Friday, February 27, 2009

Yow's state of the department

Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow has some interesting comments regarding the budget for the athletic department, spending money on coaching salaries and, of course, Gary Williams.

You can listen to the interviews by following this link to the ACC Sports Journal.

Things that I found interesting:

  • For the athletic department donations are down 10% this year and ticket sales are down 5%. If those numbers hold that would be a great showing in this economic environment but I think we'll see those numbers increase this fall since most folks locked in their donation level and ticket purchases for football and basketball before the recent turmoil.
  • Yow seemed to suggest that Maryland would not be breaking the bank for any head coaches in either basketball or football. It would seem a coach just looking for a payday shouldn't bother interviewing at Maryland as long as Yow is in charge. That also suggests that anyone hoping Gary Williams gets replaced shouldn't expect an elite established coach to replace him.
  • Once again Yow emphatically endorsed Gary Williams as the head basketball coach after the recent "dust up,"  her reference to the Kathy Worthington debacle. 
Recruit Lance Stephenson gave an interview to Zagsblog in which he discussed his list of Maryland, Kansas and St. John's. He also indicated he might visit Wake Forest but I think neither the Deacons or St. John's are serious candidates at this point. To me it will probably come down to Kansas or Maryland. Stephenson himself is being coy about his college choice and seems to like to throw in potential suitors like Wake Forest , USC and Memphis that are not really serious options to keep the buzz going on his commitment. I think Maryland has as good a shot as any program and the staff isn't going to lose him to another school because of a lack of effort. You can see the interview by clicking on this link.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Terps fade in the end

Maryland played with a great deal of courage and gave a valiant, if not always competent, effort in losing to Duke last night. The early foul trouble to Greivis Vasquez certainly changed the game and I firmly believe that if he had not missed over 10 minutes of the 2nd half that Maryland would have probably beaten a vulnerable Duke squad. The officials didn't call a particularly even game and no one would mistake that group for the best officials the league has to offer. Even so Vasquez made some critical mistakes early in the 2nd half when it was clear the officials were calling some ticky tack fouls. When he went to the bench Maryland's defense wilted and the rebounding went decidedly in Duke's favor. Duke went from shooting 34% in the 1st half to shooting 56% in the 2nd half. Maryland also missed Vasquez's ability to grab defensive rebounds as they went from a -3 rebound margin at halftime to a -8 margin in the 2nd half alone. Sean Mosley's departure with an ankle sprain didn't help that either but it was obvious that without Vasquez in the game Maryland's frontline can't be effective at protecting the glass. At halftime Vasquez had 8 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists which would have made for a very nice night had he played much of the 2nd half. It was clear the offense was barely functional without Vasquez. Maryland's shooting dropped from 53.6% in the 1st half to 40.9% in the 2nd half when Vasquez missed most of the game. The Terps did keep close to Duke with Vasquez on the bench but the offense didn't run smoothly illustrated by the fact that outside of Vasquez the rest of the team accounted for 3 assists. There were the two lucky 3-point chucks that happen to fall from Adrian Bowie and Eric Hayes as both futile offensive possessions were winding down. In addition Landon Milbourne did his best to keep Maryland close from the 17 minute mark scoring 10 points in the next 12 minutes. Still, it was clear that though Milbourne and Bowie did their best to make plays that without Vasquez opening things up for his teammates the offense is very pedestrian.

Maryland couldn't defend the glass against an aggressive but undersized Duke frontline and couldn't find anyone who could effectively guard Gerald Henderson. Sean Mosley and Cliff Tucker both tried to check Henderson but neither enjoyed much success, though Tucker was clearly totally over matched while Mosley was able to hold his own for the most part. Dave Neal and Dino Gregory didn't give Maryland much help on the inside and had fewer combined rebounds in 43 minutes than Vasquez had in just 22 foul plagued minutes. For most of the game the defense was motivated and intense but late in the 2nd half it broke down and gave up some critical 3-point baskets with the game tied at 60 with just under six minutes left. The two three point baskets by Henderson and Kyle Singler were the back breakers for Maryland and the Terps never got closer than five points from that point on.

Cliff Tucker went from a career game against UNC to a net negative against Duke with only 4 points in 19 minutes and some turnstile defense against Henderson. It was another example of the problem with Tucker's inconsistency which undermines his decent talents. I don't think he was ready to play, especially on defense, and he isn't good enough to get by without adequate preparation. Unless Eric Hayes and Tucker can find some more consistency Maryland will depend on Vasquez to play great over the next three games. Bowie has shown a little improvement and might be coming out of his slump with 14 points.

Besides the rebounding and defense Maryland's critical misses at the free throw line also hurt them. In a tight game like this one you can't afford to miss free throws, turn the ball over or give up offensive rebounds. The Terps took care of the ball fairly well but missed seven 2nd half free throws (63% for the half) and gave up six offensive rebound on eleven misses by Duke. Maryland didn't get to many loss balls and allowed Duke to spread them out and break down the defense when they got a slim lead at the end of the game. It is painful because Duke was very beatable last night and didn't lose the game while Maryland didn't do enough to win it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Vasquez ACC POW

Greivis Vasquez was named ACC Player of the Week, which shouldn't be a surprise anyone including Duke's Gerald Henderson. Better luck next time, Gerald.

Terp stun Heels, again

There were signs in Maryland's 108-91 loss at North Carolina that the Terps would have some success on offense against the Tar Heels. The indifferent defense of UNC allowed Maryland's struggling offense to get clicking and the once-in-a-season 3-point shooting by Carolina couldn't possibly be replicated by Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson again. Neither of those things would make you confident that Maryland would be able to pull an upset of a Carolina team that won ten games in a row without some other unusual factor in Maryland's favor. It turned out there were two in Maryland's win: Greivis Vasquez's sublime 35 point, 11 rebound and 10 assist effort and Maryland's bench outscoring Carolina's 41-5. Without each the Terps probably could not have pulled off the upset.

Vasquez by his own admission had struggled badly in the month of January and starting with the Morgan State loss it was clear how terribly the team struggles when its leader and best player isn't on top of his game. For Maryland to make the NCAA Tournament, as absurd as that would sound a few weeks ago, Vasquez will have to carry this team on his back. He did it all including scoring Maryland's first 16 points of the game. He made all the clutch baskets, all of his last three field goals either tied the game or gave Maryland the lead. I thought his shot selection was very good and he made every clutch assists in the closing moments of the victory. His defense on UNC point guard Ty Lawson was very good even though Lawson scored 24 points on 20 field goal attempts. He added three blocks and two steals to go along with his gaudy point totals but I think he also got into Lawson's head in the 2nd half and forced Lawson into some selfish play that hurt UNC. It was a feat that had to be seen to be appreciated. The only player in Maryland's history to record a triple double in points, rebounds and assists (Derrick Lewis had his two triple doubles in points, rebounds and blocks) and the only player ever to record a triple double in ACC play. One of the great individual performances in Maryland basketball history. Vasquez said afterwards that he had talked to the coaching staff and made it clear he wanted to go back to playing point guard. This may spell a slightly decreased role for Adrian Bowie or Eric Hayes at the point guard spot. Vasquez did have seven turnovers and some sloppy play is expected with his style but as I've written many times before you cannot peel away his swashbuckling, and sometimes reckless, style and expect his production to increase. If anything he will regress.
A Tale of Two VasquezzesMorgan St to Miami at home@UNC to UNC at home
Points Per Game13.118.0
Field Goal %28.947.8
3-point %18.744.8

The 41-5 scoring comparison between Maryland and Carolina's bench was mostly due to Cliff Tucker and Eric Hayes. Tucker had his most complete game of the season as he not only scored a career high 22 points but played excellent defense against UNC shooting guard Wayne Ellington. Tucker's 3-point shooting helped Maryland get back into the game and his six rebounds made it a complete effort. Tucker's consistency with his floor game was his real problem and why he wasn't playing more but he showed another level of maturation with this prime time performance.

Eric Hayes bounced back from a wretched game at Clemson to score 17 points and his some critical 2nd half 3-point shots. He had several nice floaters in the lane too including a basket to get Maryland within two points at 76-74 with about a minute left.

Dino Gregory and Jerome Burney had a bigger contribution than their stat lines would indicate. The two combined for only four rebounds but had four blocks and limited the effectiveness of North Carolina's front line with some physical play. Burney is really coming along after missing most of the ACC season with his foot injury. He won't offer much on offense but his physical presence in the post is something that was missing in the first part of the season with Dave Neal and Landon Milbourne playing most of the minutes. The blocks by Gregory and Burney made the forwards for UNC think twice about going inside. Forward Deon Thompson only scored two points in the entire 2nd half after scoring 11 in the first for UNC and freshmen Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller were mostly irrelevant in the 2nd half.

Sean Mosley struggled to score and spent some time on the bench with foul trouble and the hot play of Cliff Tucker but he had several big plays that helped Maryland win. He took two charges, including a critical fifth foul on Danny Green in overtime, and grabbed two critical rebounds at the end of regulation and in overtime. He even was in the low block on a critical foul shot by North Carolina in overtime. That gives you an idea of how much confidence Gary Williams has in the freshman.

North Carolina dominated Maryland on the boards and pulled down an incredible 25 offensive rebounds. The guards for Maryland pulled down 25 rebounds while the forwards only hauled in 13. The defense in the 2nd half was fantastic although it helped that Ty Lawson got caught trying to show that he is a better player than Vasquez. When Vasquez is scoring he makes his teammates better as well but Lawson doesn't tend to do that. Lawson scored his points in the 2nd half but didn't get his team involved in the offense and there was precious little movement off the ball by Carolina. This game was a perfect example of the premise that a team can dominate inside but still be beat by a team that gets hot from the outside. Maryland's 13 3-point baskets negated UNC's inside advantage and though Tyler Hansbrough wasn't much of a factor the superior interior game of North Carolina could not make up for the Terps perimeter barrage. That is the power of the 3-point shot in college basketball. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tigers blitz Terps

It seems that the theme of this season is ACC opponents setting records for margin of victory against Maryland. Duke bested a 46 year old record when the defeated Maryland by 41 points earlier in the season, 85-44. Last night Clemson blitzed Maryland with 59 2nd half points to record their most lopsided win over Maryland ever, 93-64 for a 29 point margin.  It was embarrassing how easily Clemson dispatched the Terps in the 2nd half. Going into halftime with a six point deficit even though the shooting woes returned I would have thought Gary Williams might try to go with a small ball approach. If not for Clemson's offensive struggles in the 1st half it would not have been that close. Give the team credit for hanging in the game but the slim six point halftime margin was a bit of an illusion. Once again the Terps couldn't hit even simple layups as Sean Mosley and Cliff Tucker missed point blank shots with no defender in the vicinity. The lack of an inside presence certainly hurts this group but in essence this team is a jump shooting team that lacks good jump shooters. When the shots are not falling, like last night, this group is libel to get blown out by a good team. Last night marked the fourth time they had lost by 20 or more points this season which is the most since 1992-1993 when Maryland went 2-14 in the ACC. There are still games against Duke, North Carolina and Wake Forest so I wouldn't be surprised if that mark was broken as well.

There wasn't a single player who had a good game from my perspective. Landon Milbourne lead the team in scoring but he and Dave Neal were exposed by Clemson's interior game. When Maryland doubled down, a strategy that mystifies me against a team like Clemson or North Carolina that can hit those shots, that left players like Andre Young, Demontez Stitt and David Potter open. Those three along with reserve Tanner Smith hit 9 of 15 3-point shots. It would have been a better strategy to trade two points from Trevor Booker than give up all those perimeter shots. Based on the post game comments I don't think Gary Williams has come around to that reality yet. By the efficiency numbers it was the worst defensive game of the season, even worse than the Georgetown or Duke blowouts. The fact that Clemson shot 68% from the floor in the 2nd half is mind boggling. Suddenly the interior and perimeter defense is a grave concern. Maryland's opponents now have a collection of conference games to watch and they have picked out weak points in the Terp's defense. On offense the shot selection was terrible by the entire team and they lost their poise early in the 2nd half when their shots stopped falling.

None of the guards played all that well. Greivis Vasquez was too sloppy with the ball and didn't make the best decisions often driving into the teeth of the Clemson defense. His 1st half play kept Maryland close for a time but it wasn't enough to stem the tide in the 2nd half. He looked lost on defense, like most of his teammates, but did have a number of assists that were bungled by teammates. Adrian Bowie played decently but did miss three of five free throws. Sean Mosley struggled to get anything going against a physical Clemson interior but did guard Terrence Oglesby who actually had a fairly bad game going 5/16 from the floor including a 2/10 stinker from behind the 3-point line. Cliff Tucker showed that his 18 point outburst against UNC was a fluke and he continues to struggle finishing around the basket. His defense was marginal at best.

Eric Hayes was a non-factor in the game until he hit a few garbage time 3-point shots. He didn't score until under four minutes left in the game and with Maryland trailing by 28. It was as if he wasn't even there. His perimeter defense was atrocious.

Jerome Burney played well in limited minutes and I wouldn't be surprised if he pushed Dino Gregory for playing time in the coming weeks.

Of the four game collection of Clemson, UNC, Duke and Wake Forest you hope that Maryland would steal one of those games and then take their chances on the road with N.C. State and Virginia. That would get them to 8-8 with a possible NCAA bid depending on the rest of the field. 

Monday, February 16, 2009

Terps outwork Hokies

Since joining the ACC Seth Greenberg's teams have been known as overachieving and scrappy squads that are short on depth and talent but make up for that with tenacious effort. In almost every year except this season Maryland has been the more talented group of players but that hasn't prevented the Hokies from winning four out of seven games since joining the ACC. In a turnaround from the previous meetings it was Maryland that was the more gritty and tenacious team. The team defense that had become a signature of Greenberg's squads has been mostly absent from this group as their defensive efficiency is in the lower tier of the conference after leading the ACC last season.  It wasn't a surprise to me that Maryland didn't struggle to score and shot 48% from the floor because Malcolm Delaney, Jeff Allen and A.D. Vassallo don't have much interest in playing defense.  The Hokies lack the defensive stopper that they have had in the past like Deron Washington, Jamon Gordon and Carlos Dixon.

Maryland shot 50% in the 2nd half and hit 22 out of 23 free throw shots to seal the game while playing tough defense for most of the second half. With a double digit deficit and about two and a half minutes to play Virginia Tech was only shooting 43% for the game. The Hokies got hot from outside and hit four of their last seven shots when the game was all but over, including four of their eight 3-point baskets for the game. Until that point Malcolm Delaney only had seven points on 3/12 shooting and Jeff Allen had fouled out with 8 points and 9 rebounds and four turnovers. If a few of the trio of Vassallo, Allen and Delaney are playing well then Tech's bench isn't likely to fill the gap.

Landon Milbourne bounced back after slumping for a few games with a virtuoso 23 point and 6 rebound performance. He was excellent at taking his shots in the flow of the offense and getting some critical offensive rebounds. It may have been the best game of his career. Greivis Vasquez is looking more and more like the Vasquez of last December and he controlled the Hokies with a 17 point and five rebound performance. He picked up some really silly fouls for his fourth and fifth fouls in the game but he is making much better decisions and his shooting is dramatically better. In his last three games he is shooting 46% from the floor and 43% from 3-point range. If Vasquez can keep that up, though he is a notoriously streaky shooter, he might be able to carry the team down the stretch.

Sean Mosley continues to give his best Byron Mouton impersonation since getting into the starting lineup. His physical defense, supposed to be a weak area of his game in high school, has been excellent and he has a nose for rebounding and getting lose balls. While his 9 points, 4 rebounds and 3 steals against the Hokies was a solid line his contribution was even greater to the win. His scoring ability is coming along nicely and he is a very nice complement to Vasquez and Bowie.

Eric Hayes is starting to find his 3-point grove but he still is struggling a little with his shooting. His ball handling has been very shaky over the last few games and he has 10 turnovers in the last two games. The ball pressure of Virginia Tech gave Hayes serious problems late in the game. When he turns his back to the basket you know he is in trouble. With Vasquez off the floor the ball handling was a little troublesome.

Adrian Bowie seemed to have recovered from his illness on Sunday and he played a very solid 24 minutes with 8 points and 4 assists. If Bowie has a replay of Bambale Osby's fade at the end of last season after he contracted the flu it would be very difficult for this team to win.

It was a great team win on both sides of the ball and may have been the most complete game the team played since the win over Michigan State last year.

I've been critical of Seth Greenberg over the years but I was impressed with his spirited defense of Gary Williams after the game. Greenberg and Williams are probably not going to be golfing buddies any time soon but Greenberg rose to the occasion and provided a reality check for Maryland fans. It is clear that Maryland's program is what Greenberg aspires to build at Virginia Tech.

I also got a laugh out of Greivis Vasquez's fanatical defense of Gary Williams. If Vasquez moves on in the off season I'm going to miss him because the rest of the team lacks anyone who gives an interesting interview.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mid-point (sort of) Efficiency Rankings

Here is a list of efficiency ratings for conference games only and the difference between the offensive and defensive efficiency. Obviously with the unbalanced schedule these are not exactly equivalent but it is all we have at the moment. The ACC website doesn't break down conference statistics so I had to count the box scores for some teams. I hope all my numbers are accurate.

TeamOffenseDefenseMargin
UNC116.1101.7+14.4
Duke104.891.9+12.8
Clemson108.7100.8+7.9
FSU91.983.4+3.2
Wake Forest104.5102.5+2.0
Virginia Tech108.4107.8+0.7
Miami105.9108.9-3.0
Boston College110.4117.0-6.7
Georgia Tech89.897.7-7.9
Maryland96.0104.6-8.6
NC State102.6112.4-9.8
Virginia94.9111.9-17.1


It is easy to play the salami game but if you remove the 41 point Duke loss from those statistics Maryland would jump to a -2.3 rating and from 10th in the conference to 7th. Interesting that Wake Forest looks much closer to their 5-4 league mark than their top ten ranking by those numbers. Florida State has been a surprise but it is also worth noting that they have enjoyed a fairly easy schedule with home dates against Maryland, Virginia and Georgia Tech and road wins against N.C. State and Virginia. Those account for five of their six wins. The home stretch gets much tougher for the Seminoles.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

More thoughts on Franklin

Here is another good article on the "coach in waiting" promotion of James Franklin by David Glenn at the ACC Sports Journal. Clearly there is more to this story than just the recruiting angle and the uncertainly regarding how long Ralph Friedgen will remain as the head coach at Maryland was influencing the hiring of assistants.

This USA Today article has some interesting notes on Gary Williams and his situation at Maryland. I was struck by Nolan Richardson's comments regarding his souring relationship with Arkansas eight years after winning a national title.
"Once you create a monster you have to keep feeding it. And sometimes you run out of food, and then the monster comes after you. The monster is the fans and university officials."

Friday, February 06, 2009

Franklin "Coach in waiting"

Maryland announced that offensive coordinator James Franklin has an agreement to succeed head coach Ralph Friedgen at some point. Friedgen's current deal runs for another three years and athletic director Debbie Yow indicated that if Friedgen was to stay beyond that time that Franklin would be able to opt out of his deal. It is also likely that Franklin would get some payout if he was not given the head coaching job at that time. It is uncertain if Ralph Friedgen will fulfill his current contract but I think the odds that he stays on at Maryland are not high, unless Franklin falls on his face as offensive coordinator. On that front the jury is still out. This arrangement has been rumored since Franklin returned to Maryland before last season and apparently things heated up when other college programs and the NFL came sniffing around Franklin recently. I'm somewhat ambivalent in regards to this arrangement. I'm not sold on Franklin's coaching credentials but this seems to be the trend in college football. If Franklin does flop over the next few years calling the offense then Maryland can keep Friedgen or find another head coaching candidate. It would seem to be a low risk, high reward gamble. The staff confirmed that Friedgen's age and health status are being used against Maryland in recruiting so this is an attempt to minimize the negative recruiting.

Locals well represented in 2009 class

Maryland did fairly well in assembling its 2009 football recruiting class. Thirteen of the twenty four signees are from Maryland and the next highest state is Virginia with three. New Jersey and Virginia have been bigger targets in years past but clearly the staff was focused on locking down locals within a few hour drive of College Park. Coach Ralph Friedgen has indicated that Maryland will largely drop its efforts recruiting in Florida and you can see that Maryland is going to focus on the Mid-Atlantic region.

This class helps address two of my favorite positions and from my perspective main reasons for Maryland's success and struggles: the offensive and defensive line. I indicated before last season that I wasn't sold on the "experienced" offensive line going into the season. The inconsistency of the unit was largely responsible for the offensive problems the team had last season. In this class guard Pete White and tackles Pete DeSouza and Nick Klemm will add some great talent to the future of the offensive line. DeSouza will need some time to develop but could be a cornerstone tackle at a massive 6-7 325 pounds. Klemm, once a Boston College commit, decided to go with Maryland when the Eagles fired their coach. He will also need some time to develop but his frame (6-7, 275lbs) will allow him to put on muscle after redshirting. Pete White is the jewel of this class. A smart, powerful and aggressive guard White just loves to lock up on defenders and drive them into the ground. He is probably the most college ready lineman in the group and will be at least a three year starter at Maryland.

On the defensive line ends De'Onte Arnett and David Mackall are two of the better pass rushers that Maryland has signed in recent years. Arnett was one of the best players in the state and has the size, strength and speed to be the elite pass rushing end the Terps have lacked for years. Mackall was initially a "below the radar" recruit but has shown that he is also a very talented defensive end who shined at the end of the season in the Maryland Crab Bowl. Those two are very nice bookends for the future. There are potential opportunities for both Mackall and Arnett at defensive end where the situation is very unsettled after the departure of Jeremy Navarre, Trey Covington and Mack Frost. Defensive tackles Cody Blue and Zach Kerr also are added to this class after a prep school season at Fork Union. There will be returning linemen like Dion Armstrong, Travis Ivey, A.J. Francis and Masengo Kabongo but it is a position that will be worth watching in the spring. Arnett is an early enrollee and will participate in the spring game.

Other notable commits are corner Travis Hawkins, running backs D.J. Adams and Caleb Porzel, linebacker Darin Drakeford and kicker Nick Ferrara. Hawkins is an elite corner with great ball skills and a physical style that will suit new defensive coordinator Don Brown very well. He'll continue the tradition of Maryland corners like Domonique Foxworth and Josh Wilson. With Da'Rel Scott and Davin Meggett the backfield is a little crowded so you'd have to think that Adams and Porzel are likely to redshirt, though Porzel could help in the return game. Drakeford highlights a large collection of linebackers this season after Maryland loses five linebackers in the ten player depth chart at linebacker. The departure of Obi Egekeze may open a spot for Ferrara right way.

It may not be a star studded class but it fills needs and does a good job of getting a core of "program" guys who are more than just good football players. With a large senior class that was lacking in leadership on the way out I think a number of these recruits have a chance to develop into the core character of a hard working blue collar team.

You can see more about the 2009 class here. In the 2008 class Meggett and Kenny Tate both made contributions in the first year and you could see that again from a few players this season.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Terps buried by perimeter barrage

I had an analogy to First World War barrage strategy rattling around in my head when I was watching North Carolina hit 3-point shot after 3-point shot last night. I'll spare you the full comparison though. The Tar Heels eleven 3-point baskets accounted for the majority of their 16 point lead at halftime. Maryland was being far too aggressive in their low post help defense and left North Carolina's shooters wide open too many times. Wayne Ellington isn't much more than a jump shooter and Maryland let him do his best Jimmy Chitwood imitation in going 12/15 from the floor with seven 3-point baskets. Ty Lawson and Danny Green were also bombing threes for most of the game as they found wide open wings on Maryland's defense. It was probably most disappointing that the Terps didn't make North Carolina work for their points. The Tar Heels hardly had to run many screens or have their shooters move without the ball. It was too easy. For the game UNC shot 51% from the floor and a staggering 64% from 3-point range. It is worth noting that Maryland has given up 10+ three point baskets four times in eight ACC games so far this year. Much of that has to do with a weak post defense that requires Maryland to use guards as help defenders and leaving open shooters on the perimeter. It isn't going out on a limb to say the defensive effort was pretty awful. It resembled some high school all-star game with neither team bothering to play much defense, content to just run up and down the floor. North Carolina's transition defense was laughably bad and Maryland repeatedly scored easy transition baskets as Tar Heel players loafed down court.

The interesting thing is that Maryland actually played worse in the 2nd half even though they scored more points. The shooting dropped to 41% from 50% in the 1st half and the team turned the ball over 10 times compared to six in the 1st half. Sean Mosley and Cliff Tucker did have good 2nd half performances but most of their points came in garbage time when Maryland was trailing by twenty. Their performances are encouraging, especially Mosley's, but it will be worth waiting until they play a team that bothers with defense before reading too much into their performances in this game. Adrian Bowie and Landon Milbourne didn't have great games but they also were not involved in the offense much and were marginalized by the strategy to push the ball up the floor at every opportunity. It is worth noting that Vasquez only played 12 minutes in the 2nd half after the game turned into a rout. I think Gary Williams was saving him for a very critical game against Georgia Tech.

I think Williams will continue to use Jin Soo Kim more even though he didn't do much scoring he grabbed 5 rebounds in limited minutes. Dino Gregory and Dave Neal will continue to split minutes in the low post.

For a team that came in scoring about 67 points per game in ACC play I think you have to chalk this up to the utter lack of defense played by UNC in this contest. The offense has improved slightly in the last few games but we'll have to see how Maryland fares against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech before we can come to any conclusions about the offense. The effort was fairly good throughout the game even when the margin got to be over twenty points. Even though North Carolina scored 108 points I'd hardly feel good about surrendering 91 to a moribund Maryland offense if I were Roy Williams. Then again defense has never been a priority for Roy and it will be the reason North Carolina will fail to win a national title again this season.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Odd couple

Debbie Yow and Gary Williams had a "nothing to see here" press conference the other day at Maryland. The timing was odd but given the death of her sister I guess it was decided to do all this on Monday. It helped Maryland was coming off a win against Miami. I'm not sure there was that kind of tension in the room since Tiki Barber interviewed Eli Manning. I'm not sure if anything Yow said was genuine but that is almost besides the point. This needed to be said to stomp out the flames around College Park after the Worthington debacle. Two things are clear to me: Yow was checked by the administration for the recent actions of the athletic department and Gary Williams is all but guaranteed to be back in the fall of 2009 regardless of what happens the rest of this season.

Cliff Tucker showed some disappointing immaturity in voicing his frustrations about his lack of recent playing time. It was very poor judgment to gripe to the press about personal goals after the team won a much needed game. I can't help but notice this was the same player who was laughing with Braxton Dupree at the end of the FSU loss. He didn't look at the frustrated in that instance, he looked immature and clueless about the larger importance of the team goals. I have heard rumors that Tucker's protestations that he is doing all he can on his part to work hard both on and off the court are not entirely accurate. Even Tucker's own high school coach felt Tucker was "just going through the motions" on the court and had passed along to Tucker that Gary Williams wanted him to take basketball more seriously. The fact is Adrian Bowie and Sean Mosley are outplaying Tucker and have taken the majority of his playing time. Eric Hayes is no longer starting so that isn't much of an issue. It might be fair to say that Tucker's skills should earn him a little playing time but is this really an issue about 5 minutes of court time per game? It strikes me as more an issue of Tucker's pride than about his value to the team. Tucker got to play 17 minutes against Duke's B-team and hardly produced anything. I have no doubt that if Tucker actually commits himself like he should to being a better basketball player that Gary Williams will reward him.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Terps sink the "U"

It was a strange night at Comcast Center on Saturday. Gary Williams had an exuberant fist pump that was more along the lines of a shadow boxing round house. Maryland had a 5-star recruit at the game that would be the best high school player the Terps have gotten in many years if they signed him. Jin Soo Kim became part "folk hero and rock star" according to Maryland radio commentator Chris Knoche with an impressive dunk and 3-point basket. Greivis Vasquez finished just one assist shy of a triple-double. Maryland took a double digit lead late into the 2nd half again that was whittled away to a two possession game only to hold on with tough defense and clutch shots. The game ended with some chants of "Gary, Gary, Gary" coming from the stands. Afterwards Miami coach Frank Haith gave Williams a special congratulation for the victory and you could tell he knew how tough a week Williams had and was acknowledging how important that win was in a way only another coach could.

It was a great team effort with many contributions on both ends of the floor. Vasquez and Milbourne were the leaders but Adrian Bowie, Sean Mosley and Eric Hayes all gave good contributions. Dave Neal did just enough for Maryland even though his shooting is still not very good at the moment (only 1/5 from 3-point range). Jin Soo Kim gave a few tantalizing glimpses of his ability with an aggressive dunk and a crafty pump and shoot 3-point attempt, both with the shot clock winding down. Dino Gregory also filled in well and gave a quality 21 minutes with 4 points and 4 rebounds.

Gary Williams may have had his best coaching performance of the year. His switches from full court pressing, to zone and back to man defenses all payed off and the Terps didn't fade in the 2nd half like they had in some recent games. Maryland's defense forced Miami into a host of poor shots in the 2nd half and they only went 13/35(37%) from the floor. The Terps only had seven turnovers while playing a more small ball style and did a better job of milking the shot clock in the 2nd half to preserve the lead over Miami. Williams' substitutions were much better than in some of the previous losses and he did a very good job of spreading out the minutes and putting players in positions to succeed. I'm not sure why Miami didn't try to exploit their advantage with post players like Dwayne Collins who only played 21 minutes and took five shots but post play turned out to not be much of a factor in the game.

It was a great win that Maryland really needed with road games against North Carolina and Georgia Tech coming up.

It is worth noting that Vasquez moved past Duane Simpkins for fifth place all time at Maryland with 491 career assists.

Pulse of the fans

Jim Young at the ACC Sports Journal asked Turtle Waxing to give a pulse of the fan base for Maryland. You can find my answers to Jim's questions here.

There is also a great football recruiting summary for Maryland on the ACC Sports Journal. You can read that here.