Monday, December 31, 2007

Terps regroup after AU loss

Maryland shook off the humiliation of losing to American before Christmas with a 30 point romp over Delaware. It certainly doesn't erase the terrible home losses to Ohio and American and this team has a long way to go before it is playing competent basketball but the win over the Blue Hens is a start. We've seen how badly this team can play, which is pretty scary. They can lose to almost anyone. On the other hand I think we've yet to see this team play at its full potential. At the moment I'm not sure that even playing at full potential this is a particularly good team but they would be competitive. Perhaps the loss to American woke this group up and made them realize they are nowhere near good enough to give half hearted efforts and beat most teams. I would have expected a loss to Ohio to do that but...

Gary Williams did shake up the rotation like I hoped he would, perhaps a game too late. Freshman Cliff Tucker replaced Landon Milbourne and Bambale Osby sent Braxton Dupree to the bench. I think it is clear that Gary has struggled to find lineups that provide him the production and effort he desires. Tucker was an obvious replacement for Milbourne as he brings better defense and ball handling to the wing position. I never fully bought into the idea that Osby was better off the bench after getting a chance to study the other team. That seemed like coach speak to me and a lot of mumbo jumbo. Dupree hasn't gotten off to a good start since the Illinois game and has been fairly useless in the last four losses.

Greivis Vasquez has been playing better, mostly because he has made better decisions. Did you notice that over the last four games Vasquez is shooting 42% (13/31) from 3-point range while Eric Hayes is shooting 31% (8/26)? He still turns the ball over too much and can make you furious with some of his antics but he is still the most consistent player on the team. If he can continue to shoot 3-point shots at his recent rate he will be one of the better guards in the ACC. That long range threat, along with his playmaking ability combine for a deadly threat.

James Gist got back on track with an 18 point and 10 rebound night. The real question is can he string together a bunch of these games? For a senior leader his focus hasn't been at an acceptable level the last few games. When he is motivated he can dominate but he has yet to prove he has moved passed his inconsistencies.

Adrian Bowie and Shane Walker come out of the dog house briefly. Bowie had not played more than 8 minutes since the Lehigh game but recorded 2 points and 5 rebounds in 14 minutes. Walker set a career mark with 10 minutes and, though not scoring a point, he did grab 3 rebounds. Neither is going to make a big impact but their increased playing time was a positive sign.

After the debacle against American Dave Neal did not play. Clearly he was not ready to come back and had a dreadful game against AU though more talented freshmen didn't get in the game. It was a mistake to play him as much as Gary Williams did that night.

This group still has a long was to go to get back on any winning path but this game was a decent first step. The defense continues to be awesome so if the offense gets to be even mediocre I think they have an outside shot at 8-8 in the ACC.

Offense 116.6
Defense 69.4

Maryland also signed Juco guard Bobby Maze for next season. Maze had played at Oklahoma before getting injured and falling out of favor with head coach Jeff Capel. Let's hope Maze's attitude problems are a thing of the past. He is described as a poor man's Allen Iverson. He will bring some speed and toughness to a backcourt that really needs both. A stop gap measure to be sure as he will graduate along with the 2006 class, making that class another four scholarship monster.

The way it stands now this will be the junior and sophomore classes next year:

Greivis Vasquez
Eric Hayes
Landon Milbourne
Bobby Maze

Adrian Bowie
Cliff Tucker
Shane Walker
Braxton Dupree
Jerome Burney
Gus Gilchrist

That is 10 out of 13 scholarships in those two classes. Gilchrist will only have 2 1/2 years of eligibility next fall per ACC rules. There are persistent rumors of attrition in the coming year and that seems like a necessary evil at this point.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Oregon State 21 Maryland 14

It was a familiar story for the football team in the loss to Oregon State in the Emerald bowl. The offense stagnated in the second half and the defense crumbled during the waining moments of the game to result in another losing season for the Terps. It is the third losing season in four years for Maryland. The game was a sloppy and poorly played contest by both teams as they combined for five turnovers and 14 penalties in the cold and wet Bay area weather. Oregon State was much like some of Friedgen's early Maryland teams with a powerful running game and stingy defense.

The loss to the Beavers had many of the same elements as games against Wake Forest, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida State and Georgia Tech. Three of those were losses with the Terps escaping as a last second field goal by the Yellow Jackets fell short. In each game the offense sputtered in the second half and the shaky defense was ground down by the opponents running game. Some might look at those games and play the "what if" scenario but I think this team was what its record showed.

Chris Turner was solid, if unspectacular. He only had 205 yards passing in the game and only 49 yards in the second half. One of the interceptions was not his fault as the receiver should have caught the ball but knocked it in the air instead. Turner seemed unable to make the plays in the second half when Maryland needed them. Not that his receivers did him any favors. As a group they dropped too many passes and couldn't beat their man one-on-one in press coverage. Emani Lee-Odai probably should not be on the field in critical situations but with injuries to Danny Oquendo and LaQuan Williams he was pressed into service. He had to critical mistakes a pass he should have caught bounced off his hands and was intercepted and he failed to run a route on a critical third down pass the markers. It really isn't his fault, he shouldn't be put in those positions given he isn't a really even a fourth receiver on a good team.

Darrius Heyward-Bey had an good game with 99 yards and a touchdown but only caught three passes. He rarely saw the ball in the second half. Isaiah Williams is probably one of the most frustrating players on the team. He has the talent to be a very good receiver but lacks focus and maturity. He had several drops that killed Maryland's possessions. Joey Haynos and Jason Goode combined for six receptions but were not much of a factor after the first quarter.

Maryland was obviously one dimensional for most of the game. Turner has little scrambling ability and the running back tandem of Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore mustered nothing against the stout Oregon State front seven. The Beavers were disciplined in pursuit and got off their blocks well to plug holes. Neither Ball or Lattimore have the talent to break big gains on their own against a solid defense and the line didn't really open big holes for them. It was an ignominious end for the seniors as they combined for 21 yards on 17 carries. Lattimore also fumbled but got a reprieve with an Oregon State penalty that negated the turnover. Da'Rel Scott who has shown the speed and elusiveness to break a play when the blocking isn't great only got one carry all game. Without a running threat the Beavers could play the run with only the front seven and give safety help to the receivers.

The line ended the season on a low note. They couldn't open any holes in the running game and Turner was under regular pressure in spite of only 29 passing attempts. The unit needs a major upgrade next season.

The defense played well for about three quarters and took advantage of a slew of Oregon State turnovers including an inexplicable interception in the end zone by quarterback Sean Canfield. The pass rush, which was almost nonexistent for much of the season, recorded five sacks and knocked the Beavers' QB from the game a couple of times. As in many other losses the opponent made some halftime adjustments and Chris Cosh was unable to counter them. Oregon State clearly game out determined to pound the ball at Maryland's front seven. In the last two quarters they called 28 rushing plays and only 8 passes while holding the ball for 18 minutes to Maryland's 11. The tandem of running back Yvenson Bernard and freshman wideout James Rodgers rolled up 292 yards rushing against Maryland. Rodgers repeated big gains off of hand offs was especially galling. He had gains of 35, 18, 11, 10 and 9 yards in the second half. Maryland seemed caught off guard by his running even though Rodgers was the second leading runner on the team and had 50 carries.

The Beavers offense is pretty simple and they are not going to blow you away with big plays in the passing game as their quarterbacks are mediocre at best. Overall the defense played well but gave up big plays at all the wrong moments. Even if the offense had mustered a touchdown Oregon State was driving to end the game and could have easily scored.

The defensive line did get 3 sacks which is an explosion for this group. Trey Covington much have just returned from his hiatus as he got his first and only sacks of the year in the game. Jeremy Navarre added one as well. Much of that is due to the poor quarterbacking of the Beavers. Dre Moore and Carlos Feliciano were mostly handled by the OSU offensive line.

The linebackers were fighting off blockers all night long but Erin Henderson still managed 11 tackles in what could be his last game at Maryland. Adrian Moten showed more of his pass rush ability with two more sacks but he is more of a specialist right now. Dave Philistin forced a fumble that was recovered in the end zone by the Beavers but didn't have much other impact. Moise Fokou intercepted an errant pass in the end zone, forced a fumble and had two tackles for a loss.

JJ Justice had a fine finale to his career with 13 tackles but it is normally a bad sign when a safety is your leading tackler. The secondary wasn't tested much as Oregon State only amassed 108 passing yards. Christian Varner wasn't much help in run support and the corners main duty was to support the porous front seven.

Special teams had two mistakes that helped cost Maryland the game. Obi Egekeze missed a 32 yard chip shot late in the game and then the Beavers returned a 33 yard punt to the Maryland 36 resulting in the go ahead touchdown. Punting with 6 minutes left in the 3rd quarter was clearly the right call but Maryland never got the ball back.

The offensive play calling was somewhat shaky again and I am glad that Friedgen will be hanging up the play calling duties for James Franklin next season. Franklin proved himself as a recruiter before leaving for the NFL and then Kansas State. Hopefully he'll bring some more innovation to an offense that has stagnated the last few years. There was some grumbling in the locker room after the game about the playcalling by senior Keon Lattimore and junior Isaiah Williams.

It was a depressing end to a season that began with high hopes by some fans (myself excluded) and ended with the incongruous losing season despite a bowl appearance. Friedgen himself acknowledged that there need to be some changes and harder work if Maryland is going to become a contender in a weak ACC. With Miami and Florida State mired in mediocrity it would be a great opportunity for a team like Maryland to sneak into an ACC title. The formula that Fridge used his first three years has been absent the last four seasons. He must be feeling some heat as his rumored dalliance with UCLA may indicate but he needs to commit himself to returning his teams to the hard working blue collar roots that he had when he first got to Maryland.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Happy Holidays

I was either out of town for the weekend or on a drug and alcohol infused bender after the Maryland loss to American. I thought I was possibly dead but then I realized I was just in North Carolina. What a crummy Christmas present, huh? I can't even bring myself to talk much about the game. I prefer to just pretend it never happened. Maybe Gary can claim amnesia and get the ACC to credit the loss to James Gist.

I guess I'll just sum up by saying that was the worst performance I have seen since the 1992-93 season. There were some awful teams the last few seasons so it wasn't like the bar was set too high. I suggest keeping the Advil and an adult drink at hand when watching Maryland games the rest of the season. There is more pain to come I'm afraid.

Thanks to all those who left kind comments. I'll be sure to write up the Delaware game and the bowl results for the football team (is 0.500 the new winning season for Maryland sports). Check back then.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Change in the wind?

A few interesting notes worth mentioning from Gary Williams' radio show last night but first Maryland has signed another player for the class of 2008. Bobby Maze, who played for Suitland high school, has drawn obvious comparisons to Allen Iverson. The two have some physical similarities and have the same type of quick slashing style. There were some questions about Maze's grades before he chose Oklahoma over Wake Forest and his attitude. He left the Sooners after breaking his foot as a freshman and falling out with head coach Jeff Capel.

Maze currently plays at a junior college in Kansas where he is putting up 20 points and 7 assists per game. He will bring some athleticism and quickness to the backcourt which is lacking this season. He will have two years of eligibility and will finish with the current 2006 class of Vasquez, Hayes and Milbourne. I view this mostly as an insurance policy in case Mosely isn't ready to contribute right away. Playing Vasquez and Hayes together as Maryland will have to do this season has really exposed some of their defensive weaknesses and lack of quickness off the dribble. DJ Strawberry hid some of those issues with his superior defense last year. Maze has the kind of quickness that can put more pressure on offense and defense. You'll just have to put your faith in the staff to have done their homework on Maze like they did with Boom Osby. Another Sterling Ledbetter or Parrish Brown won't do this team any good.

On his radio show last night Gary Williams mentioned the obvious fact that Maryland's problems on offense stem mostly from an inability to hit outside shots. He admitted that if he was an opposing coach he would play zone against Maryland all the time. Williams claimed that there were plenty of open shots that players need to start making. Some of that is mental but you also need the ability to hit those kinds of looks in college basketball. It is a large part of the game and it has really hurt Maryland's scoring.

Williams also indicated that practice has been very good this week and that he felt the team would be ready for American tomorrow. They worked on different offensive sets to get some more scoring out of their lineups. I think this is a good move because right now this team is really struggling to score out of the basic offense. Some screens run for specific players might be needed until the team gets some confidence back. He also hinted that there could be some changes in playing time and the lineups. My guess is that we could see Cliff Tucker in the starting lineup again for the first time since the opening game. Gary did mention that some of the freshman can't be too worried about taking someone else's job or hurting feelings. The best players have to be on the floor.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Do you see what I see?

In the aftermath of the loss to the Ohio Bobcats there has been a lot of hand wringing by Maryland fans as to what ails this group. Is it a roster that is devoid of major talent or a group that doesn't have the consistent focus and discipline? At the risk of being pedantic it is a little of both.

Let us put aside any silly notion of Ohio having the more talented players. They played better on that night and certainly deserved to win the game but it is laughable to contend that outside of Leon Williams or Jerome Tillman Ohio has any players who would be get any playing time on Maryland's team. As with the VCU loss it was two players that did all the damage for Ohio along with sloppy play and half hearted effort that doomed Maryland. It was a nice win for a solid but unspectacular mid-major squad that isn't near the caliber of a team like VCU. That was obvious after Ohio was blown out of the gym by Kansas the game after they played Maryland. Tillman, who had 20 points against Maryland, had 7 points on 2/12 shooting against Kansas. As you would expect the Bobcats also got crushed on the boards by almost 20 rebounds instead of winning the rebound margin like they did against the Terps. This is the same Ohio team that lost to Temple, a team that sits at 5-5 with losses to Akron and College of Charleston. Ohio only had 10 assists on 25 field goals and turned the ball over 19 times so it wasn't exactly like they played a more polished game than Maryland. For one of the few times all season the defense wasn't solid as Ohio shot 48% for the game based mostly on a torrid 58% in the 1st half.

Maryland lost because the team lacks a backcourt scoring threat at the moment and because they didn't give a credible effort. If they had only played hard for about 10 minutes of the first half they would have probably won anyway. It is clear that these days the difference between small schools and the majors is as slim as it has probably ever been but a team like Maryland should not lose to Ohio at home. The Bobcats simply outworked Maryland.

The rebounding margin was probably the most embarrassing aspect of the game as Ohio can't roll out a single player taller than 6-9 and their regulars are all 6-8 or shorter. James Gist, Bambale Osby and Braxton Dupree were all dreadful in getting out worked by Ohio's frontcourt and only 10 offensive rebounds on 34 missed shots is awful. Maryland's frountcourt should have dominated Ohio like Kansas did in their win. There isn't much excuse for how poorly Gist has been playing these days. His lack of focus is obvious and very concerning for a senior who claims to want to be a leader for this group.

The offense has clearly been a bigger problem than defense this season. It is true that aggressive and quick point guards give Hayes and Vasquez real problems on the perimeter, god help them when Sean Singletary and Ty Lawson roll up, but it is the lack of offensive production from those two that is really hurting the Terps. Maryland is third in the ACC in effective field goal percentage defense and has played a much better schedule than either Miami or NC State. There are some weaknesses on the defensive side. The guards are too slow to get many steals in the half court and Landon Milbourne is never going to win any awards for his defense. The bigs still give up too many offensive rebounds, which could be death to this team in ACC play. The team often fouls when the defense breaks down instead of putting the burden on the opponent to convert. I think Adrian Bowie would help on defense but his poor decision making on the offensive end has buried him on the bench for now.

On offense it is almost everything that needs improvement. Greivis Vasquez continues to jack up bad 3-point attempts even though he could hit the Chesapeake Bay at this point. His shooting inside the 3-point line has been excellent (53%) but for some reason he feels compelled to keep taking outside shots. His game should be driving the lane and taking mid-range jumpers but he rarely does the latter. Eric Hayes has been an inconsistent and reluctant scorer. The early results are that he can't provide what this teams needs at the shooting guard spot. He is shooting about the same from inside the line (39%) as beyond the 3-point line (38%). Not that 38% is going to win you any awards in an era when good perimeter shooters go into the mid 40's at all levels. He has almost no ability to draw fouls either which really hurts because he is a great free throw shooter.

Clearly the perimeter shooting needs to improve. Thirty one percent just isn't going to cut it in ACC play. I'm not sure where that will come from but Cliff Tucker has shown some ability to hit the outside shot. He hasn't taken many attempts but it may be worth it to give him a green light on that shot. Hayes doesn't want to shoot and Vasquez can't hit those shots. The lack of outside scoring really puts pressure on Maryland to convert in the lane and not turn the ball over. They have not done either particularly well.

As I indicated before James Gist really needs to step up his game if this team is going to get back on track. He still plays that shy away from contact game that prohibits him from getting to the foul line. Gist has taken 27 fewer free throws than Osby even though Gist has taken 30 more shots. It has always been the same story with Gist. On most nights he is the most talented player on the court but he plays with the mentality of a second fiddle.

Offense 85.1
Defense: 95.4

Gilchrist Saga Continues
The ACC rejected the appeal by Maryland recruit Gus Gilchrist to allow him to play once he enrolls at Maryland. Gilchrist was probably going to redshirt anyway in the spring but the ACC's decision means that he won't be eligible to play until the end of the first semester next year. With some difficult out of conference games slated for next fall that could really hurt in Maryland's out of conference schedule. Boom Osby and James Gist will both depart after this year and Gilchrist would probably start right away. Gilchrist also loses a year of eligibility so he will be starting next year as a sophomore giving him 2 1/2 seasons at Maryland. That is probably the worst fallout from this decision. Many have worried that Gilchrist will renege on Maryland and transfer to a Big East school. While this is possible I don't see it as likely. Gilchrist knew that this was a possibility before committing to Maryland and was willing to sit out next semester regardless of the decision. He may give up a few months next fall he didn't count on but that is about all. Would he really want to go to another situation where he didn't really know the players or his role? He can stay at Maryland and practice all Spring with this same group. Looking at the post players for Maryland next year you have to assume that Gilchrist is all but guaranteed a starting job. I'm sure that Gilchrist is aware of his NBA potential and probably doesn't have too much concern about losing a year of eligibility. Most kids view four year players as duds anyway, not that I necessarily agree.

It is possible that Gilchrist will look elsewhere but he's already been burned since the Virginia Tech debacle and I think he'll end up staying put.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ray and DJ pack thier bags

Special teams coach Ray Rychleski is leaving Maryland to assume the same position at South Carolina. Rychleski also coached tight ends for the Terps. The special teams have been excellent since Rychleski has been in charge with record setting punt returner Steve Suter and placekicker Nick Novak. Adam Podlesh and Brooks Barnard were All-ACC level punters.

Rychleski made a lateral move to get more exposure in a bigger football conference and put together a head coaching resume. That and he probably got a big raise. Friedgen indicated this may allow him to hire another coordinator and maybe give up his playcalling duties.

This may not be a disaster but it certainly calls into question how reliable the special teams will be next season.

In other news DJ Strawberry has been sent down the the D-league team of the Suns. Fellow rookie Alando Tucker was brought up after scoring well in his developmental league stint. On a crowded Suns roster Strawberry will struggle for playing time and perhaps it is better he gets time to refine his offensive game.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Terps flat in loss to Bobcats

The loss to Ohio last night was one of those games you could say very little about or discuss for about 10 days. Even as I type I'm not sure which way I intend to go with this story. Putting aside how this team lost for a moment this is a game that should certainly change the prism that Maryland fans view this team through for the rest of the year. I think we can put aside discussions about making the NCAA tournament or finishing in the upper half of the ACC for the time being. Maybe the team will play well enough in the next month to make those discussions relevant again but right now this team isn't playing at a level that makes either of those things possible.

This game demonstrated that the struggles against Hampton and Northeastern were not flukes. Those games are a closer reflection the skill of this team currently. They may get better by January (and it might not matter at that point) or they may not. They could be similar to Wake Forest last season that had Kyle Visser and a bunch of wing players who could not sink a shot. That team went 5-11 in the ACC and it seems like that might be where Maryland is headed. Perhaps I'm being pessimistic but with five losses already and only the third non-conference home loss in the regular season under Gary Williams I think it is about time to view this group with a skeptical eye. There is little reason to assume that things will just come together as most fans do every year with this team. Seniors James Gist and Bambale Osby can't carry this team, the sophomores seem to have regressed and the freshman class is devoid of impact players. Maybe the new pups will play better later in the season but there is no one that can help this team now in any significant way. I'd say things are as bleak as they have been since I was at Maryland almost 15 years ago.

After losing in convincing fashion to a solid, but not great, Ohio team you have to conclude that this team will have to battle tooth and nail to gets wins against every quality opponent. There is no longer to excuse that the Terps have only lost to good teams. UMass went to Boston College the other night and beat the Eagles on their home floor which takes a little away from the dignity of that loss the other night. The loss to Ohio removes all the room for equivocation about the level of play this squad has shown so far this season. It is one thing to lose to a national title contender on a neutral floor but it is another to lose to a MAC team on your home floor.

More about the game later...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Shaky start

It has certainly been a uneven beginning for the basketball team this year. Though they have lost four games already all of them came against quality opponents, three of which are probably NCAA tournament teams in March, and even with sometimes dreadful shooting none of the games were blowouts. The schedule was probably a little too difficult for this team and Gary Williams might have scheduled a few games differently with hindsight. The Terps have already played more games against teams ranked in the top 50 in the Pomeroy rankings than any other team in the ACC (UCLA, Missouri, Illinois and Boston College) and more than Florida State, Miami and Virginia combined.

There was a close call with Northeastern that could have fatally damaged Maryland NCAA hopes and a nip and tuck game against Hampton as well. Even in games where the Terps won by a comfortable margin they have not been able to put together a complete effort. Maryland has lead by double digits only once at halftime all season.

There are some positive developments. Hayes and Vasquez are doing a better job of limiting turnovers recently. Gist and Osby are developing into a dangerous low post duo. Freshmen Cliff Tucker and Braxton Dupree have some some life the last week or two. Tucker is probably much farther along in his development than any of the other freshmen and Gary Williams expects him to be a major factor when league play begins again. I expect to see more three guard sets with Hayes, Vasquez and Tucker in the future.

As senior James Gist suggested in the Washington Times the reservoir of patience for the youngsters is not limitless. At some point you have to expect improvement from the young players. With a slate of homes games to close out the year Maryland has a chance to get some experience for the freshmen before any tough road tests. There are no more moral victories sitting on four losses already because the Terps don't have much of an NCAA resume at the moment.

Here is another great article about Bambale Osby. He has exceeded every expectation since coming to Maryland and is a great influence on his teammates. His value in the locker room shouldn't be undersold.

Please note I transposed the Maryland efficiency ratings for the last game. The offense should have been 109.8 and the defense 114 which highlights all the foul shots BC took and the defensive lapses that allowed the Eagles to shoot 52% in the 2nd half.

I forgot to mention that I was surprised Gary didn't sit Greivis for a few minutes when he picked up his third foul before the infamous technical sequence. I expected Adrian Bowie to get some minutes to check Rice but it never happened. I'm not sure why Bowie is in the dog house but his minutes have disappeared lately.

Around the ACC
NC State fans are already getting disgruntled. After bad losses to New Orleans and East Carolina the ridiculous hype surrounding this team has evaporated. They have many of the same problems that plagued them last year and saw them go 5-11 in the ACC. This is probably a 0.500 level team in ACC play and little better. It is a little embarrassing to watch Sidney Lowe huddle with his assistants during critical moments of games. It has the flavor watching Miss South Carolina answer a question on geography. Brutal. The only good win they have is a game against Villanova that the officials handed to them. If they lose to a scrappy and dangerous Davidson team before Christmas Lowe may want to star in his own "Want to get away?" Southwest Airlines ad.

Unbeaten Miami faces Mississippi State in a game that is more important than it may seem. The Hurricanes get the cupcake schedule award for this year as their non-conference slate is probably the most pathetic in the entire ACC. The game against Mississippi State is the only true road game they will play during the entire out of conference schedule. Miami's only notable win was against a decent but not great Providence team who already has three losses. Expect them to not fare very well once ACC play starts. Think Clemson from last season.

Boston College has one of the worst defensive backcourts in the ACC. Rice, Biko Paris and Tyler Roche can't guard anyone, really just dreadful. Good thing for them they have the best shot blocker in the conference playing behind them. The late run by Maryland really exposed some deficiencies in BC's defense, which has never been great.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

BC gets Luckie

Boston College won a game that they did not deserve to win last night and they can thank luck for it or more accurately Jamie Luckie. Luckie is the referee who called a technical foul on Greivis Vasquez with 10:30 left in the game resulting in Vasquez collecting his fifth foul and being disqualified. It is impossible to argue that call didn't influence the final outcome. Perhaps Boston College would have won anyway, which is doubtful in my mind given that Maryland lead for 6 minutes prior to that call and then never lead again, but it irrevocably changed the game. The Terps offense was never the same after Vasquez was disqualified and the defense, usually a good bell weather for a team's mental state, sagged during the following four minutes with a decisive 20-7 run by Boston College.

It is a shame when officials get deluded into thinking that they are as much a part of the game as the players. Luckie has a history of this unfortunate Napoleon complex. Consider:

  • 2005 game between Louisville and Middle Tennessee State. MTSU coach Kermit Davis is assessed an extra technical foul and ejected by Luckie after getting a technical by Karl Hess. Said Davis in the Louisville Courier, "I turned around to take him out when Hess T's me up. And then the other guy, I don't know, he just wanted to throw me out, and he threw me out."

  • The ACC Sports Journal had this to say about Luckie in 2004:
    Another official, Jamie Luckie, has worked multiple conference games in Chapel Hill, Durham and Winston-Salem this season, but he has yet to appear in any league games thus far in Tallahassee, Atlanta, Charlottesville or College Park. Luckie combined with Reggie Cofer and Michael Stuart to call 55 personal fouls in the Maryland-North Carolina game on Feb. 15, and the trigger-happy nature of the threesome was a heavy focus of discussion among spectators as they filed out of the Smith Center. It was not the first time Luckie has been criticized for contributing to an excessive number of fouls in a game. He worked with an SEC crew last winter in the Vanderbilt-Georgia game in Athens that resulted in 66 personal fouls, along with the ejection of Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings.

  • In the semifinal game of the ACC tournament last season between UNC and Boston College Carolina's Roy Williams banged the scorer's table with his fist after the Tarheels turned the ball over on a shot clock violation. Jamie Luckie reportedly ushered Williams back to his bench and then Luckie put his finger to his mouth as a warning not to speak.

  • The Raleigh News and Observer noted the "inconsistent officiating" of a crew that included Luckie in the Duke versus NC State game last season. Duke's Lance Thomas was whistled for 3 fouls in 5 minutes and Greg Paulus picked up two fouls for hand checking that the officials had ignored earlier.

  • In a game between NC State and Florida State in 2006 Luckie gave a technical to the Wolfpack's Engin Atsur after calling a reaching foul on Atsur. Atsur said it was the first time he had ever received a technical foul. We all know what a hothead Atsur was...he made Herb Sendeck look the Great Santini.

  • Luckie officiated a 2006 contest between LSU and Auburn both coaches were given technicals in an 84-69 win by the Tigers. Said LSU coach John Brady "Their coach wasn’t very happy with the officials and neither was I and neither were the players." And he was the WINNING coach!

That was just what I could find with a quick Google search. Luckie seems to have a fetish for taking over games and has an inability to defuse a situation before it escalates. Is it just a coincidence that Luckie was part of the crew that officiated the Duke versus Carolina "bloodsport" game last year in which Tyler Hansbrough had his face smashed or the ACC tournament final between BC and Duke two years ago that almost saw a brawl break out?

In the 2nd half this game turned into a UFC match under the basket and Cliff Tucker, who was hammered with consecutive fouls by Tyrelle Blair that were not called, must have thought he was an extra on Human Weapon.

Almost every statistical indicator would point towards a Maryland victory. Maryland had a better shooting percentage, won the rebounding margin by +6 (including 19 offensive rebounds), had more assists, fewer turnovers, more points off turnovers, points in the paint, fastbreak points, second chance points and steals. The categories that Boston College won: fouls 25-13, 3-point shooting, foul shots 41-16 and, due to lax officiating, 15 blocks. How does a road team shoot 25 more free throws than the opponent? This crew called 28 fouls in the 2nd half, 2o on Maryland alone, after 10 combined fouls in the 1st half. Even adjusting for Maryland's intentional fouling late in the game that is way out of proportion. The Terps started fouling around the 1:45 mark, though the Landon Milbourne foul at that point may not have been intentional. That resulted in 8 fouls and 16 free throws by Boston College. So the Terps were whistled for 12 fouls and BC awarded 9 extra free throws in the 2nd half while only having 5 fouls and 6 free throws in the 1st half. Maryland had three players foul out while the Eagles didn't have a single player record more than 3 fouls.

Vasquez should not have slapped the padding under the basket, but a seasoned and even tempered official would have talked to Vasquez and let him know that he needed to stop any antics like that. Instead Luckie awarded a technical foul on Vasquez from half court whereas the official standing on the baseline near Vasquez who made the foul call did nothing. As you can see from the examples above Luckie has a history of inserting himself into a situation that another official is handling. That isn't sticking up for your crew but trying to be part of the contest. The best officials are the ones who never get their names in the paper for what happened during a game. Luckie made himself part of the story and ruined a fair game between two teams.

As for the game I thought Cliff Tucker played well again. He will have some bad moments but he is looking better and better every week. His floor game and outside shooting are pleasant surprises. He will be a major factor for Maryland in the next few years.

Landon Milbourne had some highlight dunks but didn't really play all that well. His defense reminds me of Mike Jones as reserve Corey Raji came in a lit him up for 9 points in just a few minutes and finished with 17 points in only 18 minutes. Milbourne went 4/14 from the floor in 35 minutes of play.

Braxton Dupree is struggling a bit. He had a tough time finishing against better post players. He rushed his shots too often and was a weak rebounder again.

James Gist had a solid night on the stat sheet. 18 points and 11 rebounds to go with 5 blocks. He was much more aggressive and attacked the basket more often. He did miss three critical free throws during BC's run after the Vasquez technical, turned the ball over 4 times and only scored 3 points in the 6+ minutes after Greivis left the game. It may be unfair but this team needs Gist to come up with these heroics on a regular basis unless one the freshmen starts scoring more.

The backcourt had a very good night. Tyrese Rice only shot 4-12 from the floor and didn't hit a 3-point shot all night. Hayes and Vasquez combined for 13 assists and only 1 turnover but also shot 3-13 from 3-point range and only scored 24 points combined. Perhaps the threes that Tucker and Hayes hit at the end of the game will give them a little confidence going forward. Vasquez continues a wicked shooting slump.

The defense was fairly solid except for the stretch after Vasquez fouled out.

Any home loss in ACC play is bad, especially to a Boston College team that is probably little better than a 7-8 win club this year. The way the team regrouped after getting down after the technical was something to build on. With four losses before Christmas already moral victories don't do you any good at this point. Maryland needs to get on a winning streak starting tomorrow with Ohio.

Defense: 114.0

Need a gift idea?

The good folks at Asgard Press contacted me recently about a new line of vintage football calendars they are selling this season. The artwork is actual vintage covers from game day programs, many of which were obtained from the University archives. I have had a chance to inspect a sample and they are very high quality. The paper is 100% recycled and they use eco-friendly soy based inks. The sheets are tear off and ready to be framed with standard 11"x14" size prints. They would make a unique gift for any Maryland fan, or one of the other 40 or so schools they make calendars for, this season. They also were kind enough to give Turtlewaxing readers a 10% discount. Just follow this link to get the discount. Some examples of the pages are below (note the watermark is not on the prints in the calendar.)

Friday, December 07, 2007

Gary Fu

Gary Williams famous sideline antics were on full display last night. The rants and tirades are a usual part of the game but last night Maryland fans got treated to an extra special dose of the physical performance of the head coach. There was a little Bruce Lee in Gary last night as he brought his own brand of coaching Kung Fu to Comcast Center. The careless ball handling and dumb mistakes by his team in the first half sent him over the edge. Afterwards Gary had this to say to the Washington Post:

There comes a time when the players have to understand that it's not acceptable, and I was running out of things to say so I thought I'd work on a little martial arts.
He gave the scorers table a nice karate kick, dropped to his knees and pounded the floor with his hands and in the coup de grace sent his jacket flying across midcourt as the 1st half ended. He was given a technical for those shenanigans and admitted later that it was calculated to get his team's attention. It seemed to work as Maryland shook off an uneven 1st half and blew out Morgan State 53-36 in the 2nd half.

It was more of the same old story in the 1st half for the Terps as they turned the ball over 13 times, took ill advised shots and only made 12 field goals in 29 attempts. There was much attention given to the switch at the guard positions with Eric Hayes moving more to the point position and Greivis Vasquez shifting more to the shooting guard spot. I think in the end this is a better situation because Vasquez offers more at the shooting guard position than Hayes, not because Hayes is an upgrade at the point. The offense isn't really terrible when the team doesn't turn the ball over. The offensive efficiency (measured as always in points per 100 possessions) when Maryland turns the ball over 20 or more times is 93.6 compared to 104.9 when they turn it over less than 20 times. That is a huge difference.

It is indeed true that the offense may run slightly better with this configuration but the bigger key is being careful with the ball. Even if Maryland grows into a better scoring team if they can't take better care of the ball in ACC play then they will have a hard time posting a winning record.

Hayes and Vasquez do deserve some kudos in this game. Hayes set a new personal scoring mark with 19 points on five 3-point baskets and added a nifty 7 assists and only two turnovers. He has now scored in double digits in 4 of the last 5 games. Vasquez was very shaky early in the game but steadied himself at halftime and ended with a solid performance with 17 points, 11 assists and 6 rebounds. He did had 7 turnovers, 5 of which were in the 1st half, and had some awful moments that helped keep Morgan State in the game. Hopefully his perimeter shooting will continue to improve as he shot 3/6 from behind the arc.

Much better ball movement helped explain the good shooting by Hayes and Vasquez. James Gist is getting better passing out of the low post and several 3-point baskets started with nice passes from Gist out to open men on the perimeter. It is important to keep in mind that Morgan State played a lot of zone so we'll see if that continues when the Terps face a more aggressive man defense.

To me the bigger story was the post players. Boom Osby was a one man wrecking crew in the 2nd half. With Maryland's offense stagnating Osby came off the bench and scored 9 points, grabbed 4 rebounds and blocked a layup in only two minutes. The whole team had scored 4 points in the previous three minutes. It broke the game open for Maryland and gave the Terps a cushion that they never relinquished. I'll admit I'm biased. Osby is one of my favorite Maryland players in a long time. He always gives the team something when he is on the floor. He may not score effortlessly but he is always scrapping, rebounding, playing solid defense, running the floor on fast breaks (two layups in this game) and giving a great level of effort and enthusiasm. There is good reason why Williams specifically mentioned Boom in his post game comments saying that a number of players on the team could learn from Osby's approach to the game. He nearly had his third double-double of the season with 16 points and 9 rebounds along with 4 blocks.

James Gist played more like he needs to and was aggressive in going to the basket instead of settling for jump shots. He was slightly hampered by two 1st half fouls but filled out the stat sheet with 18 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals. It was perhaps his most complete game of the year. He played near the rim and shot five free throws as a result. If he continues to take a page from Boom's book he'll be more valuable to this team.

Landon Milbourne had his best game of the season. He limited himself to only one turnover and showed a better ability to score within the offense with a career high 11 points. Maryland had him run some sweet curls in the lane and when he is going to the left it makes it nearly impossible for the trailing defender to contest his shot since Milbourne is a lefty. I expect to see more of that going forward. He continues to show a real knack for offensive rebounds as well. His continued improvement is also important for this team.

Cliff Tucker showed that sometimes a freshman can tantalize with some brief glimpses of talent but it requires more to stay consistent with additional playing time. In his 16 minutes of play Tucker looked more like a first year player and put up 4 points and 3 rebounds with a couple of turnovers. He is certainly the best looking freshman so far but he also has a lot to learn.

The other freshmen had decent games. Dupree had plenty of opportunities to put more points up but couldn't hit his foul shots and lost the ball too often in traffic. Once he improves his hand strength his rebounding will improve. Adrian Bowie seems to be in the dog house at the moment. Dino Gregory got rewarded with some playing time and was productive with 4 rebounds and two points.

Overall the second half was very good while the first half was equally bad. Consistency continues to be a key for this team but the defensive effort was very solid again. Rebounding may be a large factor on Sunday as Boston College is very good at grabbing offensive rebounds. The Terps gave up 18 to Morgan State.

Offense: 114.7
Defense: 83.8

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Emerald Bowl bound

Maryland accepted an invitation to play in the Emerald Bowl against Oregon State on December 28th on ESPN. The Beavers were not all that happy with the selection as they felt as the winner of the "Civil War" game against Oregon that they should have gotten an invitation to the Sun Bowl in San Diego. The officials there, in another example of why the bowl system is a failed venture, decided that since Oregon State had played there last season they wanted a different team. They selected Oregon instead even though the Ducks have lost three straight since their QB went down with a knee injury.

At least the Beaver's staff was honest when they said they really didn't know much about the Terrapins. Oregon State center Kyle DeVan went so far as to claim he didn't even know where Maryland was on a map, let's hope he was being facetious. I think Oregon State is a worthy opponent and it will be nice to play a Pac-10 team before the series against California starts next season. Stewart Mandel of pointed out that the last two coaches to lose the Emerald Bowl got fired in the last few weeks.

In other news Erin Henderson will test the NFL draft waters. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. He has some injury concerns but he is an NFL caliber player. His brother EJ only stayed at Maryland for his senior year because of a back injury. I think it is likely that Henderson will declare for the draft after the bowl game unless he also has some significant injury issue. Maryland's depth at linebacker probably means that the departure of Henderson won't be a crippling blow. Finding a new defensive coordinator is a bigger concern.

Sophomore wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey indicated that he isn't even considering declaring for the draft. Great news for Maryland fans even if it is a little surprising.

Guard Jamie Thomas has a slim chance to play in the bowl game after breaking his leg earlier in the year.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Veterans let down Terps

It is true that Maryland has a very young team this season. There are six freshmen on the roster and three sophomores in starting positions this year. One of the two seniors, Bambale Osby, is only playing in his second season at Maryland. In this game it wasn't the freshmen who made critical errors or failed to convert a needed basket in the loss to Virginia Commonwealth. In this game it was veterans who couldn't get a basket when Maryland needed it most, who made fatal mistakes and who got thoroughly dominated by VCU's duo of Eric Maynor and Jamal Shuler. Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes and James Gist picked a bad time to put together another lackluster BB&T performance in a game that Maryland should have won.

There wasn't anything stunning about this loss, and it really wasn't even an upset as VCU is a very solid team that has struggled this season. Maynor could probably start on half the teams in the ACC and anyone who follows college basketball knows VCU was picked to win the CAA this season. Maryland's awful history in the BB&T (1-6 in the last five seasons) should have made any Maryland fan nervous about this game, though the last time Maryland lost to a team from the CAA Bob Wade was the head coach. As I mentioned VCU has struggled this season and this game was their last opportunity to get a useful out of conference win to add to their resume. It remains to be seen if a win over Maryland will mean anything in March.

Maynor and Shuler combined for 55 of VCU's 85 points, that is about 65% of their total for those that are curious. The rest of VCU's team isn't going to scare anyone and they only managed 8/20 from the floor. Vasquez admitted after the game that it came down to Maynor and Shuler decisively winning the battle over Hayes and himself. Gary Williams tried a slew of different defenses including more zone than I can remember Maryland playing in a long time to try to slow down Shuler and Maynor but nothing really worked. Hayes and Vasquez will never be more than adequate defenders and neither has the lateral quickness to keep a player like Maynor out of the lane. The frontcourt didn't help them much off of the screens VCU was running but it came down to the inability of Maryland's backcourt to get defensive stops. On offense the duo of Hayes and Vasquez went 5/22 from the floor with 10 assists and 8 turnovers. Vasquez's shot selection was questionable again in this game and for the year he is shooting a dreadful 39% from the floor.

Those numbers may skew the totals just a tad but it was clearly the worst defensive performance by the Terps all season. The Rams shot 47% from the floor and 45% from 3-point range while putting up 51 points in the 2nd half after a 34-34 halftime tie. Maryland had the kind of rebounding edge you would expect (+10) with 15 offensive rebounds but in the 2nd half VCU was only out rebounded by two. Maynor had 4 offensive rebounds himself and 8 total. It was very reminiscent of the Virginia losses from last season. Like UVA, the Rams had two players they ran the offense through and had the rest of the team go after offensive rebounds and opportunistic shots.

The offense didn't look much better. Both guards did a terrible job of running the offense. There were only a few passes before the Terps usually settled for a quick shot. It played right into the hands of VCU who wanted to get up and down the floor and not operate in the half court. The ball pressure by VCU really gave Maryland problems. They used a delayed trap press that allowed the big men to release down the floor and then attacked the ball handler with a two man trap. That and poor passing contributed to another near 20 turnover performance. If that continues you may as well get used to another NIT for this group.

While Braxton Dupree got another ceremonial start it was Bambale Osby who was the only Maryland player who had a solid night. He notched another double double with 17 points (career high) and 10 rebounds. He has relentless energy and his 7 points and 5 rebounds in the last five minutes of the game kept Maryland within earshot of VCU. It is a pleasure to watch Osby and if more guys on this team played with his passion and intensity they would be much better.

Cliff Tucker had another solid game with 7 points and 4 rebounds, though he did have a season high 4 turnovers. I wasn't sure why Williams didn't put Tucker and Bowie in the game along with either Hayes or Vasquez and have them guard Maynor and Shuler.

Landon Milbourne had his best offensive performance of the season with 10 points and 5 boards but he still makes way too many mental mistakes.

I expected more from a senior like James Gist. He missed some time after turning his ankle but a 9 point and 8 rebound night against a frontcourt he should dominate was terrible. His production has tailed off lately and he needs to be more of an inside player. He needs to stop taking 3-point shots after only connecting on 3/17 for the year. Maybe later when his inside game develops he can go back to that shot but this team needs him on the low block right now. Not taking fade away jumpers.

It was a disappointing loss because of the way Maryland lost the game, not the level of opponent. The defense, stout all season, evaporated and the guards showed immaturity in not running the offense to get better looks. The trio of Vasquez, Hayes and Gist need to return to the form needed from star players. Morgan State is no pushover on Thursday and could easily beat Maryland if they play as lackluster a game as they did last night. Boston College comes to Comcast a few nights later in a critical ACC opener that the Terps must win.

Maryland could be much better at the end of the season but the next month will probably indicate if they will fulfill their promise.

Offense: 100.1
Defense: 115.4

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Terp freshmen get noticed

Three freshmen on the football team got noticed by Sporting News and were placed on the All-ACC freshman team. Wideout LaQuan Williams, who has been out with an injury, was selected along with linebacker Adrian Moten and punter Travis Baltz. Williams had forced his way into the lineup early in the season and showed good hands and speed in a sturdy 6-1 frame. He missed the last two games with a knee injury that ended his season. Moten has shown some impressive ability as a reserve playing at all three linebacker positions. He is a little undersized but is very quick and able to cover sideline to sideline. Moten has also showed some pass rush ability recently and can also get by in pass coverage. He could be the next star linebacker at Maryland.