Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Terps overwhelm Rams in 2nd half

After a long break due to exams Maryland was a little rusty coming out of the gate against Winston-Salem State and with a little over three minutes left in the game the Terps were only leading by four points, 33-29. The defense and rebounding were not very strong as the Rams shot 46% from the floor and held a 19:14 rebounding advantage. Then Maryland went on a 8-0 run to end the half, with Vasquez scoring or assisting on every basket, to head into halftime with a 12 point lead. The offense was humming for most of the half as Maryland shot 48% and hit on nine 3-point baskets but often hot jump shooting is fool's gold. In this particular game their shooting didn't cool off in the 2nd half but when ACC play starts that will probably be a different story. Gary Williams was very upset with the lack of effort on the defensive end and if a team is shooting well it is often the case that defensive effort and ball movement are the first to suffer.

At the start of the 2nd half the Terps blew the game open with a 23-5 run in the first five and a half minutes. The ball movement was much better and on defense they held the Rams to 27% shooting. Jordan Williams came off the bench to give the team a nice inside presence and finished with 12 points and 8 rebounds in only 18 minutes of play. His interior scoring is something that neither Landon Milbourne or Dino Gregory can duplicate. I hope that Williams will continue to have a large role going forward and I think he has already proven that he deserves to be a starter. Like his fellow frosh teammate James Padgett he needs to get better on defense but what he gives with rebounding and inside scoring is worth the minor downgrade. Gregory got another start but was all but invisible in the game. He failed to score a point and had more fouls (4) than rebounds (3) in 19 minutes of playing time.

One of more encouraging signs is that Cliff Tucker and Adrian Bowie had their best games of the season off the bench. Tucker was 5/5 from the floor and had a season high 13 points but also was able to stay on the floor for 17 minutes. Adrian Bowie had a very nice game and his shooting may be starting to come back as he went 3/5 from outside the arc for 9 points but added five assists, three rebounds and only one turnover in 21 minutes. If Tucker and Bowie can contribute at this level going forward Maryland's offense will be extremely hard to shut down. As always the key for this duo is consistency and they need to prove they can keep their play at a high level.

Landon Milbourne struggled a little and it still not rebounding very well as the Rams killed he and Gregory on the boards in the early going. Sean Mosley and Eric Hayes both had good games as they shot well and finished with 12 and 10 points respectively. Hayes' hot 3-point shooting continued as he hit 2/4 shots from deep and seems more confident than at any time in his career.

James Padgett got a nice run with 13 minutes of play and produced 7 points and 2 rebounds in mostly garbage time. He did hit 3/4 free throws so that is a good sign he is improving his weak free throw shooting as is Jordan Williams.

With the return of Gregory it looks like Jin Soo Choi won't be seeing to floor very much going forward as he only logged 3 minutes even though Gregory wasn't scoring and was committing a foul every few minutes.

Greivis Vasquez looked like his old self as he nearly got another triple-double with 27 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds. The Rams had no hope of containing Vasquez who scored from inside and outside with equal ease. His floor game was the best it has been all season as he took good shots and distributed the ball to open teammates and created scoring opportunities on the fast break and with dribble penetrations. He also seemed to really being enjoying himself on the court which bodes well for the rest of the season.

David Pearman and Steve Goins missed the game with injuries.

While the 1st half was sloppy they played about as well as you could expect with a 57 point 2nd half in which they scored more than the Rams did in 40 minutes. Defense and rebounding are still areas that need improvement but this was a vastly better performance than they had against Eastern Kentucky.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

2010 basketball recruiting

Maryland signed three players in the fall signing period for the 2010 basketball recruiting class. Point Terrell Stoglin, wing Mychal Parker and forward Ashton Pankey all signed with Maryland to form a very solid class. Stoglin is an underrated scoring point guard who will give Maryland more quickness at the point than they have had in years and a reliable outside shot. Parker is a dynamic wing player who has room for improvement even though he is already very good. Pankey is a four-feet-from-the-basket kind of inside player who will bring a physical rebounding and defensive presence to a team that needs more depth in both areas. Pankey is dealing with an injury at the moment but might be back for some national broadcast games on ESPN in January. The player who has the most attention for the Maryland fans who are recruiting geeks is guard Terrance Ross from Montrose Christian. Ross is gearing up for a rocket ship ride up the recruit rankings after shunning the summer AAU circuit. Ross did not sign a letter of intent with Maryland in the fall period prompting all kinds of speculation regarding the status of Ross' commitment to the Terps. It wouldn't be the first time that a recruit seemed like he was coming to Maryland but ended up elsewhere. Dave Telep in the ACC Sports Journal touched on the Ross commitment and several other players that the staff is involved with right now. If you are a fan who follows the recruiting rumor mill too closely it is worth a read.

Women's basketball assistants paid more than men's

Is it necessary to elaborate on this stunning fact reported by Patrick Stevens in the Washington Times? According to the information publicly available (private schools are under no obligation to report salary data) there is not a men's basketball program in the ACC that pays its assistants less than Maryland. Maryland assistants Chuck Driesell, Keith Booth and Rob Eshan combine to make less salary than Virginia assistant Ritchie McKay. When Virginia hired Tony Bennett as their head basketball coach in the off season they gave him a budget of $600,000 to hire assistants while Maryland will spend less than half that amount this season. Every member of the staff at N.C. State is paid more than the highest paid Maryland assistant (Driesell). The Wolfpack have gone 15-33 in ACC play the last three seasons without a single NCAA appearance. The athletic department responded to the story by claiming that the assistants have generous bonuses if they meet certain criteria and that the budget crisis at the University are a factor in the low salaries paid to the assistants.

It is interesting to note that the assistants for the women's basketball team combine to make $60,000 more than the assistants on the men's team. The women's basketball program operates at a sizable loss every season while the men's program generated over $10.7 million in revenue according to the latest figures. Maryland is the only ACC school where the assistants on the women's team make more than the assistants for the men's program. Women's assistant David Adkins who was an assistant high school coach before being hired by Maryland over the summer is paid nearly $20,000 more than men's assistant Rob Eshan. Only in an athletic department like Maryland's would this be allowed to happen. It is made possible by an athletic director that is obsessed with pouring resources into women's programs that have no possible hope of become financially self sufficient while starving the revenue sports of vital funds to pay assistants and staff. I don't have a problem with devoting resources to women's programs and I'm well aware of the Title IX requirements but it shouldn't be at the cost of the programs that pay the bills.

It is true that Driesell, Booth and Eshan do not have extensive experience as assistant coaches prior to coming to Maryland but they have done better than recent assistants with more extensive resumes. Booth was instrumental in recruiting future star Sean Mosley and Rob Eshan has played a major roll in assembling a highly rated 2010 recruiting class. The only assistant in the ACC, either men's or women's, that makes less than Eshan is the husband of the head women's coach at N.C. State who does not draw a salary. Eshan and Booth have earned more respect with what they have produced than to be treated this poorly. It is no wonder that Maryland has struggled to retain and hire good assistants since Jimmy Patsos and Dave Dickerson left College Park. At any basketball program assistant coaches are vital to continued success in recruiting and player development and it would be nice if the athletic department acted like they understood that.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

UNC: Move along, nothing to see here

If you were thinking it would have been appropriate for North Carolina's administration to step in and admonish Roy Williams for his misguided attempt at crowd control during the Presbyterian game the other day you'd be wrong. The Tarheel administration chose to go in a different direction. They decided to try to paint Presbyterian fan Brian King as a uncooperative drunk while at the same time denying that Roy Williams requested that King be removed in the first place. According to UNC's PR toady Williams thought that King was sitting in seats that are reserved for guests of the basketball office. King claims that the three police officers sent to investigate what seat he was sitting in and if he had said anything negative about any Tarheel, living or dead, told him that he was in, "Roy's house, and when Roy says you need to go, you go." According to King he was never even asked to produce a ticket for the seat where he was sitting even though though he had several in his pockets from no shows. North Carolina spokesman and constitutional scholar Steve Kirschner seemed to imply that King should be grateful because he wasn't arrested and charged with anything. See, you were lucky Brian, you could have been arrested and jailed for trying to distract Deon Thompson during a free throw. Thank god we live in America! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Monday, December 14, 2009

ACC News & Notes

North Carolina coach Roy Williams (aka Huckleberry Hound) apparently does not believe in the 1st Amendment. The aw-shucks good ol' boy coach of the Tar Heels had the Dean Dome security eject a Presbyterian fan who heckled Deon Thompson as he was shooting free throws. You would think a fan would have to say something fairly bad to get ejected or to get such a reaction from a coach of the defending national champions as they coasted to a 103-64 win at home. According to the North Carolina media the fan said, "Hey Deon, don't miss it."

That apparently was over the line for Roy Williams who lost his mind and became fixated on instructing security to remove the fan. It is embarrassing that Williams reacted the way he did and more embarrassing that the event staff listened to the irrational Williams and removed a fan for saying something so innocuous. Instead of apologizing afterwards for his unhinged behavior Williams had the gall to suggest that the media were the ones who were overreacting. To quote the Tarheels dictator head coach:

 Let's don't make it a bigger thing than it is. But I just don't think anybody should yell negative things toward our players (when) you come in on our tickets to watch our game.
So every member of the media and every fan who attends a game at the Smith Center should be put on notice that if Roy Williams thinks you are being negative he feels within his rights to have you removed from the attendance for which you paid. I suppose winning two national titles at Carolina gives you a fair amount of power but I had no idea that in Chapel Hill that also includes the ability to censor fans in your arena. Let's not forget this is the same guy who implied that Michigan State's Delvon Roe had lied to him when he chose to commit to Tom Izzo instead. After that kerfuffle Williams went back to his now familiar spin of accusing the media of making more of the story than was justified as he did after the heckling incident when he admonished the media telling them "don't make it bigger than it is." I mean it wasn't as if Williams had made the allegation against a 20 year old in his autobiography or anything.  Williams now seems to have the idea that no only can he remove spectators for saying anything he doesn't like but he should be able to bully the media into reporting on on what he thinks is legitimate. It seems Williams thinks that the Smith Center should be something closer to North Korea than North Carolina and it would be a shame if the University officials there don't give Williams a public reprimand.

Williams will likely get away with this because he is usually obsequious with the media and he has a built the facade of being a soft spoken and unassuming good old boy. If Mike Krzyzewski did something like this the anti-Duke zealots would be all over it but because Williams is great at putting forth a phony public persona it probably won't get much negative attention. Let's not forget this was the same man who cursed at a reporter on national TV (our own Bonnie Bernstein) because she asked a fair question that he didn't like. In sports nothing irks me more than a person who is a phony. Like him or not there is nothing phony about Gary Williams. He doesn't pretend to be something else and doesn't spend time trying to curry favor with the media. He may have gotten a little complacent after his national title but he's never cursed at a reporter on national TV, called a recruit who spurned him a liar or tried to be the ultimate dictator in Comcast Center and he's heard far worse at his home gym than anything Roy has in the last few years. Roy Williams is a damn good recruiter but it isn't just a coincidence that he is also one of the bigger phonies in college basketball.

In other news Boston College dropped another nonconference game at home this time to Rhode Island which is the second in a row and their fourth loss of the season. The Eagles play UMass and South Carolina before getting back to ACC play against Clemson in January. Good thing they beat an overrated Miami to open the season.

Virginia Tech got a good win, at least by Hokie standards, against Penn State but their nonconference slate is devoid of any impressive wins.

Cincinnati lost in double overtime to rival Xavier. Villanova's lack of defense finally caught up to them as they lost to an underrated Temple squad in a Big 5 game.

This weekend will be a big test for the ACC as UNC plays Texas and Duke plays Gonzaga in New York City.

Vulnerable Terps struggle with Eastern Kentucky

In many ways Eastern Kentucky is a less talented version of Villanova and some of the vulnerabilities that were exposed in the loss to the Wildcats were evident again in a narrow win over the Colonels. EKU hit 11 three point shots at a 47% clip and during a number of stretches the Terrpain defense was shredded by the passing and spacing of their opponents. It is obvious that Maryland doesn't have many good individual defenders and right now that are not playing good enough team defense to hide some of the weaker defenders on the team. Almost every Maryland player had moments where his defense was exploited but Eric Hayes was particularly guilty of some terrible defensive series. In the 2nd half EKU isolated on Hayes and scored three straight baskets. Hayes will never be a good defensive player but I don't think it is gratuitous to continue to point out the significant problems his inability to guard quick opponents because it will be a serious problem in ACC play.

Dino Gregory returned and in his first game back was given the start. I thought it was a ridiculous and indefensable choice by Gary Williams. It was widely reported that Gregory was suspended for an incident involving academic dishonesty and it is a mockery that he was given the privilege of returning to the court as a starter. Worse still when you consider that Jordan Williams has worked his tail off and done almost everything the coaches have asked him to do and yet was forced to give up his starting positon to a player who isn't as good and lost his starting spot through his own stupidity. I know that the overtones of poisoned relationship between Gary Williams and Debbie Yow played a role in Gregory's suspension. Williams would never pass up the opportunity to needle his critics and I have to wonder if Gregory starting was a byproduct of that petty side to the head coach. The skilled shooters for EKU were a bad matchup for Jordan Williams but Gregory hardly did much to distinguish himself in the game. Gregory played a shocking 33 minutes and grabbed a pathetic 3 rebounds. In 9 minutes Jordan Williams had 5. For Gary Williams sake I hope Gregory was just a little rusty because he hardly looked to me like a player that will make any useful contribution in ACC play.

Grievis Vasquez did not start because he was late for a team shoot around. The good news is that he looked more like his old self in this game than at any point this season. He shot 7/14 scoring 20 points and grabbing 6 rebounds. He also hit some clutch 3-point shots late in the 2nd half when Eastern Kentucky was hanging around.

Landon Milbourne had his usual impressive game against mid-major talent where he can better exploit the usually more unathletic frontcourt opponents.

Besides the suddenly leaky defense another issue that is vital for Maryland is the bench production. Either some players like Cliff Tucker or Adrian Bowie need to step up themselves or Gary Williams needs to do a much better job utilizing his bench players. Four of the starting five and Vasquez all played at least 32 minutes. Maryland cannot sustain that in ACC play. Clearly Tucker and Bowie have struggled this season but Williams has been known to mismanage his bench in the past and he has done little to improve the poor performance of his bench. It is hard to get improvement from your bench players when they don't get in the game.

You don't have to be a chicken little to conclude that right now this team does not resemble an NCAA tournament claliber squad. This team does have the pieces to do some damage in a weak ACC but they have yet to play at the level necessary to do that.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Maryland Football All Decade Team

It has been a mixed decade for Maryland football which has seen historic highs with an ACC championship in 2001 and a school record 31 wins over three years and a historic low with the recently finished 2-10 campaign. Overall I think you have to be pleased with the decade compared to the lowly 1990's when Maryland achieved little worth noting. Let's get onto the players of the decade:

Player of the Decade: Linebacker E.J. Henderson
ACC Player of the Year (2001), two time ACC Defensive Player of the Year (2001-2002), two time 1st Team All American (2001-2002), Bednarik and Butkus Award winner (2002), two time 1st Team All-ACC selection, all time career leader in tackles for loss at Maryland.

By position:

QB: Scott McBrien
Led Maryland to 21-6 record including wins over West Virginia and Tennessee in the Gator and Peach bowls. Fourth all time in passing yardage, third all time in touchdowns and Maryland career leader in passing efficiency rating. Honorable Mention: Shaun Hill

RB: Bruce Perry
Even though it is hard to snub Maryland's all time leading rusher, Lamont Jordan, I have to do it. Jordan only played one season this decade and it was a disappointing(by his 1999 standards) 920 yard, 11 touchdown performance. A number of running backs this decade had better seasons. Perry was the ACC Offensive Player of the Year (2001) and his 1,242 yards that season are the highest total for any running back of the decade. Perry was never the same after that season and was hampered by nagging injures the rest of his career. Honorable Mention: Chris Downs

FB: Cory Jackson
It is a shame Jackson has played with some less than stellar offensive lines and running backs in his career. His lead blocking is excellent and his pass catching skills are underrated. Honorable Mention: James Lynch

OT: Matt Crawford, Stephon Heyer
Crawford was a two time All-ACC pick(1st team 2002, 2nd team 2001) who helped protect Hill and McBrien. Heyer was an honorable mention pick in 2006 and but for a knee injury that knocked him out a whole season could have had a similar career to Crawford. Honorable Mention: Eric Dumas

OG: C.J. Brooks, Andrew Crummey
Brooks was a two time 1st team All-ACC selection (2003-4) and was a dominating blocker when he was motivated. He had a disappointing senior season even though the voters still gave him the All-ACC nod. Crummey, a two time 2nd team All-ACC pick, was a very solid work horse who was probably slightly overrated but is still one of the better guards of the decade. Honorable Mention: Lamar Bryant

C: Todd Wike
Probably the most difficult position to pick from with Melvin Fowler, Edwin Williams and Wike all making 1st team All-ACC at center this decade. I gave the position to Wike because he was the only lineman to be awarded 1st team status at both guard and center. I could have moved Wike to guard and put Fowler in here as well. Honorable Mention: Melvin Fowler

WR: Darrius Heyward-Bey, Guilian Gary
Heyward-Bey finished 2nd all time in receiving yards and 3rd all time in receptions at Maryland. He only received one 2nd team All-ACC selection (2006) and was never the scoring threat that many felt he should be but he was a big play threat unlike any other wideout during his time at Maryland. Gary was the only other Maryland receiver of the decade to earn an All-ACC selection (2nd team, 2001) and finished 6th all time in receptions and 9th all time in yards in Maryland history. His game winning touchdown catch against N.C. State propelled Maryland to an ACC title and the Orange Bowl. Honorable Mention: Torrey Smith

TE: Vernon Davis
Associated Press 1st team All America(2005) and 1st team All-ACC (2005). His 871 yards in that season were fifth all time in Maryland history and his four 100 yard receiving games are only behind Marcus Badgett of the Mark Duffner run-and-shoot seasons. Though he left Maryland after his junior season and barely played as a freshman only three players have more career 100 yard receiving games than Davis. Honorable Mention: Joey Haynos

DE: Shawne Merriman, Jeremy Navarre
There probably couldn't be two different players at the same position. Merriman was a physical specimen who excelled at making the big play and "lights out" hit while Navarre was a grinder who got the absolute most out of his modest talent. Merriman finished 2nd all time in sacks at Maryland with 22 and seventh all time in tackles for loss with 32.5 even though he only started 17 games in his career. His 2004 1st team All-ACC season was one for the ages with 85 tackles, 17 TFL, 8.5 sacks, 10 QB hurries and 3 forced fumbles. Navarre started 48 games over four seasons and recorded 25.5 TFL and 11.5 sacks. Honorable Mention: Kevin Eli

DT: Kris Jenkins, Randy Starks
Jenkins only played one season in the decade but it was good enough to get him on my list and earn him 2nd team All-ACC honors(2000). He recorded 62 tackles, 17 TFL, 8.0 sacks and an incredible 18 QB hurries in 2000. Starks was a two time All-ACC selection (1st team 2003, 2nd team 2002) who finished 6th all time in TFL (32.5) and 10th all time in sacks (17.5) before departing for the NFL after his junior season. When motivated Starks was a wrecking crew who could stop the run and rush the passer from the DT position. Honorable Mention: Conrad Bolston

LB: E.J. Henderson, D'Qwell Jackson, Erin Henderson
They may have all played the Mike position but there isn't any point in considering any other linebackers during this period. I included many of E.J. Henderson's awards above but he also is the all time leader in TFL at Maryland with 62.5 and is 2nd all time in tackles with 473 behind only Eric Wilson. Henderson's 2001 season was one of the greatest defensive seasons for any player in Maryland history as he recorded 150 tackles, 28 TFL, 6 sacks, 7 QB hurries, 2 forced fumbles and even blocked two kicks. After deciding to stay at Maryland instead of depart for the NFL due to concerns over his injury status he added 175 tackles, 19.5 TFL, 8.5 sacks, 8 QB hurries, 3 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions to his totals. Henderson wasn't a workout warrior but he made up for it with the best instincts of any Maryland linebacker in recent memory. Henderson had an uncanny knack for making big plays at critical times in the game. Jackson followed in Henderson's footsteps and had an excellent career of his own. Jackson finished 4th all time in tackles and 14th in TFL. While Jackson didn't have the big play flair of Henderson he was a steady tackling machine resulting in three All-ACC selections (two 1st team and one 2nd team) and a 2005 Defensive Player of the Year award. Erin Henderson came to Maryland and made a name for himself with two All-ACC selections (1st team, 2007 and 2nd team 2006) and overcoming an early knee injury as a redshirt freshman to lead the team in tackles for two seasons. Henderson chaffed under the schemes of Chris Cosh (causing him to depart early to the NFL) and probably could have been a better player under a more aggressive approach. Honorable Mention: Moise Fokou, Alex Wujciak

CB: Domonique Foxworth, Curome Cox
Foxworth was a two time 2nd team All-ACC performer(2003-4) who picked off 8 passes in his career. Not as physical a corner as some others but very good in coverage. Had his best season in 2003 when he recorded 54 tackles, 5 interceptions and 17 pass breakups. Got to start as a true freshman after Tony Okanlowan went out with with an undisclosed illness. Cox was an underrated corner who lacked burner speed but was physical and a ball hawk. Cox was honorable mention All-ACC in 2003 when he had his best season at Maryland with 58 tackles, 7 TFL, 3 interceptions, 2 sacks and 11 pass breakups. He returned two of his three interceptions for touchdowns including one in the Peach Bowl against Tennessee. Cox finished his career with 10 interceptions a mark that is 7th all time in Maryland history and the highest number of the decade. Honorable Mention: Josh Wilson, Tony Okanlowan

SS: Dennard Wilson
An honorable mention All-ACC pick as a senior Wilson started 30 games for Maryland including 26 games as a junior and senior. Wilson wasn't flashy but his consistency and staying power give him the nod at the position. Honorable Mention: Chris Kelley, Milton Harris

FS: Madieu Williams
Williams was a two time 2nd team All-ACC pick in 2002-2003 and in only two seasons when he accumulated 166 tackles, 7 interceptions, 12 pass breakups and 4 forced fumbles in 26 starts. Williams was a big hitter with great range. Honorable Mention: Tony Jackson

Kicker: Nick Novak
Maryland's and the ACC's all time leading scorer.

Punter: Brooks Barnard
Two time 1st team All-ACC selection who had better averages than Adam Podlesh.

PR: Steve Suter
A two time 1st team All-ACC return man who set the career league record for punt return yardage, touchdowns and average. Still holds the mark for most return yards in a season, touchdowns in a season and returns in a season.

KR: Torrey Smith
On his way to rewriting the Maryland record books. He has already broken his own kickoff return yardage mark and set the record for all-purpose yards this past season while leading the team in receptions, yards and receiving touchdowns. If not for Clemson's C.J. Spiller Smith would have set the ACC single season record for all-purpose yards as well.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Maryland Basketball All Decade Team

Since the All Decade teams are a popular theme these days with the New Year coming I figured I would give my Maryland basketball team of the decade. Clearly the 2002 National Champion team will have a heavy footprint but after that things are more murky. I only considered seasons that fit in this decade. By position here is my list:

PG: Steve Blake 1999-2003
This is a much closer call than many would think if you consider Greivis Vasquez a point guard. Blake gets the slight edge at the moment because of his superior defense and the achievements of his Final Four teams but in many ways Vasquez is the superior player. If Vasquez can turn around his senior season he would supplant Hayes on my list. Honorable Mention: Greivis Vasquez

SG: Juan Dixon 1998-2002
There isn't much need to explain this pick. One of the great players in Maryland history. Honorable Mention: Drew Nicholas

SF: Byron Mouton 2000-2002
Many focus on his lunch pail style but Mouton was a very underrated offensive player who went from the main scoring threat at Tulane to a complementary player at Maryland where he was an impressively efficiently fourth option. As a senior his offensive rating was 113.9 and he shot nearly 47% from the floor. It is his efficiency and defense that gives him the nod over Nik Caner-Medley. Honorable Mention: Nik Caner-Medley, D.J. Strawberry

PF: James Gist 2004-2008
This may surprise some people but Gist was the best of a grab bag of forwards that Maryland has had this decade. Chris Wilcox was clearly the best athlete Maryland has had at the position but not the best basketball player. Wilcox never averaged over 12 points a game while Gist did that twice. Gist was a much better free throw shooter and also was a better shot blocker if not as physical a defender. Gist was surprisingly also a better defensive rebounder (17.6 and 18.8 %) compared with Wilcox (17.5%) as a sophomore. Who knows what Wilcox could have done on a very talented 2002-3 Maryland squad but based on his limited time at Maryland I couldn't put him in front of Gist. Honorable Mention: Chris Wilcox

C: Lonny Baxter 1998-2002
A work horse who may not have been a true center but was consistently productive throughout his career. Considered by some to be too short and unathletic he used impressive footwork and his barrel chest to clear space for himself and shoot well over 50% from the floor. No Maryland big man has had his kind of low post game since. Honorable Mention: Ryan Randle (Best of a mediocre bunch)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Vasquez struggles

I think that after eight games that we have seen enough to conclude that Greivis Vasquez is struggling this season. His offensive rating so far is 93.6, down from 106 last season, and his field goal percentage is an anemic 32%, down from 40.5% last season. What has gone up this season is his turnover percentage which is back to his sophomore year level of 23%, up from a more modest 16% last season. He is getting to the free throw line more often which was a weak part of his game the last two years. Vasquez seems to be forcing things a little too much on offense and teams have been attacking him more on defense now that he is on the floor with Eric Hayes and Sean Mosley more often. I think the pressure of proving things to NBA scouts is weighing on Vasquez, which was most obvious in watching him during the Maui games where he played in front of a few NBA scouts. I don't think he is being selfish with the ball but he is often trying to do too much in situations that are not in his favor.

Another factor is that this team is different from last seasons in a number of key ways. It is true that Dave Neal is the only missing starter but much has changed for Maryland since the end of last year. Eric Hayes has returned to the starting lineup and is playing more minutes while Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker have all but disappeared in the last four games. Landon Milbourne over the last four games has looked more like the player that was worn out and ineffective at the end of last season than the player that was feasting on mid-major squads to start the season. Jordan Williams and James Padgett have come in and played very well but are totally different players than Dave Neal both on offense and defense. Jin Soo Choi is seeing more time with Dino Gregory out because of an academic suspension but has struggled to find his role. Sean Mosley is playing a much larger role on the team as he has played 79% of the minutes so far compared to 48% last season. On offense he is also taking a larger share of the shots and scoring more of the teams points as well. Some of these developments are very positive but some are not. Clearly the players on the team are still trying to settle into their roles in this season and Vasquez is probably feeling the effects of that more than any other player.

To be fair the matchup against Villanova's quick and aggressive backcourt was probably one of the least favorable that Vasquez will see all season. In the first half the Wildcats were swarming around the dribblers for Maryland and driving in the lane was like trying to get through the crowd at the end of a Phish concert carrying a stack of pizzas. The slew of turnovers that Maryland committed in the 1st half are a byproduct of both Nova's pressure and Maryland's shaky ball handling, mostly from Vasquez.  Against a foe like Villanova it would probably have been more effective for Vasquez to play off the ball like Mosley but the rest of the backcourt wasn't having great success in the 1st half either. Eric Hayes may have finished with 20 points but he only had 4 points in the 1st half and did little to get the rest of the offense functioning with Vasquez on the bench in foul trouble. The quickness of Villanova's guards was impossible for the slow footed Hayes to stop in the open court. Even when Maryland switched to a zone Hayes was often a step too slow in rotating and he often drops down too far in the lane on his backside rotation leaving the top of the key wide open. Another telling statistic is that Hayes played 39 minutes and didn't have a single rebound. That is hard to accomplish. When Maryland cut the lead to three points and Nova looked to be on the verge of collapse Hayes and Vasquez chucked up ill advised 3-point shots that took the pressure off the defense.

Landon Milbourne had the worst game of the seniors. His box score line of 4 points, 4 fouls and 3 turnovers in 34 minutes about tells the story. The worst part of Milbourne's game was his rebounding or lack thereof. For the season his defensive rebounds percentage is a horrible 8.5 which is the lowest number by any starters except Eric Hayes who is probably the worst rebounder on the squad. For comparison Jordan Williams leads the team with a 23.6 number while reserves Jin Soo Choi and James Padgett are at 18.9 and 16.2 respectively. With Williams doing the yeoman work on the inside it is inexcusable for Milbourne to be so ineffectual on the glass. Over the last four games the senior is only averaging 3.5 rebounds per game. His effort on the defensive end needs to improve substantially.

Adrian Bowie continues to struggle this season and he has had little impact on the games this season. His effort on defense has been atrocious and his offensive numbers are down across the board. Maryland needs his spark off the bench and if he doesn't snap out of his early season funk the team will suffer and Bowie will get buried on the bench. He may not regain his starting job this season but he needs to take 10-15 minutes a game off the starters so Gary Williams doesn't wear them out before the end of the season.

Cliff Tucker isn't struggling on offense like Bowie but he has not played well either. He missed a practice and got benched against Indiana to follow that up with a 9 minute two turnover stinker against Villanova. Not the way to get on Gary Williams good side. Attitude has been a problem for Tucker ever since he arrived at Maryland and it looks like he has not matured much since last season.

Maryland may get Dino Gregory back in a few days but his return doesn't increase the talent on the floor very much and his contributions last season have been universally overestimated. There are much more pressing problems for the Terps, especially in the backcourt. Jordan Williams is probably already a better player than Gregory and it would be a shame for Williams to lose a starting spot to a player who was suspended for academic dishonesty. Gregory certainly knows the defensive and offensive schemes better than Williams or Padgett and is a pretty good shot blocker for his height but he isn't a great rebounder regardless of what is written in the local newspapers and he fouls way too often. His defensive rebounding percentage of 12.2% was lower than Dave Neal, Sean Mosley, Jin Soo Choi and even Braxton Dupree last season. A rebounding percentage isn't tied to how many minutes you play, it is a measure of how many rebounds you collected that were available to you in the time you got on the floor. As I wrote earlier Jordan Williams is currently collecting 23% and Padgett and Choi are both higher than Gregory's number from last season. Gregory also committed 84 fouls in only 569 minutes of play and fouled out of two ACC games without playing 20 minutes in either contest. Gregory isn't much of an offensive threat either and he only shot 41% from the floor and only 53% from the free throw line. The numbers point out he is hardly the savior that you would think given how often his return is mentioned as a big boost for the team. I doubt Gregory will have a significant role in how far this team can go in the ACC and he doesn't seem likely to cure the current ills of this group.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Zone double edged sword

Maryland made a furious rally in the 2nd half against Villanova but was undone by the poor defense in the 1st half and the ridiculous 23 offensive rebounds they gave up to a Villanova team that lacks a very good big man. The zone defense that Gary Williams has taken to using showed some of the same problems it did against Wisconsin, namely a fatal vulnerability to offensive rebounds and a tendency to force the Terps into foul trouble. Maryland had 17 2nd half fouls and even if you account for the handful of intentional fouls at the end of the game Villanova was still in double bonus early in the half which helped them shoot 25 free throws in the 2nd half, making 19 of them. Against foes like Villanova and Wisconsin, veteran teams that understand spacing and have the ability to dribble penetrate, the perimeter defenders for Maryland have significant trouble keeping the dribbler out of the lane. The Badgers and Wildcats exploited the lack of athleticism of Eric Hayes and Grievis Vasquez on the wings of the zone and then followed by either going to the basket or drawing the help defense and kicking to an open shooter. Maryland will have to significantly improve their zone defense before ACC play starts. It is lucky for the Terps that the ACC isn't stacked with great guards like Wisconsin's Trevon Hughes or Villanova's Scottie Reynolds.

I'll have a more complete write up on the game soon but here are several thoughts I had in the aftermath of the loss.

Williams is playing the starters too much again this year. Eric Hayes played 39 minutes, Milbourne 34 (even with foul trouble), Sean Mosley 37 and Jordan Williams played 30. Vasquez was limited to 27 with early foul issues. I can see trying to ride Williams and Mosley who were having career nights but this cannot continue. Cliff Tucker and Adrian Bowie have not played well but they have to be a bigger part of the rotation. Maryland's bench only scored 5 points to Nova's 22 and the playing time of the starters was a big factor in that.

Gary Williams called out several players after the loss. He didn't name names but he said there were clearly some players who felt like last season should just carry over to this year and have not worked hard enough. He also said that too many players were whining about getting calls from the officials and that they needed to learn that respect is earned not just given. My guess is he was talking about his seniors since none of them really played all that well. Should make for an interesting week at practice.

Mosley and Jordan Williams were great. You could make an argument that they were the two best players at their positions in the game. Williams dominated the Villanova big men in the 2nd half and either fouled his man out of the game or put him on the bench with foul trouble. Mosley seemed to score from inside and outside at will and Villanova really couldn't do much to stop him. If it was a sign of things to come Maryland has found a true weapon to go along with Vasquez.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

ACC News & Notes

  • Maryland's loss to Wisconsin doesn't look as bad this morning, does it?
  • I was surprised at how impatient Duke looked at times on offense. They still get after you on defense but their steal percentage this season is 7.9 down from 12.1 last season and currently ranked 270th in division I. It is early in the season but right now Duke is not feasting off turnovers like last year and their offense is suffering.
  • Andre Dawkins will be a royal pain once he figures out how to do more than shoot 3's.
  • Why are pundits impressed with Miami's 8-0 record? Their strength of schedule is 297th in the nation. Their best win is at home against a Minnesota team that is 4-3 overall. Coach Frank Haith certainly gets the cupcake schedule award this season. I have a feeling once ACC play starts they will get exposed.
  • Florida State's offense is dreadful. Without decent guard play the Seminoles will struggle to compete in the ACC. Their defense and imposing shot blockers will keep them in games.
  • Right now the bottom of the league is: Virginia, N.C. State and Virginia Tech.
  • How could Clemson blow a 22 point lead? If they don't force steals their offense is very ordinary. Trevor Booker has become one of the most overrated players in the ACC. I like Oliver Purnell but he botched the end of the game by failing to call timeouts on critical possessions.
  • There are a slew of decent but unimpressive teams in the ACC this season. There might only be three NCAA bids outside of Duke and Carolina. Right now none of the rest of the pack has any impressive out of conference wins so the league schedule takes on even more importance.
  • Notable non-conference games left: Villanova vs Maryland, Wake Forest @ Gonzaga, Wake Forest vs Xavier, N.C. State @ Marquette, Duke vs Gonzaga, UNC @ Kentucky, UNC vs Texas

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

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Escape from Bloomington

Maryland did just enough to win and almost enough to lose in a 80-68 victory that was much closer than the final score. The Terps showed the effects of the hangover from their poor performance in Maui with a dreadful stretch in the 1st half that saw them unable to play decent defense, turn the ball over with alarming frequency and fail to run any credible offense. The weakness of the Terps opponent was the only thing that saved them from trailing by double digits by halftime as they had in the two prior losses.

The ragged play continued into the 2nd half but once Maryland settled down and started committing to running their flex offense then things opened up and the Terps scored 20 points in the last six minutes of the game. Much was written about the extensive zone defense that Maryland employed and it was surprising that Williams bagged the press and man-to-man defense that has been his trademark at Maryland. While the zone did force a young Indiana team to make poor decisions it wasn't as though the actual defense the Terps played was all that great. There were significant gaps in the zone that a better team would have exploited. With Eric Hayes, Greivis Vasquez and Sean Mosley on the perimeter the ability of Maryland to shift and recover is limited. A team with good ball movement and deadly shooters, like say Duke, would have torched the zone. The zone defense also resulted in two unpleasant side effects, one expected and one not. Maryland gave up 12 offensive rebounds in the 2nd half, 20 for the game, in large part due to the obvious vulnerability of zone defenses in rebounding. That is a dreadful number to a Hoosiers team with a modest amount of frontcourt talent. The other unexpected issue was that Maryland started committing fouls at an alarming rate in the 2nd half while in the zone defense. Usually teams play zone to hide players in foul trouble but the Terps committed 10 fouls in the last 13 minutes of the game. While the zone certainly flummoxed Indiana on offense it wasn't nearly as effective as it would seem given the 32% shooting by the Hoosiers.

Vasquez had a mixed night. He continued to struggle shooting the ball with a 4/14 shooting night but got to the foul line when Maryland needed it and notched 8 assists (though his teammates mistakes probably cost him another 3-4) and 5 rebounds. According to reports the Indiana student section was hurling the kinds of bile at Vasquez and Jin Soo Choi that you would expect from Maryland fans and that Indiana coach Tom Crean wasn't too happy about it. That probably just set off Vasquez to have a 13 point, 4 assist and zero turnover 2nd half. As it was last year the team lives and dies with Vasquez mostly because the other players are not reliable alternatives.

Someone may look at the box score this morning and think Landon Milbourne playes a great game. His stat line: 19 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks and 3 steals looks great on paper but watching that game it was obvious that his performance was much more mixed. He added four turnovers and probably should have been credited with a couple more that went to other players. His defense was mediocre at best and his defensive rebounding was exposed in the low post. Milbourne can show flashes but he really needs to put together an entire floor game if he is going to be a complete player.

Eric Hayes also scored well with 14 points on 5/10 shooting but as with Milbourne his ball handling, rebounding and defense were very suspect. Hayes will never be a great defender but he seems even less able to keep dribblers out of the lane this season. His defensive vulnerabilities will be worth watching when Maryland faces Villanova on Sunday.

Sean Mosley had a nice all around game with 13 points and 9 rebounds on 5/9 shooting. He also added 4 turnovers but played a grueling 39 minutes with Cliff Tucker on the bench and Adrian Bowie the only reserve guard. It is hard to be unhappy with the progression of Mosley at this point in the season.

Adrian Bowie may have had a little breakout of his slump. He scored 5 points on 2/4 shooting and looked better than he has all season, though that is a low standard. He did have some turnovers (3) but one was on a terrible charge call as he tried to finish a one-on-one break. The Terps will need Bowie to continue to improve if they are going to string together some ACC wins.

Jordan Williams had a solid rebounding night with 11 but botched a number of easy field goals and still missed four free throws. Williams must improve his free throw shooting or that will become a major liability in his game. He has the form to improve but I think he is in a little slump from the line and it has gotten in his head.

James Padgett and Jin Soo Choi came off the bench in limited action but contributed little more than a few rebounds. Padgett did have a nifty bounce pass assist to Mosley under the hoop.

After this game I think you would have to feel relief more than anything else. There was little in the performance to temper the concerns raised in the losses to Cincinnati and Wisconsin. The game against Villanova presents a special opportunity for the Terps to notch a "signature" win in the out of conference portion of the schedule but they will have to improve if they hope to challenge the Wildcats.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Fridge to return for 10th year

Maryland announced this morning that head coach Ralph Friedgen will return for his 10th year in College Park next fall. It is unclear what staff changes will be made but it is unlikely that significant changes will be made until next year since all the assistants are under contract until the end of June regardless. While many Maryland fans may be upset by this decision I think it was really the only option. While athletic department officials may publicly maintain that there was the money available to buy out the last two years of Friedgen's contract there was not the support among the public officials to make that a viable alternative. It was clear from the comments by Tom McMillen, Len Elmore and Governer Martin O'Malley to the media that the athletic director Debbie Yow would be going out on her own if she chose to spend the $5 million necessary to sweep out James Franklin and Ralph Friedgen.

The future implications of this decision are tough to predict. The comments by Friedgen after the last game of the season regarding making better use of the talent on offense suggest that he and Franklin might not be on the same page. If a schism develops between the two that could result in a very unpleasant climate on the staff which already isn't rosy according to the rumors. This decision marginalizes Franklin to a certain extent and, along with his poor performance as offensive coordinator, could set the stage for his departure as well.

The uncertain status of Friedgen was supposed to be ameliorated by the head-coach-in-waiting contract given to Franklin but that decision looks to have backfired on Debbie Yow. With both Franklin and Friedgen on thin ice it will be worth watching the recruiting success or failure going forward. Recruits might be more reluctant to commit to Maryland given all the uncertainty and it will also be worth watching to see if any significant players transfer or depart in the offseason. Left tackle Bruce Campbell will most likely bolt for the NFL but the rest of the roster should be intact. If players begin to transfer then that will be an ominous sign.

This team does have a young nucleolus of talent but they will have to improve in a hurry to change the ending to this story. With only two wins this year it wouldn't take much to improve upon that but how much better can you expect this group to be? The schedule isn't daunting with dates against Navy, West Virginia and Eastern Michigan at the moment. In ACC play Maryland will travel to Miami, Clemson, BC and Virginia. The home slate looks promising with Wake, N.C. State, Florida State and Duke coming to College Park. Friedgen has stated he expects the team to be significantly improved next season, which is the only thing he could say at the moment, but that will require some large leaps at multiple positions this off season. The net effect of this decision is to put Maryland's football future in stasis for another season. That may not be the worst thing that could happen when you consider the poor judgment of those that would make the decision to hire Friedgen's replacement.

Monday, November 30, 2009

What ailes the basketball team?

As the 2008 Terrapins proved it can be foolish to judge a team so early in the season but there are signs that the current team may not meet the high expectations that many fans had just a few weeks ago. Coming out of Maui with a 1-2 record, the only win against a foe that doesn't count in regards to NCAA tournament, was the worst case scenario for this group. It wasn't just that they lost to Cincinnati and Wisconsin it was that in both games they were handled relatively easily by their opponent. Neither Wisconsin or Cincinnati are going to blow many teams out, they just don't have the offensive firepower to do that so a 10+ point loss to them is probably not as close as it seems. In each loss the winner went on a large run to end the 1st half and the Terrapins didn't respond in either game.

Much was written about Greivis Vasquez's shooting woes and he still isn't shooting well for the season but the two losses were not a result of his poor shooting. Lost in the focus on his 29% shooting against the Bearcats was the 9 points he scored from the free throw line. In the two losses he scored 13 points from the free throw line which was more than the entire rest of the team (12) combined. As with the last two seasons this team still is not talented and deep enough to compete with good teams unless Vasquez plays well.

That gets to the main problem with this squad. The poor freethrow shooting and rebounding are certainly problems but in the last two losses the poor play of the bench was what doomed the Terps. Specifically Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker have failed to provide the scoring punch as expected to this point in the season. In the last two losses Bowie and Tucker have combined for 7 points on 2/11 shooting in 52 minutes of play. That simply isn't good enough for two juniors with the playing experience of that duo. Bowie clearly is in the doghouse because of his poor efforts on defense and bad shooting. The decision of Gary Williams to play the starters most of the way against Wisconsin was not the correct call but Tucker and Bowie did little in their time on the court to prove it. Unless these two start improving Maryland will be little more than an NIT squad even with the impressive play of freshmen Jordan Williams and James Padgett.

I think the travel and three consecutive games wore on the freshmen and their play showed it. They faced big and physical front line players for the first time and they struggled somewhat. Defensive rebounding is an area they need to improve upon and the free throw shooting must improve from both Williams and Padgett. The two were a shocking 1/11 from the free throw line in the two losses and were largely responsible for the team's shooting woes from the line. Though they had a little setback in the last two games the freshmen did enough if they had gotten the kind of help from the backcourt that you would expect.

The defense against Wisconsin was pretty poor. I thought Jon Leuer would be a very tough matchup for Maryland and he closed the door on Maryland's comeback hopes with 16 points. Landon Milbourne had no chance to guard Leuer one-on-one but the strategy of doubling on Leuer with Eric Hayes was even worse as the marginal Jason Bohannon was left open to the tune of four 3-point baskets. Hayes doesn't have the quickness or defensive instincts to effectively double on post players. Against a team like Wisconsin that understands floor spacing very well that is a deadly mistake.

Even though Maryland returned four starters from a team that slipped into the NCAA tournament at the last minute I think Gary Williams is still searching for the right combination on the floor. I've felt for a number of years now that playing Vasquez and Hayes on the floor at the same time makes for a very unathletic backcourt but until Bowie or Tucker show some more consistency Hayes will probably continue to get 30+ minutes of playing time. Williams and Padgett are not ready to give consistent help defense when the guards are beaten off the dribble. That is one of the few areas where the vastly overrated Dino Gregory will help when he comes back in two weeks.

Maryland should beat Indiana and they must if they hope to avoid another NIT postseason. The crucial test will come against Villanova who will be without super freshman Mouphtaou Yarou who is done for the season with a "viral" infection. With the dreaded "players meeting" already popping up just six games into the season I think Terp fans have reason to be concerned.

Familiar ending for Terps

Maryland ended the 2009 football season in a fitting fashion on Saturday with a 19-17 loss to Boston College. Both the offense and defense did just enough to stay in the game until the end but neither group could do enough to pull the game out. The Eagles moved the ball well with 353 total yards and 20 first downs but the Maryland defense did well in the red zone limiting them to four field goals. Neither offense turned the ball over but Maryland had several critical penalties on defense that kept BC's drives alive including a dumb personal foul on Alex Wujciak on a 1st and 20 play that gave BC a first down at the Maryland 46 yard line. The offense could only convert 3/14 3rd downs and the staff decided to go for it on two 4th downs. Offensive coordinator James Franklin has had several poor 4th down calls this season and he should stop trying to channel Barry Switzer and just punt the ball. The 4th and 1 QB sneak by Jamarr Robinson sealed the game for BC as they added what turned out to be the game winning field goal as a result of the good field position. Robinson lead an inspired drive late in the 4th quarter to get Maryland within two points after an impressive scramble that resulted in a 28 yard touchdown to Torrey Smith. It was a perfect throw and showed some nice poise to keep his vision down field at a critical moment of the game. By the end of the season it was clear that the offense is much more dynamic and exposive with Robinson than with Chris Turner.

I don't begrudge Turner playing on Senior Day but it was clear he wasn't physically up to it. His velocity has never been great but he was behind receivers on a number of crossing patterns that could have been picked off. I think these numbers sum up the difference between Turner and Robinson: Robinson 7.6 yards per attempt, Turner 5.9 yards per attempt. Of Turner's 12 completions (note the official box score has him with 11 completions but the play-by-play shows he had 12) 8 (66%) were completed for 10 yards or less. Robinson had nine completions and 5 (55%) were for more than 10 yards. Maryland's offense has a much better deep strike ability with Robinson's mobility and arm strength. Franklin will have the opportunity next season with Robinson and a hopefully improved offensive line to scrap some of the dink and dunk playcalling he relied on this year. That is if Franklin is back.

The offensive line reverted back to its poor form and only mustered 68 yards rushing by non-QB's while giving up four sacks. The interior of the line, including seniors Paul Pinegar and Phil Costa, struggled to contain the BC defensive tackles, particularly Scafe and Giles who combined for 3 sacks and four TFL's. With the Terps being dominated on the interior that made any running game tough to muster. Still Da'Rel Scott looked good in the limited number of carries that Franklin gave him.

Wideout Torrey Smith was contained for most of the game until he got free and found a hole behind BC's zone for his late touchdown catch.

The defensive line was also mauled by BC's front five. Running back Montel Harris just wore down Maryland's defense with 142 yards but needed 41 carries to achieve that. Still there were too many times that Maryland's entire front was pushed off the line of scrimmage. There had no ability to anchor on the edge when BC went off-tackle or when they did some zone blocking. This is perhaps the area on the team most desperately in need of an upgrade in the offseason. Defensive end Deege Galt did record a surprising two sacks but as with all season his physical limitations were exploited by the opposition.

Alex Wujciak posted another double digit tackle performance but was exposed in pass coverage again and had a crippling personal foul penatlity that allowed BC to hold onto the ball. Speed is a major problem with the linebacking corps at the moment. The other linebackers made some plays and Hartsfield is showing he is one of the better coverage linebackers on the team but overall this group failed to make the tackles when they needed.

The secondary struggled against a rather mediocre BC passing attack. After throwing six interceptions in his prior two games BC QB Dave Shinskie looked fairly comfortable picking his spots against Maryland's defense. There were three penaties by the secondary in obvious passing downs: 3-7, 3-6 and 2-9 which gave BC first downs. Senior corner Anthony Wiseman was beaten on a number of plays including a 66 yard touchdown catch. He finished with 10 tackles for a bad reason as he got picked on repeatedly. Given the poor play of the defensive line and linebackers I guess you can't lay too much blame on this group but they hardly looked good.

Speculation immediatly turns to the fate of head coach Ralph Friedgen and at this point it isn't clear what will happen. I think at a minumum there will be a number of changes at several assistant coaching positions even if Friedgen and Franklin survive.

I hope to write up some position by poisition breakdowns in the coming weeks as the basketball season slows down before ACC play in January. Until then we'll await the decision on the head coach.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Q&A with Eagle in Atlanta

Maryland is playing Boston College again and that means that our annual Q&A with Boston College blogger Eagle in Atlanta. Here are his answers:

1. Montel Harris has had an excellent season with over 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns. How much of that is Harris and how much is the offensive line?

Harris actually deserves credit for much of his success. The line opens the holes, but he is great at finding holes and he seemingly is always able to fall forward for an extra yard or two. He is just another example of BC finding a diamond in the rough.

2. Eagle quarterback Dave Shinskie has thrown six interceptions in the last two games so what is the key to Maryland's defense forcing him into mistakes?

I think most teams realize that they can drop multiple guys into coverage and cause problems for Shinskie. He tends to force things into double and triple coverage and hence the uptick in turnovers.

3. BC's defense seems to be very solid again this season. I noticed that outside of LB Luke Kuechly most of the top tacklers this season are defensive backs. Is that by design or a symptom of something else? Are there any other players besides Kuechly that Maryland's offense will have to worry about?

I would say the tackle stats are in part because the defensive line has been so banged up.The DBs also don't rotate all that often and therefore are on the field for most snaps.

4. I noticed BC was 0/13 on 3rd down against North Carolina and was only 4/15 against Virginia. What did those teams do on defense to force punts?

I wish you could blame it on the opponents doing something unique but much of it is Shinskie. He made plenty of bad decisions and forced bad throws. Ideally against Maryland BC will run the ball more and be in third and short. Ultimately we have an inconsistent QB which leads to inconsistent offensive play.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Reality check for Terps

Maryland came up short in its first measuring stick game of the season. Cincinnati had size, speed and strength that the Terps had not seen up to this point in the season and the result was a disappointing 69-57 loss. It was disappointing not because they lost, I tweeted that I didn't think they were ready for this test after watching the Bearcats dismantle Vanderbilt, but because they didn't compete. They had much of the same lethargy they showed against Chaminade but this time the opponent had just enough punch to knock out the Terps. I'm not sure how well Cincinnati will do in the Big East, they were picked 7th in the preseason which would probably mean they would be just above a bubble team. They are clearly not at the level of Big East heavy weights like Syracuse and Villanova. They play a physical and tough defensive game but are not a very impressive offensive team with only three legitimate scoring threats and a weak bunch of roles players.

Even though Cincinnati controlled the game from about midway through the first half if Maryland had been able to hit a decent number of foul shots or make some layups after they stole the ball off the press it would have been a very different game. For me the story of the game wasn't how good Cincinnati looked but how terrible Maryland played. The Terps shot 35% for the game, went 2/14 from 3-point range, missed 14 free throws, gave up 15 offensive rebounds and still only lost by 12 points. The Bearcats won because during the last nine minutes of the 1st half they went on a 18-5 run to put the game away.

The lone bright spot was that Greivis Vasquez appeared to shake off his early season funk in the second half and scored 19 points to go with 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. He didn't shoot all that well only hitting 5/17, including 0/5 from 3-point range, but the rest of the team hardly shot much better. Eric Hayes, Sean Mosley and Adrian Bowie combined to shoot 4/17 with just 14 points between them. This game clearly illustrated that this team needs Vasquez playing at a high level to compete with power conference teams. They may get by with Vasquez only scoring 9 points against the New Hampshire's of the world but that won't do in the ACC. This team still doesn't have the talent to play without maximum effort every night and post a winning record in the ACC. I doubt this season that anything less than 9-7 in the conference will likely earn an NCAA invite.

Probably the most disappointing aspect of the game was the play of seniors Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne. Hayes was exposed on defense again by the athletic backcourt of Cincinnati and there were several times where he looked like his feet were set in concrete as a player blew by him. His hot 3-point shooting evaporated and he finished with only one assist. Milbourne had a decent shooting night but got into foul trouble again with some lazy defense. Defense, fouls and rebounding are a big part of the game and Milbourne was terrible in all three aspects. Much has been written about Hayes and Milbourne this season but the reality is that the duo are not much more than supporting cast players who are unreliable scoring options. They are the same players they have been the last two seasons and that isn't going to change.

Sean Mosley had a step back last night as he struggled to find his shot and blew several close in shots that reminded me of his shooting woes last season. He finished with 9 points and 4 rebounds but in 34 minutes of play. He'll need to bounce back from this poor effort quickly if the Terps are to avoid leaving Maui with a 1-2 record in the tournament.

Freshmen bigs Jordan Williams and James Padgett were given a stiff test with Rashad Bishop and Yancy Gates. Gates had his way in the post with 17 points and 13 rebounds and will likely be one of the better big men in the Big East. Williams matched foul total and his point total with four in each catagory and struggled to score against the big and physical frontline of Cincy. Padgett played well in the 2nd half and finished with 9 points and 5 rebounds but left a bunch of points at the free throw line. These two will have some setbacks during this season but I think they did about as well as you cold have hoped. If the Maryland backcourt had not been so thoroughly outplayed it probably would have been enough to win.

Jin Soo Choi also got a decent amount of run with Milbourne in foul trouble but contributed little for his 11 minutes. Adrian Bowie had a terrible performance and spent most of the game on the bench as a result finishing without a point for the first time in 43 games dating back to his freshman season. Cliff Tucker played 17 minutes but didn't effect the game much one way or the other. You would like to see more from the two juniors and the combined effort they had tonight just wasn't good enough for players with their experience.

Maryland will face Wisconsin at 4:30pm today in a suddenly vital game. Wisconsin has some talented players but is a little thin after the top three. The Badgers are another gritty defensive team that doesn't have a plethora of weapons but will battle hard for 40 minutes. Trevon Hughes and Jon Leuer present some interesting matchup problems for Maryland. Maryland's pressure defense will have to force some turnovers and result in some transition baskets if Maryland is going to score enough to win unless the halfcourt offense, a weak spot so far, improves overnight.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Notes on Fridge

The Baltimore Sun has an article that undermines the Washington Post story that money will not be an issue in buying out Ralph Friedgen's $4 million contract. According to Tom McMillen who is on the Board of Regents there would have to be an "awfully compelling case" to spend over $5 million on a coaching change in this economic climate. With the University suffering painful budget cuts it might not be politically viable to have the athletic department borrow money from the University endowment. Taking money from the endowment during lean economic times because the athletic director has made decisions that have blown up in her face is absurd, especially if that person gets to keep her job in the process.

Another interesting tidbit in the article is that after last season's 8-5 record a number of football assistant coaches felt like they were owed bonuses based on their contracts. The athletic department apparently disagreed and refused to pay them the bonus they claimed they were owed. I have not seen the contracts so it is impossible for me to say who was right but it is another indication of how poorly the athletic department runs things that coaches feel the need to hire a lawyer.

The Baltimore Sun article seems to have better sources than the usual anonymous source that the Washington Post seems to be using with regularity these days. If the Sun has a better handle on this story, and I suspect they do, then Friedgen might not be as close to getting fired as it seemed on Sunday. My guess at the moment is that Friedgen will have to make numerous staff changes to appease Debbie Yow but that in the end he'll probably keep his job for another season. I would guess in that scenario that offensive coordinator James Franklin would also keep his job.

Borrowing money to buyout Friedgen and Franklin, who are becoming the Abbot and Costello of Maryland football, presents problems from an economic standpoint but then also requires the AD to hire a whole new staff that will probably make just as much as this one. Keeping both Friedgen and Franklin would also present its challenges because you have a head coach who is in effect a lame duck and a coach-in-waiting who seems to be on his way out. What recruit would sign with Maryland given all the uncertainty. The irony is that the Franklin deal was supposed to address those continuity issues but now seems to have only clouded the issue.

I'll add John Feinstein's comments on the coaching situations at Maryland and Virginia in the Washington Post:

And yet, in the euphoria that came with moderate success, both schools spent much too much money expanding stadiums that are much too big with far more luxury boxes than they can reasonably hope to sell on a regular basis. You don't build stadiums or arenas based on how many tickets you expect to sell in your best season; you build them based on how many you expect to sell in an average season....

Remarkably, athletic directors rarely take any criticism when specific teams falter under their watch. Yow hired Ron Vanderlinden, who was a bust. She was just about ordered to hire Friedgen and took every bow possible for his success. Then, when the program slipped, she went out of the way to commit $1 million to undermining Friedgen.

Terps plow Silver Swords

The first 20 minutes of the game against Chaminade were as bad a strech of basketball as this team has played all season. Greivis Vasquez picked up two early fouls that limited him to 22 minutes and his shooting woes continued. The officials seemed to be getting paid by the offensive foul call with how often they calling them but Vasquez made some poor decisions in the first half and the team suffered. Greivis did look better in the 2nd half but Maryland will need him to shake off his early season funk if they are going to make any noise in Maui.

The entire squad looked lethargic on both offense and defense. On offense they were not running the offense well and were settling for jumpers that were not falling. They didn't get much in transition until the 2nd half when things opened up and Chaminade became exhausted. On defense the rotations were slow and the waterbug Steven Bennett gave Maryland guards, especially Eric Hayes, fits with his dribble penetrations. Lucky for Maryland Bennett had a hard time finishing and lacked the teammates to score off his penetrations.

As with the prior three games Sean Mosley was the Gibraltar for this team. Landon Milbourne had a good 1st half scoring but with Maryland down by two at 16-14 with over seven minutes to play Mosley scored 7 points and grabbed two rebounds over the next two and a half minutes to put Maryland ahead for good. The Maui Tournament may be Mosley's coming out party on a national stage. He is playing gritty defense, his shots are falling and his great floor game adds much to the team in addition to his hefty stats. He finished the game with 19 points on 8/13 shooting and 8 rebounds in 27 minutes. For the season Mosley is shooting 67% from the floor while playing every position from shooting guard to power forward. Mosley and Jordan Williams are the best players at drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line. That has been a real weak spot for this group for the last few seasons. Players who can get to the free throw line help take the pressure off your half court offense. Pay close attention to Mosley these next few weeks because I think you will realize he is the best player on the team with Vasquez in a slump.

Eric Hayes continues his torrid shooting from 3-point range. After going 3/6 from outside last night Hayes is shooting 55% from 3-point range for the season. He didn't commit a single turnover and helped to weather Vasquez's early foul trouble. Hayes did struggle with the quicker Bennett and couldn't seem to keep him out of the lane. Overall though Hayes is doing exactly what you would hope he would be given his skills.

Landon Milbourne didn't take a field goal or score a point in the 2nd half but his 10 points and 5/10 shooting also helped Maryland get through the early game milaise. I think he was settling for jump shots too much early on, like the rest of the team, but it was a minor issue.

Jordan Williams and James Padgett struggled with their help defense a little as Chaminade's structured offense challenged them a little more than in privious games. Williams free throw shooting was off in the first half but he stayed focused and game on strong in the 2nd half to finish with 9 points and 10 rebounds. Chaminade had no answer for him on the inside when he started asserting himself. Padgett also found his rythm in the 2nd half and finished with 8 points and 6 rebounds in 10 minutes of play after halftime.

It was also nice to see Jin Soo Choi and Steven Goins back in the game and both scored for the first time this year. Both may be needed against a much more physical and up tempo Cinncinati squad tonight.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bobby Bowden as Faust

I guess anyone who thought this Maryland team would pack its bags and quit was proved wrong on Saturday. It was a heroic effort by Maryland against a desperate FSU team and the farewell game of longtime defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews on senior day in Tallahassee. Quarterback Jamarr Robinson's performance gives the biggest cause for hope in 2010 with an excellent 20/27 passing performace without an interception and 273 yards of total offense. Robinson outperformed the highly touted FSU freshman E.J. Manuel. He looked poised and much sharper than he did last week against Virginia Tech. Admittedly FSU's defense is one of the worst in the ACC but the maturation of Robinson was still impressive.

The return of running back Da'Rel Scott was a big boost for the offense. He is a better blend of power, speed and vision than any back the Terps have and even though he was a little rusty he ran well with 83 yards on 19 carries. Davin Meggett is much better as a backup in relief and his power running between the tackles is a good complement to Scott. A running attack with Scott, Meggett and Robinson could be very effective next season.

Kudos to the maligned offensive line who had their best game of the season. They protected Robinson well and opened some massive holes for the running game. Bruce Campbell had a dominating performance at tackle and the rest of the line, particularly right tackle R.J. Dill, had very solid performances. Let's hope this heavily criticized group can sustain the improvement against Boston College this week.

Torrey Smith just keeps plugging away at an stellar sophomore campaign that already has him one yard shy of the old ACC single season record for all purpose yards by Thomas Jones at 2054. Clemson's C.J. Spiller has already broken that record this year with 2,066 yards. Smith has a good chance to have the most receiving yards in a season since Vernon Davis had 871 in 2005. Right now Smith is first in the ACC in receptions per game and third in receiving yards per game. Trailing Spiller by only 13 all-purpose yards you would have to wonder what kind of attention Smith would be getting if he wasn't on a 2-9 train wreck of a team. It would be a shame if Smith gets stiffed in the All-ACC selections because of that.

Adrian Cannon continues to try and salvage a disappointing season. He had a nifty touchdown catch where he broke tackles to get to the end zone but also had a terrible fumble with Maryland in field goal range and the score 14-13. Cannon is gifted physically be he doesn't have the focus and dedication to take advantage of them. Ronnie Tyler must be feeling the effects of nagging injuries because his production has dropped off dramatically the last few weeks.

Devonte Campbell seems to be making a move at the tight end position with his third straight start. He isn't producing anything on the field worth noting but his blocking seems to be decent.

The defensive line had little chance to symie the FSU running game or contain the atletic E.J. Manuel. The lack of speed on the edge for Maryland's defense was on display again against a dangerous group of burners for the Seminoles. Jimbo Fisher's running game was good enough on 1st down to limit the need for Manuel to convert on 3rd and long. For the game FSU only faced a 3rd and long five times, the longest being nine yards. Maryland by contrast faced eight 3rd and longs with five being 10+ yards. Bert Reed, Jermaine Thomas and Manuel combined to rip of runs of 42, 24 and 20 yards. Maryland's defense gave up six plays of 20+ yards and as has been the case all season were vulnerable to the big play. In the end it is what killed them.

The linebackers had a tough time covering the Seminole players in space and shutting down the off tackle runs. Adrian Moten and Ben Pooler struggled outside though Demetrius Hartsfield and even freshman Darin Drakeford played as well. Middle linebacker Alex Wujciak did pick off Manuel and return it deep into Seminole territory as he did N.C. State's Russell Wilson but he also was unable to make tackles on Manuel in space and struggled to cover down the field. Wujciak seems to be jumping routes and gambling more in the hopes of making a big play.

The secondary didn't have that bad of a game though they didn't come through when they needed to make a play. Manuel only completed 17 passes for 206 yards and was intercepted three times. Cameron Chism, who has had his ups and downs, got his team leading fourth pick of the season. Terrell Skinner looked pretty good with some very nice run support and a few big hits over the middle to go with his second interception of the year. Antwine Perez lead the team with 9 tackles and for the second game in a row three of the top four tacklers were DBs. A sign the defensive line and linebackers are not getting it done.

The play of the game had to be Greg Reid's 48 yard punt return that set up FSU's game winning drive. Friedgen said after the game they were trying to punt the ball out of bounds but Nick Ferrara failed to do that and Reid, who is averaging an astonishing 18 yards per punt return, evaded tackles by Tony Logan and Drew Gloster that should have kept him at a modest gain. It was another special teams breakdown that cost Maryland the game. There have been a litany of big returns and blocked field goals that have really hurt the Terps this season. The special teams were never this problematic when Ray Rychlecki was the coach and current special teams coach Charles Bankins, who is only in his first season, might be on thin ice with the staff shake ups that might occur at the end of the season.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

FSU loss may be gamechanger

After what in my opinion was the most heartbreaking loss of the season against Florida State there are rumblings that Ralph Friedgen's era at Maryland might be coming to a close and that the entire staff, including head coach in waiting James Franklin, might be on their way out as well. According to the Washington Post the $4 million buyout of Friedgen's contract and the $1 million payout to Franklin might not be an insurmoutable issue in getting a new head coach for the football program. We'll all know soon enough if Friedgen is to return but there is a feeling that a sea change has occurred in the attitudes among those necessary to make a buyout happen.

As for the game I'll have more on that in my normal Monday roundup. I thought quarterback Jamarr Robinson had an impressive game and the offensive line had the best game of the season by far. Frankly the unit played so much better than they had all year it was hard to believe. The defense will get a great deal of blame for the breakdowns at the end of the fourth quarter but some really poor playcalling and a special teams gaffe were just as responsible. It was a shame because it was a game this team should have won. The poor fundamentals have to reflect on the coaching staff such as punt coverage and tackling. This staff isn't the worst in the ACC but they are probably not that far off either. Unlike Gary Williams they can't make chicken salad out of chicken you know what and the talent level isn't high enough to hide some of the failings of the staff which have become all to evident this season.

Either way the next few weeks will probably see the biggest change in Maryland sports since winning the national title in basketball.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chant Rant Q&A

Rich at Chant Rant was kind enough to answer a few questions about Florida State and how they arrived at the same dismal place that Maryland has late in the football season. My answers to his questions should be posted on his blog by tomorrow.

Q: With quarterback Christian Ponder out due to injury E.J. Manuel got his first look at the position. How would you grade his performance against Wake Forest?

Rich: I'd give him an A-. Really. He only made one mistake -- throwing an interception caught by a Wake defender in the Deacs end zone (should've given it more air to get the ball over the defender to the receiver behind him). Otherwise he flawlessly executed Off. Coordinator (and Head-Coach-in-Waiting) Jimbo Fisher's game plan. Of course, it was a simplified plan designed to give E.J. confidence and reduce the chance of mistakes.

For example, except for the interception, Manuel didn't throw a single pass more than 9 yards over the line of scrimmage -- yet he was 15 for 20. He was also an excellent ball handler and did a good job of running the option several times. The thing that impressed me most was his knowledge of the playbook. His dedication to studying it and game film ensured that he was mistake-free and grew more confident with every series.

Now will he be able to continue that as Jimbo opens up the playbook and puts more on his young QB's shoulders?

Q: Ponder seemed to like to spread the ball around to many receivers, five FSU players have 27+ receptions, is Manuel also spreading the ball around?

A: He is. Manuel threw passes to 7 different receivers against Wake. Six of those were WRs, and one was running back Jermaine Thomas, who had a 7-yard catch along with his 149 yards on the ground.

Q: I've thought that if there was a hall of fame for assistants then Mickey Andrews would be an automatic inductee. This Florida State defense has not been a vintage Andrews' squad with awful rankings in almost every category. What is the major problem with this group?

A: Several things, two of which are: Though Andrews was a master at stopping offenses in the 80s and 90s, he hasn't adapted well to the new age of spread offenses. Second, other assistant coaches on defense are not pulling their weight as far as teaching skills and developing the raw talent from the top ten recruiting classes FSU has had most years. When Andrews leaves, FSU fans expect there will be a clean sweep of most or all assistants on the defensive side of the ball.

Q: We've all read stories about Bobby Bowden and his future but I'm curious who do you think will replace Andrews as the defensive coordinator?

A: I'm pretty sure only Jimbo Fisher and Bobby Bowden know that -- or at least who they'd like to be the new D.C. While Bobby says he'll make the final decision, most believe that Bowden will rubber stamp the man who Jimbo selects. After all, Fisher will have to live with him after 2010, which is almost certain to be Bowden's last season.

One of the names buzzing throughout the Seminole nation right now -- and a guy who'd be an impressive hire -- is Kirby Smart, the DC at Alabama. Why would the top defensive assistant in the SEC take a lateral step to FSU? The rationale is that he liked his experience in Tallahassee as a grad assistant, and because it's tough running the defense under a head coach who's known as a defensive genius. At FSU, Smart would definitely run his own show.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mosely, a man for this season

The first 15 minutes of the game against Fairfield wasn't very pretty for Maryland. The athleticism of Fairfield really bothered Maryland on offense and gave Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes all sorts of trouble getting the team in their half court sets. The Terrapins got out of that funk thanks to some good outside shooting by Eric Hayes and the do everything game of sophomore Sean Mosley. The last 10 minutes of the 1st half showed the player that Maryland fans hoped they were getting: a rugged, physical guard that is a crafty scorer and a throwback player who embraces the "dirty work" on defense and in the lane. In the final 10 minutes of the half Hayes's shooting got a lot of attention but it was Mosley's 6 points, 3 rebounds (two offensive), one assist and one steal that turned the game from a one point Fairfield lead to an eight point Maryland lead. His steal and score in the closing seconds likely eliminated any chance of a comeback by the Stags. As I observed at the scrimmage Mosley is a much more confident player this year on both ends of the floor and is growing into a valuable do-it-all swingman like former Terp Byron Mouton. His maturation is a critical component of this Maryland team developing into a contender in the ACC.

The last year if Grievis Vasquez had the offensive game he had the first two games this season Maryland would have little chance to win the game, regardless of the opponent. In the three games last season that Vasquez scored less than 10 points Maryland was 0-3 and lost by an average margin of 23 points. This year, with a much improved supporting cast, the Terps have been able to weather some very poor shooting from Vasquez and still win comfortably. When the competition improves Vasquez will have to regain his shooting form if Maryland is going to have a successful trip to Maui next week. Vasquez is pressing a little in his last season. He needs to redefine his role on a team that has other legitimate options this year, unlike last season when he was vastly superior to any other teammate.

Jordan Williams and James Padgett continue to impress with very solid play on both ends. Padgett has no fear around the basket and even when his shot is blocked he comes right back in the low post. Williams has a polished offensive game for a freshman big man that played against less than stellar competition. He has the moves to score in the post or even take the ball from the foul line as he did against Fairfield. Gary Williams has plucked two gems in the late recruiting season after missing on Dante Taylor. Williams is already on pace to outperform many of the top 100 forwards recruited above him. They both have areas to improve upon: Williams is going to foul out frequently if he doesn't get a better feel on defense and Padgett needs to add polish to his offensive game. Regardless the two freshman have been a revelation to this point in the season and the Terps are better off in the frontcourt, even with the depth issues, than they could have hoped going into the season.

Landon Milbourne is quietly having a excellent start to his senior campaign. Playing more power forward with a legitimate big man has done wonders for his effectiveness on both ends of the floor. He is really getting after the offensive glass, tied for the team lead with Padgett, and on defense he has three blocks and four steals in two games. Last year with Dave Neal, who liked to drift to the perimeter where he was more effective, Milbourne was stuck closer to the low block. With Williams and Padgett he has had more opportunities to draw his man out and slash to the basket. It will be worth watching Milbourne in some of the upcoming games in Maui and against Indiana and Villanova where he will face more stout players. Last season his production really dropped off when he had to face ACC post players night after night.

With Dino Gregory coming back on December 12 from his suspension for academic dishonesty the low post should be plenty deep. Jin Soo Choi and Steve Goins seem to be ready to contribute after some injury issues.

Maryland basketball also received another verbal commitment for 2010 in forward Ashton Pankey who playes for St. Anthony in Jersey City, NJ and the famous high school coach Bob Hurley. Before going to St. Anthony the 6-8 forward played for Archbishop Milloy in Queens, NY and was the first freshman to play on varsity there since the Georgia Tech great Kenny Anderson. Pankey is in the mold of current Terp James Padgett as a effort player who plays defense and rebounds but has a chance to get much better on offense. He is very active and seems to possess decent hands. You can see video of Pankey here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hokies bury Terps, again

No surprise that Virginia Tech quickly ended any hopes Maryland had of salvaging their decrepit season with a win over a top 25 team. I didn't get a chance to really review the game film yet so I don't want to make any comments on the performance of the squad right now. It is obvious that there is a significant gap between Frank Beamer's program and the one that Ralph Friedgen has been running since Virginia Tech lucked its way into the ACC. I don't like much about how the Hokies run their football program or athletic department but it is obvious that they have the coaching and talent to be in contention for an ACC football title nearly every season. Maryland is a long way off from that in both areas. In the four games Maryland has played against Virginia Tech since 2004 they have lost by a combined score of 142-37, on average 35-9. This game also exposed Friedgen's comments regarding the Terrapins "bad luck" to be the fatuous bunch of bull crap. I'm not sure if Big Ralph actually believes this team could be 6-4 or 7-3 but for some bad breaks. I think it would be worse to me if he was so delusional or in such denial that he really thinks that is the case. This is a bad team. There is no getting around it. Maybe if they had not had injury issues and had some luck in a game here or there they might be 5-5 with a shot at a mediocre 6-6 record like I predicted they would have before the season. That is certainly better than the potential first ever 10 loss season that they might suffer but it hardly makes them a good team. The Maryland program has a vast amount of improvement needed before there can be any sober talk about contending in a weak Atlantic division. The talent and coaching both need to improve drastically next year or the Terps will be perilously close to another disastrous season if they suffer some more "bad luck."