Monday, October 27, 2008

Basketball scrimmage a mixed bag

The annual opening scrimmage was a fairly uneven affair. It started with the paltry couple hundred fans who could tear themselves away from tailgating, even more odd given that the weather was so abysmal, to wild lead swings throughout the game. It is clear that this team needs some time to find the right rhythm and personnel combinations because it is a little disjointed at the moment.

The two teams were broken up like so:

Red: Eric Hayes, Sean Mosley, Cliff Tucker, Dino Gregory, Dave Neal, Steve Goins

Black: Greivis Vasquez, Adrian Bowie, Landon Milbourne, Jerome Burney, Braxton Durpee, Dave Pearman

On first blush you would assume that the Black squad are the starting group and I think that is probably mostly true. Bowie and Hayes will probably split more time at point guard regardless of who is the gets the start. Gary Williams didn't switch up the teams like he normally does but it would have been interesting to see Bowie play with Mosley and Tucker.

The Black squad went out to an early lead until Williams had both teams playing zone defense. Eric Hayes got open on some defensive breakdowns and scored the majority of his points on those three point shots. That spurt changed the tenor of the scrimmage and the Red team began taking it to the Black group from then out. The Black team struggled with its defense all game and was mostly ineffective when trapping. Tucker and Mosley were very good at getting out in transition after a missed basket and the Black squad did a terrible job of stopping them. That partially explains Tucker's game high 26 points. I was very disappointed in Adrian Bowie. He lacked the intensity he is going to require this year.  He should have easily shut down Eric Hayes but allowed him to dribble into the lane too often and didn't pressure the ball nearly enough. Milbourne and Vasquez are never going to be excellent defenders but they were not worth singling out. At the back end of the press Maryland is going to miss Bambale Osby tremendously. Osby bailed out his teammates on numerous occasions by blocking a shot or stopping a fast break. Braxton Dupree has little ability to do either and isn't much of a defensive presence at the moment.

Both teams shot the ball well from beyond the arc and that is a very positive sign. Bowie and Tucker were both consistently hitting from outside and Milbourne and Hayes, the best and second best outside shooters from last year, drained their usual amount. Overall the outside shooting should be better than last year, especially if Vasquez doesn't take too many.

Vasquez played off the ball for most of the scrimmage but did run the point a time or two. I felt he was really struggling and was visibly frustrated with himself at times. Adjusting to a different role on this year's squad might be difficult for him early on. I have little doubt he is still the best player on the team and will be an All-ACC fixture again but this team needs him to do more without the ball than he did last year. Some players find that difficult, especially when they may not have total confidence in their teammates. This year his teammates should be able to give him more help in backcourt than he could count on last season.

Braxton Dupree and Jerome Burney have a long way to go. It was disappointing that against Dino Gregory and Dave Neal, two borderline ACC players, that Dupree didn't dominate. He is still way too passive at times on both ends of the floor. Burney will be a significant defensive and rebounding presence but has yet to show signs he'll offer much else. Dupree has slimmed down considerably but he needs to get more productive on the offensive end and finish around the basket. If he develops a mean streak he could be a great player, if not you are looking at Travis Garrison part two. To be fair to both Dupree and Burney the offense was very guard dominated so it isn't as if they had a plethora of opportunities. Milbourne and Vasquez settled for too many jumpers at times. All the young frontcourt players need to do a much better job at setting screens in the flex offense.

Sean Mosley played a very efficient game and finished with 12 points on 4/9 shooting. He showcased his strength and versatility with an ability to score from outside the 3-point line to the rim. He was also in very good shape for a high school player and stayed on the floor all 40 minutes of the scrimmage. If there was any fault in his game I think it was that he tried to defer to his teammates maybe a little too much. It was easy to see that Mosley and Gary Williams have an excellent rapport, especially since Mosley is a freshman. Maryland fans will see Mosley in big doses this season.

The other freshman Steve Goins came off the bench for the Red squad and showed some promise. Goins has a lot to learn about playing in the post but he was some good skills and a decent shooting touch. He has a body that is ready for the rough and tumble of the college game but the question is more about his conditioning and intensity. If he was the will to get better and learn from assistants like Keith Booth then Goins can be a contributor this season. It doesn't hurt that he only has players like Neal and Gregory ahead of him. If he gets buried on the bench it probably isn't a good sign for the Terps.

The conditioning of this squad will certainly be better as strength coach Paul Ricci is the real deal and endurance will be a big emphasis this season. Those in attendance got to see Ricci work with the players and I came away very impressed with his intensity and professionalism.

There is a danger to reading too much into this scrimmage. Tucker is better but probably not as much as his 26 points would indicate and by the time the season starts Vasquez will likely be back to his old self. The officiating of the scrimmage was also a little screwy with more than a half dozen illegal screen calls, three against Dino Gregory himself by my count, so it wasn't as realistic a reflection as it could have been. Gary Williams for his part was as relaxed at a scrimmage as I have seen him in years. If the old bulldog is feeling good, playful enough to try to punt a ball into the basket after the scrimmage with a smile on his face, then that is good enough for me.

The ACC media picked this team to finish seventh, which is probably fair, and it is a good thing that the early season schedule is fairly light on opponents and mostly at home. This group is going to require some time to jell together and get an identity but I think some of the younger players are going to show some great improvement. For now I'll say I'm cautiously optimistic.


Anonymous said...

any idea when jin soo kim will be eligible to play? what's taking the clearinghouse so long to clear him to play. from what i hear, he has a good shot and can help the team right away. thanks.

Esquire said...

According to Patrick Stevens at the Washington Times Maryland will have a ruling by the end of the week in regards to Kim's status. It is an all or nothing situation but sources close to Kim are positive in regards to his chances with the Clearinghouse.

Who knows what is taking so long. The NCAA reaps millions and yet has only a handful of investigators to look into violations of its policies and takes forever to rule on eligibility. It is a disgrace.

From what I've heard he will help this team from the start. The kid is just a scorer plain and simple. You can't teach that. He is probably one of the better scoring threats on the team as soon as he is eligible. If he is ruled ineligible it is a huge loss in my opinion.