Monday, November 10, 2008

Terps roll in exhibition

Maryland buried the Northwood Seahawks on Saturday in a 104-60 romp that may just signal the need for a reevaluation of the fortunes of the basketball team this year. It was an offensive clinic for most of the game as the Terps shot 50% from the floor and 89% from the free throw line. Former Villanova coach Rollie Massimino is in charge at Northwood and though they play in the NAIA they are well coached and have solid players. Northwood is ranked #4 preseason in the NAIA coming off of a 27-8 record last year and has a first team All-American in F DeSean White. Villanova, ranked 23rd in the preseason, only managed to score 75 points against this same Northwood team last week. It is only one game and the test will be to see if this group can sustain those kinds of efforts, unlike the 2007 squad, across their schedule but you can't just dismiss the efforts of Landon Milbourne, Jin Soo Kim and the rest of the squad as a product of woeful competition. I would also point out that Maryland didn't score over 90 points in any game last season and never showed the offensive firepower that this team showed against Northwood. Keep in mind the team did this without 2nd team All-ACC player and leading scorer Greivis Vasquez, who was suspended for a violation of an undisclosed team rule, and heralded freshman Sean Mosley who sat after twisting his ankle in practice though he could have easily played if the team needed him. Both will be back for the season opener against Bucknell on Friday.

Before I get to Jin Soo Kim it is only fitting to give credit to some of the players back from last year who showed great improvement. Landon Milbourne is more aggressive and confident than I have ever seen him. His feel for the game, lacking the first two years, seems to have improved tremendously and he is using his incredible athleticism with more effectiveness. He was a force rebounding, scoring and on defense, where he got three steals. The junior captain finished with 20 points on 9/15 shooting and grabbed 7 rebounds in just 22 minutes for a very solid outing. Adrain Bowie and Cliff Tucker are also greatly improved over last season. Tucker is as smooth a player as there is on the team with very little wasted effort in his game. He glides out on fast breaks and has an impressive ability to weave through traffic in the lane. Tucker finished with 17 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists and has greatly improved his free throw shooting. He is one of those jack of all trades players who can do a little of everything and will be very valuable to the team this year, if not as a starter. Bowie also did a good job scoring with 16 points on 6/7 shooting and four rebounds but I felt he struggled a bit. He wasn't as smooth running the point as Hayes or even Tucker and he should play better defense than he did against Northwood. I think Bowie will be a very important member of the team especially on defense because he is the best ball defender of the group. Bowie and Tucker have the ability to put more pressure on opposing guards than either Hayes or Vasquez and will be a tough defensive tandem. I am confident Bowie will improve but right now I think he isn't as comfortable or effective as I expected him to be this year. Eric Hayes was steady running the point and can hit an open 3-pointer if given the opportunity. As long as Bowie, Tucker, Milbourne and Kim can provide more scoring his limitations on defense and dribble penetrations won't be as detrimental. Hayes is obviously more comfortable in his role this year because he can't play shooting guard and be effective.

Jin Soo Kim. You're going to hear that name often this season. As I indicated last week Kim would contribute to this team in his first season but I have to admit I didn't appreciate how good Kim really is until I saw him live on Saturday. At 6'8" Kim is a rare package of shooting, ball handling, passing and basketball savvy. He has a great feel for the game and sense of when to pass, pull up and shoot or take his man to the basket. He was very nervous and tense in the early going, while missing his first five shots and you could see the tension release when he hit a 3-pointer with fourteen minutes left in the game. From that point on Kim went 6/8 from the floor and hit five free throws to finish with 18 points in just 14 minutes of the second half. That is pretty incredible. You have to go back to Joe Smith to find a freshman who had that kind of debut as a Terrapin and he did it with only three days of practice. There is some danger of raising expectations too high but you have to also acknowledge that no one on the team seemed surprised by Kim's performance and reports are that Kim was doing the same kinds of things in scrimmages and pick up games for weeks. It seems to explain why his former prep coach felt he would have been a top player in his class had he participated in the AAU circuit. Kim didn't look like a lost freshman, he looked like a veteran in the flex offense and when his outside shot wasn't falling he went inside to get points the old fashion way. Kim isn't any one trick pony like Mike Jones as he can score in a myriad of ways and get to the foul line. You need to seriously put him in the discussion now for the All-ACC freshman team because he has a skill set that is on the level of Kyle Singler from Duke but with less bulk and a better first step. Some have compared him to former Duke Blue Devil Mike Dunlevey and I don't think that is a bad comparison. Dunlevey was certainly more physical than Kim is at the moment but I think Kim will prove to be a better free throw and outside shooter than Dunlevey. Comcast Center was electric every time Kim touched the ball in the 2nd half and you probably have to go back to Mike Jones for that sort of buzz of anticipation for a Maryland player. Kim's major challenge may be in shouldering some weighty expectations from fans this year. Gary Williams just found another gem.

It wasn't all good news as I felt Braxton Dupree continued to struggle. The sophomore still looks a step to slow and out of sync on offense. He did score 8 points and grab 8 rebounds but I think he may struggle to provide the inside balance Maryland may need. If he and Jerome Burney can just play defense and rebound that may be enough for this team. A few years ago Virginia went 11-5 with a frontcourt that wasn't much better than what Maryland has because those players understood their role in relation to Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds. Virginia's Jason Cain should be the model for Maryland's froncourt players this year. Cain was a scrapper and embraced doing all the dirty work to help Virginia win. I think Dupree and Burney may have that in them too.

For now there is a real glimmer of hope that this won't be a lost season after all and that maybe, just maybe, this group might be worthy of dancing in March. Who would have thought? 

Let's buckle up and enjoy the ride.


Rik said...

That's a great take on the game and players. How did Steve Goins do?

Esquire said...

Goins did fine in the limited minutes he had once the game was a run away. He didn't play in the 1st half that I recall. As a defender and rebounder I think he can contribute spot minutes. He is a pretty decent free throw shooter from few times I watched him, that is a good sign for a kid his size. He isn't Hassan Fofona.

It will be interesting to see how Dino Gregory, Dave Neal and Steven Goins shake out the few minutes left in the low post. I think Goins has a chance to get those minutes if he keeps progressing. He has a tremendous size and strength advantage over Gregory and Neal. It will be worth keeping track of those three. I think Goins has more potential than either Neal or Gregory but he has to be work hard to earn the minutes.

terpsfan said...

It's exciting reading your game review, but heed your own advice and remember this is an exhibition game against an NAIA team. The offense may have shown up for this game, but to get visions of March in our head is a bit premature. After the struggles down the stretch last season, let's see if the team has the mental toughness to make it in February this year.

67terp said...

Good report. Thanks.

Esquire said...

We'll see on Friday against Bucknell. In today's college game you can't win without good guards and wings. Maryland is probably as deep as any team in ACC at the wing positions. As Virginia and Virginia Tech proved back in 2006 you can win without great post players. If you have to be thin it is better to be thin in the post than at the guard positions.

The situation isn't as dire as everyone thought and my gut tells me fans will be pleasantly surprised early in the season. The early schedule looks pretty good.