Friday, February 26, 2010

Notes on Virginia Tech

You’re bound to hear it mentioned that Virginia Tech is 6-0 at home this season in ACC play and to be sure they have played much better at home than on the road.  At home their scoring margin is +41 in six games while their road margin is -33 with losses to bottom dwellers Miami, Boston College and North Carolina. It is worth taking a closer look at their home wins however as four of the Hokies home wins against Boston College, North Carolina, Virginia and Wake Forest were by an average of just over three points. That isn’t exactly a Final Four caliber collection of teams either. In the two best home wins (Clemson and Wake Forest) that Virginia Tech has the Hokies shot 93 free throws to their opponents 48. Their margin of victory in those games was 15 points and yet they made 38 more free throws than either the Tigers or Deacons made. Virginia Tech won both those games because Clemson and Wake Forest were foolish enough to keep fouling even when they were ahead in the 2nd half. If you are able to keep from fouling the Hokies they struggle to score in the half court with a roster that consists mostly of role players. Malcolm Delaney may be near the top of the ACC in scoring per game but shoots a horrendous 36% from the floor and 23.7% from outside the arc in conference play. To put it simply Delaney’s ability to draw fouls is the only thing that makes him a legitimate offensive threat. Dorenzo Hudson and Jeff Allen are decent options but often get into trouble trying to do more than they are capable of doing. Both have a history of letting their emotions get the better of them and making dumb mistakes that cost their team. Besides those three J.T. Thompson is probably the best scoring threat off the bench and may give Maryland some problems on the inside as he is very aggressive and has a decent jumper and post moves. In contrast to some of Maryland’s recent opponents Virginia Tech has some vulnerabilities on the interior and I look for Gary Williams to use Jordan Williams to exploit that. Jeff Allen has had a habit of picking up early fouls and if the Terps can get him on the bench it will further limit the Hokies pedestrian offense. There will be some chances for offensive rebounds and interior scoring for the Terps against a modestly talented Hokies front court.

The one area that Seth Greenberg’s team excels in is team defense. The Hokies play some of the best half court defense in the ACC and will make you work for every possession on offense. Their pressure will frustrate opponents into taking bad shots that turn into run out opportunities for Virginia Tech. When opponents dribble penetrate the help defender will always swipe at the ball to get steals and deflections. Their defense really feeds their offense to a large extent. Terrell Bell is Seth Greenberg’s defensive stopper and he will almost surely get assigned the task of trying to shut down Greivis Vasquez. The excellent passing and offensive motion of Maryland versus the half court defense of Virginia Tech will be an interesting matchup. Note that Boston College’s flex offense gave the Hokies real trouble in both games they played against the Eagles. Virginia Tech is the only road venue that the seniors have not won a game in their four years at Maryland.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Terrapins catch Tigers

In the 1st half Maryland’s defense looked about as settled as Greivis Vasquez’s stomach. The senior had to take some medication for an upset stomach prior to the game and it may have caused his slow start as he deferred to his teammates and couldn’t get his shot going with just two points on 1/6 shooting by halftime. Though he wasn’t scoring Vasquez had 8 assists in the first half helping Eric Hayes, Sean Mosley and Jordan Williams keep the Terps in the game. Mosley shook off his shooting slump and scored 11 points on 4/5 from the floor. He looked more confident than he has in months and took his shots in the flow of the offense. Hayes seems to have fully recovered from the flu bug that caused his play to drop off. His 12 points in the 1st half kept Maryland from getting blown out as Clemson was doing whatever they wanted on offense.

Maryland continued its strategy of doubling on Trevor Booker but it didn’t help much in the 1st half as Booker scored at will with 11 points and 8 rebounds by the half. When Booker wasn’t scoring Clemson was killing Maryland with a drive and kick offense that allowed them to drain 8/16 three point shots. In addition the vulnerability of Maryland to offensive rebounds was evident again as the Tigers grabbed 9 offensive rebounds. Clemson isn’t a great shooting team and struggles in the half court so you had to expect that their torrid shooting pace wouldn’t last but if they kept getting second chance points it wouldn’t matter much.

At halftime the staff stopped doubling as hard on Booker and it helped to limit the dribble penetrations that were giving Clemson open looks from the perimeter. It helped that forward Jerai Grant of Clemson got in early foul trouble and only managed 10 minutes before he fouled out with no points. It was a huge advantage for Maryland as Clemson’s replacements could not offer the scoring that Grant has provided them the last few weeks. Without an effective alternative Booker found it much harder to get opportunities in the 2nd half and only scored two points at the free throw line the entire rest of the game. The Terrapins were also able to turn the tables on Clemson and pressure them into 10 turnovers after the half.  As Maryland packed in their defense Clemson started settling for 3-point shots but only went 3/14 in the last 20 minutes. That is a large part of why Maryland took 22 free throws in the 2nd half while Clemson only took four. The Terps were much more aggressive on offense and were able to draw fouls when the Tigers tried to up the pressure on defense.

When Maryland was able to whittle the score down to six points four minutes into the 2nd half and Vasquez still sitting on two points you had the feeling that it was only a matter of time before Vasquez asserted himself and took the game over. Starting with 10 minutes left in the game Vasquez did just that and over the pivotal four minutes that followed Vasquez had five points, three assists and two steals. Maryland went on a 17-4 run over that four minute span and Vasquez had a hand in 13 of those points. He didn’t have a good shooting night but scored 11 points in the final 8 minutes and hit some big shots. His 3-point shot with 7:26 left in the game gave Maryland a lead they would not relinquish. Vasquez’s pull up jumper with less than a minute left as the shot clock ticked down sealed the game for his team. It may not have seemed that Vasquez played a very good game because he was silent for long stretches but then you realize he had 15 points and 13 assists it becomes more clear how important he is to this team. His three steals were also critical down the stretch and were indicative of the excellent defense he played in the 2nd half.

Jordan Williams continues to defy expectations as he handled Booker in the 2nd half on defense while scoring 12 points in the last 20 minutes. He finished with 18 points and 5 rebounds but the low rebound total was partially due to Booker dragging Williams away from the basket towards the 3-point line for much of the 2nd half. While it limited Williams rebounding it also prevented Booker from being much of a factor on the offensive glass. In contrast to most freshmen Williams production is increasing as the season is wearing on.

The one weakness to Williams’ game is his free throw shooting and the freshman admitted it is one of the reasons that he isn’t on the floor as much at the end of close games. He has only hit 9 of his last 22 free throw attempts and would have scored over 20 points in two of the last three games had he hit those shots.

Cliff Tucker didn’t need any heroics in this game but he is growing into a solid bench contributor and Gary Williams seems to be more comfortable having Tucker on the floor in critical stretches of the game. He offers a very different look over Sean Mosley and his ability to shoot from outside and slash to the basket is a valuable asset. His six 2nd half points came at some critical moments in the game.

Dino Gregory and James Padgett also provided some valuable minutes off the bench. As Landon Milbourne continues to struggle the 8 rebounds Padgett and Gregory provided were crucial. It was nice to see Padgett getting rewarded for working hard as his 6 minutes were as many as he played in the prior two games combined.

I felt the Georgia Tech win would give this group a new level of confidence going down the stretch. Sure it was miraculous but the grit and determination that they showed in the last two games against likely NCAA tournament teams was impressive. Now firmly in second place in the ACC Maryland has a chance to make a run at the conference regular season title with a home game against Duke next week. A road game at Virginia Tech stands between Maryland and the showdown with the Blue Devils. Like most ACC teams the Hokies are a much better home team and are desperate after getting hammered by 20 points at Boston College. It will be another good test for this veteran group.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Clemson notes

Some trends to keep an eye on tonight as Maryland battles Clemson at Comcast Center.

  • Clemson has never won consecutive road games against Maryland, a span of 61 games going back to 1938
  • Clemson is 1-4 on the road in the ACC this season, their only win a 73-70 game at N.C. State
  • Clemson is 7-2 in their last nine games against the Terps with five taking place at Clemson or neutral sites
  • Starting with the earlier game against Maryland Clemson forward Jerai Grant is averaging 12.4 points and 9.2 rebounds per game and shooting 71.8% from the floor
  • In his last three games Clemson’s Andre Young is shooting 50% (9/18) from 3-point range
  • Landon Milbourne has scored in double digits only once in the last four games averaging 7.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and shooting 36% from the floor during that span
  • Jordan Williams is averaging 13 points and 11.3 rebounds over his last three games while shooting 69.5% from the floor
  • Greivis Vasquez has never scored more than 15 points against Clemson averaging 12 points, 4.6 assists and shooting 41% from the field (his career numbers against Miami are worse in case you were wondering)
  • The last two wins Clemson had at Comcast Center were by three (let us not talk of this) and four points
  • Terrapins are 10-3 in February home games the last four seasons

Demontez Stitt and Trevor Booker will probably get a fair amount of attention tonight but as you can see above Andre Young and Jerai Grant have been doing more to help Clemson win lately than either of the “stars” for the Tigers.

 

Jason Gasaway over at the Basketball Prospectus pities the 2 seed that may draw Maryland in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. I imagine Mike Montgomery was pretty upset to see his 7 seed Cal team have to face a streaking 10 seed Maryland last year. If Duke ends up with a 2 seed, which seems likely, that would eliminate Maryland from their half of the bracket and that leaves the other consensus 2 seeds as: Villanova, West Virginia and Kansas State. I doubt any of those teams want to face an experienced and dangerous team like Maryland so early.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Terps slip past Yellow Jackets at buzzer

What a great moment for junior guard Cliff Tucker. In his two and a half years at Maryland Tucker has let his frustration at a lack of playing time get the better of him and hasn’t consistently played with good effort. It is worth noting that just last season Tucker was seen laughing on the end of the bench with Braxton Dupree as Maryland lost an overtime game against Florida State and then later went public with his frustrations about his lack of playing time after a critical win later in the season. Both incidents showed a disappointing lack of maturity and called into question if Tucker would ever possess the work ethic to be anything more than a role player. Tucker has admitted that he was lazy at times and let himself turn apathetic on and off the court. It is a obvious lesson that you’ll never win more playing time by giving up. His playing time is still not consistent as he played 46 minutes against Duke and Virginia while only logging 18 minutes against N.C. State and Georgia Tech. Part of that is due to the foul situation that Sean Mosley is in during any particular game but it has also been a byproduct of Gary William’s tunnel vision during close games. Tucker is posting an impressive 115.4 offensive rating on 47% shooting in ACC play. His floor game has improved though he doesn’t rebound well, even for a guard. With Sean Mosley’s struggles on offense it would make sense for Tucker to get a longer look especially when the Terps’ offense is not clicking.

 

Somewhat lost in the euphoria over Tucker’s buzzer beater was Greivis Vasquez reaching the 2,000 point mark to become the only player in ACC history with 2,000 points, 700 assists and 600 rebounds. That is damn impressive. Vasquez didn’t play a great game and his shot selection was very poor but he and Eric Hayes were the only players in double figures for the game. He was able to get to the free throw line when Maryland’s offense was in a rut and if Landon Milbourne and Dino Gregory could have done a halfway decent job rebounding Georgia Tech’s miss in the closing seconds Vasquez’s runner with 13 seconds left would have been the game winner. It seems ridiculous to criticize an 18 point, 8 assist and 5 rebound game from the best player on the team. With his last couple of games he has raised the bar to a unrealistic level and you seem to just expect the exceptional to be commonplace.

 

It is a good thing the old Eric Hayes returned after having what was described as a acute case of the flu that hobbled him for the N.C. State game. Hayes finished with 15 points and five assists while hitting a bunch of clutch shots including two with Maryland trailing 68-66 with just over two minutes remaining in the game. A fabulous floating runner and a baseline 3-point shot put Maryland up 71-68.

 

Georgia Tech is a bad matchup for Landon Milbourne and it showed as he went 2/11 from the floor and only scored 5 points. Like Vasquez his shot selection wasn’t the best but he contributed with 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks and a steal. Neither he nor Dino Gregory had a prayer of limiting Derrick Favors who dominated both of them to the tune of 21 points and 18 rebounds. I really don’t understand why Gary Williams had Gregory and Milbourne both in the game in the closing minutes. It was obvious that Georgia Tech was knocking them around the boards like a couple of rag dolls and Gregory failed to even get a body on Favors when he tipped in the rebound to give GT the lead 74-73 with three seconds left. Jordan Williams is a better offensive and defensive player than Gregory and I thought it was a mistake by Gary Williams that nearly cost Maryland the game. Gregory did have some good moments in the 1st half in scoring 9 points but he only grabbed 2 rebounds in 16 minutes, turned the ball over because he failed to realize he couldn’t run the baseline off a deadball inbound and then missed a layup with under a minute left and Maryland ahead by one point. Jordan Williams held his own with 9 points and 12 rebounds and is showing that he can play with anyone in the ACC. His hustle for a rebound in the closing minutes that resulted in a jump ball for Maryland was very impressive and helped turn the tide in Maryland’s favor. A play that won’t show up in the box score but was crucial.

 

In addition to Tucker Adrian Bowie had a nice game with six points all from 3-point baskets. He seems to have a rejuvenated confidence in his shooting and that is a great sign for Maryland. He and Tucker combined to go 4/6 from 3-point range and score 14 points.

 

Maryland’s offense looked spotty mostly because they were taking bad shots early in the shot clock. This bailed Georgia Tech out from guarding the flex for 20+ seconds and helped them get a few fast break baskets. Once Maryland started moving the ball better the offense really picked up and they shot 50% in the 2nd half. The offensive rebounds by Georgia Tech kept the Jackets in the game and prevented Maryland from extending it’s lead past 5 points on numerous occasions. You have to give Derrick Favors the appropriate credit for having a phenomenal game on the offensive glass but there were times when Maryland players were in position and failed to box out Yellow Jackets. Milbourne and Gregory combined to grab a mere 22.5% of the defensive rebounds while Jordan Williams had 26.3% by himself. With Duke and Clemson still on the schedule they need to do a better job if Gary Williams is going to continue to play that duo together.

 

If Sean Mosley doesn’t throw a lazy inbounds pass that is stolen and nearly turned into a break away dunk with about 5 minutes left does Cliff Tucker come in to replace him and hit the game winning shot? If Keith Booth had not called a timeout with 1.5 seconds left would Vasquez’s running bank 3-point basket have won the game anyway? I think it was still a decent decision by Booth even though Gary Williams nearly had a stroke. What a crazy finish. Back when Maryland dropped a home game to William & Mary the season wasn’t looking very promising so I consoled myself watching the ending of the 2003 NCAA Tournament game against UNC Wilmington when Drew Nicholas hit a 3-point shot as time expired. Tucker’s shot wasn’t nearly as big but it is a nice reminder of the kind a magic that Maryland’s program enjoyed in the not so distant past.

Friday, February 19, 2010

ACC news & notes

Could Duke be in for another late season slide? According to John Gasaway at the Basketball Prospectus it looks very likely. Duke is clearly the best team in the conference but they have shown some weakness, particularly away from Cameron. That makes the potential showdown with Maryland the second to last game of the season very intriguing.

If you want a conference dark horse take a look at Florida State. Sitting at 7-5 with a sweep of Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech the Seminoles have a very favorable remaining schedule with road games at North Carolina and Miami and home games against Clemson and Wake Forest, neither of which are particularly good road teams. The offense has improved the last four games while Michael Snaer and Xavier Gibson are providing more reliable bench scoring that wasn’t there earlier in the season. If Maryland falters you could see the Seminoles finish 2nd in the ACC.

On the other hand Clemson is probably the most likely team to stumble to the finish. Never a particularly great road team Clemson must travel to Maryland, FSU and Wake Forest in their last five games. Throw in a home game against Georgia Tech and that is probably the most difficult remaining slate for any of the teams near the top.

My predicted finish for the ACC:

 

  1. Duke (13-3)
  2. FSU (11-5)
  3. Virginia Tech (11-5)
  4. Maryland (10-6)
  5. Wake Forest (10-6)
  6. Georgia Tech (8-8)
  7. Clemson (8-8)
  8. Virginia (6-10)
  9. North Carolina (5-11)
  10. Boston College (5-11)
  11. Miami (4-12)
  12. N.C. State (3-13)

I might be a little pessimistic about Maryland’s chances but I wouldn’t want to seem like a homer. It would be nice to finally get a top-4 first round bye in the ACC Tournament and that could set up a rematch of the 85-83 overtime loss to Wake Forest.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Terps claw out win

It looked as if all the speculation regarding the fact that Maryland had to play three games in five days resulting in a disadvantage might actually have some merit for the first 20 minutes of the game against N.C. State. The Terps looked lethargic and unemotional in letting a pathetic Wolfpack team run out to a 10 point halftime lead. Outside of Greivis Vasquez and Jordan Williams the rest of the team did little on offense and the defensive effort was horrendous. Once again offensive rebounds by State were a big factor in helping them to a halftime lead as they grabbed 7 offensive boards in the 1st half. Dennis Horner took advantage of Landon Milbourne on the defensive end scoring 9 points and grabbing 6 rebounds in only 12 minutes. Not that the rest of the team did a good job on defense as they allowed the Wolfpack to shoot 44% for the half. Gary Williams was calling time outs and vacillating between apoplectic fits and disgust but nothing seemed to be working. He referred to the haltime locker room as “intense” in one of his signature understatements. Lucky for this team he seems to have a bunch that respond well to his explosions. Jordan Williams missed a few assignments in the 1st half but kept his head in the game and along with Vasquez carried the team to a victory.

The Terps didn’t come out like gangbusters to start the 2nd half as they went down by 12 within the first three minutes. The Terps traded baskets before the critical stretch of the game with 14:17 left and down by 10 at 46-36 Adrian Bowie made a layup to spark a 17-5 run for Maryland. Bowie seemed to gain confidence with his shot and scored 8 points in that decisive five minutes, including two 3-point shots. I’m sure State didn’t feel that Bowie was a threat from the outside and with his 24% shooting from outside coming into the game I can’t blame them. It was impressive that in such a clutch moment Bowie was able to take advantage of the opportunities he was presented.

With 8:21 left Greivis Vasquez drained a 3-point basket to give Maryland a 53-51 lead that they would not relinquish. From that point on Vasquez scored 10 points and Jordan Williams scored 5 points and grabbed four rebounds. Of Maryland’s final 17 points of the game Sean Mosley was the only other player to score on two free throws when State was forced to foul. As I wrote earlier Williams rebounded from a 1st half where he struggled like everyone else to finish with 19 points and 11 rebounds and provide some real low post scoring punch. Unlike seniors Eric Hayes (zero points) and Landon Milbourne (4/11 shooting) who never really got on track the freshman showed impressive poise in pivotal moments. Williams doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of hitting the freshman wall. Indeed his minutes, points and shooting percentage are all rising. Since the game at Clemson Williams is averaging 10.1 points and 9 rebounds a game while shooting 58% from the floor. He did this against the likes of Trevor Booker, Solomon Alabi, Ed Davis and Tracy Smith. Not too shabby.

Maryland did make some defensive adjustments in the 2nd half by deciding to pack in their defense since State went 2/11 from outside the arc in the 1st half. That eliminated many of the dribble penetrations that were scattering Maryland’s defense and allowing offensive rebounds. The press that Maryland employed didn’t result in steals but did get the Wolfpack to increase their tempo which resulted in some poor shots and unforced turnovers. The Terps have not had much success with their press all season but in this particular game it did have some peripheral benefits. You wouldn’t know that Maryland was the team on short rest from the box score as Sidney Lowe had a ridiculous 44 substitutions in the game compared to just 26 for Maryland. That probably contributed to the lack of continuity that plagued N.C. State in the 2nd half. Lowe also found no way to get his best player, Tracy Smith, involved in the game. Maryland was doubling Smith, as they did in the last game, but having Farnold Degand, Scott Wood and Julius Mays take as many field goal attempts as your one true great player is another Sidney Lowe coaching lowlight.

With another big frontline coming up in the next game against Georgia Tech it will be imperative for Milbourne, Gregory and Williams to hold their own on the defensive glass. Back in Comcast Center I expect Maryland’s shooting to return to normal and give the Terps a great chance to add the ninth ACC win of the season.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Vasquez loves the Pack

I doubt Greivis Vasquez has better career numbers against any team in the ACC than N.C. State. In six games this is what he has done:

 

Pts/game FG% 3pt% Ast/game Reb/game TO
17.1 48 40 7.5 3.5 2.3

 

He had the second highest scoring game of his career against N.C. State at Raleigh last season when he tallied 33 points including a last second 3-point shot that infuriated the Wolfpack fans. If history is any guide Vasquez is bound to hear a slew of nasty things from one of the most vulgar student sections in the ACC. Unfortunately for N.C. State fans that usually just makes Vasquez play better. In his six games against the senior has 45 assists, including two double digit games and just 14 turnovers.

 

Also worth noting that Maryland has only two victories that were less than 10 points and only two defeats that were in double digits.

All records are not equal

Too many basketball pundits and fans take as self evident that all league records are equal. In the post expansion era of ACC basketball nothing could be further from the truth and to evaluate a team you have to look at who they played and where they played them.  Here is a breakdown of the opponent’s conference records as they stand right now for ACC teams:

 

ACC games only Record Opponent’s
W-L record
Opponent’s Win. %
Duke 9-2 82-94 0.466
Virginia Tech 8-3 74-101 0.422
Maryland 7-3 87-89 0.494
Wake Forest 8-4 77-98 0.440
Clemson 6-5 91-85 0.517
FSU 6-5 85-91 0.482
Georgia Tech 6-6 92-84 0.522
Virginia 5-5 89-88 0.502
Miami 3-8 93-83 0.528
UNC 3-8 96-82 0.539
Boston College 3-8 95-81 0.539
N.C. State 2-9 95-80 0.542

 

Duke suffers in this analysis because they don’t have the opportunity to play themselves and it makes their schedule appear less impressive. In a similar manner it would make sense that some teams at the bottom have their numbers inflated because they don’t have the chance to play themselves and drag their schedule down. It is obvious that Wake Forest and particularly Virginia Tech have the records they do because they play the easiest schedules in the league by a wide margin. The Hokies sitting at 8-3 are probably the best example of the unbalanced schedule helping a team to a record that probably doesn’t reflect their true quality. Virginia Tech doesn’t play a home-and-home with a single team in the top six of the conference standings an unbelievable stroke of luck for a team that had a weak non-conference slate and didn’t have a single noteworthy win coming into conference play. Furthermore the Hokies get home games for the only meeting of the season against three of the top four opponents in the current standings. It isn’t much mystery that the Hokies are 8-3 after playing six home games. They have failed to prove themselves capable of winning on the road with their best win coming in overtime against a slumping Virginia squad. They have already lost on the road to UNC and Miami who are a combined 6-16 in league play yet the record of the road opponents in league play is a horrendous 37-51. They have two legitimate road test left on their schedule at Duke and Georgia Tech so it will be worth watching how Virginia Tech performs in those venues. Wake Forest also has reason to be grateful to the schedule maker as their record is only slightly easier than the Hokies. The Deacons only face Duke, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Florida State once but do have a tougher road schedule than Virginia Tech. There isn’t much the league can do about the scheduling since expansion had nothing to do with what was best for basketball. The ACC should change the tie breaking procedure for the ACC tournament seeding. A team should not win the tiebreaker for beating their opponent only once on their home floor. Instead the higher seed should be given to the team with the better record against opponents who finished higher in the league standings. If two teams were tied and one beat the other on the road in the only meeting of the season then I could see giving the team that won a tiebreaker on that basis.

It has become clear since expansion that ACC basketball has not been the same as when every team had an equal schedule. Their are still great teams and great programs but a winning league record used to be proof a team had a good season in the ACC, not so any longer. It probably makes the ACC tournament even more significant than in past years. At least there all the teams are on a level playing field, though I’m sure Gary Williams would disagree with that assessment in Greensboro.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Vasquez torches Wahoos

Maryland didn’t spend much time dwelling on the defeat at the hands of Duke on Saturday and like a veteran team they put it behind them and got ready for the next opponent. On the back of a virtuoso performance by Greivis Vasquez Maryland trampled the Cavaliers in a game that was even more lopsided than the final 19 point margin. The senior guard had 25 points in the first half and ended up with 30 hitting 12 of his 19 shot attempts. Vasquez probably could have gone for 40 points but he stopped looking for his shot in the 2nd half and deferred to his teammates on most offensive sets. Tony Bennett tried nearly every guard he had to stop Vasquez but none of them could do anything to cool his hot hand. He added 8 rebounds and 5 assists without a single turnover. He got some better contributions from his fellow seniors as Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne both chipped in 8 points in the 1st half and finished with 10 and 14 points respectively. Hayes didn’t pour in points but was very efficient on 4/6 shooting and handled the ball much better on his way to a season high 9 assists with only 2 turnovers. Milbourne did struggle to guard Mike Scott who is one of the more baffling players in the ACC. Scott has the talent to be a poor man’s Al-Farouq Aminu but doesn’t have the consistency or the help on this inside to consistently produce.

Jordan Williams bounced back from a poor game against Duke to post a double-double, his fourth of the season, with 11 points and 11 rebounds. He left four points at the foul line by missing all but one of his five free throws. His defensive rebounding was excellent and he helped the team grab an impressive 73.7% of the defensive rebounds. For the game the Terps outrebounded UVA 42-28 which was Maryland’s best performance in ACC play. He had several nice baseline moves and played with much better effort.

Dino Gregory did what he is good at and hit his free throws to finish with 7 points and 2 rebounds. James Padgett played more minutes (13) than in any other ACC game this season. It was nice to see Gary Williams get him involved in the game before it became a blowout and the play became sloppy. The freshman scored 4 points, tying a season high in ACC play, and grabbed a rebound. It seems in the last three games that Williams is making a more conscious effort to get Padgett playing time as he logged 28 minutes in the last three games after only playing one minute against FSU and Clemson.

Sean Mosley got into early foul trouble trying to contain Sylven Landesberg which limited him to just 9 minutes but that opened up things for Cliff Tucker who played 22 minutes and did a decent job with his opportunity. Tucker scored 7 points, hauled in 3 rebounds and added 3 assists for a nice all-around floor game. Tucker has been improving the last three games during which he is averaging 8.6 points and shooting 45.8% from the floor. Adrian Bowie also logged 13 minutes but he is still trying to find his way on offense.

 

Sean Mosley is in a bit of a slump. Right now he is giving valuable contributions on defense but his play in most areas has declined since the start of league play. As you can see below his offensive rating has dropped off dramatically.

The January 19 game was against Longwood and his rating has been dropping ever since. His shooting percentage in ACC play has fallen to 38% down from the 40% he shot last season. Mosley looks uncomfortable on offense and out of rhythm. It is a complete turnaround from earlier in the season when Sean looked very confident in his role. Now he is barely taking any shots and isn’t participating much in the offense. I’m not sure if the ankle sprain he suffered is bothering him but it would explain his disappearance. The rebounding struggles the team has had recently are also related to Mosley’s slump.

As you can see above Mosley has been making less of an impact rebounding that he was earlier in the ACC season. That has left the Terps vulnerable to opponents crashing the boards as Duke did with vigor. With games against Georgia Tech and Clemson coming up getting Mosley back on track will be vital. None of this implies that Mosley is not a very good player, on the contrary I think it illustrates how much better this team can be when he is playing like he is capable of playing.

An interesting note is that the Terps scored 85 points but only took 8 3-point shots and hit 4 while also only shooting 15 free throws. It is impressive to score that many point while not scoring much from either the foul line or outside the arc. The Maryland offense at Comcast Center this season has been amazing.

Monday, February 15, 2010

President Mote to retire

Maryland president C.D. Mote will retire at the end of this summer but will retain his faculty position with the University. Mote came to Maryland in 1998 from the University of California at Berkley and has presided over the rise in the academic reputation of Maryland to one of the top public universities in the country. The number of applicants and the quality of the applicants has risen while Mote was at the head of the University. On the sports side Mote’s leadership has not always been stellar. He was an academic at heart, certainly not a negative as a college president, but was reluctant to get overly involved in the running of the athletic department even in moments when his intervention would have spared the University negative publicity. With the recent media disasters that Maryland athletics has endured Mote was often no where to be found and relied on the Athletic Department to handle issues that they were ill equipped and ill tempered to successfully resolve.  Maryland needs a strong personality to reign in Athletic Director Debbie Yow and facilitate her eventual replacement. With Mote’s departure hopefully the University can begin the process of transitioning to a new era of athletics and academics in College Park.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Offense never thaws in rout

Maryland never really competed at Duke and dropped another tough road game, 77-56. If you wondered how the week long layoff caused by the historic snowfall that cancelled the Virginia game would effect the Terps you had your answer in the first ten minutes of the game as they went down 20-6 only hitting three field goals in the first 9 minutes and turning the ball over five times. Greivis Vasquez was out of sync in the opening minutes and none of his teammates looked much better. Cliff Tucker came off the bench to score a quick six points and keep Maryland within shouting distance but went 2/9 the rest of the game. Landon Milbourne had his worst game of the season and it would have made little difference if had never made it out of snowy Washington. Eric Hayes was uncharacteristically weak with his ball handling and made several unforced turnovers leading the team with four. Sean Mosley had several good looks that he never converted and did a dreadful job on defense. Jordan Williams and Dino Gregory helped to make Brian Zoubek look like Bill Russell as the stiff and unskilled center scored 16 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in just 22 minutes. That is perhaps the most appalling part of this 21 point rout. Williams looked overwhelmed by his first trip to Cameron Indoor and struggled particularly in defense. He wasn’t a big factor in the half court offense. This game should explode the myth that Dino Gregory is a good defensive player. He was easily outplayed by Mason Plumlee and Zoubek and was little help in stopping Duke from grabbing 20 offensive rebounds.

 

Vasquez managed to right himself in the 2nd half to finish with 17 points (7/12 shooting) and 7 rebounds but none of his teammates were able to do much of anything. In a battle of the role players Maryland was dominated. Outside of Vasquez the rest of the team shot 16/49 (32.6%) including 0/10 from 3-point range. Duke’s strategy seemed to be to key on Vasquez and make someone else beat them. It turned out that no one on Maryland could.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Duke next, reflections on Bud Millikan

Former Maryland basketball coach Bud Millikan passed away last month at the age of 89. He coached the Terrapins from 1950-1967 and was and lead Maryland basketball into the ACC era.   Millikan’s 199 wins while coaching when Maryland was in the ACC still rank 13th all time among ACC coaches and his 105 wins in ACC games rank him 11th on the all time list ahead of famous ACC coaches like Jim Valvano and Everette Case. In 1958 Millikan’s team won the ACC championship and made it to the Elite Eight finishing with a 22-7 record and ranked 6th in the AP poll.

Millikan’s legacy sometimes gets little attention because Lefty Driesell’s outsized personality and bombast tend to obscure any prior history at Maryland. Millikan was also forced out in 1967 because he had four losing seasons in his last six years and his recruiting was considered poor. One recruit he brought to Maryland was a skinny but scrappy point guard who couldn’t shoot to save his life named Gary Williams. Millikan instilled in Williams the principles of his mentor Hank Iba who believed in tough defense and highly disciplined teams. That legacy carries through to today with Gary Williams.

 

Barry Jacobs of the ACC Sports Journal has a great article on another aspect of Millikan that doesn’t get discussed much either. Millikan was the first coach in the ACC to integrate and put African American players on the varsity team. Billy Jones and Julius Johnson played varsity for Maryland in the 1965-66 season and became the first black players in the ACC in either football or basketball. At a time when such a move was not popular in the state of Maryland let alone the deep south of the ACC it took a great deal of courage for Millikan to break such social taboos. Millikan’s understated public profile probably did a disservice to the man and basketball coach. His legacy was undervalued by fans of Maryland and the ACC and still is to this day because Millikan came from an era where self promotion and showmanship was not part of being a basketball coach.

 

With Duke winning at Chapel Hill the other night the Terps head to Durham for a showdown between the two best teams in the ACC according to the Basketball Prospectus. It is true that the ACC is a jumbled mess. Early season favorites like UNC, Clemson and Florida State have all stumbled badly and it isn’t clear that teams like Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest are as good as their records. Both Wake and Virginia Tech have lost to cellar dweller Miami while Virginia’s wins came over teams with a combined league record of 14-35. Virginia Tech barely beat Boston College and UNC at home so with home games against Virginia, Wake Forest and Maryland to go with road games against Duke, BC and Georgia Tech it is unlikely that the Hokies will do much better than 3-4 the rest of the way. As for Maryland a road win at Duke may silence all the doubters out there that still feel like the Terps are not a legitimate threat to win the ACC.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Heels Buried by 3-point Blizzard

It took some fantastic outside shooting in the 1st half and determined defense in the 2nd half for Maryland to put away North Carolina in a 92-71. In much the same way that North Carolina jumped on the Terps at Chapel Hill last season with hot perimeter shooting Maryland connected on nine 3-point shots in the 1st half and that was enough to carry them until they were able to make stops in the 2nd half.

 

Greivis Vasquez may have pulled in front in the race for ACC player of the year with another impressive performance. The senior finished with 26 points and 11 assists while orchestrating the Maryland attack and making critical shots. It was exactly the kind of performance that Maryland fans were hoping for in his final season. Roy Williams didn’t have anyone to match up with Vasquez and that about decided the outcome.  While Vasquez did take 23 shots to score 26 points he also distributed the ball with 11 assists including several moments when he could have taken a shot and passed it to a teammate.

 

Eric Hayes had one of his best games of the season with 16 points on only six field goal attempts hitting four 3-point baskets. He also added four rebounds and five assists to make a very good floor game to go with his scoring. Fellow senior Landon Milbourne had a sluggish first half on offense but had one of his best defensive efforts of the season with 3 blocks and 3 steals against a tall UNC frontcourt. He came on strong in the 2nd half and finished with 15 points on 5/10 shooting and 5 rebounds and outworked the star players for the Tarheels in the paint.

 

Jordan Williams struggled guarding Dion Thompson at times but had a solid effort against Ed Davis and finished with 8 points and lead the team with 6 rebounds. His frontcourt mate Dino Gregory had another 8 point effort and got all his scores right around the rim. Gregory continues to struggle to limit offensive rebounds as UNC grabbed 16 offensive rebounds. It will be a factor worth watching when Maryland’s hot shooting cools in certain games. The large lead allowed James Padgett to get some minutes as well and he nearly grabbed as many rebounds as Gregory did in less than half the minutes.

Sean Mosley has been in a minor slump and his minutes were take by Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker for a good bit of the 1st half. He didn’t score a point in the half and only played 8 minutes while Bowie played 12 and Tucker played 6 minutes. Mosley got back on track in the 2nd half with 8 points on 4/4 shooting and three assists. It sometimes isn’t clear just how important Mosley is to this team if it aspires to challenge Duke for supremacy of the conference. With two games against Duke looming later this season the Terps will need Mosley’s rebounding and toughness.

 

Cliff Tucker didn’t play extended minutes but he again showed his proclivity for production against the Tarheels. His 3-point shooting has cooled recently and the junior is only 2/12 since the Boston College game. He was aggressive and engaged in the game for the time he played against UNC and that makes a tremendous difference for a player like Tucker. Adrian Bowie has played a fair amount of minutes recently but has struggled to produce many points so far this season. His defense against the Tarheels was fairly good and he plays much better on both ends of the floor when he plays intense defense. Bowie is struggling with his confidence on offense and is passing up some shots he should otherwise take for himself. He is only 1/11 from the floor in the last three games.

 

One other interesting note in this game is that Maryland’s press had little effect on North Carolina’s guards. It actually gave UNC several good looks at the basket that they just could not convert into points.

 

The Maryland students, who made a great atmosphere given the circumstances, probably should not have chanted “NIT, NIT” to North Carolina in the closing moments and Gary Williams himself was not too pleased with that taunt. It is no secret to readers of this blog that I’m not the biggest Roy Williams fan around but he has won two national titles since returning to Chapel Hill. I have no sympathy for North Carolina, they can console themselves with a couple of Final Fours and a National Title the last few seasons if their team ends up in the NIT, but they deserve a little more respect than what they were given. Maryland’s win over North Carolina probably got them into the NCAA tournament last season and saved Maryland from another season ending in the NIT. It is harder these days to get into the NCAA tournament currently than any time since the tournament expanded to 64 teams. Billy Donovan won back-to-back titles just a few years ago and might be headed to his third NIT in a row this year. With the Terps struggles since winning their lone championship it probably doesn’t merit such a glib response from the fans when a proud program like Carolina endures some struggles of their own.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Ugly on and off the court

It wasn’t a beautiful performance by Maryland in Tallahassee and it was downright ugly off the floor as Seminole fan’s engaged in borderline racist heckling of Greivis Vasquez but the Terps came away with an essential road win. Just by the computer numbers the win at Florida State was probably more helpful than a win over Clemson would have been last Sunday. The Seminoles already hold a season sweep over Georgia Tech and have an easier schedule remaining than Clemson with two games against Miami and home games against Boston College, Clemson and Wake Forest. It is likely that FSU will finish with at least an 8-8 record in the ACC and probably will have a winning record.

 

The beginning of the game was similar to the offensive debacle against Clemson. Maryland had a slew of careless turnovers and was taking poor shots in the half court. That resulted in 38% shooting from the floor and misses on all six 3-point attempts. Outside of Vasquez the rest of the team shot 7/21 from the floor. Florida State also dominated the Terps in rebounding with 11 offensive rebounds to the 12 total that Maryland recorded in the 1st half. Along with 7 turnovers by Maryland that allowed Florida State to actually go into halftime leading by four even though they shot 33% for the half.

 

The change at halftime was obvious from the opening moments as Maryland scored seven straight points to take a 32-29 lead. The team showed more poise than they had against Clemson and had the patience to run their offensive sets. The result was that Maryland shot 46.7% from the floor in the 2nd half including a decent 38% from beyond the arc in the last 20 minutes. Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne combined to shoot 7/10 in the 2nd half and scored 21 points. The three seniors in this game did show the experience and mental fortitude that seemed to be lacking against Clemson.

 

Freshman Jordan Williams continues to progress at an impressive rate. Against Solomon Alabi, a likely NBA lottery pick, he scored 14 points in 7/11 shooting and grabbed 6 rebounds. He also helped hold Alabi to 4/15 shooting and 10 rebounds. Coming off a ACC Rookie of the Week award Williams is showing a comfort level that is well beyond most freshmen and doesn’t seem intimidated by big name post players. He is almost assured a spot on the All-ACC freshmen team.

 

Maryland needed every point out of Vasquez, Milbourne, Hayes and Williams because the rest of the team went 0/10 from the floor and only scored 4 points. The lack of production from the bench has been a large contributing factor to the decline of the offense the last two games. Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker continued to get significant playing time but have not produced much the last two outings. They will need to contribute more down the stretch as the starters can’t be expected to play 35 minutes without wearing out at the end of the year. Dino Gregory did hit two big free throws and drew a charge on Michael Snaer in the closing seconds. It was probably under the basket and could have gone either way but the officials gave Maryland the call. Still Gregory continues to struggle with rebounding and Florida State’s 20 offensive rebounds illustrate Maryland’s problems in that area. Gregory’s defensive rebound percentage was a paltry 7% for the game and he needs to get that number up to at least 12-15% or Maryland will lose games only because they give up too many offensive rebounds.

 

Vasquez struggled in the 1st half even though he scored 10 points and shot 5/10 from the floor. He was much more in control in the 2nd half and the crass and racist heckling he received from the stands probably contributed to his scoring that put the Seminoles away. He finished with 23 points on 8/19 shooting but hit all six of his free throws adding 7 rebounds and 7 assists. He also recorded five turnovers and had one of his worst defensive efforts of the year as Derwin Kitchen shot 12/16 with 29 points. Vasquez wasn’t the only Maryland player guarding him but he nearly gave back as many points as he scored. Still, without Vasquez and his timely shooting Maryland wouldn’t have won the game. The racist heckling of the FSU fans is also symptomatic of the hatred that some people who call themselves Maryland fans have for Vasquez. It is pathetic that one of the ten best players in Maryland history is so viciously and hysterically criticized by his own fans because they don’t like his personality. His critics are usually forced to manufacture some erroneous or disingenuous arguments as to why he isn’t a great player even as he passes all-time greats on every significant career record list. You don’t have to love his on the court demonstrations or his ill-conceived declarations in the media but there is no denying that he is one of the greatest Maryland players of the Gary Williams era.

The Terps sit at 5-2 with a two game home stand against a rudderless North Carolina team that seems to have given up on the season and a Virginia squad that is a very good matchup for this squad.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Friedgen salvages decent 2010 recruiting class

Maryland’s 2010 recruiting class was a decent but unspectacular haul but impressive given the tumult that the program has suffered the last four months. This class was put together in the midst of the Terrapins worst season since 1997 and with a cloud of uncertainty regarding the future of the entire coaching staff. Given those circumstances I think you have to judge this class on a curve. It tries to address some needs like offensive line and in the defensive secondary while adding some potential stars at quarterback and linebacker.

 

Offensive line recruits Max Garcia, Jake Wheeler, Sal Conaboy and Nate Clarke are going to need some time to grow into their positions but have the potential to give a solid foundation in a few years. James Franklin has expressed the desire to have a lighter and quicker offensive line and these three would seem to fit that mold.

 

In the secondary Mario Rowson, Jeremiah Johnson, Titus Till and Jeremiah Wilson will give Don Brown some immediate help with depth. Maryland is replacing three of the four members of the secondary who started last season so a few of these recruits may see playing time as true freshmen.

 

It was obvious that Don Brown needed more athletes who can rush the passer and he may have a few more next fall. David Mackall would seem to be an immediate boost to the sometimes anemic pass rush last year. He spent a year at Fork Union getting his academics in order and Maryland was able to hold off a bunch of high profile programs to keep him in the fold. Ian Evans, Desmond Kearse, Clarence Murphy and Andre Monroe will add depth to the defensive line and potentially challenge the young incumbents who have yet to show their ability.

 

The gems of the class are probably quarterback Tyler Smith from Pennsylvania and Linebacker Javarie Johnson from Dunbar in Washington, D.C. Smith is being heralded as the best quarterback recruit of the Friedgen era since Jordan Steffy. Smith seems to possess more technical skill than Steffy and has a excellent arm and touch on his deep passes. Smith isn’t a scrambler but has enough speed to make plays with his feet. In high school he passed for 3,130 yards with 32 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He is probably a year away from competing for a starting spot.

 

Johnson was initially committed to Miami but changed his mind and decided to stay close to home. In a sense he fell into the laps of the coaching staff. The 6-3 210 pound linebacker is a sideline to sideline hitter who has a chance to continue the lineage of fine linebackers that Maryland has had since Friedgen came to College Park.

 

Overall it is a solid class that addresses a number of needs that Maryland has going forward. The 2011 class will likely be an even greater challenge as the specter of a coaching staff change will still loom over the program unless the team comes out of the gate strong next season.