So the holiday season and a nasty stomach bug has kept me from blogging for a couple weeks. What did I miss?
The jewel of Maryland's 2010 recruiting class de-committed and now may go to Duke.
Sean Mosley sprained his ankle, again.
Williams & Mary became the fourth mid-major in the last three years to come to College Park and win.
Forward Jin Soo Choi is leaving the team because he failed a course and would probably be academically ineligible the rest of the year anyway.
Anything else, like oh, the roof at Comcast Center falling down with all the snow? Thank god 2009 is over because 2010 has to be better, right, right? Anyone?
The last few years have hardly been easy for Maryland basketball fans and the last few weeks of the decade were just another bitter pill to swallow. The early season optimism for this squad has evaporated and it now looks like the NIT is their likely destination for the fourth time in the last six years. That isn't to say that Gary Williams couldn't pull a rabbit out of his hat again this season like he did last year and with a weak ACC that is possible but the deficiencies of this group seem more fundamental and less correctable than they did last season.
The defense is still a major concern after surrendering 47.6% to the Tribe in the loss last week. That marked the fourth time that Maryland has allowed an opponent to shoot better than 40% from the floor. It is worse when you consider that the Terps have allowed opponents to shoot better than 40% from 3-point range five times already this season. In the four losses the defense had yielded 44.6% from the floor and 37.6% from behind the arc. Even more of a concern going into league play is the defensive rebounding which has been abysmal at times. It is astounding that the Terps have given up 15+ offensive rebounds to seven opponents this seasons already. There is plenty of blame to go around when it comes to rebounding but little of it can fall on Jordan Williams who is far and away the best rebounder on the team, grabbing an incredible 24% of the defensive rebounds available. Others like Landon Milbourne (10.9), Eric Hayes (6.2), Cliff Tucker (8.7) have not been doing their jobs on the defensive end. Milbourne has no excuse for such a poor effort on the defensive end as he has the big bruiser opposite him that everyone felt he needed, and lacked, last season. He may have had some decent statistical games against poor competition but if he continues to play more like a small forward his scoring will dry up in league play and this team will get murdered on the boards.
Hayes had his worst game of the year against UNC Greensboro and was benched for Adrian Bowie for long stretches. His 21 minutes were a season low as was his 3 points while on defense he struggled to guard Big South level wing players. If Bowie can build on his best game of the season then Hayes may see a replay of last season where he was relegated to coming off the bench at the end of the season. That may not be a bad thing for the overly passive senior or the team in general.
As I have written earlier in the season the play of juniors Cliff Tucker and Bowie has been the biggest disappointment.Considering they have the combined experience of 160 games and over 2,000 minutes of play neither has played at the level you would expect. Maryland's backcourt depth, supposedly a strength of this year's team, has instead been a weakness. Bowie showed some signs of life last weekend and really got on the defensive end of the floor. That must continue if Maryland is going to make a run at the postseason.
One of the bright spots behind the continued play of Jordan Williams is that Maryland is shooting the ball very well. On the season Maryland is shooting 48% from the floor compared to a paltry 42% of last season. It isn't just against weak competition either as Maryland has shot less than 43% only once all season, against Cincinnati, and shot better than 47% against Wisconsin, Indiana and Villanova. That clip probably can't continue once league play starts which makes the improvement in rebounding and defense all the more critical. The first five league games will give Maryland a chance to right the ship as they should not be significant underdogs in any of those games, three of which are at home.
On another note the Washington Times has closed its sports department which means that the best beat reporter on Maryland sports, Patrick Stevens, won't be covering the Terps for a major newspaper. Let's hope that changes soon because he was head a shoulders above the competition. Informative, insightful and willing to write tough but fair stories that stayed away from sensationalist pot sturring Stevens distinguished himself from his peers in the Washington area.