Monday, March 23, 2009

Talent catches up with Terps

For most of the season Gary Williams tried to persuade his team that if the executed well enough that they could play with any team in the country. It wouldn't matter that they didn't have a legitimate post player or were sorely lacking when it comes to players who can put the ball in the basket on a regular basis if they played "their game." To Williams credit that mantra actually worked for most of the second half of the season when they pulled out improbable wins over North Carolina and Wake Forest. It was also the case that when Maryland put forth a lackluster effort they were capable of losing to any foe, even a struggling Virginia squad that saw its coach get fired after the season.

The Terps never seriously threatened Memphis on Saturday and I don't think it had much to do with effort on either end of the court. It is true that Maryland didn't have one of its better games of the season but they probably didn't play all that much worse than they had against California in the opening round. The difference was that Memphis has much more talented players than either Maryland or Cal. Looking at the rosters from two through nine in the rotation Memphis had an incredible advantage at nearly every position. Memphis forward Robert Dozier had as many points (17) and more rebounds (8) as Maryland starters Dave Neal and Landon Milbourne combined. Dozier and his fellow forward Shawn Taggart combined for 31 points and 19 rebounds in dominating the interior game against Maryland. It wasn't just on the inside that Maryland was outclassed. Tigers' guard Tyreke Evans was able to get past any Maryland defender that Williams tried to put on him and his combination of size and quickness seemed to leave Maryland's players befuddled. Memphis probably got lucky in hitting over 70% of their 3-point attempts in the 1st half but it was a byproduct of their ability to carve up Maryland's defense at will. Doneal Mack did most of the damage from outside with five 3-point baskets to finish with 17 points while first round hero Roburt (not a typo) Sallie added a trio of 3-pointers to finish with 13 points. Don't forget Antonio Anderson who may have only scored two points but notched 11 assists as he helped his teammates dice up Maryland.

The interesting thing is that Memphis hardly needed their bench at all. The Terp starters got outscored 69-53 by the Tigers and outside of Sallie didn't get that much help from the rest of the team. Three of the starters played over 30 minutes even as Memphis approached a 30 point lead. Not that I'm suggesting John Calipari was being unsportsman like or that Memphis was trying to teach Greivis Vasquez to keep his mouth shut when playing a team that came into the NCAA Tournament with a top three ranking. You need to keep your starters sharp in the postseason and after the lackluster performance against Cal State I would have kept the starters in there longer as well.

The wins over North Carolina and Wake Forest, a team that appears to have been a colossal fraud, probably distracted the fans from the sober truth that when faced with more talented foes this team usually lost and lost ugly. This game was a reality check for where the talent level at Maryland stands. Outside of Vasquez there isn't a single player on the team that could carry the Terps to the postseason next year. They deserve a great deal of credit for some gutsy performances under some adverse circumstances but you can't bluff your way through the season with a poor cards because at some point a player with a better hand is going to call you.

I thought it was really foolish of Vasquez to claim that Memphis would have not faired well in the ACC. It is legitimate to wonder how good the Tigers actually are because they have not played anyone good in months but any hubris that ACC teams had going into the Tournament about their league should have been erased for good on Friday night when three teams lost to double digit seeds in the first round. It was a shocking bucket of ice cold water on the idea that the ACC was anywhere near the best league in the nation during the season. I doubt Vasquez's ill conceived opinion about Memphis' ability to compete in an overrated ACC had much to do with the rout but it couldn't of helped matters. Vasquez needs to learn a few lessons about dealing with the media and the fine line between bravado and foolishness. His 18 points and 8/16 shooting were by far the best line of any Maryland player but even he was hard pressed to keep up with Memphis' athletes at times.

I'll be following the rest of the NCAA Tournament and even perhaps giving a look in on the women's team fortunes. I'll also have a series of articles on this season and a review of this squads high and low points. We'll know much more about the prospects of next year's team after Vasquez makes his NBA draft plans and recruit Lance Stephenson makes his decision next week at the McDonalds All-American game.


xfreestater said...

You are certainly right that the Memphis game was a reminder of how far Maryland is from being a true contender for anything loftier than a NCAA tournament bid. Some Maryland fans fall in love with the underdog story of players like Dino Gregory probably because Gary Williams takes such pride in coaching up unheralded players. The cold hard reality is that elite college basketball is not a heartwarming movie. Frankly it seems that Gary Williams is content to run MD like a decent mid major program. Recruit under the radar players who you can coach up and squeak into the NCAA tournament once every few years. Maybe you can even win a game until you face a truly high quality opponent who blows your doors off. A lot hangs in the balance for Gary and Maryland basketball. If Vas comes back and Stephenson commits the future seems bright. If neither one of those things happen next year is likely to be brutal. It is often said that one learns more from failures than from successes and one would hope that Gary learned more from the 3 NIT bids over the last five years than he did from the 2 NCAA bids. Unfortunately, his defensive comments after making the NCAA tournament this year lead me to believe that he hasn’t learned anything from the failures of the last 5 years. Regardless, Gary Williams career at Maryland is coming to a close, whether that is 2 or 3 years from now or slightly longer is irrelevant, and he will write his own ending, whether it is a tragedy or a triumph.

sisTerp said...

Hi there Esquire- congrats on the mention of the blog in the Washingtonian!

only two blogs on college teams were listed in the article (about local blogs and websites), one that covers Va Tech (huh?), and our favorite, Turtle Waxing.

Good work!