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.


Anonymous said...

I had high expectations for James Gist coming into this year. He had shown steady improvement over the past three years but he seems to have maxed out. It is obvious that he wants to expand his game to the perimeter to be more attractive to NBA scouts however, he does not have the ability to knock down the shot on a consistent basis. I would say he looks like a poor man's Terrance Morris but I think that is giving him too much credit.

Esquire said...

Statistically he is having an okay season. His points (13.8) and rebounds (7.6) are about where they were last season at the end of the year. Unfortunately Maryland needs him to be better than that this season. He is less efficient than he was last year, 97.0 compared to 110.7, and that is probably because his shot selection has been worse.

I've come to the conclusion that he doesn't have the mentality needed to be "the man" on a team that needs him to be that. He is a good kid but has been too willing to take a back seat to others his whole career at Maryland. Tough to change that now.