Monday, December 13, 2010

Terps stumble out of gate

Up to yesterday all the basketball team had proven was that they could be competitive against the better opponents they had played this season. There were no impressive or noteworthy wins, only hollow consolation in giving good teams a "scare" before eventually losing. It was open to debate what a series of close losses really meant or how illustrative those losses were about the ability of this group. The picture got a little more clear with a loss to Boston College in the ACC season opener. It is too early in the season to panic because the squad has failed to win a game against a equal or superior opponent to this point but the ugly loss to a mediocre Boston College team should make fans worry a little.

Last season the squad underachieved in th early part of the season and you could argue that the losses last season: Cincinnati, Wisconsin, Villanova and William & Mary were worse than the losses this season. Greivis Vasquez's early season funk had Maryland struggling but I knew at some point Vasquez would snap out of it. As great as Jordan Williams has played a dominant backcourt player like Vasquez will have more effect on his team. With this squad you have to wonder who in the backcourt will be able to run the offense and provide scoring from the wing. The struggles of Cliff Tucker, Adrian Bowie and Sean Mosley have been a hot topic after the most recent games. Terrell Stoglin has come off the bench to provide scoring along with some wild shot selection. What the upperclassmen guards lack Stoglin has in spades: confidence. At this point you have to hope that Tucker will snap out of his scoring funk, he has always been a streaky and inconsistent player, and that Sean Mosley rebounds from his dreadful play to provide decent scoring and solid defense. He is doing neither at this point. If Tucker, Bowie and Mosley continue their current level of play Maryland will struggle to put together the kind of ACC season that will see them return to the NCAA tournament for the 3rd year in a row.

The collapse of the defense was the most disturbing aspect of the loss to the Eagles. This BC team is essentially the same squad that went 6-10 last season and was terrible in many aspects. Steve Donahue had a good game plan against Maryland: chuck 29 3-point shots and push the ball up the court after made baskets. Maryland's defense was so horrible that this mid-major garbage offense actually worked. There will be many ACC games this season where the shots are not falling and the Eagles will lose. For its part Maryland made journeyman Biko Paris look like J.J. Redick as he drained six 3-point shots on his way to 22 points. In the 2nd half when the defense fell apart BC made 7/12 3-point shots and shot 52% from the floor. The rebounding margin that Maryland should have enjoyed also disappeared in the 2nd half as they grabbed only 13 rebounds to BC's 17. The Terps frontcourt should have dominated the makeshift Eagle frontcourt. With BC playing three guards and two small forwards for stretches that should have been a major vulnerability and it turned out Maryland couldn't exploit it. Instead the Eagles were able to stretch Maryland on defense and have them chase all over the perimeter without paying the price for a smaller lineup.

There were several critical stretches during which Maryland had a lead and could have given a cushion on the lead and probably put away a BC team that only hit 5 field goals inside the arc the whole game. With 6:43 left in the game Maryland had a 67-64 lead and stopped Boston College on three straight possessions but squandered their chances to increase the lead. Jordan Williams dominated BC for the whole game but Maryland took two jump shots by Dino Gregory and a missed 3-pointer by Stoglin before Paris hit a three on the other end to tie the game at 67. With a 2 point lead and less than two minutes left Cliff Tucker bricked two free throws that may have iced the game. Two possessions later Stoglin was fouled on the defensive rebound and missed the front end of the one-and-one, a virtual turnover, setting up Corey Raji to hit the game winning 3-point shot. A brutal stretch of basketball. Tucker then threw the ball away off an inbound and Maryland's fate was sealed.

I'm not sure where you go from here in regards to the rotations. Pe'Shon Howard and Haukur Palsson are the only real alternatives to Tucker and Mosley but don't have much chance of adding scoring over those two. Tucker's defense was abominable in addition and he isn't scoring at least he can play solid defense. The upperclassmen are in a crisis of confidence at the moment and they need to figure out their own game over the next few weeks because trips to Cameron Indoor and at Villanova loom in January.

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