Not only was Crone moving, not only did he slid under Strawberry while he was already in the air but he was UNDER THE BASKET! Any one of those three factors would require either a blocking foul or at least a non-call from the official. It was more than a blown call as it turned out to be decisive to the outcome of the game. Instead of Strawberry going to the free throw line or James Gist dunking home the rebound, as he looked likely to do, Butler got the ball back. It was a terrible end to a very poorly officiated game. Maryland played badly enough to deserve losing but the players should decide the outcome and not incompetent officials.

I'm sure Strawberry was terribly disappointed with how his career at Maryland ended but he didn't get all that much help from the rest of the backcourt. Mike Jones had a hot shooting night and scored a game high 21 points on 8-13 shooting. He was at his best shooting over the smaller defenders for Butler and buried five 3-point baskets. It was also typical of Jones that he never got to the foul line in spite of his 13 field goal attempts. Putting the ball on the floor and getting to the rim was never a significant part of Jones' game and it made him a one dimensional offensive threat that was easier to nullify for opposing teams. His defense was spotty as always and he added three turnovers including the bobbled pass with less than a second left in the game that ended Maryland's chances. Somehow it seems fitting that Jones never was able to get off what would have been the last shot of his career.

Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes, who had played above their experience for most of the season, reverted to confused freshmen in their second NCAA tournament game. Together they had averaged 14.6 points per game for Maryland during the season but only managed six against Butler. Perhaps they were due for a bad game having played so well during the winning streak but the Terps need them to play better than they did against Butler. Hayes continues to be unwilling to look for any offensive opportunities for himself, which will be a big problem if it continues next season, and the fact that he doesn't score helps the opposing defense. Neither Vasquez nor Hayes turned the ball over much in this game but that is somewhat deceptive as both made poor decisions in the half court offense. The future is bright for these two and hopefully they will remember this disappointment and use it as motivation in preparation for next season.

Ekene Ibekwe went out with a whimper instead of a bang for his last game as a Terrapin. He only scored 8 points and grabbed 9 rebounds against a frontcourt that didn't have an ounce of his athletic ability. His free throw shooting deficiency came back to haunt him as he missed all four attempts from the line. He also got stripped of the ball while attempting to make moves in the low post, racking up four turnovers. His play off the high screens that Butler ran was terrible as usual and partially accounted for the forwards hitting six 3-pointers against Maryland. In four years he never learned how to properly hedge on high screens against perimeter shooters. It was a dreadful game for Ibekwe and he admitted as much afterwards.

James Gist looked like he was ready to retake his scoring role on the team in the first half with 9 points and 5 rebounds but then disappeared in the 2nd half, as he has done too often this season. After the break he went 1-4 with 4 points and 3 rebounds. As with Jones one of his major weaknesses is an inability to get to the foul line when he isn't scoring from the floor, though to his credit at least he made all three of his chances. He did block four shots and showed glimpses of the dominating player he still might become in his final season.

Bambale Osby didn't have any bench magic this game as he only produced 3 points and 2 rebounds in 13 minutes. His lack of production off the bench meant the Terrapins couldn't account for the poor play of Ibekwe in the post. He also had several ill advised passes that got stolen. Senior Will Bowers came off the bench and didn't record any statistic in four minutes of play. Not a point, rebound, field goal attempt or even a foul. Perhaps Gary Williams should have tried out Parrish Brown a little more to see if he could provide a spark but the senior only played 2 minutes total. Overall the bench failed to produce anything of note and was outscored by Butler's bench 15-3.

I don't have a problem with Gary Williams decision to not foul with 41 second left. Butler is a pretty good free throw shooting team and AJ Graves only hits about 96% of his free throws so fouling and hoping for misses wasn't a high percentage play. Maryland was dominating the rebounding advantage and you could hope for a possible steal or turnover. The strategy was sound and Butler did miss its shot but Greivis Vasquez failed to box out Mike Green on the rebound and that was the game. As it happened Maryland still had a chance with 3.6 seconds left to try a tying 3-point shot but couldn't get it off before time expired. Dave Neal had a great rebound and feed to Strawberry but the ball was slapped away by Crone before Strawberry could get the ball up the court.

Butler had 20 points off 17 Maryland turnovers and limited Maryland to 3 fast break points. Maryland did everything in its power to give the game away to Butler yet despite playing so poorly still had a chance to win in the final minutes. The Terps should have beaten Butler, who will advance to only the second Sweet 16 in school history and have no chance to beat number one seed Florida in the next game. It is more a shame that Maryland squandered an opportunity to advance past an inferior team and at least play for the chance to get to an Elite Eight.

I'll have a reflection on this season and what Maryland has to look forward to in the coming days but I hope to also give some thoughts on the rest of the NCAA tournament happenings. For Maryland fans there is always next season.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Maryland 82 Davidson 70

Since the March Madness on demand from CBS keeps crashing my web browser and I've lost a number of entries as a result I'm not going to comment much more on the Davidson game. Maryland didn't really play all that well but shot better than Davidson from both in front and behind the arch. Maryland's 22 turnovers, many of them silly and unforced, prevented Maryland from putting Davidson away earlier than they did. Davidson's early 3-point shooting also kept thing tight for a while but dried up in the 2nd half after Maryland's athleticism and depth wore the smaller Davidson players down.

Maryland plays Butler, probably the most overrated "mid-major" in the entire NCAA tournament, on Saturday at 3:20pm. Butler also relies on perimeter shooting but prefers a much slower tempo than Davidson. They will try to shorten the game and prevent Maryland from getting out on fast breaks. Their frontcourt is undersized and not particularly great at rebounding but they are loaded with experienced upperclassmen. If Maryland continues to be sloppy with the ball, and Maryland's freshmen guards especially Eric Hayes need to play with more poise, then this team could give Maryland an ugly loss. Otherwise Maryland should win easily over the over matched Butler team.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Goliath Wins

I'm happy that so many of the folks that picked the upset in the Maryland versus Davidson game were disappointed. As has been the case this season Maryland displayed a great toughness in coming back from an 8 point deficit in the 2nd half. Davidson wilted down the stretch as Maryland increased the tempo and tightened up on defense. In the last five minutes Davidson went 1-12 from the field as Maryland pulled away. It was clear that Maryland had played in big games like this and had just enough poise to defeat the more inexperienced Davidson.

The team looked a little shaky in the first half as the defense was porous, especially guarding the 3-point line in transition, and some of the younger players looked a little nervous. The starting frontcourt struggled in the first half but then corrected their problems in the second half and began to really dominate in the paint. Boom Osby had a fantastic contribution off the bench as Ekene Ibekwe got into foul trouble and had to sit for long stretches of the 2nd half. Osby scored 9 of his 11 points in just 12 minutes of play in the second half.

I am a believer in Stephen Curry now. He needs to round out his game a little more as he takes too many 3-point shots, but he is a very skilled player and could play at most ACC schools. Davidson is a tough group of players that will only get better when they all return next season. Assuming they don't let this all go to their heads look for them in the top 25 next season.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Davidson, not David

For any of you who are somewhat concerned by all the lemmings picking Davidson to upset Maryland please listen to Gary Parrish on CBS Sportsline.

2:20 ET: The first game of the NCAA Tournament is Davidson-Maryland. Naturally, you must start here if only to witness the moment Davidson steps on the court with a Top 100 team for the first time since Jan. 20. All those people who love Davidson apparently don't understand that of its 29 wins, exactly 29 of them came at the expense of teams ranked 105th or worse. Put another way, I hope you don't have Davidson advancing too far. And by too far, I mean at all.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Maryland opens tournament

Maryland is scheduled to play the first game of the opening round of the NCAA tournament. There is a "play in" game tonight between Niagara and Florida A&M. The tip is scheduled for 12:20 on Thursday afternoon.

In reviewing Davidson I think it is difficult to predict how well they matchup against Maryland. The quality of their schedule was so bad that it is hard to say how good Davidson really is right now. I am sure that Gary Williams has called his old friend Bobby Cremins, who currently coaches College of Charleston, for a scouting report on Davidson. Cremins' team lost to Davidson in the Southern Conference championship game. Everyone knows about Dell Curry's son and the 3-point shooting prowess of Davidson. Almost 40% of all the shots Davidson takes are from the perimeter compared to 25% for Maryland. This would seem to be in Maryland's favor as they are one of the top teams in the country at defending the 3-point line. The "mid-major" teams that Maryland played this season had even less success from the 3-point line than opponents in ACC play.

Davidson hasn't played even an NIT level opponent in at least a month so it is impossible to determine how well they are playing. In the games against power conference teams they didn't really distinguish themselves. They are a good free throw shooting team and Maryland will need to keep from committing stupid fouls and letting Davidson get into the bonus. Maryland should also have a significant advantage with its bench as Davidson only goes about 7 deep and has little size on the inside. Davidson is a good rebounding team, at least statistically, but seems to do a better job with defensive rebounding than offensive. Despite this they were out rebounded by every high major team they played except a mediocre Missouri squad.

Stephen Curry has gotten deserved attention with his performance in the Southern Conference tournament but when you look a little closer you find that he didn't play so well against the more athletic and deep power conference teams he played. Curry went a combined 8-27 from 3-point range against Duke, Missouri and Michigan. He didn't even play all that well against Arizona State which was the biggest win Davidson had all season. Will he be able to get his shot off against DJ Strawberry, who is more aggressive, quick and physical than any defender he has seen all year? I would say that is unlikely.

Without Curry having a phenomenal game I don't think it is possible for Davidson to come away with a win. As long as Maryland's frontcourt comes ready to play by exploiting a major talent gap with Davidson in the paint and limiting them to one shot per possession on offense the Terrapins should romp to the second round.

Did you notice Maryland wraps up the regular season ranked 18 in the AP poll and 22 in coaches poll? Not bad.

Monday, March 12, 2007

ACC Notes with TRR

Our friends at Tobacco Road Report were kind enough to give us their final thoughts on the ACC season.

Any surprises on the All-ACC teams for you?
TRR: There weren't any real surprises for us given that after 16 games these awards shake out pretty well. However, we think that Josh McRoberts on the all-defense team is a mistake. Yes, he has some good steal and block numbers, but sometimes voters look at this too much. We think Brandon Wright is a better defender due to his length and leaping ability. We noticed that Carolina chose to guard Al Thornton with Wright and his length prevented Al from doing things he likes to do.

On the all-freshman team, we think Greivis Vasquez deserves a spot over Scheyer of Duke. Maryland's rise coincided with the elevation of Vasquez in the starting lineup. His play allowed Strawberry and Jones to play their natural positions and opened up the Terrapin offense substantially.
Otherwise, we can't gripe about much else. We chose Al Thornton as player of the year, but one can certainly make a compelling case for Jared Dudley.

Who is your Coach of the Year in the ACC and why?
TRR: We chose Virginia head coach Dave Leitao largely because he got the most out of the least talent. Virginia's backcourt is dynamite, no question there, but they're more scorers than pure shooters and the rest of the Virginia squad has some serious deficiencies. Nevertheless, Virginia won all its home games in conference and won some big games on the road. Maryland head coach Gary Williams finished a close second in this one, but Leitao got our vote.

Is Georgia Tech hitting its stride or is this just a temporary hot streak for a very inconsistent group?
TRR: We scratch our heads at times with Georgia Tech. We were very high on them in the preseason and were surprised that they had so much trouble in conference play. There are two Techs, the team that dominates at home and the team that struggles on the road. Crittenton is taking care of the ball better and Georgia Tech is relying more on its physical front court than in the past. They are better when they settle comfortably into a half court game where their bigs can wear down the opponent. They get into trouble when they try to do too much. Watch the turnovers in the NCAA Tournament. As the turnovers go, Georgia Tech goes.

Did you feel the final weekend upsets showed the strength of the ACC or was it a sign of mediocrity?
TRR: Frankly, we think some teams laid eggs. Maryland's loss qualifies in this category. NC State is for real and the return of Atsur really helped them out. Unfortunately it was too late to rescue a NCAA bid, but they will be tough to reckon with in the NIT. The ACC is the best conference in the country top to bottom, and the seven bids in the tournament are a reflection of this. The conference, however, doesn't have a top team outside of North Carolina.

Which team will go the farthest in the NCAA Tournament?
Originally, we would have said North Carolina, but the East Region is a complete bear. The reward for sharing the regular season title and winning the ACC Tournament gets you possible games with Marquette, Texas, and Georgetown? The Tournament Selection Committee dropped the ball on this one, though we're not surprised since they do this year in and year out. Look at Kansas's road in the West versus UNC in the East.
So we think it's wide open now in terms of which ACC team can go the furthest. Maryland and Virginia Tech have squads that could do well in the tournament, and we wouldn't count out Georgia Tech or Duke from making a run. Despite being down, Duke rarely beats itself.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

We're baaaack

It appears that Maryland's loss to Miami in their first game of the ACC tournament didn't really have much effect on the seeding for the Terrapins. They still received a four seed with only North Carolina having a higher seed out of the ACC. It was a clear indication that the selection committee put more stock in the seven game winning streak than in the lethargic effort that resulted in a loss to the pitiful Hurricanes. It also seems that the committee looked very closely at the conference schedule to guide seeding and the awarding of at large bids. Maryland ended the season tied for third place in the ACC and seeded fifth in the tournament but received a higher seed by the NCAA selection committee than either Virginia Tech or Boston College, who were also 10-6 in the league.

It is a fairly good draw for the Terrapins. Davidson has some talent but also failed to record a win against a single top 100 RPI team, losing to Michigan, Missouri and Duke (by 28 points). They did have wins over Charlotte and Arizona State but had 16 wins against RPI 200+ opponents, most among the top 75 RPI.

Freshman Stephen Curry supplies most of the scoring punch for Davidson and junior point guard Jason Richards does a good job of distributing the ball. Overall this group hasn't faced a team that plays the kind of athletic pressure defense that Maryland is capable of unleashing on opponents. If their backcourt can handle the pressure and knock down some shots from the perimeter then Davidson has a chance to hang with Maryland, otherwise Maryland should win easily. I'll have a better scouting report on Davidson soon.

Overall it is just sweet to have the Terps back in the postseason. Perhaps Maryland fans take the success of their basketball program for granted at times but Gary Williams has no one to blame but himself. He's spoiled us. For the 12th time in 14 years it is another NCAA tournament with Maryland part of the mix. This NCAA bid seems especially sweet given that Maryland has spent the last two seasons in the NIT.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Total Uninanimininity

Unanimous (adjective): formed with or indicating unanimity : having the agreement and consent of all

That is the definition according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Perhaps the ACC is going to publish their own version of the English lexicon that redefines unanimous as something other than what the word actually means.

Take a look at the blog of Washington Times Maryland sports beat writer Patrick Stevens. Stevens is one of the few writers who covers Maryland as a local team that votes in the
Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association which selects the All-ACC teams. He was surprised that North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough was named a unanimous first team selection since Stevens himself didn't vote for Hansbrough and therefore would preclude the UNC forward from actually being a unanimous 1st team selection. Stevens was perplexed by this outcome and contacted the ACSMA for an explanation. The president of the ACSMA, John Justus, replied that sometimes if the player is "one or two votes" short of being unanimous they fudge things and make the player unanimous anyway.

Come again?

In addition to the paradoxical and Orwellian like doublethink needed to come to that result Justus also implied it was for the protection of the few writers who may have refused to follow the heard and vote for an overwhelming favorite. As if these professional sports journalists couldn't withstand the wrath of the Tarheel fanbase when their favorite player wasn't included. The tortured logic required to come to the point where votes are not recorded as they were cast, since it was released that Hansbrough got 106 first place votes out of 106 cast, is beyond absurd.

If this is the way things are done at the ACSMA then the distinction of a "unanimous" selection needs to be abolished from All-ACC voting. Perhaps they also have another alternate definition of veracity as well.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


What a painful reminder of the first debacle against Miami, or was this the first? They are so similar it is hard to tell which was which. Miami's no-name frontcourt again outplayed Maryland and stole a ridiculous 19 offensive rebounds for a 42-34 edge on the glass. Maryland shot 57% from the free throw line while Miami got 22 points off foul shots. Maryland also couldn't hit the entire bay in Tampa from the 3-point line, finishing 3-18.

So the Terrapin's seven game winning streak comes against the most unlikely opponent the worst team in the ACC. Miami won't even qualify for the NIT and probably has the least talented roster in the league, yet swept Maryland this season. When you get out worked and out hustled this is the result. Kudos to Frank Haith who got his team focused despite a terrible end of the season. Playing the hottest team in the country probably helped to get his group motivated.

Now Maryland gets to stew for the next three days waiting for selection Sunday.

Dudley the Mouth

Jared Dudley may be ACC player of the year but he doesn't seem to be the smartest guy in the league. Maybe he was trying to pump his team up given that they have lost four out of the last five games and have crashed landed into the postseason. On the other hand maybe he is just so arrogant and stupid that he can't help himself.

He was quoted as saying, "Maryland is playing well, but they could lose to Miami and then what are you going to say then?"

I'm sure Dudley hopes that happens since they probably have a much better chance of getting by Miami than Maryland.

He wasn't finished putting his foot in his mouth either and went on to say, "They don't ball-pressure like a Georgia Tech or a Duke. Strawberry likes to get out on the break, but it's going to be hard for him to get out on the break if he is guarding me, because I like to go down low. Two point guards guarding Tyrese [Rice] who are freshmen; I think he has an advantage right there."

I hope that Boston College doesn't believe all that because it sounds to me like either they don't have an accurate scouting report or Dudley is just trying to keep his teammates from peeing their pants before the game. Maryland faced both Duke and Georgia Tech and beat both teams soundly during the turnaround, twice for the Blue Devils. Something Dudley and his team couldn't do this season.

Dudley is known for his swagger or arrogance depending on your perspective but it seems fairly ignorant to try to take a shot at a team that is playing the best basketball in the ACC, perhaps in the country, when your team has collapsed down the stretch. Let's hope Maryland takes care of business this afternoon and makes Dudley eat his words tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

All-ACC teams 2007

Senior DJ Strawberry was named 2nd team All-ACC this week based off his excellent second half run in league play in which he averaged 16.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. It was the first time since Drew Nicholas (2nd team) and Steve Blake (1st) in 2003 that a Maryland player made 2nd team or better. Strawberry deserved this honor and was possibly the best player in the league over the final six game of the season, while not taking 20 shots a game like some other more heralded players.

I only have two bones to pick regarding the selections. The fact that James Gist was honorable mention All-ACC may not be a travesty but he was behind James Mays, DeMarcus Nelson and Ben McCauley in votes. Gist had more points, rebounds and blocks per game in league play than either Mays or McCauley. Mays and McCauley are fine players who had excellent games during the season but there is no question which player coaches would take if given the opportunity. DeMarcus Nelson!???!

The second bone is that Greivis Vasquez was not selected to the All-Rookie team while Duke's Jon Scheyer made the team. Vasquez played point guard for a team that finished on a seven game winning streak and during the last eight games he averaged 6.5 assists per game. He also scored 12.3 points per game over the last eight games. At Duke he nearly notched a triple double with 13 points, 12 rebounds and 9 rebounds. Point guard is the most challenging position on the floor, especially for a freshman who had a regular diet of upperclassmen point guards he had to play against. There were some impressive freshmen in the ACC this season but none had a bigger impact and a better result in the win column than Vasquez.

Montrose Pipeline

Nice article in the Baltimore Sun regarding the reestablishment of the pipeline between Maryland and Montrose Christian, meaning Stu Vetter. The relationship soured after the end of Exree Hipp's career at Maryland, which ended in disappointment along with his fellow seniors like Duane Simpkins. Hipp had been a player for Vetter in high school and after Hipp's senior season ended in acrimony with coach Gary Williams it seems clear that Vetter didn't want any of his players going to Maryland. All that seemed to change with the recruitment of current Terp Greivis Vasquez and now Vetter is coming to games at Maryland in addition to sending two more players to Maryland next year in guard Adrian Bowie and forward Shane Walker. Vetter and Williams now have nice things to say about each other and Maryland is in excellent shape with Montrose and their elite sophomore recruits like Terrell Vinson and Isaiah Armwood. It could be a huge development for the Maryland basketball program if these players continue to come to College Park. Vasquez may have been an even bigger find for Gary Williams than just his excellent play on the court.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Bloody Sunday

Sorry, I couldn't resist the headline but did you miss the gladiator finish to the Duke and North Carolina game? Tyler Hansbrough was on the receiving end of a forearm shiver by Duke's Gerald Henderson and started bleeding so profusely that he could have come right out of the final scene in the movie Carrie. Perhaps this marks the point at which the Duke and North Carolina rivalry turns from spirited to ugly. It may have been inevitable that once the clowns in Brtistol, Connecticut began hyping this rivalry as if the games were some apocalyptic showdown that the simmering loathing these two schools have for each other would escalate into blood sport.

Having seen the replay about 30 times now I'm not convinced that Henderson bloodied Hansbrough intentionally. Only Henderson knows for sure if he just let an elbow fly without concern if it connected with a Tarheel , but the reaction of the referees endorsed the worst possible interpretation of the incident before anyone had a chance to examine it. The ejection and suspension of Henderson was ridiculous and the way it was handled seems to indicate that the officials were too scared to make the right, and certainly unpopular decision, to call a foul, shoot the free throws and let the last 17 seconds get off the clock. Hopefully the ACC league office will review the decision and correct it before the ACC tournament.

Henderson has a floor game that is very similar to former Duke player Dahntay Jones (shown in photo), who was nicknamed "Tauntay" for his push up antics and dirty play. He once broke the jaw of Justin Gray when he set a crushing pick on the former Wake Forest star. Check out his jackass antics on You Tube here. Jones is the the one who does push ups after his dunk. Only time will tell if this was an isolated incident or if Henderson becomes known for the kind of cheap shot play that Jones was famous for during his time at Duke.

Another unpleasant fact in this controversy is that the Tarheels have a nasty habit of running the score up on opponents in the Dean Dome. Their fans seem to get bored with just winning the game and like to encourage their team to pour on the points when the opposing team is already beaten. Krzyzewski correctly questioned what Hansbrough, who isn't exactly a finesse player, was doing in the game with 20 seconds remaining and a double digit lead. Roy Williams offered some lame excuse about how he was going to substitute for "Psycho T", as Hansbrough is called by his teammates, but didn't get the player to the scorer's table in time. So why didn't he substitute for Hansbrough before he was fouled and shooting the free throws? It wouldn't be the first time that Williams made a dumb coaching move, in many ways he is the Marty Schottenhiemer of college basketball, but he got very lucky that Hansbrough didn't get his nose broken or worse. It appears he will be fine for the ACC and NCAA tournament.

In other news Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski admits, "Maryland, at this point, is better than us."
Everyone except the poll voters already knew that.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Good Vibrations

Two articles on how the our Terps turned their "season on the brink" into a season to remember:

Mike Wise in the Washington Post

David Steele in the Baltimore Sun

Oh, and I forgot to mention that Maryland only had eight turnovers against NC State yesterday, matching their season low.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Maryland 79 NC State 59

It was fitting that on senior day the trio of senior starters for Maryland scored 51 points in the win over NC State to close out the regular season on a seven game winning streak. I can't recall a turnaround for a Maryland team as miraculous as the one that this group has put together this season. The last regular season run like this ended with the first Final Four in school history.

It was an odd game. The emotion of the ceremonies honoring the seniors seemed to sap some energy from the team early on and the crowd seemed lethargic for most of the afternoon. In a nod to the seniors on Maryland's bench coach Williams started Parrish Brown and Will Bowers along with the three senior starters. Bowers is not a great matchup for the multi-tool big men that Herb Sendeck recruited like Ben McCauley and Brandon Costner, who is ACC freshman of the year in my book. After Bowers and Brown were finally sent to the bench four minutes into the half Maryland went on a 16-6 run and got a cushion they never relinquished. A couple of poor sequences at the end of the first half, which saw Ben McCauley exploit Will Bowers, allowed the Wolfpack to cut the lead from eleven down to six points in just two minutes.

The game was much closer than the final score indicated as the Terps outscored NC State 12-3 in the last six minutes. I have to admire the scrappy play of NC State this season. They play with the thinnest bench in the league given all five starters are averaging over 32 minutes per game. McCauley has developed into a legitimate low post threat (13 points and 6 rebounds per game in ACC play) and Costner has the chance to be among the best post players in the ACC next season if he stops drifting out to the 3-point line so much. Maryland's experience and superiority in the backcourt proved too much for NC State as they were blitzed by transition baskets and harassed into 37% shooting for the game.

DJ Strawberry continued his string of strong performances with 16 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Over the seven game winning streak Strawberry has averaged 17.1 points and 4.7 rebounds. Despite the attention that Mike Jones and Ekene Ibekwe receive in some circles the fortunes of this team are tied to Strawberry. When the team struggled it was because Strawberry was struggling. Greivis Vasquez has emerged as a big time player but Strawberry's play has contributed to his ascendance as much as the freshman has helped Strawberry turn his season around. Stawberry's ability to get out in transition and finish as well as any player on the team has boosted Vasquez's assist numbers and, to his credit, the freshman is looking for DJ early and often. He has also served to calm the team in critical stretches when they were a little out of control by simply stopping the action and handing the ball back to Vasquez or Eric Hayes to run the offensive sets. I can't recall a Maryland player having the kind of turnaround in his season like Strawberry has had this year.

Mike Jones got himself more headlines by scoring 21 points on 8-14 shooting and grabbing six rebounds. It is an excellent sign of his maturation that Jones is scoring so consistently now. In the past Jones would explode for 15 points in a half and then contribute only handful the rest of the game. In his last few games he has shown an impressive ability to score in critical moments and without long droughts. In the last two games he has scored in each half 13, 12, 8 and 13 points. If he can continue this kind of production Maryland can make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. His consistent scoring can lift Maryland's offense up to the level needed to make a Final Four appearance, while the defense I think is already there.

The sign of the season award has to go to the one I saw yesterday. It said "There is a right way, a wrong way and then there is Ibekwe". It works on so many levels that it was a stroke of genius. Who says the Maryland students are only foul mouthed couch burners? Ibekwe's game has also progressed over the course of this winning streak. He isn't forcing as many shots and is playing with less thought to his own statistics than before when it seemed the weight of his NBA expectations were hampering his game and Maryland's success. He had several impressive hustle plays and showed an aggressiveness on offense, shown by his six offensive rebounds, to complement his shot blocking ability. His 14 points, 12 rebounds and 4 block performance was a fitting end to his career at Comcast Center.

James Gist had a quiet but deadly efficient game with 12 points and 9 rebounds. Gist seems to be deferring a bit to seniors Ibekwe and Jones the last few games, which is fine for now but if those two struggle during the post season Gist needs to be ready to reassert himself. His defense was also impressive as he added 3 blocks and 2 steals to his total. Gist is one of those players that might benefit from having a little more of a superstar mentality. Right now he is just doing everything that Maryland needs from him to keep winning.

Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes both had good games distributing the ball and it was a sign of Maryland's renewed strength that the team didn't need many points from the pair to win comfortably. It was nice to see Hayes bounce back from two poor games to finish with 6 points, 6 assists and nary a turnover.

Bambale Osby has returned to being the valuable bench player that he was at the beginning of the season. His renewed focus and intensity has helped Maryland dominate its opponents on the glass the last few games. Osby has lead the team in rebounding in two of the last three games in spite of being a reserve. His hustle and lunch pail mentality has helped to toughen up this group and outlast several opponents in recent weeks. Maryland's 47-31 rebounding advantage was another example of that aggressive spirit he brings to the team. During the winning streak Maryland has a rebound margin of +32 which has not only helped to improve the defense but has allowed the Terps to get out in transition for some easy points. If you are looking for a hidden reason why Maryland has turned their season around that may be it.

The victory over NC State capped what has been one of the most memorable late season runs by a Maryland team in many years. With the recent NIT seasons looming over this group, the overwhelmingly negative media and Internet message boards, and historical adversity (no ACC team has ever come back from such a deep early season hole to post a winning record) it has to be a season to savor for Terrapin basketball fans.

I am pleased for the players that this year's senior day was so memorable. Now they can go into the ACC tournament knowing they have March Madness waiting for them.

Friday, March 02, 2007

ACC Tournament Seeding

With Virginia's win over Virginia Tech last night and North Carolina's continued slide the seeding in the ACC Tournament is coming into focus. There is an outside chance that Maryland could still get the 4th seed and hence receive a "bye" from first round games on Thursday with a win over NC State and if North Carolina loses to Duke on Sunday. More likely Maryland will stay in its current position as the 5th seed and play Miami.

Beyond that the bracket stacks up rather nicely for Maryland. Assuming Virginia defeats Wake Forest on Saturday, which isn't a foregone conclusion, then the Wahoos would get the 1 seed for the tournament. Maryland's potential trip to the championship game assuming the results went according to chalk would then consist of Miami, Boston College and Virginia. Given Maryland's current play that doesn't seem like an intimidating group of opponents on a neutral floor.

North Carolina's sudden malaise is puzzling. They played lackluster defense last night as Georgia Tech carved up their perimeter defense and bullied them on the glass. Roy Williams probably deserves some criticism for over coaching this group with his substitution patterns. He should have reduced his rotation by this time in the year yet had over 50 substitutions against Maryland on Sunday. In the loss to Georgia Tech he also substituted liberally which may indicate that he has too many players whom he does not have confidence in on either offense or defense. Unless Virginia is defeated by Wake Forest then North Carolina can't do any better than the 2 seed regardless of the outcome of the Duke game. That would place UNC and Virginia Tech on the same side of the tournament for a potential third matchup of the season.

Some experts, like RPI guru Jerry Palm, claim that Maryland could go as high as a 2 seed in the NCAA tournament with a deep run in the ACC tournament.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Maryland 85 Duke 77

Two seasons ago in the midst of the John Gilchrist agony Maryland also swept Duke. Those wins were not enough to garner an NCAA bid for the 2004 Terrapins as they limped into the NIT with a third loss to Clemson in the ACC tournament. The Duke team of that season was far superior to the 2006 version of the Blue Devils but in an odd twist the current Maryland team is vastly superior to the Terrapin team from two years ago. Gary Williams merry bunch went down to Durham and soundly defeated Duke in their worst loss at home since Maryland beat them 75-66 in January of 2005.

It was a slightly bizarre night as ESPN, the self proclaimed "world wide leader in sports", couldn't even broadcast the game without interruptions in the signal. Watchers were forced to endure the worst color radio broadcast in the history of college basketball as Dick Vitale not only didn't say anything worth listening to, which usually doesn't matter when you can see the action, but also prevented Mike Patrick's efforts to switch to a radio style play-by-play. He was too busy discussing the latest edifice to Coach K on the Durham campus.

From what I did see Maryland was able to sustain the high level of effort they have the last five victories. Duke wanted this game in the worst way and Maryland didn't notch its sixth win because the Blue Devils were not playing with great intensity. Besides Josh McRoberts, who struggled in the game, the Duke players performed at a high level and may have gotten the best game of the season from maligned point guard Greg Paulus. It still wasn't enough to best the streaking Terrapins. Behind some hot 3-point shooting and a flurry of offensive rebounds Duke was able to stay close to Maryland initially. The Terps then were able to separate themselves by scoring in transition and knocking down a few 3-pointers by Greivis Vasquez before the half ended.

In similar fashion to a number of Duke losses this season the Blue Devils eventually faded down the stretch after keeping the game closer than perhaps it should have been. Either with a lead, or coming from behind, Duke has lost a number of heartbreaking games this year because they lack reserves that can spell the starters for key moments in the 2nd half. Maryland got 9 rebounds in 13 minutes from Bambale Osby while Duke got only 7 rebounds from its entire bench. When Duke was able to tie the game at 64 with 5 minutes left in the 2nd half senior DJ Strawberry took the team in his back and hit a momentum changing 3-point shot to put Maryland up by five. His clutch play, smothering defense and ability to draw offensive fouls was the main difference between the two teams. Uncharacteristically Duke missed a two front ends in the bonus in the last two minutes which prevented them from putting pressure on the Terps. There were a few defensive lapses at the end for Maryland as the Blue Devils made four field goals in the last 50 seconds of the game. The second half was all on the starters for Maryland as James Gist and Ekene Ibekwe kept mostly out of foul trouble. The starting five played 88 out of a possible 100 minutes in the 2nd half.

Mike Jones came ready to play and had one of his better all around efforts of the season. He not only scored 25 points but grabbed 6 rebounds and had 4 assists in 32 minutes. His hot shooting in the first few minutes of the game helped Maryland strike the first blow in the game. In contrast to his normal routine he did not fade after a hot shooting half and scored 12 points in the 2nd half on only five field goal attempts. Jones did keep to his normal routine by not playing much defense and perhaps setting a record for most fouls on a three point attempts in a season. Jones did deliver what he is most suited for, scoring points off jump shots.

Greivis Vasquez nearly accomplished a triple double with 13 points, 12 assists and 9 rebounds. At times he was out of control and took some quick shots at the begging of possessions but was as clutch as he has been the whole winning streak. His two 3-point baskets at the end of the first half gave Maryland some separation going into the break and helped to put Duke out of its comfort zone and play a faster tempo than they wanted. He seems to play his best in the most hostile arenas and in the biggest games. With the exception of DJ Strawberry he was clearly the best wing player on the floor.

James Gist struggled early in the game and was the victim of aggressive double teams by Duke when he got the ball in the low post. Gist has only recently emerged as a potentially dominating offensive player and he'll need to get used to seeing more double teams next season. He had an efficient game with 12 points, 9 points and 3 blocks.

Ekene Ibekwe had a very good game, as he often seems to do when playing Duke. If only he could play Duke every night he might be an All-ACC caliber player. He looked for his shot more often as shown by his 13 attempts but wasn't as big a factor on the boards. Ibekwe also had a number of critical blocks and intimidated Duke wing players from driving in the lane.

Outside of Bambale Osby the bench didn't contribute at the level it had in previous games to an extent because the starters played so well. Eric Hayes struggled badly with some bad turnovers and poor defense on Greg Paulus before getting yanked for most of the last 5 minutes of the 2nd half. He seems to be struggling with his confidence just a little. Dave Neal also had a nice defensive play at the end of the 1st half against DeMarcus Nelson.

DJ Strawberry was again the driving force behind another win in this now six game streak. He is showing the leadership that this group needed and is a steadying influence on the younger players. He was able to draw fouls on defense and get out in transition to score against Duke before they could set up their defense. In his last four games Strawberry has committed one turnover. He has become the clutch senior leader that makes his teammates better.

With the win Maryland secured the 5th seed in the ACC tournament unless there is some unlikely combinations of losses among the top four teams. The likely opponent for Maryland is Miami who will face Florida State in their last game. It would be a fitting opponent since the loss to Miami at the beginning of the year helped put Maryland in the deep hole they dragged themselves out of with the recent winning streak. In related news Miami coach Frank Haith suspended starting guard Dennis Clemente for the remainder of the season.