Thursday, November 29, 2007

Terps top Illinois

It was a nip and tuck game against Illinois in keeping with the styles of both teams. Neither is an offensive juggernaut and both have stout defenses so you would not expect a game that was wide open or high scoring. Neither team had the firepower to pull away from the other and I'm not sure how many games Maryland will win in a blowout this season. Probably not many and you'll be sitting on the edge of your seat as Maryland clings to a bunch of 6 to 10 point wins.

The officials let both teams play in the lane and called very few fouls until late in the game. Neither team got into the bonus until the last few minutes of the game. The loose officiating made scoring difficult for both teams and allowed Illinois to crash the boards and haul in 16 offensive rebounds. Both offenses settled for jump shots early until Maryland started having success driving to the basket and scoring a few transition baskets. The shooting percentages won't wow anyone but the Terps did a better job of knocking down open jumpers than they had previously.

Eric Hayes deserves the game MVP and showed what kind of player he is capable of becoming. Illinois backcourt was over matched by Hayes and Greivis Vasquez but Hayes was much more aggressive in looking for his own shot and created more opportunities for himself. He is the best shooter on the team and Maryland needs him to be a bigger part of the offense. Hayes was able to do this his senior year in high school when a number of scoring options had graduated the year before so he has show that ability. He combined accurate outside shooting and some nifty drives to the lane. If he continues this new found aggressiveness the team will be much more dangerous on offense.

Some thought that Greivis Vasquez struggled in this game with 2/14 shooting and if you look at just that line it might be true. Vasquez still struggles with shot selection and much of that was some ill advised 3-point attempts. His shooting aside he finished with 10 assists and only 2 turnovers in a whopping 38 minutes of play. Right now this team relies on no player more than Vasquez. Throw in 7 rebounds with a modest 5 points and I think he actually had a very solid game. He is the type of player who can help you win by scoring 20 plus points one night and then being a complimentary player through assists and rebounds the next. There are not too many of those kinds of players in college basketball.

James Gist hasn't been putting up the same numbers he did early in the season but he had a solid 12 points and game high 9 rebounds. He may be taking a few too many 3-point attempts and turning the ball over too often when double teamed but he is improving in finding the open man when the defense collapses on him. He is Maryland's only post player that any opponent would deem worthy of help defense so he needs to keep getting better in that regard.

Braxton Dupree started in the place of Boom Osby again. Gary Williams was somewhat evasive when asked if it would become a regular occurrence. I'm not sure what Gary will do but it is worth noting that while Dupree started Osby played more minutes. Osby was probably a little fatigued from his stomach illness and that probably played a factor in his 21 minutes. Dupree has shown some rapid improvement and the most impressive part of his game against Illinois was his stout low post defense against Shaun Pruitt. Pruitt could not move Dupree off the block with any of his power moves. I would like to see Braxton improve his rebounding. I'm guessing that we'll see Osby back in the starting lineup soon. I don't think Dupree is ready to play starter level minutes at this point.

The most impressive freshman was Cliff Tucker. He has been a sneaky player up till the Illinois game. He hasn't put up numbers that will jump out at you but he plays a very mature floor game and doesn't try to force things like most freshman. With the game tied at just over 11 minutes left he scored 7 points and grabbed 2 rebounds in just over 3 minutes to give Maryland a lead they never relinquished. The two shots he did miss were very good looks. He was a great spark off the bench when Maryland needed another player to step up and he makes for a good defensive combination with Adrian Bowie. Landon Milbourne may see his minutes decrease if Tucker keeps playing at this level.

The defense, as it has been all season, was solid. Illinois only shot 33% from the floor and 31% from 3-point range. Illinois is a rugged rebounding team and to almost come out even (42 to 41) was a good accomplishment in my mind. Throw in 9 blocks and 7 steals and it was a pretty good all around effort. There were 16 offensive rebounds by Illinois which kept them in the game and this team has been susceptible to that all year and going back to the 2006 season as well. That needs to improve.

Another big reason for the win was only 12 turnovers, a season low, and 20 assists on 27 field goals. The offensive is improving slowly, though it is still a work in progress. It may not be a linear progression but a few of the freshmen, Bowie, Tucker and Dupree, have shown that they may be legitimate contributors this season. Jerome Burney even showed some nice flashes as a defensive post specialist even if his offensive game is still unevolved. I think this game bodes well for the next few weeks as the Terps will face VCU, Morgan State and Boston College in three important contests. Like last year maybe this win over Illinois will show this team how good they can be if they continue to improve.

Ratings
Offense: 98.2
Defense: 87.2

Seth Davis questions Gilchrist

I've already gone on record that the way Gus Gilchrist handled his decision to spurn Virginia Tech after the campus shootings there in April was distasteful to put it politely. It would appear that his decision had as much to do with the fact that he thought he could do better than a largely irrelevant and backwater basketball program after his stature rose tremendously late in his senior year. That certainly doesn't make him a paragon of virtue but it doesn't make him an evil person either. Some felt he was using the tragedy as a pretext to get out of his commitment to Virginia Tech and more than likely he did do that to an extent. Whether his concern was genuine or not only he knows for sure. I'm not willing to give him the benefit of doubt myself but Seth Davis on SI.com is coming right out, or more accurately sheepishly insinuating, that Gilchrist was lying when he said that the shootings made him rethink his decision.

I usually enjoy Davis. His predictions are normally terrible but his coverage of college basketball is fairly good. Some of his comments in this case, however, can't go without some response. Here is what he wrote about Gilchrist:

Too many people have reported at face value that Gus Gilchrist, a power forward at Progressive Christian in Temple Hills, Md., reneged on his commitment to Virginia Tech because he felt unsafe there after the tragic shootings of last April. That logic is a little suspicious given that Gilchrist elected to go instead to the University of Maryland, which is just a few miles from where the sniper shootings of 2002 occurred. I'm not a mind reader so I can't say for 100 percent certain that Gilchrist's stated reason was false, but can we at least greet it with a healthy dose of skepticism?


If Davis wasn't from the Washington area I may let the extraneous mention of the Beltway sniper case go but he should know better than to say something so patently absurd. I'd say there is a huge difference between a rampage by a crazed student who slaughtered dozens of classmates in their dorms and classrooms and a series of shootings, only one of which occurred anywhere near the College Park campus, that had no connection to the University of Maryland in any way. Though the Beltway Sniper case certainly terrorized the Washington area, I know this all too well since I lived within walking distance of two of the murders at the time, this city has a long history of violent crime. In addition to the sniper murders this area also endured the terrorist attacks on September 11th and to some extent, perhaps regretfully, there is a certain grim acceptance of these things from most of the residents. To make a comparison between something that happened just months ago and something that occurred when Gilchrist was still in grade school has a long way to go before it becomes puerile.

Gilchrist grew up in Prince George's county and it would be natural that he wouldn't look upon going to school at Maryland as any more risky than the high school he attended. It isn't likely that a recruit who lived in south central Los Angeles would discount playing football at Southern California because it was in a bad neighborhood. Gilchrist does deserve some criticism for handling things the way he did and so I don't try and defend his motives. He is only at Maryland because Georgetown strung him along and then gave his spot to another more highly rated recruit. Perhaps Gilchrist has learned a lesson or gained some maturity from this episode, I can only hope he has learned it isn't always wise to let others speak for you even if they are adults. When the shootings were mentioned as a reason for his wavering on his commitment the discussion changed and his motives were deemed spurious until proven otherwise. Would it be just a tad uncouth to question the motives of any of the other dozens of freshmen who decided not to attend Virginia Tech after the shootings for their own reasons via a digital scarlet letter? I'll leave that up to you, dear reader.

If Davis wants to delve deeper into this then why not explore what programs were talking with Gilchrist back in April about him dumping the Hokies? I'd be pretty sure of at least two of my own guesses and Maryland wasn't one of them. Who is more culpable in using a tragedy like that to their advantage, an 18 year old getting bad advice or adult men who run high profile basketball programs? Perhaps it is also worth exploring why Seth Greenberg has had so many players leave his program in the last few years? That would at least have more integrity than a cheap shot comment that amounts to little more than sticking your finger in the wind.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

ACC Big Ten (no) Challenge

Maryland's game against Illinois tonight is maybe as important as a game can be in November. Sure Gary Williams has a young team and I believe as he does that they will be better in January than they are now, but the Terps don't have many more opportunities for notable out of conference victories after tonight. Maryland lost to both UCLA and Missouri already and after Illinois the schedule is devoid of possible wins that will be useful if the Terps are on the bubble in March. There seem to be solid mid-major games against Hampton, Morgan State, Holy Cross and Lehigh but the remaining marquee games against Charlotte and VCU are looking less and less valuable as both those teams have stumbled in the early going. The game against Charlotte is a road contest so it will have some meaning in regards to RPI but if Maryland blows this chance against Illinois it may require 9 wins or more in the ACC for them to get a bid in the NCAA tournament.

Illinois forward Brian Randle is still feeling the effects of a leg bruise that involved some minor nerve injury he suffered in Maui but it seems he will be ready to play tonight. Maryland will need to cut down on its turnovers and hit some jump shots to grind out a win tonight. Expect a low scoring and ugly game in the 60's.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Terps rout Wolfpack

In probably the most complete game that Maryland has played all season the Terrapins saved their post season bowl hopes by demolishing NC State at Carter Finley, 37-0. The game amounted to an elimination game for the loser as both teams stood at 5-6 and needing a win to get bowl eligible. Maryland was the better prepared team and the players were as focused as they have been all season. It was a excellent effort both on offense and defense considering neither side looked particularly good in the loss to Florida State the week prior.

The first quarter started off slowly for both teams and only a great interception return by linebacker Dave Philistin put Maryland into position to kick a field goal. It was especially critical because NC State was driving and already within field goal range when Philistin picked off Daniel Evans on the 17 yard line. Philistin showed amazing athleticism in grabbing the deflection from Isaiah Gardner and rumbling 43 yards down field. It was the spark that Maryland needed and sometimes it is that momentum changer that can decide a game, see the Scooter Monroe dropped touchdown pass against Virginia in 2002.

The offense then exploded for three straight touchdown drives in the 2nd quarter and blew the game open for good. It all started with a shocking 41 yard scramble by quarterback Chris Turner down the the NC State seven yard line. It was a new twist for Turner who is mostly a pocket passer and seemed to throw the Wolfpack defense off balance. His other scrambles didn't amount to much but this at least got the front seven of NC State thinking about the option which has been non existent for most of the season.

In the second quarter the Terps offense went 3/4 on third downs with two of those resulting in touchdowns. For the game Maryland converted 8/16 on third downs and Chris Turner made some great decisions in the passing game to move the chains. Tight end Joey Haynos and wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey made some great catches on third down.

Da'Rel Scott gave Maryland fans a glimpse of what he may offer next year and showed why he was expected to be a game breaking runner coming out of high school. Scott has the ability to run through arm tackles in addition to his track speed which can turn a small opening into a big gain. His runs of 33 and 19 yards were things of beauty with breathtaking speed and vision. He ended up leading the team in rushing with 89 yards on only eight carries. Scott and Lance Ball are a formidable combination and their skills complement each other better than a Ball and Keon Lattimore duo.

The offensive line got guard Andrew Crummey back and did an excellent job opening holes for the running backs and in pass protection. The wide outs were especially good in their down field blocking along with the tight ends. The running game was so dominant that with 2 minutes left in the 3rd quarter Maryland lined up with two tight ends on first down against 9 players in the box for NC State and Lance Ball still ran for 20 yards. It was probably their best effort of the season.

The receiver corps had a good day blocking and making plays when they were needed. Joey Haynos had the type of game he was expected to have going into the season. He was adept and finding the holes in coverage and made several big catches. Darrius Heyward-Bey seems to be Turners favorite target on 3rd down these days. He didn't break a long gain but his presence opened things up for the rest of the offense. Isaiah Williams is turning his season around after being in the dog house for a while. He has tremendous talent but that was never his problem as his maturity and focus were the only thing holding him back.


The defense also played its most complete game of the season and shut down NC State in almost every aspect of the game. The Wolfpack only managed 10 net rushing yards (under 30 if you don't count sack yardage) and had to focus almost exclusively on passing to move the ball. The Wolfpack offense is fairly impotent but the defense was able to confuse and harass quarterbacks Daniel Evans and Harrison Beck. The line only managed two sacks on 45 pass attempts but was able to get regular pressure on Evans and force him to throw early or move around in the pocket. Evans' receivers didn't do much to help him as they dropped a number of passes. The 168 yards that Evans managed was his lowest total since a September game against Louisville.

The play of the defensive line allowed the linebackers to make plays in both the passing and running game. Dave Philistin and Adrian Moten had excellent games and it may be that Moten is the latest in a string of great Maryland linebackers. He can cover in space, stuff the run and has good pass rush skills. He may only need to add a little weight to take on tight ends and linemen.

Isaiah Gardner and Kevin Barnes also played very well. They were aggressive and physical against NC State and often came up big in run support and Gardner had a pass breakup that resulted in a big interception. They played so well, along with the linebackers, that the safeties were not much of a factor in the game.

Now Maryland will get a chance to play in a bowl game, hopefully the Emerald Bowl against a Pac-10 opponent. There were some positive signs in this game with young players like Philistin, Moten, Scott and Turner showing some great skills.

All-ACC Teams

Maryland placed three players on the list. Linebacker Erin Henderson was 1st team and received the most votes of any linebacker in the ACC. Defensive tackle Dre Moore was a surprise as another 1st team selection which is probably largely due to his play the last few weeks. I didn't think Moore was a 1st team caliber player for most of the season and he doesn't rank near the top of the ACC in any major defensive category. I guess the voters just didn't feel anyone else distinguished themselves but players like Georgia Tech's Darryl Richards and Miami's Teraz McCray were probably just as good. Moore underachieved for most of the year and Maryland's run defense was awful in too many games.

Guard Andrew Crummey received 2nd team honors even though he missed a large portion of the ACC season.

Keon Lattimore was honorable mention even though his performance in ACC games was mediocre at best.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Weekly basketball review

The final score wasn't anything to be embarrassed about but UCLA thoroughly manhandled Maryland last night on its way to a 71-59 victory. The Terps were still within 2 points ten minutes into the game despite horrible shooting, a gaggle of turnovers and nonexistent rebounding. It was a typical mixture of good and bad for this young team. It is a young team even with seniors James Gist and Bambale Osby playing large roles freshmen and sophomore's played 142 out of 200 minutes. After fantastic freshmen campaigns Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes are playing like sophomores with moments of impressive play along with critical lapses of judgment. Perhaps fans had too high expectations for these two and now that they are struggling in different ways it is obvious how much this team depends on their steady play to be successful.

Initially little went right for the Terps as they scored only two points for the first seven minutes of the game. Heralded UCLA freshmen Kevin Love didn't have a great game but ground Maryland down and, along with Lorenzo Mata, crushed Maryland on the glass 44-29. Love and Mata had a combined 11 offensive rebounds and UCLA had an unacceptable 19 for the game. Even though Maryland's defense was fairly solid as the Bruins only shot 37% from the floor and 30% from 3-point.

The next night was a very tough game for Maryland as it was really a road game in Kansas City. Missouri is probably an NCAA tournament team and will do well in the Big 12. With Maryland's turnover problems their aggressive defense and pressing style caused over 20 turnovers again. Even with Maryland's poor shooting and the worst defensive effort of the year the Terps probably could have won the game had they not given away an extra 23 possessions on turnovers.

Maryland got back on track against Lehigh. There was some hangover from the Kansas City trip that lasted the first half but then the Terps kicked it into gear on the defensive end. Freshman Adrian Bowie showed some great skills by harassing Marquis Hall who finished 2/16 from the floor. Landon Milbourne may be playing his way out of a starting job the last week with dreadful performances against Mizzou and Lehigh. He only played 13 minutes on Friday after another of his signature turnovers on a charge. Braxton Dupree got a start with Boom Osby suffering from a stomach bug and played well. He finished with 14 points and 5 rebounds in 27 minutes of play and perhaps showed that he will be able to come off the bench and contribute. Most of his opportunities came on hustle plays and grabbing offensive rebounds. He still is nowhere near being able to take a starting job. James Gist is showing some great leadership skills and though he has struggled in the box score for the past few games he is making plays. Vasquez and Hayes showed much better ball movement and shot selection in this game and helping the team limit itself to 12 turnovers. It may be a little much to expect Vasquez (career high 22 points) and Hayes to produce 33 points a game between the two of them but if Maryland is going to challenge for an NCAA birth this season they may need them to do that.

Cliff Tucker continues to have a very quiet and solid freshman season and I wouldn't be surprised to see him start taking more of Milbourne's minutes if the sophomore continues to struggle. Without Osby it was clear the rebounding suffered. Dupree should gather more than the 5 rebounds in 27 minutes he had as Maryland actually lost the rebounding margin by two.

With the ACC in real flux beyond Duke and UNC I don't think Maryland is out of the conversation for fourth place if they improve in the next month. The next few games against Illinois, VCU and Boston College will be critical.

Gus Gilchrist and Jin Soo Kim attended the Lehigh game.

Ratings:

UCLA
Offense 77.7
Defense 96.9

Missouri
Offense 87.4
Defense 104.8

Lehigh
Offense 113.8
Defense 79.8

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Maryland hires assistant; in Maui 2009 field

Maryland hired former player Joe Harrington to act as an assistant for the rest of the season and possibly for the immediate future. Harrington played with coach Gary Williams at Maryland in the 1960's and has head coaching experience at a number of schools including George Mason and Colorado. He also has NBA experience as an assistant with the Toronto Raptors for a few years. He has remained close to the University of Maryland and often attends sporting events in College Park. I spotted him myself at one of the basketball scrimmages a few weeks ago. He does have experience coaching at the collegiate level, unlike Adams who never seemed to adjust to the differences between the professional ranks and college. Harrington is probably a better recruiter than Adams so that might be an upgrade but Adams was the best bench coach on the staff. It remains to be seen who can fill that role and it may require even more efforts from Williams himself.

Maryland returning to Maui
The 2009 Maui invitational field was announced and it includes Maryland along with Arizona, Louisville, Gonzaga, Wisconsin, Colorado, Vanderbilt and host Chaminade. Maryland has been to Maui three times 1994, 2000 and 2005 with a 5-4 overall record. Interesting to note that in the press releases Maryland got second tier billing along with Wisconsin and Colorado while Arizona, Louisville and Gonzaga were the headliners.

Maryland will play in a loaded Old Spice Classic next season that has Michigan State, Gonzaga, Memphis, Tennessee and Oklahoma State among the field.

Around the ACC
Virginia upset a very overrated Arizona team on the road. It appears that Virginia will again be a one dimensional jump shooting team without much inside offense. They shot 57% from 3-point range but were outrebounded by a soft Arizona squad and had more turnovers than assists while the defense was sub par. Virginia will struggle to post a winning record this year in the ACC with those flaws.

NC State lost to New Orleans on a last second 3-point shot 65-63. No word on whether Gavin Grant has backed off of his Final Four prediction. For all the heralded post players the Wolfpack possess they were outrebounded by the Privateers (don't call them pirates) 38 to 37. Brandon Costner, probably the most overrated player in the ACC has struggled this year, and Ben McCauley who was the most reliable post player they had has been stuck on the bench. Now word is coming out that there are locker room issues. Not a good way to start the season.

Georgia Tech lost again, this time to Winthrop, which may be putting Paul Hewitt on the hot seat.

Florida State lost its second game in a row to South Florida after dropping a game to Cleveland State. The Seminoles are getting little production from their frontcourt and little defense from the rest of their team.

Miami won a close game against Providence and has a win over VCU as well but their out of conference schedule is pathetic. Tough to tell if this team is anything better than mediocre.

Seminoles finish Terps

In a game that was critical to the post season hopes of both programs Florida State finally took care of Maryland 24-16 at Tallahassee and helped put the first nail in Maryland's coffin. The Terps still have a chance to get to a bowl game with a road win at NC State and a loss by Miami in Boston. Given how poorly the season has gone Maryland has to be pretty happy with those odds, though Maryland hasn't won an ACC road game since last November.

The juicy story in this loss was Ralph Friedgen's musical quarterbacks game. After Chris Turner struggled in the first half with poor reads and wild throws Fridge went with Jordan Steffy late in the second quarter. Steffy looked unprepared and panicky in his two series. It started off with a sack that was Steffy's fault, a screen pass for one yard and an incomplete on third down. His second series wasn't much better as a completion to Heyward-Bey was nullified by a penalty and Steffy ended the drive without completing another pass. Clearly Friedgen was trying to jump start the offense by replacing Turner, as if he was the only problem, but it backfired badly. All he managed to do was throw away two critical possession before halftime and annoy Turner to the point that you may as well start the transfer rumors right now. It may turn out to be one of Friedgen's all time worst game decisions. The fact that quarterback's coach John Donovan didn't even know the switch had been made adds more fuel to the fire.

Turner may have struggled and missed receivers but the line had trouble with the athletic FSU front four all day long (5 sacks) and the running game was ineffective. Friedgen's own playcalling was exactly rock solid as he called two quarterback sneaks on consecutive plays in Florida State territory late in the 3rd quarter. Then on another fourth down play on FSU's side of the field Friedgen called a screen pass that everyone on the Seminole defense knew was coming. For a man known for his innovative offense it was a pathetic series of calls. I'm not sure Friedgen will be able to accept that he is part of the problem on offense once this season is over but if he doesn't nothing will get better next year.

The defense was getting shredded by Preston Parker who seemed a step faster than anyone Maryland had on defense. Parker ended up with 133 yards on 20 carries and was the engine behind FSU's offense. Drew Weatherford didn't play much better than Chris Turner but he had the support of an effective running game whereas Turner didn't. Weatherford was solid and made the throws when he had to but Maryland did manage to pressure him and force one turnover, a fumble late in the 4th quarter. After getting blitzed in the first half the defense settled down to limit FSU to 3 points in the final two quarters. They limited the Seminoles to 2/12 on 3rd down conversions. After the third touchdown they forced FSU to punt on eight straight possessions, five of which were 3 and out possessions. Part of that was a shift to conservative playcalling from FSU but the defense did a decent job overall. The roughing the passer penalty by Moise Fokou on the last FSU drive was emblematic of the lack of focus for both sides of the ball all day.

It was good to see Joey Haynos back in the offensive game plan again and I would like to see Da'Rel Scott get more time on the field against NC State. Unfortunately both Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore have been less effective every week but the Wolfpack are weak against the run (11th in the ACC). This could turn into a shoot out as neither team has a great defense. Maryland has done a fairly good job of limiting turnovers the last few weeks and if that continues they have a decent shot to get bowl eligible.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Terps have hangover

Gary Williams said he was hoping that the Hampton game would be a teaching tool for this young Maryland team but it turned out that the malaise that had them playing so poorly against the Pirates continued on to their game against Northeastern last night. I'm not sure if the sudden resignation of assistant Michael Adams had some lingering effect on this group but it couldn't have helped. The backcourt played like it was in a fog for most of the night with the same sort of sloppy passing and careless ball handling that plagued them in the last game. On offense Maryland kept settling for the quick shot instead of moving the ball around and getting through their second and third screens. This impatience had them taking quick possessions and putting little pressure on Northeastern's defense for much of the first half. In the second half Maryland started pounding the ball inside and getting to the foul line, which helped to offset the lack of production from the field. The Terps were unable to get many points in transition which is normally how they get themselves through shooting droughts.

The defense was solid, until late in the game, and probably kept Northeastern from getting a bigger lead. They limited the opponent to 36% from the floor and only 7/26 from 3-point range though those numbers were higher in the 2nd half when Northeastern went ahead. Some individuals struggled in their matchups but overall the defense was stellar once again. The only real problem was rebounding. Northeastern grabbed 19 offensive rebounds for the night and matched the Terps 43 total rebounds. That is abysmal. The guards need to do a much better job on the defensive end to prevent offensive rebounds. When a team gives up too many offensive rebounds a poor rebounding backcourt is almost always part of the problem. Yes, Vasquez had 6 rebounds but Eric Hayed only had 3 and Landon Milbourne only had one defensive rebound. James Gist, while phenomenal in every other aspect, had only 5 rebounds all night.

The two things that I mentioned would cost this team games almost killed them again. The offense was pretty dreadful but Maryland would have pulled away from Northeastern long before the end if they could have protected the basketball. Twenty three turnovers resulted in 19 points for Northeastern and prevented the Terps from ever establishing any offensive rhythm. Of all the flaws that have been exposed the last two games this is the one that needs to be corrected most urgently. In its first three games Maryland has averaged 21.7 turnovers a game. There was plenty of blame to go around last night as three players had 4 or more turnovers (Gist, Osby and Milbourne). There will be more of these close calls against mid-major teams and some potentially embarrassing losses if this kind of carelessness continues. The offense simply isn't good enough to give away so many possessions. Much will be made of Maryland's free throw advantage but Northeastern shot an astounding 30 more field goals (77-47).

The free throw shooting looked like it might also sink Maryland as they shot only 55% in the 1st half hitting 11 out of 20. That turned around in the second half and Maryland, lead by Boom Osby, hit 12/16 and 8/10 in the overtime period to win the game. When they needed to Maryland made the most of their opportunities. That is one encouraging sign.

Maryland may have its own form of Batman and Robin. It isn't Hayes and Vasquez but Boom and Gist. Gist was sensational in the 1st half with 14 points but was able to carry that momentum into the 2nd half to finish with a career high 27 for the game. Northeastern had no answer for his blend of athleticism and skill and often resorted to fouling which Gist turned into 9 points from the free throw line. Through two games he is averaging 21.5 points and 8.5 rebounds while shooting 57% from the floor and 40% from 3-point range. You can't ask for much more than that.

Osby turned from potential goat to hero in the 2nd half. In a reverse of the Hampton game Boom hit eight straight free throws in the final 8 minutes to help regain the lead for Maryland. In the 1st half he had almost as many points (5), rebounds (4) as turnovers (3) but then exploded for 11 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks in the 2nd half and overtime. He also went 9-12 from the foul line and got the team pumped up with several amazing defensive plays including a rejection of a dunk attempt on a fast break. His totals were all career highs: 16 points, 13 rebounds and 6 blocks. If he gets more efficient in his post moves (1/9 from the floor) he could be a great offensive threat as well. His ability to draw fouls is unmatched on the team.

Greivis Vasquez didn't appear to have a good game on the surface. He only shot 2/10 from the floor and totaled only 9 points while on the defensive end his assignment was to guard Matt Janning who poured in 26 points and kept Northeastern in the game almost by himself. He did rack up ten assists with only two turnovers though and grabbed six rebounds. His 6 points in overtime, including a clutch 3-point basket with 3 minutes left, helped finally put away Northeastern (the last missed free throw was intentional). He needs to be more consistent for Maryland to contend for the post season this year but he wasn't that bad last night, with the exception of the dreadful shooting foul on Janning that resulted in three free throws (his missed two).

Eric Hayes on the other hand did have a terrible game. Hayes did hit some important threes in the game and finished with 11 points but he only took 5 shots in 38 minutes. Maryland will struggle to beat anyone with Hayes taking himself out of the game like that. He only made one assist all night to go with two turnovers. That should make anyone clamoring for Hayes to run the point exclusively reconsider. His defense towards the end of the game was dreadful. He couldn't stop his man from dribble penetrating and his lapses allowed the game tying 3-point basket at the end of regulation. Hayes is really struggling to figure out what his role is on this team and he needs to shake off the passivity that permeates his play.

Forward Landon Milbourne struggled through the worst game of his young career. He had a decent, if unspectacular, five points and seven rebounds for the game but it was his team leading six turnovers that nearly sank Maryland. Not only that but he botched a sure score when Maryland had numbers on a fast break when he elected to hold the ball instead of passing and missed a critical free throw that would have prevented the possibility of overtime. Given how poorly he played I was very surprised that he logged 33 minutes. Gary Williams stuck with Osby when he was struggling and it paid off handsomely but Milbourne was a liability for much of the game.

Another area that has been exposed the last few games is the poor production from Maryland's bench. All five starters played at least 32 minutes and the bench accounted for only 6 points in 42 combined minutes of play. That isn't going to cut it against better opponents. They need not score a slew of points but more than a handful is necessary. The rebounding needs to tighten up when Shane Walker and Braxton Dupree are in the game. They tend to stand around too much instead of bodying the nearest opponent. The absence of Jerome Burney, who cut his brow in practice, certainly didn't help. He should return for the UCLA game on Monday. At least a few freshmen are going to need to improve in a hurry if Maryland is going to get through the challenging stretch they have coming up. Before December 15th the Terps play UCLA, the loser of Missouri and Michigan State, Illinois, VCU and Boston College. Many Maryland fans who complained about the lack of marquee opponents in the out of conference schedule should consider how this team has played and realize it will be a difficult test for this group. The "soft" part of the schedule doesn't come until after the BC game on December 9th.

There are things to be concerned about but these next few games will give a good indication of the progress of this young group. We'll probably learn they have a ways to go but many of the flaws that have become evident over the last two games are correctable. The offense will get better, but probably never rise to a dominant level this year. It is harder to become a good defensive team when you don't start out the season playing at a high level. While the offense works out some of the kinks the defense will have to carry the team and you can expect more scores in the 60's, which is unfamiliar territory for Maryland.

The game against UCLA isn't a good indicator of where this team is in its progression. The Bruins have some injury issues but are still a vastly superior team to the Terrapins. It may turn into a blow out but I'm more interested in seeing how Maryland performs against the best team they will play for the next two months.

Chant Rant guest blogger

Rich from Chantrant.com has answered some questions about this Seminole team. You can check out his website here. He covers all things Florida State so you can go there and see what he has to say about the basketball team as well. Thanks to Rich for sharing his insights.

1. What is the status of Drew Weatherford? With Xavier Lee returning
what is the quarterback situation?
Apparently Drew has been cleared to play. But Xavier Lee, after two weeks of bench-sitting because of academic-related issues, appears to have lost his backup role.
The new number two is supposed to be Christian Ponder, who showed great promise last week at Va. Tech. When Drew was knocked silly, Ponder got his first playing time. He was surprisingly poised, mobile and on-target. That is, until late in the game when he finally began to play like the redshirt frosh he is, throwing INTs and fumbling. Yet many believe he's a serious contender for the starting role next year, due to all of the aforementioned advantages and his smarts. Ponder, the son of a former FSU d-lineman, has a very high GPA and almost 100 hours of credit for his short time in college.

2. What are your thoughts on the offense of Jimbo Fisher this year?
I give his play-calling high marks for some games, and am disappointed in others. However, the vanilla games earlier in the season are probably due to the players learning his system. The slow progress of the offense is still lights years from Jeff Bowden's predictable play-calling.

3. FSU always has great defensive players. What new name will Maryland
fans need to know before Saturday?
Probably linebacker Geno Hayes. Injured at mid-season last year, Geno didn't play against Maryland. He's become the playmaker and emotional leader of the defense. Another new name is Budd Thacker. A little undersized for a defensive lineman, Budd plays far bigger than his height and weight.

4. With a showdown against Florida coming up how do you see the
Seminoles playing on Saturday?
Good question. Will last week's loss to the Hokies and next week's big rivalry game mean a lack of focus against the Terps? Key injuries will also effect the team. But it will also open the door for some newcomers who are eager to show what they can do. If Maryland plays like they did against B.C., it could be a long afternoon. Especially since FSU often starts slowly.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Adams resigns

Gary Williams announced yesterday that assistant coach Michael Adams has resigned effective immediately. The official story is that Adams wanted to spend more time with his son now that he is a freshman basketball player at Good Counsel high school. The timing of this announcement seems very strange to me. Two games into the season Adams makes this decision? Let's assume that the stated reason is indeed accurate for a moment. The timing of his decision leaves Williams and the team in a very bad position. The players will now have one less coach to rely upon this year and there is no chance of finding a replacement at this point. I don't blame him for deciding his family is more important than his job, people make that decision every day, but doesn't he have some responsibility to the players as well? To me the timing of this is the real issue, it should have been handled better.

The other possibility is that this was a rocky relationship that finally reached a breaking point. I'm not trying to paint Adams as a bad guy in this. He came out of the NBA realm (WNBA coach as well) which is vastly different from college basketball. You can't yell and berate your players in the NBA. They are well paid professionals who are their own corporations in a sense. They have their guaranteed contracts, endorsement deals, blogs, media sycophants and are the centerpiece of the sport. The players in college basketball don't matter much. They have little to no power and are a disposable commodity. In a few years they will be gone either way and there will be another 18 year old coming along to replace them. The coaches and programs are much more important and have all the power in the relationship. Gary Williams is about as far from the NBA style of coaching as you could get. He yells, rants, curses and is as demanding as any coach in the sport. This style doesn't really have much in common with the way Michael Adams was probably used to doing things for the 20 or so years prior to coming to Maryland.

I sympathize in some ways. Williams must be a very difficult boss at times with his fiery personality and intolerance for mediocrity. The ranting and borderline abuse you may put up with when you're 18 is something that is less palatable when you're an adult in your forties. From what I have been told by people who know Adams this was a breakup was a long time coming and that he chaffed at the way that Williams interacted with his assistants. It is a grueling job that is difficult even if you love your situation and are simpatico with your head coach. In the end Adams always wanted to return to the NBA and after the close call against Hampton on Monday, when the temperature in the post game locker room must have been very high, he probably decided he had enough.

It is a loss for Maryland as Adams was probably the best floor coach on the staff besides Williams. His work with Eric Hayes and Greivis Vasquez certainly helped them perform so well right off the bat. There will be an interim assistant for the rest of the year and Maryland will search for an permanent replacement in the off season.

Recruits Sign
High school recruits Sean Mosley and Gus Gilchrist signed letters of intent yesterday. According to Scout.com Maryland has the 19th ranked class in the nation with those two players. Sean Mosley was elevated to the number 39 player in the class of 2008 and the 8th ranked shooting guard. Gus Gilchrist was a top 60 player for the class of 2007 and will also be a major contributor next season as well. He has very good skills for a player his size and may be the second best frontcourt player when he arrives on campus in December, even if he ends up redshirting this season.

Great article on Mosley in the Baltimore Sun can be seen here. His parents, especially his father, are huge Maryland supporters and impressed upon their son the value of playing for your hometown school. Mosley has the ability to come in and contribute right away next year with a sound all around game that isn't flashy but is highly productive. Interesting to note that there is still lingering bias against Maryland among the Baltimore basketball scene. All involved denied that anti-Maryland bias was a factor but Mosley preferred to go to Syracuse before a numbers game left him as odd man out (Gilchrist had a similar situation with Georgetown making this maybe the "leftovers" class). Maryland also recruited his friend Donte Greene who ended up picking Syracuse and it was Greene who (supposedly) joked that if he picked Maryland he wouldn't be his "man" anymore. I wasn't surprised Greene picked Syracuse. At a Maryland football game a few years Greene was being hosted by members of the team and Gary Williams and Greene looked like he was being asked to sit through a Bea Arthur striptease. That quote tells you a lot about what Maryland still fights against in what should be its home turf.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Attendance

Gary isn't pleased. After seeing the lower bowl of Comcast Center about 1/3 full and half of the student wall empty Williams threw in a snarky remark about "hoping some fans" will come to see the game on Thursday. Vintage Gary Williams. Maybe it is true that Gary has a monumental chip on his shoulder but it is then equally true that he can't understand why Maryland basketball is less important to the fans than it is to him.

The lack of turnout was sort of embarrassing I thought. It was bad enough at one point you could hear the Hampton fans heckling Maryland players on the foul line. To be fair the students that were there got very raucous especially at the end of the game when things tightened up. I suppose this in inevitable when you have a athletic department focused on squeezing every last penny from the basketball program so it can fund all its other endeavors and a waiting list for season tickets that is about ten thousand people long. I suppose after you've continually upped your Terrapin Club donations with the encouragement of the AD and ponied up the cash to buy season tickets you feel entitled to skip games that are not marquee match ups. In some ways I can't even blame that kind of thinking, however Maryland fans fancy themselves as supporters of an elite program and that isn't elite level fan support.

It seems like the players noticed the sparse attendance as well...

Maryland class in top 25

According to Jeff Harrington of USA Today Maryland's 2008 recruiting class of shooting guard Sean Mosley and forward Gus Gilchrist is the 22nd ranked class in the nation. Maryland is 4th in the ACC behind North Carolina (4), Wake Forest (5), and Duke (17). In his player rankings he has Gilchrist ranked 47th in a nation and Mosley ranked 63rd overall. Gilchrist is expected to enroll for the second semester this season and could be available to play in January if needed. It is more likely that he will redshirt and be part of the 2008 class. Prospect Ater Majok, a 6-10 forward from Australia, is also expected to sign before Thanksgiving and is ranked in the top 30 at his position. In the end Maryland's class may climb into one of the top 20 classes in the nation.
It is a pretty solid haul for Gary Williams and will add two very polished players in Mosley and Gilchrist. With the departure of Boom Osby and James Gist the Terps will need Gilchrist to match his hype next season.

Football News
Guard Andrew Crummey is still doubtful for the game against Florida State after coming back from a broken leg earlier in the season. The line could use him but only if Crummey is healthy, if not he should just prepare for the NFL combine and not jeopardize his potential professional career.

Tight end Dan Gronkowski and RB Keon Lattimore should both be back against FSU. Lance Ball will get the start at running back. Finally.

Danny Oquendo's knee injury will sideline him the rest of the season but early reports are that he did not tear his ACL, which is (relatively) great news.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Vasquez kidnapped by aliens

I'm not sure who this person is that is running around in Vasquez's number 21 jersey but they doesn't resemble the poised beyond his years freshman we saw for most of last season. Many of the headlines today will talk about his 21 points or mention he got a ridiculous "Regional MVP" trophy after the game, but if it wasn't for his terrible play Maryland would not have needed his late game heroics. There was plenty of blame to go around after this dreadful effort and he didn't get much help from anyone else besides James Gist but Maryland needs Vasquez to play smarter and play better than he showed last night. He is too important a player to drag the team down behind a slew of bone headed decisions. He was like the quarterback who throws four interceptions and then gets a game winning touchdown pass, if he hadn't been so dreadful for much of the game Maryland probably wins comfortably.

It was obvious that Gary Williams was talking about Vasquez when he said that there was "too much about guys trying to be stars before they are stars." The sophomore did a terrible job of running the half court offense for the second straight game which was born out by the paltry 12 assists Maryland accrued for the game. Vasquez made some awful shot selection decisions and got dragged into a silly mano-a-mano game with Hampton's Rashad West (complete with floor slapping, chest thumping theatrics) that helped to keep him making terrible decisions. He now has 13 turnovers in only two games this season compared with 10 assists. Vasquez needs to show more intensity on defense, as West burned him badly in the first half, and get his teammates involved on the offensive end. I'm not suggesting that Vasquez is selfish in the traditional sense or that his is just a bad teammate like John Gilchrist was in his time at Maryland. I think Vasquez really does care about winning and being a good teammate. He needs to learn the level of focus and dedication required to win consistently and be a dependable All-ACC level player.

Greivis isn't the only one who had a terrible night. Eric Hayes and Boom Osby also struggled badly throughout the night. Osby missed six straight free throws in the final six minutes that contributed to Hampton's comeback. He finished with more turnovers (3) than field goals (2) and seemed uncomfortable and out of sync the whole game. Hayes was slightly better than Vasquez at running the offense with only 4 turnovers for 4 assists but he offered little in the way of offense. He went 1/7 from the floor and got 4 of his 7 points shooting the technical free throws for Maryland. It was a dreadful offensive performance for Hayes and Maryland needs more than a handful of points from him to complement Vasquez.

Landon Milbourne fouled out in his first game of the year. He struggled on defense but did show some nice offensive skills in the early going. Foul trouble limited him to only two minutes in the 2nd half when his offensive skills were badly needed. He finished with 8 points and 4 rebounds.

James Gist had the type of game Maryland needs from its best player. He scored 16 points from all over the floor and went 2/3 from 3-point range. He also grabbed 12 rebounds for a double-double and also threw in 3 steals for good measure. He developed cramps late in the 2nd half and had to come out of the game. With Gist out Maryland's offense was very limited trying to rely on Osby and one of the freshmen, who have not shown much yet.

Cliff Tucker is having a nice start to his season. He has showed the ability to hit shots from the perimeter and get out in transition. He got taken advantage of on the defensive end with Milbourne on the bench with foul trouble but he was matched up against a 6-8 225 pound sophomore who can put it on the floor or shoot jumpers in Matthew Pilgrim. In 43 minutes he has not committed a turnover which is damn impressive for a freshman. Tucker seems to be the first guard off the bench in these early contests. He's a better shooter than his free throw percentage would indicate and I expect that will come back into the 65% range with more attempts.

Adrian Bowie had an unremarkable game with 10 minutes on the court with two points, two assists and two turnovers. He looked a little uncomfortable with the Hampton pressure, like all the other guards, and got yanked after making a few bad mistakes. His foul shooting continues to concern me for a player who goes to the basket as much as he does (5/8, 63%).

The freshmen frontcourt players have not been producing much. Maryland needs one of Braxton Dupree, Jerome Burney or Shane Walker to be able to produce something on offense. Burney saw extended time at the end of the game with Gist on the bench and is a solid defensive player who lacks offensive skills. It is odd that neither Burney nor Dino Gregory played at all in the first half yet they were both on the floor at critical moments at the end of the game. Perhaps Gary doesn't trust Walker or Dupree in those situations but if Gregory and Burney are good enough for crunch time why don't they play earlier? Neither gives you much on offense which is why Vasquez scored most of Maryland's points at the end of the game. It will really hamper the Terps if there isn't a serviceable alternative when Osby is struggling.

Give Hampton credit, they are no pushover. They blew Tulsa out of the water on Sunday and gave Maryland all they could handle for most of the game. If their head coach, Kevin Nickleberry, had not lost his marbles in the first half and gotten ejected, resulting in 4 points for Maryland, who knows what would have happened. His game plan was a solid one. He tried to dribble penetrate off high screens to break up Maryland's defense and make the Terps defend for at least 3-4 passes before shooting. His defensive game plan was excellent with a mixture of zone, half court trapping, along with man and full court press. It gave Maryland's guards fits for most of the night and resulted in 10 steals for the Pirates. Maryland settled for jump shots in the first half going 3/12 from 3-point range and played into exactly what Hampton wanted to do on defense. Hampton was very pumped for this game and were certainly not intimidated by Maryland at all. They got away with a very physical, slapping perimeter defense but Maryland's guards never made any adjustments. They are a very skilled team and a nightmare for a four, five or six seed in the NCAA tournament. They were picked to win the MEAC for a good reason.

Still, Maryland should have cruised to a comfortable double digit win if that had simply taken care of the basketball. The lazy passes and careless ball handling was shocking. In the 2nd half the Terps had 4 assists and 12 turnovers while Hampton only had 4 turnovers after halftime. Foul shooting continues to be a bugaboo of this group and it nearly cost them the game as they missed 11 free throws. The fact that Hampton was even worse from the line (13/25) was another factor that helped mitigate the damage of the missed free throws.

The two bright spots: defense and rebounding. Maryland dominated the glass 45-29 for a huge +16 advantage while also adding 20 offensive rebounds. It was a fantastic show on the boards. For the game Hampton shot 41% from the floor and only hit five of twenty-two 3-point attempts. Their defense and rebounding carried them through a poor offensive performance riddled with bad shooting and turnovers. You have to hope that the offense will continue to come around but if you don't play defense well early odds are you'll never be a great defensive team. That is a good sign.

Ratings:

Offense 97.5
Defense 91.4

Monday, November 12, 2007

No points for style

Maryland ended up cruising to a 29 point win over North Florida in the season opener. Without starters James Gist and Landon Milbourne the offense was a little stagnant in the first half. Maryland only shot 38% in the first half, sinking only eight field goals, but balanced that by hitting 12 free throws. The offense suffered from largely the same problems that plagued the team in the exhibition game against Concordia. Poor passing, turnovers, inability to convert on free throws, and some dreadful shot selection all contributed to the ugly performance in the first half.

Greivis Vasquez started off the game with a slew of bad decisions and was mostly responsible for the stultified offense. He continued to take poor shots and drive down the lane without much of a plan of what he was going to do once he got there. For a guard who excels in the open court it was odd to see him continually make passes too late and either turn the ball over or plow into an opposing player for charges. Once he got his teammates more involved he became much more effective. Vasquez and Cliff Tucker, who started in place of Landon Milbourne, are developing a nice rapport. Vasquez did notch six assists but also turned the ball over five times, three times on charges. His outside shot still isn't falling yet but he has a diversified game and went 6-6 from inside the 3-point line. His defense and particularly his rebounding have improve tremendously so far.

Last night Eric Hayes had the best game of his short career. He set a career mark with 15 points on only eight field goal attempts while distributing eight assists against only two turnovers. He provided a steady hand for the team when Vasquez was a little out of control and was the best guard at running the offensive sets. He is displaying a confidence that he didn't have last season and if he can provide the offensive production and efficient floor game he showed last night Maryland will be in great shape.

Boom Osby struggled initially with a few turnovers and missed foul shots. He calmed down a bit and started hitting his foul shots while cutting to the basket for easy dunks when Vasquez or Hayes drove the lane. As Ken Pomeroy showed last season Osby was fantastic at getting to the free throw line. His ability to draw fouls in the low post will be a great asset if he can be competent from the free throw line. His 15 point 7 rebound performance was the kind of game you hope that Osby can provide this year. His low post defense was very, very good. His man had no hope of posting up Boom and the pivots in the lane that North Florida tried to counter his positioning didn't work. Given that he only played 10 minutes in the 2nd half when Maryland got a comfortable lead it was the kind of performance you hope one of your two seniors would produce.

Cliff Tucker had a very nice game for his first collegiate start posting 8 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists on 3/4 shooting from the floor. The only blemish on his game was a few misses from the foul line. He ran the court well and played heady defense which is about as much as you can hope from a freshman. He started off a little more slowly than some of the other freshmen but has really progressed the last few weeks. He'll be a competent backup for Landon Milbourne if the need arises. Adrian Bowie struggled badly in the first half with a succession of turnovers resulting in his getting benched but he calmed down came back with an excellent 2nd half. He showed the ability to get to the basket and even hit shots from the perimeter, which is supposed to be a weakness of his. His pestering defense produced a pair of steals and some great ball pressure on the perimeter. North Florida ran an offense that relied on perimeter passing and "drive-and-kick" jump shots but the good defense of Bowie and Tucker, along with Hayes and Vasquez, resulted in 27.3% shooting from 3-point range.

I would like to see one of Braxton Dupree, Shane Walker or Jerome Burney step up and produce as the first big man off the bench. So far none of them have showed the ability to lock up that role. I'm not sure why Burney didn't play in the 1st half as I think he can provide good defense and rebounding. Perhaps Gary Williams wanted to get Braxton Dupree some extended work or North Florida's smaller lineups dictated smaller, more agile, lineups. Dupree's offense is still lagging behind his other skills at the moment but he is an active rebounder and decent position defender.

Dave Neal had a nice game in place of James Gist, if you can wrap your head around those two being any more different players. He is a scrappy defender even if he lacks quickness and is a good jump shooter, which he showed last night.

Dino Gregory demonstrated what he will give this team, active defense and rebounding (5 in 15 minutes). He is a better shooter than he showed last night.

The rebounding was much better as Maryland enjoyed a dominating 43-26 edge on the glass. Turnovers were a problem again and it will burn this team against an inferior opponent if not corrected. That is balanced with an excellent 21 assists on 28 field goals, that is an incredible assist rate.

Maryland plays Hampton tonight and the Pirates are picked to win the MEAC this season. They blew away Tulsa in the early game and are lead by guards Vincent Simpson and Rashad West who both scored over 20 points in the win. MEAC rookie of the year Michael Freeman and 6-9 Juco transfer Donte Harrison round out a solid starting group. As usual when playing mid-major teams Maryland has a large advantage in size and bench play. Some of the Hampton players are still smarting over the 102-75 thrashing the Terps gave them last season so they will come out fired up. With James Gist and Landon Milbourne coming back Maryland's depth and athleticism should prevail over the scrappy Pirates.


Ratings:

Offense 112.3
Defense 70.0

What was that?

I'm not sure anyone, including Ralph Friedgen, would have predicted the stunning 42-35 win over Boston College on Saturday. For an offense that looked so utterly inept against North Carolina I'm not even sure reason and science can explain what happened to unleash 472 total yards. Fridge finally threw caution to the wind and decided to take some chances on offense. He allowed Turner to throw down the field and that resulted in several big plays by Isaiah Williams and Darrius Heyward-Bey. Freshman Emani Lee-Odai came out of nowhere to catch three passes for 78 yards. Jason Goode, who normally plays the role of H-back saw a fair amount of action in the game and was a vital safety valve for Turner. With tight end Joey Haynos really struggling it was a subtle but critical change in the offense to have a tight end that could make some plays. Chris Turner was able to shake off a few bad performances and connect on four passes of over 40 yards and post a career high 337 yards passing. It is sometimes as simple as getting the ball in the hands of your best players and Ralph finally did that by getting Heyward-Bey and speedster Da'Rel Scott involved in the offense. With a reverse and screen pass both scored on big plays to help blow the game open. The patchwork offensive line did a great job both run blocking and in pass protection.

Turned out that Maryland needed both of those touchdowns because Boston College came storming back behind the arm of Matt Ryan to score two late touchdowns and get within one score before failing to recover on an on-side kick. The defense did some thing better, getting pressure on Matt Ryan with just the front four and picking off the preseason conference Player of the Year. The Eagles still managed to rack up 466 yards of offense and score 5 touchdowns. Without the offensive explosion Maryland would have probably lost this game like it did against Clemson. The defense still needs a great deal of improvement if Maryland hopes to win its last two games on the road.


This game certainly revived Maryland's bowl hopes and coupled with a Miami loss suddenly make things very interesting in the ACC bowl standings. Miami and NC State both sit at 5-5 with Maryland. Miami will face both Virginia Tech and Boston College on the road for its final two games. NC State goes to Wake Forest before a final game against Maryland which will be an elimination game for the loser. A win against a Florida State may all but assure a bowl bid for the Terps depending on the outcome of the games by Miami and NC State this weekend.

Friday, November 09, 2007

M*A*S*H

Maryland's luck isn't getting any better on the injury front. The roster is starting to resemble a hospital inpatient list, thankfully without a maudlin and sanctimonious Alan Alda. Ralph Friedgen must feel like the hapless officer who keeps seeing his men get picked off one by one. The latest news from College Park is that both Bruce Campbell and Scott Burley will not play tomorrow. Walk on Paul Pinegar will see time in their place. Erin Henderson injured his back on a scary looking tackle against North Carolina and the leading tackler is doubtful against Boston College. Receiver Danny Oquendo will also miss the game after injuring his knee during practice this week. Adrian Cannon saw time against the Tarheels last week and will probably get more snaps because of this injury.

There is an air of defeat around the football team now and sadly they appear to just be playing out the string. It isn't likely to be a happy senior day tomorrow against BC even though this group gets to go out on a prime time broadcast. With all the injuries this team is really almost like a JV squad at this point. Let's hope that they can cobble together a win or two and possibly get to 0.500 overall.

Good article in the Washington Times by Patrick Stevens about how Maryland has no traditional rival in football. Every other team has rivalries that surpass Maryland as the main source of hatred. The games against Virginia always have a certain gravity because the loser is usually destined for a poor season. The Terps had a good few years with NC State recently but that fizzled as well.I'm sure the ACC would like to make BC a natural rival with Maryland for geographic reasons but I don't see that ever happening. In basketball things are a little different because there is always the Duke game, which in a moment a truth most Blue Devil fans will say has become a big game, but even then Maryland is still the bridesmaid. Virginia is more like an annoying little brother who can beat you from time to time but really isn't on your level of skill or maturity. Since the national title Maryland is still in the level of schools that everyone else wants to beat, regardless of the recent NIT seasons. See the recent euphoria by Butler and Miami at wins over Maryland last year. Virginia fans were ecstatic to beat Maryland for the first time in 3 years last season. To me I don't have an issue with the fact that Maryland lacks that one primary rival. Even though the recent expansion diluted the strength of the conference and destroyed some of its identity the ACC isn't some cobbled together mess like the Big East . The natural rivalries, spawned 50 years ago and nurtured ever since by an unbroken chain of coaches and players, are enough for me. Maryland fans can look back on some of the greatest basketball games in history between NC State and Lefty's teams. They can take satisfaction in being the first team to hand Dean Smith a loss in his own arena, of ending Duke's unchallenged dominion over Cameron and the ACC, of winning league titles in the most unlikely of seasons on their rivals home turf, heralding the end of the Florida State lordship over the football crown. Those things are enough for me without the need for a fanatical emphasis on one opponent. If it wasn't for Maryland and Clemson the ACC doesn't exist and it is enough that Tobacco Road has to live with that fact.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Terps cruise in exhibition

It wasn't pretty for most of the game but Maryland thumped Concordia 75-42 last night at Comcast Center. There isn't really much to take from this game as Concordia seemed gassed and played poorly after flying all over the country the last week. The offense was fairly ghastly for much of the first half and much of that had to do with nerves and too much freelancing by Greivis Vasquez. Vasquez is a great talent and a vital part of this team but he was out of control and failed to run the offense well last night. If that is a sign of things to come this year it could be fatal to Maryland's season. The fiery Venezuelan needs to stop forcing bad shots and fancy passes when running the offense would be a better option, especially with so many freshman who need the experience. It doesn't do them any good to have Vasquez chuck a 3-pointer or drive in the lane and then they don't get anything out of a possession. Gary Williams was not pleased with the sophomore's play.

Eric Hayes, sporting longer hair this year, looked pretty good. His defense has improved and he showed the ability to his some outside shots, going 2/4 from 3-point range. He looked good playing the "2" in the flex offense.

Landon Milbourne was impressive early when the offense was sputtering. He had 9 points in only 13 minutes, scoring the Terps first 6 points of the game, and looked pretty smooth on offense. He seems to have some ability to generate offense in the half court with his athleticism and ball handling. Time will tell if he can do that against ACC level defenses. He seems to have locked up the starting spot. He barely played in the second half along with James Gist as Gary Williams was tinkering with lineups.

Bambale Osby struggled in the game with 3 turnovers and poor shooting from the field. His defense was solid in the low post and for a short power forward gets more blocks and alters more shots that you would think.

Adrian Bowie was the best freshman and ran the offense well in the second half. He can really get to the basket and score off the dribble. His defense was also impressive.

Cliff Tucker had a quiet night that was also worth noting. He had 4 assists and two steals in the second half while playing with the whole mix of backcourt mates. He's coming along under the radar and may surprise some people with the minutes he may get on Sunday.

The freshmen frontcourt struggled a little in this game. Shane Walker gathered four fouls in just six minutes of play. Right now Braxton Dupree and Jerome Burney are not very advanced offensive players but their defense and rebounding will get them playing time. Both have the potential to become effective low post scorers. Dupree will help himself if he learns to draw fouls making use of his good free throw shooting.

The Good: the defense was stifling for most of the game. Concordia scored 10 points in the first 20 minutes, shot 27% from the floor and only hit 2/20 from 3-point range. After Maryland settled down they shot 55% from the floor in the second half and went 6/15 from 3-point range, which Gary can probably live with since most of those misses were poor shots by Vasquez.

The Bad: rebounding. Concordia out rebounded Maryland 42-39 and had 17 offensive boards. Much of that took place in the second half with freshmen on the floor. They need to learn spacing, stop standing around and rebound better or this could be a real problem for the Terps. It isn't much good to play great floor defense and then give up an offensive rebound. Foul shooting was also a problem as Maryland only shot 68% (21/31). Last season Maryland was 7th in the ACC in free throw shooting and it could cost them a game or two if they don't improve.

The Ugly: 18 turnovers, most of them unforced. Losing dribbles out of bounds, errant passes, offensive fouls, it was all there. Hopefully it is just first game jitters. Maryland can't afford to give away that many possessions with the offense being a work in progress. With Ohio State and Michigan State both blowing exhibition games themselves you still have to be pleased Maryland won easily and allowed its freshmen some valuable minutes. A win is a win, ask Kentucky fans.

Ratings:
Offense 97.9
Defense 55.5

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Eagle Eye

It is that time of the year here at Turtlewaxing. The annual appearance of a the author of Eagle in Atlanta must mean the game against the boys from Chestnut Hill is here. Bill's annual arrival has almost taken on the quality of Groundhog Day as BC has trounced Maryland in each of the last two seasons. In preparation for the game Bill was kind enough to answer some questions about his Eagles.

Turtlewaxing:Are there any significant injuries that may effect the way Boston College prepares for the Maryland game?
Bill: The most significant -- especially given that it is the Maryland game -- is Senior LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar. As most Maryland fans remember, Dunbar has run back three TDs against you guys the past two years. He sprained his ankle against Florida State and has been on crutches since. His replacement is Mike McLaughlin. McLaughlin is solid, but not nearly the play maker Dunbar is.

Turtlewaxing: For a group that has been characterized as a nondescript bunch the receivers for BC seem to be very productive. Who are Matt Ryan's clutch targets?
Bill: His big play WR has been Brandon Robinson. Robinson had a few drops early in the season, but has been very clutch since. He made some really big catches in the VT comeback and went over 150 yards in receiving against FSU. The other guy sure to see a lot of passes is Tight End Ryan Purvis. Purvis is very good at finding open slots in the middle and probably has the best hands on the team.

Turtlewaxing: Rookie head coach Jeff Jagodzinski has been very steady in taking over for Tom O'Brien. He certainly has opened up BC's offense with a 60/40 pass to run ratio this season. How would you sum up his coaching style this season?
Bill: I don't know if Jags has a true style yet. We've been much more aggressive on offense. The defense is actually very similar (and is coached by an O'Brien holdover, Frank Spaziani). The biggest difference in the new staff is the enthusiasm. That might not seem like a big deal or a difference maker, but BC fans are finding it very refreshing. Tom O'Brien wasn't known for cracking smiles.

Turtlewaxing: How did Florida State have success attacking the Eagle defense?
Bill: Florida State didn't really do anything special. They used their superior athletes to make plays. There wasn't much blitzing or any unusual looks. In the three turnovers, it was really just one 'Nole making a play that few could. Watching the game, you would never know FSU had lost three games. They still have plenty of talent.

Gist and Milbourne suspended

Senior James Gist and sophomore Landon Milbourne will miss the opening game against North Florida on Sunday after playing in an unsanctioned basketball game in April. The game was a 5-on-5 tournament in Ocean City. The rules are very clear about not playing in these kinds of events so I'm surprised Gist and Milbourne made this mistake. They probably got talked into it by someone who should have known better. Before you say "Here we go again" this isn't a sign of an underlying problem. They made a mistake, like North Carolina's Raymond Felton did a few years ago when he was also suspended for a opening game, and after Maryland beats North Florida it will be forgotten. Not the way you want to begin the season, I'll grant you that.

It is always nice to hear that there were decent folks at this tournament who ratted out the two players to the NCAA immediately. Maybe we can get some of these honest people to take a visit to UConn or Syracuse. Also nice to hear that the Athletic Department still has a bunch of clowns on staff. I was worried that they may have hired some competent people in the off season. The basketball team wanted to withhold the announcement until Saturday but somebody who wanted to appear important with the media leaked the news. Well done, jackass.

You always want your players to get as much game experience as possible and with only two games until the Terps play UCLA, assuming they take care of business, it isn't a great time to be suspended. It will give some of the freshmen more playing time if you want a silver lining. Maryland plays Concordia tonight in an exhibition game. With Michigan State and Ohio State losing exhibition games the last few days it isn't one to overlook.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Maryland slipping?

ESPN's Pat Forde thinks Maryland is slipping as a program and that Gary Williams needs a good season. Huh? I think Forde is normally pretty good but those two assertions are head scratchers to me. Maryland went 25-9 last year and lost a very close game to a ranked Butler team in the second round. Gary has turned up the heat on his recruiting and signed his best class in maybe three years with Sean Mosley and Gus Gilchrist. There is great buzz about the 2009 recruits that Maryland has lined up either verbal commitments from or is in good position to land. If you're only looking at where it was in 2002 and where it is today it is obvious that the program has declined a little, but compared to 2004 and 2005 the program is in much better shape.

I'm not sure what Forde's definition of "successful" program might be but with the recent seasons that programs like NC State, Wake Forest, Missouri, Oklahoma, UConn, Syracuse, Oklahoma State, Washington and Iowa have had I think they all fit the bill much better than Illinois, Arizona and Maryland. None of the teams I just mentioned even made the NCAA tournament last season, but Maryland did with a four seed. Slipping, I think that is a laughable conclusion.

Let's get this straight once and for all. Gary Williams isn't going anywhere. Another NIT season won't change that. Debbie Yow doesn't have the political capital to get Williams fired, even though she probably would like to do that. It would be suicide by Yow and she'd probably follow him out the door shortly afterwards. Yow knows this and that is why they have such an icy relationship. She has enough concerns with the struggling football program at the moment. Gary Williams' basketball program is her golden calf. Gary doesn't need a good season to keep his job. It is as simple as that.

Bruin Hobbled
Barring an upset Maryland will face UCLA in the first game of the CBE classic in two weeks. The second ranked Bruins will be without junior guard Michael Roll after he tore his plantar fascia in an exhibition game. Junior Josh Shipp was the likely starter at shooting guard but he is also coming off of hip surgery in the Spring. Maryland is probably over matched in this game but every little bit helps. Terp fans will get a look at forward Kevin Love who is one of the best freshmen in the country.

West Virginia Alert
I'm not sure if Rich Rodriguez knows about this fine young man but I think he'd fit right in on his football team. Maybe Pat Lazear can show him around.

Monday, November 05, 2007

It could be worse

It might be hard to see things that way at the moment, but things could be worse. Anyone who was around for the Mark Duffner era and saw that horror up close will know what I mean. It is possible that this team could end the season on a six game losing streak. A pissed off Boston College comes to town this Saturday and then Maryland must travel to Tallahassee to play nemesis Florida State. Closing out the season is a game against the resurgent NC State Wolfpack who have now won three games in a row and have some hope of making a bowl game. It isn't an easy way to finish up what has become a tortuous season.

Injuries have certainly derailed this team but they are not the only culprit. Academic problems caused the Terps to lose at least four players (Josh Portis, Jared Gaither, Brandon Nixon and Barrod Heggs) that could be very useful for what ails this team. A quarterback who can elude the pass rush and make plays with his legs, two offensive tackles who have significant experience and a proven pass rushing defensive end. Those things would be pretty useful right now.

Two of the last three losses have been very competitive and could have easily turned into two wins for Maryland instead of two losses. That would make pulling out one more win and a bowl game a very realistic possibility with the three remaining games. Since Maryland dropped both those games it makes a bowl appearance very unlikely. Just as Maryland got some great breaks last season to go 9-4 and win their bowl game this year the breaks have gone against the Terps. The close losses and injuries that Maryland avoided last season have come back with a vengeance this year. About the only thing Friedgen can hope for now is that his team continues to play hard in the unlikely event they can win a few games and get a bowl bid.

I'll get to review the game tonight since I don't get ESPNU and didn't see it live on Saturday. I'll subject myself to watching Maryland's painful offense so you don't have to.

As I defended Gary Williams with some of his teams recent NIT struggles I also need to give Ralph Friedgen some words of support. Overall he has done great things with this program. If you can remember the days of the Duffner era when Maryland was lucky to get 25,000 for home football games you would not look at this as a disaster. The program does indeed appear to be at a crossroads moment with a potential third losing season in four years, but we need to see how these last three games go. The injuries are not a complete excuse for some surprisingly poor coaching but you have to factor them in evaluating the season. I don't think Maryland would attract a better coach than Ralph Friedgen. At best you'd be taking a chance on an unproven commodity from a lower level program and right now you need more stability than that. The abject failures of the Ron Vanderlinden and Mark Duffner hires should give anyone pause who is looking for the next best thing to replace Fridge. If Maryland gets healthy and still struggles next season then it may be time to consider a change, until then it is premature.