Thursday, January 31, 2008

Terps shoot their way to win

The Terrapins built an early lead against Virginia based on some hot shooting and lackluster play by the visitors and then hung on in the 2nd half for a critical win to get back to even in the conference. Overall the offense was excellent for most of the game but there were times when Maryland got complacent and started settling for the first jump shot that came along. There were long stretches during both halves when the Terps lacked the patience and experience to work for a good shot. Those periods let Virginia hang around and almost give Maryland a crippling loss.

The defense was a strength for most of the season but has been more porous the last few games. Part of that is that the three teams Maryland has played recently are among the best shooting teams in the ACC. In the last two games the trio of Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne have played most of minutes and the defensive results have been mixed. None of the three are ever going to be great defensive players but in the last two games against athletic wing players they have mostly failed to be mediocre. With Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker playing significant minutes against North Carolina the Tarheels were held to an effective shooting percentage of 42% which was their second lowest output all season. Against Duke and Virginia the numbers were 51.5 and 50.8 which were among the highest any team had shot against Maryland all season. It was only Maryland's superior offensive output that earned the win.

Greivis Vasquez had a very good offensive game, excluding his poor shot selection at times, and finished with 25 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists. Vasquez only committed one turnover all game and ran the offense fairly well especially in the first ten minutes when Virginia was sticking to their zone defense. His defense in the 2nd half was mediocre at best and his being matched up against Sean Singletary, even with a bad hip, was a total mismatch. He hit enough free throws at the end to seal the game hitting 5 out of 6. I'm not sure he was the MVP of the game even though he was the high scorer but his performance in the 2nd half again proved he is a crunch time performer for this team.

Eric Hayes was good at what he can do well, catch and shoot. He drained a few 3-point shots in the first few minutes when the Terps were slicing up the Virginia zone that helped accrue a lead that they would never relinquish. He had nine assists and only one turnover, helped greatly by the ability of James Gist and Vasquez to finish. If Vasquez had the luxury of passing to another player with the skill set of himself his assist totals would as good or better than Hayes. It was probably as good a game as Gary Williams could get out of Eric Hayes. The paltry 9 turnovers, only two of which were from Vasquez and Hayes, were probably due as much to Virginia's lack of defensive pressure as to great ball handling by the guards. The Cav's Calvin Baker, who is probably at best the third or fourth scoring option for his team, had a good game with Hayes guarding him. The shot blocking ability of Maryland's frontcourt bailed out the guards on dribble penetrations on a number of occasions.

Landon Milbourne had a mixed game. He was able to stay out of foul trouble and played 28 minutes. He had two critical offensive rebounds at the end of the game that were probably the plays that iced the win for Maryland. On the other hand Mamadi Diane embarrassed Milbourne with a baseline drive and dunk towards the end of the game and he needed double teams to help prevent some of the dribble penetrations. He was very efficient on offense scoring 13 points on 4/8 shooting and is showing a better ability to get to the free throw line where his great shooting can help him score. His offensive game has developed nicely over the last few weeks and since the Virginia Tech game he is averaging 11.3 points and 3.3 rebounds per game and shooting 52% from the floor. His defensive game is getting better but it has a long way to go.

James Gist had a "quiet" 17 points and 9 rebounds and certainly dominated an over matched Virginia front line. I actually felt that Maryland didn't go to Gist enough, especially in the 2nd half, as he only had 9 field goal attempts even though he played 40 minutes. In the second half Gist got to the foul line to score five points even though the Wahoos tried to deny him the ball. He showed the ability to score from all over the floor and is really playing a very solid floor game recently. In crucial stretches Maryland guards need to look for Gist by showing more patience when the defense is keying on the senior.

Bambale Osby had a better game than his 11 points and 6 rebounds would indicate. He blocked three shots and took a charge playing interior defense and was a real stalwart against Virginia attacking the basket. Foul trouble limited him to 21 minutes but while he was in the game he was a huge presence. He had some critical free throws and an offensive rebound inside the last minute to put the dagger in Virginia's comeback.

Osby and Gist are so good right now that you may not even notice that the bench players for the front line are not providing much of anything. Braxton Dupree made an appearance in the game like Punxsutawney Phil but went to the bench shortly thereafter. Gary blew up at him a number of times for not grabbing rebounds and poor interior defense. The hustle seems to have gone out of him totally. The fact that Dave Neal is playing a major role as a backup should cause concern for any fan. Neal did make a few hustle plays in the game the other night but it may be the weakest front court he'll face all season. Shane Walker made a token appearance and probably deserves a little more run. Maryland will need its bench to step up against the rugged interior of Georgia Tech.

Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker had mixed nights. Tucker made a few mistakes and got yanked rather quick. He finished with only 4 minutes of play. Bowie got the tough assignment of guarding Singletary and he is probably the only guard Maryland has that can stay with Singletary off the dribble. He did a fairly good job because even injured you can't shut down a player with the offensive skills of Virginia's All American. He had several buckets that were impossible to guard.

This team put another case together that it is far from the bumbling inconsistent squad that lost to American at home last month. The next two road games will go a long way to proving that they have really turned a corner. They should have beaten a depleted and wounded Virginia club at home. Going to Georgia Tech and Boston College and coming away with at least one win is imperative. The 2nd half defense has been a tad shaky the last two games as Virginia shot 50% from the floor paired with Duke's offensive blowout of Maryland in the 2nd half of that loss. It is worth noting that Maryland led from tip to horn last night and showed some toughness towards the end with Singletary taking the game over. That is a huge aspect of the maturation of this team, they are significantly tougher than they were at the beginning of the season. That will serve them well in the coming string of road games.

Ratings
Offense: 130.1
Defense: 111.9

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Team Efficiency Ratings

These are the current efficiency ratings in ACC games only for each team. Note the team with the best efficiency may not necessarily be the best defensive or offensive squad since the schedule is not balanced. Next to the team's offensive rating is the average rating of their opponents defense (and offense next to the defensive number). As always these are points per 100 possessions.

Offense:

1.) 115.4 North Carolina (107.4)
2.) 114.9 Duke (104.7)
3.) 112.9 Boston College (105.2)
4.) 108.5 Clemson (104.3)
5.) 106.1 Georgia Tech (106.5)
6.) 106.0 Miami (106.7)
7.) 103.4 Maryland (102.1)
8.) 101.0 Virginia (102.1)
9.) 100.2 Wake Forest (105.8)
10.) 99.0 NC State (106.7)
11.) 98.9 Florida State (103.9)
12.) 97.6 Virginia Tech (104.1)

Defense:

1.) 93.4 Duke (101.9)
2.) 98.8 Virginia Tech (105.4)
3.) 103.6 Georgia Tech (103.0)
4.) 104.3 North Carolina (104.6)
5.) 104.3 Maryland (108.2)
6.) 104.8 Virginia (106.1)
7.) 105.9 Boston College (101.6)
8.) 106.7 Clemson (105.8)
9.) 107.9 Wake Forest (104.6)
10.) 109.0 Florida State (104.4)
11.) 110.2 Miami (107.4)
12.) 112.0 NC State (107.0)

Notice that while Maryland has only the 5th most efficient defense and 7th most efficient offense they have played on average the best defenses and offenses in the ACC. This does not include tonight's Virginia game. On paper the two teams seem fairly even but I think Maryland should have a big advantage with the game at Comcast. Virginia is hurting for inside players this season due to injury while Jason Cain and JR Reynolds, who killed the Terps in both losses last season, departed as seniors.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Terps falter against Duke

Duke was ripe for the taking last night. Maryland thoroughly outplayed the Blue Devils in the 1st half and got to halftime with a nine point lead. Then everything started falling apart. It was more of a slow decline even though Duke came out and scored six straight points to start the final half. The game was tied after about 7 minutes but in the critical moments after that Maryland's defense crumbled and the offense couldn't get anything going. Missing the front end of several critical one-and-one free throws was also fatal.

Overall I think the players did a fairly good job. You couldn't ask much more of James Gist, Boom Osby and Greivis Vasquez. Duke made some great halftime adjustments and their players executed better than Maryland in the last 10 minutes of the game. At the same time I have to say that I feel Gary Williams blew this game. His lineup decisions and substitutions in the 2nd half were atrocious. With Duke dribble penetrating at will in the 2nd half Williams stubbornly stuck to a lineup with Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne, the two worst perimeter defenders on the team. DeMarcus Nelson exploited Milbourne on a number of occasions and Eric Hayes was unable to put any pressure on the ball and extend the defense. I think Williams got too tentative in the critical moments of the 2nd half and refused to put Cliff Tucker or Adrian Bowie in place of both Hayes and Milbourne. He should have because if Maryland had just played a little better defense on the wings they would have walked away a winner.

In the first half Maryland's defense was solid with Tucker and Bowie playing 21 minutes helping to hold Duke to 42% from the field. In the second half Duke shot 53% and Bowie and Tucker played only 9 minutes. Eric Hayes and Milbourne played 32 combined minutes in the 2nd half. Tucker and Bowie made their share of mistakes in the game and they certainly were not perfect but they were very efficient and are far superior ball defenders than either Hayes or Milbourne. In my mind that is what lost the game for Maryland. The offensive rebounds that Williams mentioned in his post game comments were largely the result of Duke penetrating against those two players and drawing help defense. As the defense shifted and Osby came over to defend the penetrations it left the weak side open to offensive rebounds. Milbourne, Hayes and Vasquez did an awful job with weak side rebounding.

Duke pulled James Gist away from the basket on defense and therefore negated his shot blocking ability and limited his rebounds. It was a very savvy strategy by Krzyzewski to spread the floor and gamble that his wing players in Henderson, Nelson and Nolan Smith could beat Hayes, Milbourne and Vasquez on offense. Nelson and Smith combined for 6 offensive rebounds. Henderson was a tough matchup for Vasquez as he is bigger, stronger and more athletic. Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer and Taylor King were virtual non-factors in this game as they combined to go 4/19.

James Gist had another great game, finishing with 26 points and 5 rebounds. His low rebounding total had as much to do with Krzyzewski's strategy as with Gist having a poor rebounding night. He turned the ball over a few times and missed some free throws he should have hit but it is impossible to assign much blame to the best player on the floor. Duke had no answer for Gist or Osby. Boom had a career night with 20 points and 15 rebounds while tearing up the Duke frontcourt. He also had too many turnovers and missed a few key free throws but as with Gist it is hard to place much of the blame on a player who puts up those numbers.

Greivis Vasquez also had a very solid game with 15 points, 7 assists and 4 rebounds. He took a few ill advised shots and was a little careless with the ball but only had two turnovers. You would think with Maryland's three best players having these kinds of games they would have beaten Duke. Eric Hayes was largely ineffective on offense going 2/6 from the floor and scoring 6 points during game action (he got two off of K's technical). This is what Eric Hayes has to offer and it isn't much. It is shocking that after the freshmen had proven they could provide quality depth the last few games that Williams went with Hayes for 35 minutes. If that continues and Williams reverts to the rotations before Hayes injured his ankle it will cost Maryland more games. Some of the turnovers and defensive gaffs by Hayes were embarrassing along with his botching at least two fast breaks that should have resulted in scores. A Hayes, Milbourne and Vasquez trio can put little pressure on the ball as evidenced by the paltry 10 turnovers by Duke on only three steals by the Terps.

Duke plays very aggressive defense on the wing and overplays passing lanes. It was disappointing that Maryland turned the ball over 22 times and part of that was the inability of Hayes to put any pressure on Duke's defense. You have to make an aggressive team like Duke pay for its gambles but Maryland wasn't able to do that. Hayes too often got pushed out away from the 3-point line by his defender and that helped Duke extend the floor and guard against the post players that were killing them. Maybe Hayes isn't healthy yet but then he should not have been playing for 35 minutes. Perhaps I'm being too hard on Hayes but many of his shortcomings are the kind you won't see in the box score the next day.

I'm not sure why Gary Williams chose to play Dave Neal in the 2nd half either. He isn't a great matchup with any Duke players and he blew a wide open layup on a fast break. A shot blocker like Shane Walker would have been more useful with all of Duke's dribble penetrations. He is a player that relies on his smarts and hustle but is too limited athletically to play much in the ACC.

Duke isn't a good matchup for Braxton Dupree but it is worth noting he did not play at all.

In this game Maryland had a huge advantage over Duke's frontcourt and Duke had some mismatches against Maryland's wing players. The team that managed its advantages and weaknesses better was going to win. In the 2nd half Krzyzewski did a better job of that than Gary Williams did and that was the difference. I think Williams is no worse than the second best bench coach in the ACC and you could easily argue he is the best, but last night he bungled the 2nd half and didn't make the critical adjustments Maryland needed to come out a victor.

Maryland has a stretch of opponents coming up that are vulnerable and the next four games will go a long way to deciding what Maryland makes of this season. A wounded and vulnerable Virginia team comes to Comcast on Wednesday and Maryland needs to get back on track by putting away an opponent they should beat.

Ratings
Offense: 105.2
Defense: 122.8

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Re-Milbourne

This was supposed to be the year that Landon Milbourne lived up to his impressive potential and become a significant contributor. Stuck behind DJ Strawberry last season Milbourne never got on the court when the games mattered. Strawberry just did everything that Gary Williams wanted and so to assume Milbourne would get significant time was a bit of a pipe dream. Going into this season he really didn't have any competition at the small forward position. That didn't seem to help Milbourne in the early season as he struggled badly both on offense and defense. His suspension for the first game of the season was certainly a bad omen. He was shooting in the low 30's from the floor and wasn't showing any ability to hit much from the 3-point line. His defense sometimes sunk to the level of the Mike Jones matador style, though unlike Jones he actually fouled out of four games this year. His ball handling was awful and he was turning the ball over even though he rarely handled it in the first place.

In short his game was a mess. Over the last two outings Milbourne seems to have turned things around. He is averaging 12.5 points and 3 rebounds per game over the last two wins. He has sunk four 3-point baskets, while only hitting five total in the other 16 games he has played in this year, against Wake Forest and North Carolina. His defense won't make anyone forget about DJ Strawberry but he is finally putting forth credible efforts and showed some focus and intensity on both ends of the court. It seems like the emergence of Adrian Bowie and being able to play along with Cliff Tucker has really helped Milbourne feel more comfortable on the floor. He is allowing his physical talents to show through and relying more on his instincts. He outplayed Danny Green during the UNC win and can be effective against other small forwards in the ACC. Many other teams in the conference play three guard lineups and a 6-7 forward with the ability to knock down an outside shot can be a great weapon for Maryland. His free throw shooting is deadly at 80.4% this year and that is an advantage over Tucker who is making less than 50% or his shots from the line.


It will be interesting to see how Gary Williams handles the return of Eric Hayes. Against North Carolina it was clear that Hayes wasn't ready to play extended minutes but he was effective coming off the bench. Now that Bowie, Tucker and Milbourne are all playing better is it worth disrupting that and putting Eric Hayes back in the starting lineup? To me a platoon of those four along with Vasquez is the best lineup for Maryland. I'm not suggesting that Maryland was better off with Hayes out but now Gary Williams has effective alternatives and should be more willing to mix in other players. Hayes playing 30+ minutes per game is not a good thing for Maryland as the season goes on.

Bambale Osby had a fantastic game against Tyler Hansbrough. Osby and Dave Neal switched off playing Hansbrough but Osby got the bulk of that defensive assignment. He played as smart a defensive game against the All-American as I've ever seen Boom play. In 29 minutes of physical play he only gathered three fouls and often forced Hansbrough into bad shots. Maryland did double team Hansbrough in the 2nd half, especially when Neal was defending, but many times in the first half it was Boom on him one-on-0ne. He didn't have his third double double in a row but his primary assignment was to play tough defense and he did a great job of that. The high ball screen that resulted in Osby making the winning shot was a thing of beauty. True, Osby didn't exactly look graceful and he almost turned the ball over, but he is really starting to play with confidence. What a trip it has been from Richmond to a junior college in Texas to hitting the game winning shot against #1 North Carolina. It couldn't have been scripted better.

Adrian Bowie did all the little things well in this game. His floor game was very good and he played excellent defense. He didn't try to do too much and was very valuable at points when Vasquez was looking a little frantic. He had three assists and no turnovers in 17 minutes of play.

Cliff Tucker also had a very solid floor game. He scored 8 points with some great transition baskets and pull up jumpers. He was able to put some pressure on North Carolina's defense and prohibit them from only having to play half court defense.

The help defense from all the wing players was excellent as UNC shot 30% from 3-point range. Wayne Ellington had a largely miserable day and only hit 6/16 from the field largely to this group.

One weakness was the 21 offensive rebounds that North Carolina snagged. The 14 offensive rebounds they grabbed in the 2nd half kept the Tar Heels in the game. Maryland would have put them away long before the closing minutes without all the second chances that North Carolina got from them. It wasn't as if UNC shot much better in the last half going 40.5% from the floor but aided with all those offensive rebounds they shot 42 field goal attempts, while Maryland only had 27. Defensive rebounding continues to be a weakness for this group.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Gist ACC player of week

James Gist earned ACC player of the week mostly based off his 22 point 13 rebound performance against North Carolina. It was the first time the talented senior has ever earned that honor. In four ACC games Gist is averaging 16.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per contest. He had a very good overall game on Saturday. He was aggressive in going to the basket a number of times, had a very nice floor game and played very good defense. He still settles for too many fade away jump shots but he is getting better at not settling for the first opportunity he is presented. He worked for a better shot on most of his possessions. He had a great entry pass to Bambale Osby on the game winning score. Danny Green had to switch and Tyler Hansbrough came out to guard against Gist who can hit shots from outside. Osby's finish may not have been pretty but the execution of the high screens was fantastic on that deciding play. Gist also showed some more presence on the floor as a leader. He had talked about being a senior leader in the media but had not really shown the steadying influence he needed to when Maryland was struggling. A number of times in the closing minutes of the game Gist huddled the team together and barked out instructions. He helped Greivis Vasquez maintain his poise and run the offense. Considering the atmosphere and opponent it was the most complete game of his career and it could not have come at a more desperate time.

A week before Gist had a chance to score the winning basket against Virginia Tech and had it slapped away by Deron Washington. The Terps ended up losing a game to a sad Virginia Tech team that they should have beaten. Against North Carolina Gist would not be denied. He grabbed a defensive rebound in the last minute and then sunk two free throws after Danny Green fouled him. He also got the assist to Boom Osby on the game winning basket I mentioned earlier. Let's hope this is a sign that James realizes his career is coming to an end and that he wants to make sure he leaves on a high note.

A good article from Seth Davis on Gary Williams and the way he loves to handle his teams.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Terps shock Heels

I'll have more to write about this victory since Maryland has this week off so instead of starting with the analysis I'll give you an idea of what it was like to be at this game. It started on Saturday morning as I read the Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville is a little more than an hour away from Chapel Hill) and the local newspaper mentioned the 109-75 drubbing that North Carolina gave Maryland in 2005. Incidentally I was at that game too. It is a painful memory. The article mentioned that something similar might happen that day and advised readers to expect to see Carolina's bench early in this game. There was also a blurb at the bottom of the page discussing the likelihood of an undefeated regular season for this UNC team. After reading that I had to ponder if hubris existed before Dean Smith came to Chapel Hill.

That 2005 Carolina team was superior to this 2008 squad in almost every facet. The 2005 Maryland squad was a mediocre defensive team that was coming apart at the seams with locker room dissension. I'm not going to pretend that I thought Maryland was going to win but I hardly thought the Tar Heels would post 100 points on a very solid Terrapin defense. The Terps may not always play smart but overall the defensive effort has been reliable the entire season. It isn't as if Maryland had not played any team of note. Maryland held UCLA to the lowest offensive efficiency rating of any team they played all season, including in the Bruins' two losses.

The fact that UNC had won its two prior ACC games on the basis of two last second shots, one that went in and one that didn't, didn't make them look like an unstoppable juggernaut. Everyone else at Carolina apparently agreed with the Fayetteville paper. Afterwards Tar Heel forward Danny Green even admitted that the team had taken Maryland lightly and didn't give them the respect they deserved. You got the feeling the Carolina fans streamed into the Dean Dome, the place was packed to the rafters in spite of some sketchy weather, with supreme confidence that they were going to watch an enjoyable destruction of a inferior opponent.

The sense of unease that came over the crowd as Maryland continued to battle and out hustle the Tar Heels was delightful. If you have never heard Carolina fans whine about the officiating while playing in the Dean Dome you will have missed out on one of the great pleasures in life. If you ever wondered why many long time Maryland fans have more dislike for North Carolina than Duke or Virginia that may give you some idea. The phrase "Carolina refs" existed before Coach K came around.

Late in the 2nd half when Carolina made its run and erased an eleven point lead by Maryland the Dean Dome was as loud as I have ever heard it. I don't have a large cross sections of games I've watched there but according to Ed Hardin of the Greensboro News & Record it was as loud as the Dean Dome has been in a long time. The only other game I can remember going to with that level of ear splitting volume was the Terps' 2005 overtime win over Duke at Comcast.

It was worth noting that North Carolina was previewing its new Carolina Basketball Museum for former players and other big wigs this weekend. The museum opens to the public on Tuesday. Many former Tar Heel greats were back in town for the festivities. I hope some of them from the 1986 team were there because as I sat in the Dean Dome I kept thinking of that sublime performance by the great Len Bias when Maryland upset another vastly superior North Carolina team.

It was one of the most satisfying wins I've ever experienced as a fan. It isn't clear what this team will make of this golden opportunity to turn their season around but for this moment anything seems possible. There was a great feeling of jubilation outside the Maryland locker room as friends and family waited for the players to come out after it was over. A small Maryland contingent was there to witness this game and I was lucky to be one of them.

On another note there was a North Carolina fan who sat in front of me about 10 rows from the floor behind the basket near Maryland's bench. As North Carolina climbed back into the game his reactions to their scores became more and more exaggerated. He was yelling at the top of his lungs and pumping his fists in the air. The fact that a man in his 60's with a baby blue sweater vest on made it look even more absurd. He then began to turn around and flex his muscles like a body builder and bellow like a Viking warrior. It got so absurd that I had to laugh. With Carolina clinging to a one point lead a few minutes left in the game North Carolina's other "Psycho T" got up and left with his wife to beat the traffic. It is too bad he left as I would have enjoyed the silence when his on court doppelganger clanged his last shot off the rim and Maryland's players raced to midcourt in celebration.

Former player Darien Henry was at the game along with a small contingent of mostly friends and family of the players.

Think this win adds some juice to the Blue Devils coming to town next week? Oh boy, the Castle will be rocking next Sunday.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Thoughts on recruiting talent

An article in the Raleigh News & Observer caught my eye. The published their "Talent Index" based off of the recruiting rankings of longtime analyst Dave Telep who works for Scout.com evaluating high school players. Their point system is certainly flawed (10 points for a top 10 player, 9 points for 11-20 and so on) but it gives a ball park indication of who gets the most big time recruits.

No surprise that Duke and North Carolina are at the top of the list. Throw in NC State (this is a North Carolina newspaper)and you have a tobacco road top three. Then it gets more interesting as it shows that FSU's Leonard Hamilton brings in good recruits, or at least those that grab decent rankings, but can't seem to coach them well. Paul Hewitt is also an excellent recruiter but his Georgia Tech teams have struggled recently. Most of the Wolfpack players on the list were brought in by Herb Sendeck and after JJ Hickson the recruiting returns haven't been so stellar for Sidney Lowe.

Maryland is tied for 9th with Miami and the only players that made the list were James Gist, Braxton Dupree and Eric Hayes. Interestingly only Gist is probably in the top 3 players on Maryland's team at the moment. Greivis Vasquez wasn't even ranked and Boom Osby came from the junior college ranks. It goes to show what an inexact sience rating 17 year olds really can be for analysts. Note that Boston College under Al Skinner is ranked last in the ACC. He and Williams are able to bring in players that others don't think highly of and make them more productive than highly regarded players at other programs.

Having said that it always helps to get the most talented players you can find. The addition of Sean Mosley and Gus Gilchrist next year will push Maryland up a little in this ranking.

Gilchrist Update
On his radio show last night Gary Williams said that Gus Gilchrist would be eligible to play second semester next year but also indicated that the ACC determination he should lose an extra semester "could change" so that is something to keep an eye on for Maryland fans. Getting Gilchrist at the start of next season would be a huge advantage.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Winning ugly is still winning

Gary Williams said after Maryland's 71-64 win over Wake Forest that it wasn't pretty and hinted that this team isn't going to win any beauty contests. If they are going to win it isn't going to be with offensive artistry and sublime one-on-one moves like North Carolina. It will be ugly, plodding affair with plenty of mistakes and bad decision making with a tough defense keeping the Terps in the game. Williams himself seemed to imply that this team will have to make up for its mistakes (and lack of talent?) through better effort. In this era of college basketball you won't get very far by merely trying harder than your opponent. This isn't Hoosiers. You have to have a level of talent to be competitive night in and night out or be very experienced.

The entire season must have been flashing before the eyes of most Maryland fans in the first few minutes. Wake Forest came out swinging and got up on the Terps 7-0 and then 13-4 to start the game. The starters seemed to be sleepwalking through the first few minutes and it wasn't until Adrian Bowie and Boom Osby got in the game that things started to turn around. Maryland then went on a 13-1 run, helped by some really horrible shot selection by Wake Forest, to tie the game at the 11 minute mark. The Terps never trailed again.

Sometime in the future someone may look at the box score to see Greivis Vasquez had 22 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds and think he must have been the difference. They may not notice that he also had 8 turnovers and you had to watch the game to see that he played as dreadful a floor game as he did against Virginia Tech. To be fair he did shoot the ball better from inside the 3-point line and his 2nd half scoring helped insure that Maryland would not blow their lead like they did on Saturday. To some degree his scoring was negated by his ridiculous shot selection and sloppy passing. He helped Wake Forest get back into the game with some of his mistakes. With Eric Hayes out I do think that Vasquez is really pressing to make plays. If only to help Vasquez get under control it will be helpful to get Hayes back in the lineup. Hayes may not make as many mistakes as Vasquez but he also isn't as good a defender nor is he able to put the pressure on a defense that Vasquez can. I think Gary Williams needs to use substitutions to get Vasquez to settle down a little better.

Adrian Bowie got lots of praise for his performance off the bench in the game. He was a defensive force with three steals, scored 10 points and grabbed an amazing 8 rebounds. He also limited his turnovers which has been one of his problems this year. He is really starting to improve rapidly and is becoming a real asset off the bench. The injury to Eric Hayes may be a blessing because it is forcing Gary Williams to play some of the young guards. This will make the team better before the end of the season and certainly helps for next year. Bowie has the ability to pressure the ball on defense and break down the opposing defense with dribble penetrations. He seemed in the right place all throughout the game and whenever there was a loss ball or rebound he seemed there to grab it.

Bambale Osby started the game on the bench due to disciplinary infraction. He quickly replaced the ineffective Braxton Dupree and had a fantastic game. He had his second straight double-double in ACC play with 16 points and 11 rebounds. He also recorded 4 blocks and really frustrated Wake Forest in the lane. Most encouraging is that he didn't have a single turnover in 32 minutes. He was the workhorse in the win last night. On a night when James Gist was settling for jump shots which were not falling Osby provided the inside scoring that Maryland needed.

Lost in the great games by Osby and Bowie forward Landon Milbourne had himself a quietly effective night. He finished with 11 points and 5 rebounds despite foul trouble. Milbourne was aggressive on offense and played a little bit better on the defensive end, he just needs to stop fouling. His outside shot was working too as he hit two 3-pointers and nearly grabbed a few offensive rebounds off missed foul shots. His play was a key that got lost with some of the other performances.

Shane Walker played some spot minutes and had a few nice defensive plays while rebounding well. As I said Braxton Dupree continued his slide into Travis Garrison territory.

Cliff Tucker struggled a little but I'm not sure I understand why Gary Williams had walk on Jason McAlpin in the game during crucial stretches of the 2nd half. With a decent lead Williams took out Bowie and put in McAlpin. What followed was a string of turnovers and poor defense that saw Wake Forest score seven points in about a minute. I think it was a huge coaching blunder by Gary Williams. Tucker only played 4 minutes in the second half and I'm sure there was some issue of defense or effort that Williams had a problem with but it seems pretty crazy to jeopardize a victory to make a point by playing Jason McAlpin. I thought overall Williams really struggled with some of his substitutions last night and made some questionable decisions. Not his best game from the bench this year.

Wake Forest got a bunch of offensive rebounds and it continues to be a real problem for this team. The Deacons are young and talented, James Johnson may be as good a total package as their is among freshmen in the ACC, but their inexperience killed them in this game. They could have stole a road win had they played with a little more poise but their poor shot selection (5/30 from 3-point range) and Maryland's defense prevented that outcome.

Going down to North Carolina 1-2 is much different than going down there 0-3. I'm not sure a win changes the forecast for this team as I still see them as a five or six win team in the league. They have squandered chances in very winnable games and now have a tough three game stretch against UNC, Duke and Virginia. At least two of those games are at home. If they can pull off an upset they may make things interesting towards the midpoint of the season.

I'll be down in Chapel Hill for the game on Saturday. Let's hope it is more competitive than the last few visits to the Dean Dome.



Ratings
Offense: 96.7
Defense: 82.8

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

VT Ratings

Here are the ratings for the Virginia Tech loss:

Offense: 91.9
Defense: 95.3


Note in two ACC games Maryland's opponents have shot 27 more free throws than the Terps(69:42). Maryland is shooting 26% from 3-point range while opponents are shooting 43%.

Wake Forest may be the only ACC team that is worse at shooting the basketball than Maryland. They are shooting 43.5% from the floor and just 24% from 3-point range.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Terps squander win

This was a road win that was gift wrapped for Maryland Saturday. They were playing a Virginia Tech squad that is full of freshmen and probably the least talented roster in the ACC. Maryland had a six point halftime lead, which against a team as bad as the Hokies are on offense is more like a double digit lead, and were handling their opponent even though Greivis Vasquez had not hit a single field goal the entire half. Maryland lead the entire second half until the last 12 seconds when Jeff Allen hit a free throw to put the Hokies up by one. Gary Williams called a pick and roll with Vasquez and Gist and Virginia Tech switched with Malcolm Delaney and Deron Washington. With the taller Washington on him Vasquez should have immediately passed to Gist whom Delaney was trying to guard. There is little chance Delaney would have been able to stop Gist from getting a great look at the basket. Instead of driving to the basket and possibly getting fouled, remember Maryland was only down one point at the time, Vasquez heaved a contested 3-point attempt that had little chance. It was an awful decision by the point guard.

So how do you lose a game like this to a team as bad as Virginia Tech? One reason could be that you're just not a very good team. Another reason could be that the team lacks mental discipline. In this case it is a little of both. There isn't much question that Maryland has far more talent than Virginia Tech does. Jeff Allen is probably the only player on the Hokies that would have much of a chance to play for any upper echelon ACC team and even he is very overrated. Maryland isn't worse than Virginia Tech and on a neutral floor or at Maryland this Hokie team probably would have little chance to come away with a victory. Still, Maryland is mediocre enough that they have little margin for error. A team with a good offense would have easily put Virginia Tech away in the 2nd half but Maryland couldn't hit an outside shot to save their lives and their top scorer had only eight points points until the closing minutes.

The offensive production from the bench is so poor and the rest of the starters so inconsistent that this group just doesn't have the firepower to put any decent team away. The only credible wins this year, Charlotte and Illinois, were both nail biters because this team can't score enough to close out a game against any decent competition. This makes any little breakdown something that can end up costing them the game, as in this case.

In some ways it was reminiscent of the Charlotte game. The team got complacent and started giving up offensive rebounds and fouling the opposing team (lazy defense). Virginia Tech shot 24 free throws in the 2nd half and grabbed 11 offensive rebounds resulting in 12 second chance points. It was really the only combination that could have resulted in a win by VPI.

Still, with a five point lead and only 1:46 left you would think Maryland should have been able to shut the door and escape with a win. Instead the defense gave up six straight points, Greivis Vasquez took two dreadful shots that missed and James Gist was stripped by Deron Washington about eight feet from the basket. The game was in the hands of the two best players on the court and both failed.

Vasquez clearly had his worst game of the season. He let himself get caught up with the opposing fans and proceeded to take questionable shots and make poor passes the whole game. He kept chucking 3-pointers even though he couldn't hit anything all afternoon and notched a team high 6 turnovers. His decision to toss up a contested 3-pointer on the last play of the game with Maryland only trailing by one point was ridiculous. I'm sure that Vasquez was devastated by his poor play on Saturday. I doubt anyone would be harder on him than he is on himself. With Eric Hayes out of the lineup tremendous pressure gets placed on his shoulders alone. He could have played much better on Saturday and in many ways the loss was his, but he will win more games for Maryland than his erratic play will cost the team.

James Gist had another decent game just looking at the box score. Sixteen points and seven rebounds sounds pretty good. If you delve a little deeper however it is obvious that Gist couldn't come through when Maryland needed him most. His turnover with the game tied in the closing seconds was the most glaring failure. He passed up a great look at a 3-pointer with Maryland ahead by three and only about 15 seconds left on the shot clock. Instead Vasquez chucked up a poor shot and Gist crashed into Boom Osby and prevented either of them grabbing an easy offensive rebound that would have been two points. Then with the transition defense in disarray Malcolm Delaney hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 66-66. Gist made some good plays in the game but his early defense against Jeff Allen, which included two goal tending calls was poor. There is no way a player like Allen should beat Gist to the basket.

Cliff Tucker had a solid game but wasn't used very much on offense. I am sure with Vasquez struggling Williams may have tried to use the freshman a little more than just three field goal attempts. His floor game (6 assists, 1 turnover, 3 steals) was as good as you could hope for and I doubt even if Eric Hayes had been healthy that he would have done much better.

Adrian Bowie is really starting to come on in the last few games. He gives you solid defense and showed that against a weak defensive backcourt like Virginia Tech that he can produce some points. He finished with a career high 12 points on 6/8 shooting and while he shows some inexperience on offense he should earn some more playing time with his performance.

Shane Walker only played two minutes but produced four points. Braxton Dupree continues his slide into oblivion. He blew an easy layup attempt and failed to play much defense or rebound with any passion. He is playing his way out of the rotation as his minutes continue to decline. Gary Williams will have to get more creative with his lineups or give Shane Walker a longer leash because Osby and Gist continue to get into foul trouble when they are forced to play over 30 minutes each.

If Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg isn't the biggest jackass in the ACC right now I don't know who is. When asked by Maryland's radio program for an interview Greenberg refused saying, "Ask Gus Gilchrist to come on." I understand that Greenberg is under pressure, as every coach in the ACC is every season, but it isn't like Virginia Tech has any winning tradition in basketball or likely ever will. He would have already been canned at most of the ACC schools where they care about basketball. Add this latest blow up regarding Gilchrist with his behavior regarding the Nigel Munson transfer and it is easy to see why Virginia Tech basketball is radioactive in the Washington area these days. He won't have to worry about guys like Gilchirst reniging because no high level recruit will go to play for him from this town. He better start working his old stomping ground in South Florida because the only kids he'll get up here are players like Malcolm Delaney that no other ACC programs wanted. As I have written many times Gilchrist didn't handle the situation very well but who is the adult and who is the 18 year old kid? This kind of thing happens in big time college basektball and if Greenberg can't handle it he should go back to coaching at a level where his lack of talent and composure won't be as glaring. He could take a lesson from Gary Williams who saw 2007 recruit Jeff Jones change his mind and go to rival Virginia. Williams handled it the way a coach with his experience and stature would, he didn't even mention it, and I doubt he'll even bring it up when Virginia comes to town in a couple weeks. He certainly wouldn't embarrass himself the way Greenberg did.

Notice that Gary Williams barely stopped to even shake his hand? Icy doesn't even begin to describe it. Williams is immensely respected by other ACC coaches and the rest of the coaching fraternity so if Greenberg thinks he is doing himself any favors by acting this way he is sorely mistaken. He better watch out because when Virginia Tech comes to Comcast Center it may get ugly.

Visiting blogger: Old & Gold Blog

Zach from Old Gold & Blog, a Wake Forest blog, has answered some questions about the Demon Deacons team this season. After getting drilled by Boston College on Saturday this young team will come to Comcast Center tomorrow for one of those dreadful 9pm starts. This is pretty much a must win for the Terps. Going 0-3 with North Carolina and Duke on deck could drop the curtain on this season before January is over.

1. James Johnson has been a revelation this season. Besides him who are the scoring threats on Wake this season?

Old Gold & Blog: Johnson has been an outstanding addition for the Deacs this year; we're hoping to get lucky and have him stick around for three or four years. One of the interesting things about this Wake team is how spread out the scoring tends to be. There are four players averaging double figures, but James Johnson's 14 ppg is the highest of the four. Freshman guard Jeff Teague has developed into a strong scoring threat as of late, scoring 26 against BYU a week ago. Harvey Hale, who averages 10 a game is the team's streaky shooter who may come out hot and score 20 or may be very cold and not score much at all depending on the night.

2. Given the off season tragedy of Skip Prosser's death where does the morale of this squad sit?

Other than the general "win one for Skip" mentality that is unavoidable for anyone with any athletic affiliation to Wake Forest this season, I don't think the tragedy is having a huge effect on the team. Coach Dino Gaudio seems to have made a smooth transition into the head coaching role and the team has responded to that. Although the team lost one player as a transfer all indications were that it had nothing to do with the coaching change. Wake's highly touted 2008 recruiting class all honored their verbal commitments and signed in November, indicating the the transition really has been smooth. Other than an increased emphasis on hard-nosed defense the program doesn't look much different than it did a couple years ago.

Wake fans and athletes will undoubtedly remember Skip for many years to come, and there's no doubt the national media will bring it up every time Wake basketball is mentioned this season. That being said, when it comes to working hard and playing basketball on a day to day basis the Deacs doing it for Dino Gaudio, not Skip Prosser.


3. This season looks like it will be another tough season for Deacon fans. With some stellar recruits coming next year what is the outlook of this group according to the majority of fans?

Demon Deacon fans have definitely not given up on this season yet. The
Deacs have an 11-4 record and have not lost in their 10 games at home.
The ACC schedule is favorable for Wake, as they only play Clemson, Duke,
and North Carolina once each and have two games each against Florida
State, Virginia Tech, Maryland, and Georgia Tech. If the team continues
to play well at home it is conceivable that they could win six or more
home games and only be one or two road wins away from an 8-8 ACC record
which would hopefully put this team on the Tournament bubble.

All of that being said, Wake fans are constantly reminding themselves
that no matter what happens this year the team has one of its best
recruiting classes ever coming next fall. Still, with the motivation to
"do it for Skip" and the fact that an 8-8 conference record doesn't seem
that ridiculous to imagine (at least if you're a Wake fan), hope still
remains that something great could happen this year.


Thanks to Zach for the information. You may want to take a look at his blog for some idea of how Wake Forest is looking at this point in the season.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Headed for a fall?

What teams in the ACC have fattened up on cream puffs and which have toughened themselves with some meaty opponents in their early schedule? It could indicate who will surge in ACC play and who will spiral down like Clemson did last season.

From Ken Pomeroy here is a list of the strength of schedule of out of conference opponents for some ACC squads.

The Meat Eaters
44. North Carolina
53. Georgia Tech
86. Florida State
95. Duke

The Cream Puffs
256. Miami
236. Wake Forest
175. NC State
151. Virginia

In case you're wondering Maryland's number was 101 which is 5th in the conference behind Duke. It could suggest that the Yellow Jackets and Seminoles are better than people might think while Miami and Wake Forest are being overrated based on their records. Of all those teams Miami is probably primed for the worst fall. The Hurricanes escaped with some close wins against Providence, Mississippi State and VCU early in the season but the loss to Winthrop exposed some glaring flaws in Miami. We'll find out soon enough as Miami faces North Carolina and Clemson at home with road games at Boston College and NC State in their first five ACC games. I see Miami as a 7-9 kind of team.

We'll also learn how good Wake Forest really is as they have four road games out of their next six in the league play. They face road tests at Boston College, Clemson, NC State and Maryland while hosting Miami and FSU. The Deacons have not played a road game since losing to Georgia by 22 in early December.


NC State has struggled against Western Carolina and Presbyterian recently and both those teams are over 300 in the RPI. The loss of their point guard may have put the final nail in their NCAA coffin. So much for Gavin Grant's preseason prediction. They are looking like a 5-11 level team right now.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Terps make in four in a row

I am hesitant to even suggest this but might this team be finding its stride in January? They haven't faced an imposing group of opponents but this squad has looked much more confident and efficient in the last four wins than they have looked all season. Holy Cross was undermanned last night and was missing two of its better players but Maryland also had to go without starter Eric Hayes, who had sprained an ankle in practice. After the first few minutes Maryland was never threatened in the game and Holy Cross only made four field goals the entire 1st half. Tim Clifford, the 6-11 senior center for the Crusaders, was harassed and harried by the Terrapins shot blockers and went 6/20 from the floor.

Senior James Gist has resurrected his, and possibly this team's, season over the last few games. Since the Delaware game the forward is averaging 19.5 points, 8.75 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per contest. He is shooting 56.3% from the floor and 84% from the free throw line in those games. He is also showing much more intensity and leadership in the last few games than he ever has in his career. He seemed to recognize that he hadn't fulfilled his responsibility as a senior leader in recent comments to the media. He is playing at a 1st team All-ACC level the last few contests but with ACC play starting we'll see if he can continue it.

Greivis Vasquez has settled down a little and is playing his best basketball of the season. Much of that has to do with his outside shot coming around. His shot selection is much better and over the last five games he has hit 60% (18/30) of his 3-point attempts. With a reliable outside shot Vasquez is much more dangerous and Maryland's offense is obviously more potent. Over that same period he is averaging 20 points, 5.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game. He is also playing smarter defense and not getting himself into foul trouble. He and Gary Williams shared a laugh when he came off the floor late in the game. Far from being the player holding this team back he and Gist are the only two capable of carrying this team to the NCAAs. He is currently playing the way many fans hoped he would going into the season. Is there any guard in the ACC who combines scoring, assists, free throw shooting, and is equally effective at point or shooting guard like Vasquez?


Cliff Tucker got the start for the injured Eric Hayes and the offense didn't miss a beat. Tucker showed his nice mid-range game and floor savvy in scoring 10 points, dishing 4 assists and grabbing 4 steals without a single turnover. He had a number of sweet passes on the fast break, including a great cross court bounce pass, for easy scores. He compliments Vasquez very well on the floor and adds an element of athleticism that Eric Hayes doesn't possess. Tucker's current weakness seems to be his foul shooting which is an inexplicable 44%. Expect him to get more playing time.

Landon Milbourne showed some intensity that had been missing earlier in the season. Though he only made one field goal he still scored 12 points mostly off of foul shots. His aggressiveness in going to basket helped him draw fouls and his excellent free throw shooting is a plus for a team that doesn't get to the line enough. Landon is still not a good position defender and he was beaten off the dribble a few times but he recovered and had several fearsome blocks. He only turned the ball over once and had 2 steals to go along with 4 blocks. This is exactly the kind of game the team needs from the struggling sophomore.

Bambale Osby struggled through a wretched night. He had as many turnovers and missed free throws (eight) as points and rebounds. Osby seems to be pressing a little lately. He was in some foul trouble which limited him to only 15 minutes of play. The size of Clifford was a problem for Osby as he could not use his bulk to defend the larger opponent. His turnovers the last few games have been out of control and he is averaging about three and a half turnovers per games since the BC loss. His free throw shooting was the obvious tip off to me that Boom is struggling a little. He had made 10/13 prior to missing all five attempts against Holy Cross.

His struggles would be less concerning if Braxton Dupree was doing anything worth noting. The freshman has scored a grand total of 6 points during the recent winning streak. Maryland doesn't need him to score in double digits every night but he has also looked lost on defense and his rebounding has been atrocious. Many of the offensive rebounds Holy Cross grabbed were while Dupree was in the game. Given the expectations around him he has been a huge disappointment so far.

Adrian Bowie played more than he has all season. On defense Bowie is solid and does the best job of challenging the opposing point guard of any guard on the team. He gets into trouble when he tries to do too much on offense. He gets himself into trouble driving in the lane with nowhere to go. Bowie needs to understand better how he can contribute to the team, with defense and steady complementary guard play. They don't need him to be a turnover prone playmaker.

Gary Williams was able to empty the bench a little and even Jason McAlpin got nine minutes of playing time. I'm not sure what is going on with Jerome Burney. Maryland could have used his rebounding as Holy Cross crashed the offensive boards to the tune of 24 rebounds. It was a major weakness in this game.

The other weakness was foul shooting as they shot only 61% from the line. Most of that was due to misses by Dupree, Osby and Tucker.

The defense was outstanding again as Maryland limited Holy Cross to 15% from 3-point range and 27% from the floor. It doesn't get much better. Well it could if you added 12 blocks and 11 steals and 24 turnovers to that sterling field goal defense.

This team is in a very good position going to Virginia Tech. The game won't be easy but Maryland has significant advantages in experience at critical positions. Once again Gist and Vasquez need to be at the top of their game. It appears that Hayes may miss another start with his ankle and against a young Hokie backcourt Tucker's athletic ability may be an advantage.

I thought the yellow uniforms looked sweet. The all black the Terps wore for the ACC tournament game against Miami last season were dreadful. Since they won the other night I expect to see the yellow again this season.

Ratings
Offense: 108.4
Defense: 69.4

Monday, January 07, 2008

Terps hold on

One of the most satisfying wins of the season nearly turned into the most bitter loss as Maryland blew a 20 point 2nd half lead to Charlotte and hung on with a few free throws at the end to come away with a 76-72 win over the 49ers. I didn't get to watch the game since it was being shown on ESPN's hostage channel, ESPNU, so I won't be able to talk about how the team looked. I can look at the box score and go off the observations of my brother who did get to watch the game.

In the 1st half Maryland rode the wave of Greivis Vasquez as he torched the Charlotte defense for 12 points in the last 7 minutes of the half. He had 17 points at the break and helped Maryland build a 15 point halftime advantage. The Terps continued the momentum in the 2nd half and stretched the lead to 21 points with 15 minutes to go in the game. It seems clear that Maryland lost focus and got sloppy with such a large cushion.

Charlotte switched to a triangle-and-two defense that stymied Maryland's offense and turned up the full court pressure and forcing 7 turnovers in the last 15 minutes. The turnovers, along with a lapse in the defense, 12 fouls resulting in 19 free throws by Charlotte, and eleven offensive rebounds helped the 49ers get back in the game.

James Gist had as good a 2nd half as Vasquez had a first half. The senior from Good Counsel high school had 18 points in the half on 6/8 shooting and 5/7 from the free throw line. At times he also dominated Charlotte like Vasquez did in the first half. Hopefully this is another step in the maturation of Gist, who has not seemed ready for the burden he will have this season. In the last game Gist was pulled early with the other starters so his stats look a little less impressive. One encouraging sign is that Gist has taken 15 free throws in the last two games, he had taken 12 total in the previous four games.

It was concerning that Maryland didn't get much from its bench again which contributed just 8 points. Part of that was that outside of Gist and Vasquez the highest number of field goal attempts was six by Bambale Osby. In one sense I don't feel that is a huge problem as I'd rather have the two best players on the team taking the shots when they matter. The lack of bench scoring the the failure of any of the freshmen to assert themselves as viable scoring threats off the bench will probably prevent this team from turning the season around. Shane Walker, Cliff Tucker, Braxton Dupree and Adrian Bowie played a combined 46 minutes and scored a grand total of 2 points. None of them are the dominating defensive players that would allow you to live with that little offensive production.

Boom Osby has had some turnover problems recently and needs to tighten up his ball security. He had five turnovers in 19 minutes while he battled foul trouble the entire 2nd half. He was the only other double digit scorer to go along with Gist and Vasquez. Putting aside the turnovers he was fairly productive in his few minutes.

Charlotte isn't an elite team but they are solid and have been competitive against other clubs, especially at home. This was the 49ers first home loss all season as they had already wins over Wake Forest and Davidson at home. They are a very solid defensive team having a Kenpom ranking of 51st in defensive efficiency and 76th in effective field goal percentage. Maryland still managed to shoot 48% from the floor and a respectable 37% from 3-point range. They were outrebounded by 10 and surrendered 19 offensive rebounds, probably due to Osby's foul trouble and the lack of rebounding by the freshman replacements. The foul shooting in the 2nd half was also shaky (9/16) as Gist and Vasquez both missed foul shots in the closing minutes that kept things close.

I'm not sure this win means this team is better than we think they are but it is a start. If this squad can sustain this performance against Holy Cross then it may be worth reassessing what this team is capable of doing this year. It is worth noting that the last three games the offense has had a 100+ rating, the first time all season, and they scored 75 points or better in each game.

Ratings
Offense: 104.5
Defense: 101.8

Friday, January 04, 2008

Terps march through Savannah

I didn't see the game against Savannah State so I won't try to analyze it much. Maryland was in control early in the game and I think placing Bambale Osby back in the starting lineup has helped get this team in the right mindset to start games. Freshman Braxton Dupree is not ready to be a starter this season and has not scored in double figured since November. Overall the team has a losing record when he is in the starting lineup. Maybe that isn't fair to lay completely on Dupree but it is a fact. Head coach Gary Williams indicated that Osby will likely start the rest of the season.

Landon Milbourne returned to the starting lineup though Cliff Tucker played more minutes. It will be worth watching the rest of the season how Gary Williams handles this position. I think the Terps are better off if Tucker can reclaim the starting spot with his play. Part of Gary Williams' thinking may be that with Tucker on the bench it gives him a little more potential for scoring if the starters are struggling. On his radio show Williams said that the starting spot will be up for grabs between Milbourne and Tucker the rest of the year.

One notable difference that Tucker and fellow freshman Adrian Bowie bring to the backcourt is the ability to put pressure on opposing ball handlers. Against Savannah State the duo combined for 7 steals in 37 minutes of play. If Bowie can continue improving his floor game his addition on the defensive end will be very valuable. Eric Hayes and Greivis Vasquez are not great defenders and are not going to notch many steals. One factor that has hurt the offense has been the lack of fast break opportunities off of steals that would lead to easy baskets. The void left by DJ Strawberry and his 69 steals has been a major factor as no current player has more than 20 through 14 games this year.

The shooting was fairly good until Williams emptied the bench and the replacements missed a bunch of shots. There is still a lack of long distance threats on the team as they only went 2/9 from 3-point range.

The defense continues to be good as the Tigers only made 15 field goals the entire game. The bench players gave up some late baskets but 32% from the floor is good against any opponent.

The rebounding was better but still not great.

Around the ACC
Injuries have started to take their toll on some other ACC squads. North Carolina has lost reserve point guard Bobby Frasor for the season with a knee injury. NC State lost a point guard in Farnold Degand for the season, also from a knee injury. Degand was the starter for the Wolfpack. NC State has been one of the bigger flops of the season so far and losing their point guard won't help them in league play.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Henderson departs

Erin Henderson announced that he will leave Maryland and enter the NFL draft this spring. The junior linebacker has already earned a degree in communications and was considered the most dominant linebacker in the ACC this season. He finished this season with 133 tackles and 11 tackles for a loss to go four fumble recoveries. It earned him a 1st team All-ACC selection at linebacker and the most votes at the position. Henderson earned 2nd team All-ACC in his sophomore season with 114 tackles, 6.5 for a loss, and two interceptions including one for a touchdown against Virginia that may have saved the Terp's season.

Erin was probably more athletic and better in pass coverage than his older brother EJ but wasn't as instinctive or strong and lacked EJ's incredible flair for big plays. He has graded out as a third round pick in the NFL draft and assuming he checks out medically that is around where he will be picked. He battled some nagging injuries all season but was a productive player even if his play fell of slightly at the end of the year.

He probably could have been a threat on blitzes but coordinator Chris Cosh didn't use Henderson in that role as much.

Maryland has some very good young linebackers in Dave Philistin, Adrian Moten, Alex Wujciak and Chris Clinton along with returning seniors Moise Fokou, Chase Bullock and Rick Costa. Costa does have some injury concerns but it is a deep and talented group. The bigger concern is if any of the players on the defensive line can get the job done in front of them. This isn't a group that you want to let the opponents offensive line get to at the second level. They need to flow free and pursue the ball carrier.

Wide receivers coach Bryan Bossard was let go by Ralph Friedgen after three seasons. It didn't seem like an amicable split but it does free up come cash for James Franklin who will probably do double duty as coordinator and wide receivers coach. He may have some challenges as Darrius Heyward-Bey is the only proven producer of the group. Isaiah Williams has talent but seems to want to be the chuckle head of the group for shooting his mouth off too much and not producing. They will also have two receivers coming off injury in Danny Oquendo and LaQuan Williams, who looked good before getting injured. The lack of development of Adrian Cannon and Tony Logan, Terrell Skinner could not have helped Bossard keep his job. Maryland also has talented tight ends in Drew Gloster and Lansford Watson that need some development with senior Joey Haynos departing.