Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Women stumble short of Final Four

When Kristi Toliver finished her freshman season having hit the game winning shot in the national championship game it must have seemed like playing for a national title would be an annual occurrence. Unfortunately the climax of her career happened at the outset and the subsequent acts have been a let down. Maryland became only the second team to fail to make the Final Four in consecutive seasons as a number one seed. As great as Toliver and Marissa Coleman have been in their careers at Maryland this team didn't seem to be able to buckle down and get the defensive stops they needed in crunch time. Louisville played a tenacious and physical defense that had the Terps offense flummoxed for the entire game. Toliver and Coleman couldn't get any rhythm on offense and combined to shoot 11/27 from the floor, with many of those baskets coming when Maryland was already trailing by double digits. It didn't help that Maryland's bench could contribute nothing to help the starters get back in the game.

There is a very frosty relationship between coach Brenda Frese and her former assistant and current Louisville head coach Jeff Walz. It was clear from the the way Walz was celebrating on the sideline that this victory was especially sweet for him beyond just getting his current program to a Final Four. There just seems to be something missing in the program since the magical national title run. The women's team certainly has great talent but they tend to come up short when they get deeper into the tournament and get away from College Park.

In other news here is a good summary of the men's basketball team from the ACC Sports Journal. I agree completely that the fate of this squad really depends on the return of Greivis Vasquez. The rest of the players on the squad have failed to show that they are much more than complementary players. Without Vasquez this team may stumble through the season and be on the bubble again if the ACC is hit with massive defections to the NBA draft but they probably have little hope of doing better than that. With Vasquez they could be very good indeed.

Virginia hired Washington State head coach Tony Bennett to replace Dave Leitao. If you thought Herb Sendek's offense at N.C. State was difficult to watch be prepared to explore a new version of 40 minutes of hell. The last three season Washington State's tempo was ranked 340, 335 and 322 according to Ken Pomeroy. No team in the ACC the last three years ranked below 266 (N.C. State) in tempo. Big Ten basketball coming to your arena! It will be interesting to see how that fits with the players that Bennett inherits from Leitao because their system was almost a direct opposite. A stall ball based offense with an emphasis on half court defense is not really what the players on Virginia are suited for so it will be interesting to see who stays and if they are able to make that transition.

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