Monday, March 10, 2008

Singletary flattens Terps

Back on February 16 Maryland was 7-4 in the ACC and looking in great position to land an NCAA tournament birth but after collapsing to an 8-8 record the Terps are almost certainly out of the only tournament that matters for the third time in four years. On Sean Singletary's senior night (nobody mentioned it but Adrian Joseph was also playing his last game) the Terps had a chance to at least keep their NCAA hopes alive against a bad Virginia team that is barely an NIT squad. It may not have been the worst loss of the season, there are just too many of those to chose from, but it probably was the most embarrassing.

Only Duke scored more points on Maryland's defense all season and the 15 point margin was the worst of any game this season along with the Miami loss. It was also the first time that an opponent had shot 50% on Maryland all season. Clearly the defense was atrocious and in the second half many of the players were just standing around watching Virginia convert easy dunks and layups. It was such a pathetic effort that after Wahoo scrub Jamil Tucker drove by Jerome Burney and dunked Bambale Osby berated his teammates in the huddle for their lack of effort. None of the Maryland defenders could check Singletary but it was more of a breakdown in team defense than in any one player being unable to stop his man. When a perimeter player was beaten off the dribble there was none of the usual frontcourt help defense that Maryland has relied on all season. It is also true that one of the reasons that Osby and Gist block so many shots is that the wing players regularly allow dribble penetrations into the post.

The offense wasn't great but wasn't horrible either. That is somewhat impressive given that James Gist and Eric Hayes combined to score less than 10 points on the night. Let's assume for their sake that they were still feeling the effects of the flu, though neither has needed an illness excuse to lay an egg on offense this season. Vasquez lead the team with 16 points but he also took 18 attempts to get those points. He still takes way too many 3-point attempts given his poor outside shooting but he also dished out 9 assists. Adrian Bowie has been an offensive surprise the last couple of games and set a career mark with 15 points on 6/8 shooting, including 3/4 from 3-point range. He just may be the best finisher around the basket on the team and if he can improve his shooting may become a valuable player next year.

Boom looked more like his old self last night and finished with 14 points and 5 rebounds on 6/8 shooting. He also added 3 turnovers and was in foul trouble for most of the 2nd half. With James Gist deciding to go back to his jump shooting habits Osby was the only credible inside scoring that Maryland had all game. He still isn't the same defensive presence he had been earlier in the season and only has one block in the last three games. Lars Mikalauskas is Virginia's version of Osby and the two had some entertaining battles in the low post. Boom only made two of four free throws on the night.

Cliff Tucker, Jerome Burney and Dave Neal combined for 10 points. Shane Walker was unavailable due to the same flu bug that has swept through the team. Braxton Dupree seems to have been put in cold storage until next season. Just when you thought it was safe Neal seems to be getting minutes again. He didn't play at Miami or Wake Forest but has played 21 minutes the last two games. It is pretty sad that he is seeing court time on this team but that is a commentary on the thin talent that has been recruited the last few years.

It seems that James Gist is the bellwether for this squad. In four of the last seven games he has scored 10 points or less and Maryland lost all four. Perhaps all the minutes or all the pressure of providing such a pivotal role has made the senior crumble under the weight. Whatever the reason he has come up short when the team needed him the most during this losing stretch. It is a shame because he had resurrected his season after the debacle against American but a player with his talent shouldn't score in single digits in 3 out of his last 7 games. His season has been a little deceptive as his statistics look fairly good but mask unbelievable variation in his efforts. Is there another player in the league capable of scoring 30 points one night and 6 the next?

Barring some ACC tournament miracle the Terps have played their way out of the NCAA tournament. Getting to the ACC final with wins over Clemson and Duke may not even be enough. Looking back on the season this team is probably sitting where it deserves to be at this point. There was one high note at Chapel Hill and too many horrendous collapses to justify this group playing in the NCAA tournament. The hopes of getting back to the tournament evaporated like the morning mist once the bright lights of the ACC season reached their harshest level. All the blemishes and flaws that were shown in December became visible again during this brutal closing run of the ACC season. There will probably be much lamenting in College Park about the how close the Terps came to pulling off an invite to the big dance but in reality this team was much closer to mediocrity than the promontory of college basketball. Good teams, teams that deserve to play on the biggest stage in college sports, close out games and grind out opponents when they have the advantage. They make other teams crumble under the pressure and don't rely on other teams to do their dirty work. They are not a measly 3-2 against the dregs of their conference. In this case the Terps are what their record indicates they are, a team with an roughly equal chance of winning or losing, no matter the opponent.

Offense 102.6
Defense 122.4


Anonymous said...

The curtain is closing and Maryland B-Ball has come to stare another disappointing post-season squarely in the face. I know, winning the Durham Invitational will get UMD in with the big boys but what are the chances of that happening? I watched the Virginia game and never felt like the Terps had a chance to win - I knew that the team would roll over and they did. With the exception of Bowie and Burney, no one on the Maryland team played defense at all and Virginia pushed the Terps around on the boards.

I hope the stench of the last six games lingers in the nostrils of Gary Williams and the entire Maryland basketball organization.

Esquire, I regret that I stumbled over your blog too late to fully participate in the converations but I appreciate your hard work and solid analysis. I'll be checking it often, for sure.

homertuck said...

Unreal that this team was 7-4 and then stumbled to a 1-4 finish. We should have won the game against Boston College, both games against Va. Tech, the game against Clemson, and maybe the game against Duke. But because this team doesn't know how to finish, rather than being 13-3 and winning the ACC, we're 8-8. That is the difference between a good team and a mediocre team. Gist was a leader sometimes, but he often was overwhelmed with the burden and seemed to chock. This was Osby's first time being in a starting role, and he played very well, but was never expected to be a big leader on the team. Vasquez is still too young and immature to step up and no one else on the team seemed to fill that leadership role with Gist. This team needs help and I can only hope the guys coming in next year can provide some additional bench and possibly start. I don't know why Eric Hayes still starts...he just doesn't get involved in the offense like Bowie does. And Bowie seems to be a better defender as well. Why wasn't Shane Walker involved in the offense earlier in the year? I love Dave Neal, but the fact that he plays big minutes on this team says something. We better hope Gilchrist and some of the other guys can step up big next season. I predict us losing to BC by...10 in the ACC tourney. But you never know with Gary I guess...this is Gist and Osby's last chance to step up. Gist will either score 30 and we'll win, or score 8 and foul out as we lose.

Thanks again for so much insight into MD basketball. I always look forward to reading your posts.

Esquire said...

Thanks fellas. I'm trying to gird myself for when I'll have to dissect the meaningless NIT games coming up.

I don't see this team having more than a win or maybe two left in the tank. It looks like Hayes, Gist and Vasquez are running on vapors at the moment. All those minutes are catching up with them now. The BC game should be interesting because I really don't know where their collective head is right now.

Anonymous said...

Hey now the NIT is the granddaddy of tournaments. How about a piece on the ACC expansion when you get a chance. I mean I know we aren't going to contract anytime soon and the other teams that were floated during the heady days of growth (Syracuse, WVU, Notre Dame)would probably be spanking us too but I somehow I feel that expansion is central to our difficulties and I would like to hear your opinion.

Esquire said...

Maryland certainly has not done well against the former Big East teams since expansion. I think that has more to do with the overall decline of Maryland's basketball program than anything else. Keep in mind that since then Maryland has lost to Manhattan, Ohio and American at home. Who would have imagined that?

BC has been very good since expansion while Miami and Virginia Tech are mediocre at best. They are not beating Maryland head to head because they are particularly good it is just that Maryland has sunk to their NIT level programs.