Monday, March 15, 2010

Terps 1st half no-show

Given Gary Williams contempt for the ACC Tournament it probably shouldn’t have been a surprise that this group looked lackluster in its first game and lost to an inferior Georgia Tech squad. Neither Williams nor he players seemed all that concerned with the outcome during a wretched 1st half, probably the worst 20 minutes this team has played in almost three months, and while they made a furious comeback the hole they dug by scoring only 25 points by the half doomed them. It is rare to see Gary Williams so calm (by his standards) when his team is playing so badly and I think it is because he doesn’t really care about this tournament. I’m sure he was thrilled his team ran the table in 2004 and won the league but that was probably as much to do with their tenuous bubble status going into the ACC Tournament and the fact that the Terps ran through three North Carolina schools to do that. Williams seems to view the ACC Tournament as a parochial Carolina love fest and a unfair advantage for the four schools from the state. He probably isn’t that far off either. When Williams was asked about the ACC Tournament last week on his radio show he started by explaining it was started to make the conference money and then finished up by saying that the players like it so he guessed it was worth while. That is about as close as you’ll hear Williams come to saying he couldn’t care less about the ACC Tournament.

His teams have clearly picked up on that fact and haven’t put too much emphasis on it either. Since 2000 Maryland has bowed out of the ACC Tournament in the first game five times and lost to a lower seed six times.

Year (Seed) ACC Record Opponent (Seed) Result
2010 (2) 13-3 Georgia Tech (7) L, 69-64
2008 (6) 8-8 Boston College (11) L, 71-68
2007 (5) 10-6 Miami (12) L, 67-62
2005 (8) 7-9 Clemson (9) L, 84-72
2003 (2) 11-5 UNC (7) L, 84-72

It is true that Maryland had some nice back-to-the-wall runs in the ACC Tournament in 2009 and 2004 but those have been the exception. The senior class of Vasquez, Hayes and Milbourne has gone 2-4 in the ACC Tournament and only made it to their second game once. I have to think that Williams apathy for the ACC Tournament filters down to his team. It is no coincidence that Williams has a 24-12 record in the NCAA Tournament but has just a 17-19 record in the ACC Tournament.

I don’t care very much for the ACC Tournament myself. I think it is a very overrated event and probably bases its reputation off of game that happened over 30 years ago. It lacks the pageantry of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden and it is fairly predictable. Duke or North Carolina have won 12 of the last 13 tournaments and since 1977 the Carolina schools with semi-home games in Greensboro have won 29 out of the 34 tournaments.


As for the Georgia Tech game Maryland offense was horrendous for most of the game shooting 37% from the floor and just 4/21 from 3-point range. Greivis Vasquez had his worst game since the debacle at Clemson chucking a slew of bad shots and struggling to run the offense in the half court. It has been rare this year but he did help shoot Maryland out of the game by going 6/21 from the floor. The really bad part of that was the 11 3-point attempts he took. Many of those shots bailed out the Yellow Jackets from playing any defense. All those jump shots also failed to get Maryland to the free throw line on a night they struggled shooting. They bounced back in the 2nd half to shoot 44% but that still wasn’t great given their season numbers. The passing wasn’t as crisp as it normally is for this team and they only recorded assists on 40% of their baskets while the season average was 56%.

Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne had decent games but scored most of their points when the game was already out of reach and the Yellow Jackets got lazy on defense. I’d like to think that Milbourne’s 15 points and 6 rebounds were a sign he might be coming out of his slump but I don’t think that is likely.

Jordan Williams and Sean Mosley really struggled in this game. They combined to shoot 1/12 from the floor with Mosley not scoring a single point after being in double figures his last four games. Williams got into foul trouble and never got on track after that.

Maryland’s bench had also been a major factor in the success of the recent winning streak but Adrian Bowie, Cliff Tucker and Dino Gregory were outscored by Georgia Tech’s bench 33-11.

The most concerning aspect of the performance was Maryland’s half court defense. It was simply terrible. In the last two games Maryland has allowed Virginia and Georgia Tech to shoot over 50% from the floor and hit 17/32 3-point attempts. Georgia Tech’s historically bad ball handling (they set an ACC record for most turnovers in an ACC Tournament) were the only thing that kept them from scoring regularly. Once they got into the half court they had great success against Maryland’s defense. Contrary to the idiotic chest beating by Gani Lawal and Zach Peacock the Yellow Jackets interior play had little to do with the outcome. They only grabbed 11 offensive rebounds while Maryland had 16 while Lawal and Derrick Favors each grabbed 22 rebounds they only scored 18 points combined hitting only 6/15 free throws and turning the ball over 9 times. It wasn’t a great performance by either player. What did make a difference was Mo Miller, Brian Oliver and Peacock hitting 5/6 from 3-point range in the first half to give the Jackets a halftime cushion that they needed to hold on for the win. For the game that trio hit 7/10 from outside the arc. Maybe it was the layoff, maybe it was some dead legs but Maryland’s guards need to do a much better job on the perimeter.

As bad as Maryland played for most of the game they still had a good chance to win with under five minutes to play. Down three points at 62-59 Maryland committed two turnovers and shot 1/5 in the next 4:20 which sealed the win for Georgia Tech. Vasquez didn’t have his late game magic that he had against Duke and Virginia. The team has bounced back well from poor games at Clemson and Duke winning two and then seven games in a row. Let’s hope they can continue this trend.


xfreestater said...

I agree with you regarding the ACC tournament. I've never understood the hype surrounding the event. Frankly, it hasn't been relevant since NCST played MD in 1974 for a trip to the NCAA tournament. (I assume that was what you were referring to in the article.)

John said...

"Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne had decent games but scored most of their points when the game was already out of reach"

This game was never out of reach.

Esquire said...

Yup, the ACC Tournament has milked that 1974 game to death. Interesting since it was the stupid winner-take-all system the ACC had that was responsible for the NCAA expanding the field. The fact that a great Maryland team, maybe the greatest in school history, didn't get to play in the NCAA Tournament is a black mark on the ACC Tournament not a source of dreamy nostalgia.

Once Maryland got down by 16 points at halftime the game was most likely lost. You can see in the link below that an analysis of over six thousand college games revealed that a team with a 10 point deficit at halftime has less than a 12% chance of winning. A team with a 16 point deficit probably has a +90% chance of losing. It is true that Maryland came back to close the gap in the 2nd half, mostly due to Georgia Tech's incredibly bad ball handling, but Maryland lost that game in the 1st half.

When Losing Leads to Winning

Anonymous said...

It is very true that the ACC tournament is a North Carolina love fest, and it is unfair. However, I wish the terps would take it more seriously. Those ACC tournament games were relevant. Had Maryland advanced to at least the semifinals they might have gotten a 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. Then their road might be a little easier. That loss to Georgia Tech got them a date with Kansas if they can beat Michigan State.