Sunday, January 31, 2010

Terps give away road win

Hard to win when you turn the ball over 26 times and shoot 35% from the floor. In spite of that Maryland had a very good chance to come away from Clemson with a win over a very vulnerable road opponent. The Tigers were ripe for the picking and hardly look anything like a team headed for the NCAA tournament. They scored 26 of their 62 points off Maryland turnovers and grabbed 20 offensive rebounds. Without those Clemson doesn't have much of a chance to win.

The three seniors were perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the game. Vasquez had his worst game of the season with almost as many turnovers (9) as points (10) and an all around awful floor game. Hayes did his share with 5 turnovers and some tepid defense while Milbourne was a virtual non-factor with 3 points on 1/8 shooting. You would expect more from seniors with so much experience even if Littlejohn has become a tough place to play. Good thing Jordan Williams decided to give notice that he will be a factor in the ACC in coming years with a very good 13 point 13 rebounds double-double.

The bench didn't offer much either as Adrian Bowie, Cliff Tucker and Dino Gregory who had more combined fouls and turnovers, ten, than points, eight. Gregory had four fouls, three turnovers and just three rebounds to go with four points.

Road wins are tough to come by in the conference this season and there is no reason to panic at a loss to Clemson. No team in the league would win a road game with 26 turnovers. The fact that Maryland still had a chance to win the game is a positive. I doubt Hayes and Vasquez will play that poorly again this year. The most disappointing aspect was that the team had most of last week to prepare for this game, after playing at home on Tuesday and did a very poor job, from the coaching staff on down. Everyone knows what Clemson likes to do with their press and on defense and yet Maryland looked befuddled and the guards seemed to lose their poise. They need to throw out the gameplan and start over for when Clemson returns to College Park.

I think Florida State is a better team than Clemson so the Terps need to get back to their play of the previous four games by the time they roll into Tallahassee.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Maryland humiliates ‘Canes

The Terps only needed 26 minutes of basketball to beat Miami last night. By the 14 minute mark of the 2nd half Maryland already had more points than the Hurricanes would score all night. The final margin may have been 22 points but the game wasn’t even that close as Miami scored 9 garbage points in the last three and a half minutes after trailing by 30. Miami freshman Durand Scott stole the ball from Cliff Tucker in the closing seconds when Gary Williams had put in the walk-ons and had the offense back off. Scott has the potential to be a good guard in the ACC but that was a bush league move.

The Terps raced to a 12-2 lead before getting lazy on offense and settling for quick jump shots. Miami could barely even get a shot off as they only had three field goal attempts in the first five and a half minutes. They clawed back into the game on the back of Adrian Thomas who made five free throws and a 3-point basket to get Miami back in striking distance. Landon Milbourne fouled on a three point attempt for the second time this season. Landon, don’t leap at 3-point shooters, mmkay?

With Miami gaining some confidence Eric Hayes nailed a 3-point attempt and Sean Mosley began to assert himself in a critical 4 minute stretch that decided the game. Mosley had several hustle plays during that time that gave Maryland extra possessions. He twice threw the ball out of bounds off a Miami player and converted a three point play off an offensive rebound. Greivis Vasquez and Landon Milbourne hit back to back 3-pointers to blow the game open with about 4 minutes left in the half. The rest of the game was just a scrimmage for the Terps as Miami didn’t seem interested in playing any organized offense or defense.

Vasquez had another good game with 16 points, 9 assists and only 2 turnovers. He had several great passes to cutters in the lane when Maryland slowed things down and made the Hurricanes chase them around in the half court. His help defense on Dwayne Collins was excellent and helped Jordan Williams shut down the leading scorer for Miami.

Landon Milbourne had another stellar game and may be getting to the point where he has shaken the inconsistency that plagued him the last two seasons. In 2008-9 he scored over 10 points only 8 times in ACC games but in the early going this year he has scored at least 11 points in all five games. He has a 9 game streak of at least 11 points scored. At times there was nothing Miami could do to stop him and his midrange jumper was deadly. If he can keep that up Maryland will be very hard for any team to beat.

Jordan Williams had a very solid game against a physical frontcourt. The freshman continues to play with little fear and scored 8 points to go with 6 rebounds. He play on the defensive glass continues to improve and he is by far the best rebounder in the front court. His defensive play against Collins was impressive as he added two steals and a block while keeping Collins out of the lane.

I already mentioned the critical play of Sean Mosley but he had another very efficient game scoring 10 points on just five field goal attempts. His seven rebounds were also very impressive along with three steals. He was all over the court and seems to never take even a minute off. He is probably already the best third guard on any team in the conference but next season he’ll be able to show that in addition to being a high effort player he is also a star in the making.

Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker continued their improved play off the bench. Bowie had 9 points and sliced through the Miami defense repeatedly. Tucker only managed 2 points but played a solid floor game. The two are continuing to provide a high level of play off the bench. I’m not sure why the announcer continued to call him “Anthony” instead of Adrian.

 

Side Rant: That crew on ESPNU was one of the worst I’ve heard all season. They struggled to find much to talk about once the game turned into a blow out but Rob Stone and Drew and Jon Berry were horrible. The banter was worthless drivel and the analysis wasn’t much better. Vasquez was compared to Larry Bird and Tyreke Evans, both observations way off the mark, and Jon Berry had the erudite observation that Gary Williams sweats. Jon Berry then went on to flatly deny that Vasquez was the best player in the ACC. You could make a case for about a half dozen players to be ACC player of the year right now (my vote would be for Al-Farouq Aminu) but to dismiss Vasquez was stupid. His brother Drew rightly pointed out that Jon Scheyer, who Jon Berry mentioned instead of Vasquez, has faded badly in ACC play. Vasquez is ahead of Scheyer in virtually every significant category as a point guard. Is there really anyone who thinks that Duke would not be better with Vasquez running their offense?

 

Eric Hayes had a quiet 10 points but drained two big 3-point shots and didn’t commit a single turnover. It is worth noting that Maryland’s turnover % is 7th best in the nation and behind only Virginia in the ACC. Given that the Cavaliers play a much slower tempo than Maryland it is even more impressive. Hayes isn’t the assist man he was last season but in five ACC games he has 16 with only 3 turnovers.

 

I’d like to see more out of Dino Gregory and James Padgett. Padgett was put in the game after it became a Maryland run away and did some decent things but I’d like to see him become more involved on the defensive end. Gregory scored 8 points, which is about the most you’ll get from his limited offensive game, but his defense wasn’t all that great (4 fouls in 14 minutes) and he didn’t grab a single rebound. It was good to see Padgett hit his two free throws.

It was exactly the kind of effort you would expect from a team that had a chance to take sole possession of 1st place in the ACC. The schedule does get more difficult with two games each against Clemson, Duke and Virginia left to go but this team is experienced enough to steal a few road games and will be extremely hard to beat at home. At this point a pedestrian 6-5 record the rest of the way gets them to 10 wins in the ACC and an NCAA birth for the second straight year.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Terps trounce Pack

Maryland’s offensive continued to fire on all cylinders against N.C. State as they shot nearly 67% from the floor in the 2nd half to blow open the game. The turning point for the game was probably at the end of the half when Maryland’s offense stagnated for a brief stretch where they went 1/8 in the last 3:48. Maryland had a 33-23 lead at that point but the lack of offense and a few quick baskets by State got the lead down to four points with about a minute left in the half. Then Javier Gonzalez and Farnold Degand both fouled Eric Hayes in the last minute and Hayes drained all four free throws. Degand’s foul was particularly bad since Hayes was under Maryland’s basket with less than five second left and little chance to score before the half. The Terps went into the half with an eight point lead instead of four and the Wolfpack missed their best chance to make a game of it in the 2nd half. In the first seven minutes of the 2nd half the Terps went on a 20-10 run and never looked back.

 

Greivis Vasquez led the team with 19 points, 17 of which were in the 2nd half. It was a good sign that even though Vasquez only had 2 points at halftime Maryland still had an eight point advantage. Most of that was due to some excellent play by Landon Milbourne, Jordan Williams and Cliff Tucker who combined for 27 points on 10/16 shooting. In the 2nd half Sean Mosley and Vasquez carried the load early as Vasquez scored 10 points in the first 7 minutes and Mosley scored six to help build a double digit lead.

 

Maryland strategy of doubling on Tracy Smith worked well initially though N.C. State was able to hit four 3-point shots in the 1st half to keep the game close. In the 2nd half the Wolfpack only managed to hit 2/10 from beyond the arc and settled for jump shots. Many State fans may grumble at Maryland’s 33 free throws compared to their team’s 16 but N.C. State only committed five more fouls the whole game. When you play passive and take a load of jump shots you are not going to get fouls. Conversely Maryland was attacking the basket for most of the game and drawing fouls. I’m surprised the foul discrepancy wasn’t higher.

 

Jordan Williams continues to improve as he scored 9 points and grabbed a team high 9 rebounds. He got help guarding Tracy Smith but held his own on the defensive end. By the end of the season Williams may be an even bigger factor on the offensive end.

 

Sean Mosley probably doesn’t get enough credit for being a very good player on this team. Vasquez rightly is in the spotlight but Mosley continues to produce solid numbers on a nightly basis. He often gets characterized as a effort player who does all the dirty work but that label tends to suggest that he isn’t much on skill and that is far from true in regards to Mosley. Even on nights when he isn’t shooting well like against Wake Forest or N.C. State he fills up the stat sheet in other ways. Against Wake he grabbed 13 rebounds to go with 8 points and on Saturday even though his shooting was off he was able to get to the free throw line 13 times. It would be more accurate to say that Mosley is a jack of all trades who can do everything well and give you production in many phases of the game. His defense hasn’t been quite as good this season as last year but it is worth the tradeoff with his impressive offensive improvements.

Sean Mosley FG% 3pt% Reb/game O Rating
2009-10 58.8 40.9 5.7 125.5
2008-9 37.0 23.8 3.7 93.9

 

Mosley has been able to make all those improvements without shooting many more shots and is one of the most efficient offensive players in the ACC.

The third forward spot continues to be a slight trouble area as Jordan Williams is still prone to foul trouble. Dino Gregory did a better job on the boards then he has been as he grabbed a decent 6 rebounds in 22 minutes. His 8 point total is a little deceiving as the majority of his scoring came with Maryland cruising with a 20 point lead. James Padgett got a few garbage minutes as the game was winding down and grabbed a few rebounds. Padgett really needs to work on his free throw shooting as it has become a major liability for a player who draws so much contact. Eric Hayes and Adrian Bowie had solid but not noteworthy games. Bowie only took one shot and Hayes went 1/6 from the floor, missing 3 of his 4 shots from outside.

It is hard to find much fault in a game that was such a thorough trouncing as you’ll find in conference play. With Maryland’s offense producing the way it is right now it will be hard to beat this team at Comcast Center. I think a major difference from early in the season is that the staff has finally figured out a good rotation and has done a better job of bringing along Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker. Tucker in particular has become an asset off the bench much like Drew Nicholas in the 2002 title season. His recent ability to do scoring damage in limited minutes has been a major factor in the impressive offense Maryland can field. Gary Williams indicated that last season it took him till about February to figure out how to best use his players. This year he seems to have found the formula a month sooner and it could result in the kind of season Maryland fans were hoping for in October.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wolfpack on the way as Terps rout Longwood

It isn’t worth delving into Maryland’s 106-55 destruction of Longwood as it wasn’t much more than a scrimmage for the Terrapins. It is worth noting that James Padgett had a nice game after Gary Williams suggested it was an important opportunity for the freshman. Padgett is still struggling with his freethrow shooting (just 2/6 in the Longwood game) but his ability to score in the low post is superior to Dino Gregory. He grabbed 7 rebounds in addition to scoring 10 points. Maryland really needs Padgett to grow into more of a threat off the bench as they get deeper into ACC play with Gregory struggling to produce any scoring for the number of minutes he is playing. Fellow freshman Jordan Williams also had a nice double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Longwood didn’t have any player who could match up with Williams and he accordingly dominated. The freshmen duo won’t have the same easy opportunities against ACC opponents but perhaps this game will serve as a confidence boost for them.

 

N.C. State continued to show that the ACC conference title race is as wide open as it has been in many years as they defeated Duke with surprising ease. Duke’s defensive effort was as poor as I’ve seen from a Blue Devil squad in a long time. I think this Wolfpack team has better chemistry than the last few years but doesn’t have near the talent to beat Duke by 14 points when you consider they have already lost four homes games. This Wolfpack team doesn’t seem to quit as easily as last year’s squad but I think it will be a real long shot for them to upset Maryland on Saturday.

 

North Carolina dropped another ACC game last night in losing to Wake Forest at home. Their recent games were certainly difficult: at Clemson, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest but two of those were home games. With only five home games remaining this young Tar Heels squad will have to find their composure very quickly or they could be relegated to the NIT before the ACC Tournament starts. The lack of leadership by seniors Deon Thompson and Marcus Ginyard has to be a huge disappointment for Roy Williams.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Vasquez, Terps blitz Eagles

Perhaps the best birthday present Greivis Vasquez could have received was the lackluster effort of Boston College on Saturday. Maryland played well but it probably didn't matter because the Eagles had such a terrible effort that it was obvious how they lost to Maine and Harvard at home. It didn't help that the Conte Forum was practically a mausoleum as students were away on break. You could clearly hear a "Let's go, Maryland" chant at times in the 2nd half. As an aside the Conte Forum has to be one of the worst venues in the ACC along with Miami's Bank United Center.

Vasquez was his old self dissecting a listless BC defense for 17 points on 7/13 shooting to go with 9 assists, 4 rebounds and two steals. In three ACC games he is averaging 23 points, 7 assists, 3.7 rebounds and shooting an impressive 41% from 3-point range. He has been playing about as well as you could hope going into the year. His shooting isn't spectacular, only 41.4% and a disappointing 60% from the free throw line, but those are the only quibbles.

Landon Milbourne played well after struggling recently with 13 points and 6 rebounds. Eric Hayes had some early foul issues and gave way to Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker who both had excellent games. Hayes finished with 7 points and 2 assists in just 24 minutes, his third lowest total of the season. The excellent play of Tucker and Bowie also cut into Sean Mosley's minutes as he only played 21 minutes but managed six points and six rebounds anyway.

Bowie had a nice game with 15 points that finally showcased the improved shooting that had been a topic going into the season. Still he didn't record a rebound or assist in 22 minutes. Cliff Tucker showed the offensive potential he has scoring 14 points in just 17 minutes and draining all three of his attempts from beyond the arc. He is somewhat like a poor man's Drew Nicholas at this point and that would certainly be a great complement for the starting backcourt. It seems Bowie and Tucker are shaking off their early season doldrums at the right time.

Neither Jordan Williams nor Dino Gregory faired well against an aggressive rebounding BC frontcourt. Williams was shut out for the first time in his career but did grab six rebounds in 22 minutes. Gregory continues to play a load of minutes without much production. As I wrote earlier anyone expecting him to be a significant rebounding factor wasn't paying enough attention to his stats last season. He played 27 minutes and only managed one rebound for a pathetic 3% defensive rebound rate. Given his limited offensive ability that cannot continue without James Padgett getting more opportunities. Gregory was decent on the defensive end if you don't count rebounding as a part of playing defense, unfortunately I do consider it a defensive responsibility. The Eagles crushed Maryland on the glass 40-28, particularly on the offensive end where they grabbed 17 offensive rebounds. It was a reminder that the Terps are still vulnerable to teams that are aggressive on the offensive boards. Gary Williams has indicated that Padgett will get a chance to show he deserves more playing time against Longwood so let us all hope he takes advantage.

There isn't much else to take from this game as Maryland was in control from start to finish. The final score doesn't really indicate how badly BC was beaten as the Terps didn't score a point for the final 3:21 of the game. The Terps have a tuneup against Longwood tonight and then get two home games against N.C. State and Miami who are a combined 2-6 in the ACC.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Struggling Eagles still dangerous

Boston College comes into the game against Maryland tomorrow having lost three out of four games including the last two by 16 and 20 points at Clemson and Duke. The Eagles have not protected their home court very well this year losing to Harvard, Rhode Island and Maine but the game against the Terps may be their best chance for a win until the calendar turns to February. After Maryland visits BC faces this stretch:

@ Miami

@ Virginia Tech

Clemson

Florida State

Duke

@ Wake Forest

@ Florida State

North Carolina

 

That is as tough a stretch as any team in the ACC. Al Skinner has a habit of getting his team to play better as the season goes along but unless they can stem the tide against Maryland it may be a prolonged losing streak for the Eagles.

Though much was made of Maryland outrebounding FSU and Wake Forest the Eagles will pose as significant a challenge on the glass as either of those teams. Boston College is first in the ACC in offensive rebound percentage (41.2%) lead by pogo stick Corey Raji who grabs 16.7% of the offensive rebounds available. The rest of team is big and physical and will challenge Maryland’s defensive rebounding to a greater degree than either FSU or Wake Forest.

If Maryland can increase the tempo of the game and get out in transition it makes a victory much more likely. The Eagles will try to play a half court game to ground down Maryland’s defense with their compact flex offense and offensive rebounding. As with Wake Forest Maryland is facing an opponent in BC that is aware of their difficult upcoming schedule and know how vital this home game is for them.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Terps need to tighten up D

I just lost a post that I wrote up so I'll just sumarize my thoughts:

The defense is really what lost the game for Maryland last night. Wake is a mediocre offensive team, 10th in the ACC ranked by efficiency according to Kenpom, and they put up a very nice 110.4 rating against the Terps last night. Too many dunks and layups to give away to a team that struggles in the half court to create offense. In the last 8 minutes of the 1st half and the last few minutes of the 2nd half Maryland struggled to keep Wake Forest out of the lane and that is what probably cost them the game. Mosley, Hayes, Gregory and Milbourne all struggled with their defensive assignments. It seems without Jordan Williams in the game the interior was much more vulnerable.

Adrian Bowie had a great game off the bench with 10 points, 4 rebounds and 3 steals. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come because with Gregory and Padgett not producing much off the bench Gary Williams needs Bowie and Cliff Tucker to produce some scoring.

Vasquez didn't have a very efficient night even if he did fill up the stat sheet with 30 points, 7 assists and 4 rebounds. He needed 27 shots to do that and turned the ball over six times as well. Though those are the facts Maryland couldn't muster much without him. In the last 4:20 of regulation Vasquez scored or assisted on every one of the final 15 points for the Terps. It is hard to blame him for a few bad shots when you think about that for a few minutes. He set up Mosley with a nice eight foot jumper in the lane that he couldn't sink that would have won the game for Maryland, not to mention what should have been a good chance at a tip in by Dino Gregory that he whiffed on as well. If his toe wasn't on the line at the end of regulation his jumper with 40 seconds left would have likely sealed the win for Maryland even with Landon Milbourne fouling Aminu on the 3-point shot to send the game to overtime. What a dumb play by a senior that was.  Vasquez will turn the ball over and take some illadvised shots but he needs more consistent support from Hayes and Milbourne if Maryland is going to make a move in the ACC.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Terps squander opportunities

It wasn't especially disappointing that Maryland lost to Wake Forest in the first road game in league play but it was the way Maryland lost the game that left me with a sour feeling. The Terps had a number of chances at the end of regulation and in overtime to put away a Wake team that was practically begging them to take a win but the Terps couldn't make a play. Sean Mosley had two shots to win the game and Dino Gregory had a put back that whiffed so it wasn't just Greivis Vasquez forcing a bad shot. It was impressive that Maryland stormed back with some clutch shooting to take a lead with about a minute left but then some dumb fouls and poor rebounding let the Deacons tie the game and send it to overtime. Wake Forest was there to be beaten and it would have given Maryland a huge road win that would have set them up nicely going to Boston College. Hopefully the Terps will learn from this game and channel their disappointment into a better defensive effort against the Eagles.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Terps ride hot shooting to win

You had to feel that Maryland couldn't sustain their 51% shooting clip of the 1st half against Florida State last night but they were able to come out in the 2nd half and still post a 48.6% shooting number to come away with a win over a very solid Seminole team. Greivis Vasquez had the most to do with that going 6/10 in the 2nd half and scoring 17 points in some critical moments. With FSU making a run and closing to within three points with 12 minutes left in the game Vasquez took over and scored 9 of Maryland's next 12 points with a steal and assist on the only other field goal the Terps scored. When Vasquez is on the top of his game, like he was for most of last night, then the Terps are competitive with almost any team. It helped that he got some help from a recently MIA Eric Hayes who was deadly from the 3-point line and Landon Milbourne who decided to play tough inside for the first time in a month.

The trio of Solomon Alabi, Chris Singleton and Ryan Reid outrebounded the quartet of Milbourne, Jordan Williams, James Padgett and Dino Gregory 27-22 but Maryland's guards combined for 11 rebounds compared with 5 for the FSU backcourt. Reid and Alabi missed significant minutes due to injury and foul trouble and that was a good thing for Maryland because Alabi dominated in the minutes he was able to play. Alabi has developed into the most complete and dominating big man in the ACC and he will make a good case for ACC player of the year if he can stay out of foul trouble.

The ability of Maryland to stay competitive in the rebounding margin and largely contain FSU's 3-point shooting (33%) are very good signs going forward. It is doubtful that Maryland will shoot 62.5% from 3-point range very often this season. Florida State does play very good half court defense but they don't pressure the ball like Duke or Clemson. Maryland is likely to struggle against a quicker and more physical backcourt.

Sean Mosley had a quiet night but was solid with 6 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists with only one turnover. Tucker split more time with Mosley and had a very good night with 8 points off the bench. Adrian Bowie continued to struggle but didn't get the quick hook like he may have in the past.

It was a great win for the Terps but there are still some elements that they need to improve going forward. Florida State probably has one of the weaker backcourts in the league and had trouble exploiting some of Maryland's defensive weakness. The foul trouble that Alabi got himself into changed the game and allowed Maryland to build a lead that they were able to maintain the whole game. Now the Terps face two legitimate road games that they should win if they hope to make a run at the NCAA tournament.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Choi latest recruiting misfire

The departure of sophomore forward Jin Soo Choi, aka Jin Soo Kim, to return to his native Korea is the latest reminder of some of the recruiting blunders that have hobbled the Maryland basketball program in recent seasons. At the beginning of the last decade Maryland was about to move into the elite of college basketball with two appearances in the Final Four and a national title. At the start of this decade it is hard to imagine that the Terrapin basketball program is anywhere near close to returning to that level of prominence anytime soon.

A variety of factors have contributed to the decline of the program's fortunes with a revolving door of assistant coaches coupled with poor scouting and recruiting. This development with Choi may indicate that despite the recent improvements in the recruiting fortunes for the staff the program is still prone to the recent stumbles that have hurt the program badly and turned it into a perennial bubble denizen. Choi's problems were mainly academic as he spoke Korean and struggled with his English as a second language(ESL) studies. He enrolled early in 2008 even though he was originally in the 2009 class and nearly lost most of his freshman season to an academic suspension that was overturned on appeal. It begs the question that if Choi's English skills were so weak that he was unable to handle ESL classes and had trouble communicating on the court with teammates and coaches why did the staff think he would be able take college courses successfully?

A 3-point specialist who was described by Gary Williams himself as the best outside shooter on the team Choi was hardly ever used in a roll to make use of that specialist skill. He may have shot near 25% for his career but he hardly had two dozen career attempts in mostly garbage time so it is worthless to extrapolate that he would never have been a decent 3-point threat. I'm not sure why a coach like Williams who has historically disdained the 3-point shot would recruit a player who was mostly valuable for his outside shooting. It wasn't as if Maryland couldn't use some help from the perimeter. Maryland has ranked 309th, 269th, 319th, 307th, 327th, 302nd and 306th in the nation since 2004 relative to the percentage of their points that come from the 3-point line. In the ACC during that time the Terrapins have ranked 9th, 8th, 11th, 10th, 12th, 11th and 9th with the last three on the list having them in the basement of the league. Since 2000-2001 when Maryland has shot poorly from outside (a mean of 181st in the nation) they have finished with an average of 7.6 league wins for 8th place and when they have shot well (37th in the nation) they finished with an average of 11.8 league wins and 2nd place. Still, Williams never really bothered to use Choi as a specialty substitute and now he departs College Park like so many other recent players without any meaningful contribution.

That doesn't make Choi exceptional. Since 2006 Maryland has seen Jerome Burney, Shane Walker, Braxton Dupree and Gus Gilchrist have little or no effect on the fortunes of the program. That doesn't even factor in role players like Dino Gregory and Steve Goins who probably have little chance to make a contribution that will be worth remembering. Some of those situations may not be all the coaching staff's fault but many of them do fall on their shoulders. I don't really blame Chuck Driesell, Keith Booth and Rob Eshan for some of those flops because they are learning how to be college level assistants on the fly. Given that fact they could have done a lot worse. Driesell and Eshan both show promise as recruiters and Booth helped land Sean Mosley who is the best young talent on the team.

Even though the future isn't all bleak the ill fated Jin Soo Choi experiment will have to go down with a host of other recent recruiting debacles that continue to haunt Maryland. It is up to head coach Gary Williams, who I have defended in the past, to commit to changing the program's fortune by bringing in the kind of players that are likely to be the kind of elite performers that Choi was unlikely to ever become.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Back in the saddle

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.