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.

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