Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Vasquez 2nd team All-American, ACC Notes

Greivis Vasquez was named a 2nd team All-American by the AP the other day. On the 1st team were Kentucky’s John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins along with Ohio State’s Evan Turner, Syracuse’s Wesley Johnson and Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds. I’ve written before that Wall may be a better professional prospect but Vasquez clearly had a better season. I think the choice between Vasquez and Reynolds would probably be a close call but, as you would expect, I would pick Vasquez. If the AP team was named in January I think Reynolds would be the clear choice but he really was a dud in the postseason. In watching the Gary Williams show on Comcast Sports I found out that Vasquez also made history by being the first foreign born player to ever win ACC Player of the Year.

 

ACC Notes

Boston College may have just killed their basketball program. Al Skinner is out as head coach of the Eagles and is reportedly interviewing with St. Johns for their head coach position. Skinner may not have been the most dynamic personality and he never seemed to recruit elite players but he had a decent eye for spotting undervalued talent and getting the most out of his players. Skinner recruited Tyrese Rice (rated 2-stars by Scout), Sean Williams out of Texas, Craig Smith (rated 3 stars by Scout) and ACC Player of the Year Jared Dudley (rated 3 stars by Scout). Three of those players are in the NBA. That is a pretty damn good track record for any coach. Skinner’s 247 wins are most in school history and his 7 NCAA Tournament appearances are four more than the next highest coach in Boston College history. Prior to Skinner arriving in 1998 Boston College had only 7 NCAA appearances since 1980. I suppose because Skinner’s teams were not that exciting to watch and Boston College has the worst basketball fanbase of any ACC school outside of Miami that you could see this coming. Even if Skinner doesn’t end up at St, Johns there are a host of schools that would love to hire him. Great news for Maryland and the rest of the ACC but likely a disaster for Boston College.

The Duke Blue Devils are back in the Final Four again and are probably the favorites to win it all. If Duke can get by West Virginia, which won’t be a cake walk, then you have to expect that they will be able to handle the pair of 5 seeds that are still standing on the other side of the title game. I think this year’s NCAA Tournament proved what some were saying, that this is one of the weakest fields in recent memory. Only two of the 1 seeds made it past the Sweet 16 and only Duke remains at the final four. Even worse only two of the 2 seeds made it past the Sweet 16 and only one 3 seed made it past the first weekend. Whatever team ends up winning on Monday they will probably be the weakest champion in a long time, maybe decades, but they will still be NCAA Champions.

Give Michigan State credit, I thought they were good but they were better than that. Summers and Lucious proved they were not just one game wonders. Draymond Green has been a fantastic player for Tom Izzo in this tournament. What an asset to have a big man who can shoot and handle the ball the way he can. With Kalin Lucas out for the tournament Green’s play has been a major factor to make up for some weak ball handling. Their experience and poise, keep in mind this group played in the title game last season, has gotten them past some scrappy foes. Tennessee had the talent to beat them but the Spartans were a much smarter and better coached squad. That told the tale. For all the heroics though keep in mind this Michigan State team finished the season ranked 12th in the nation.

Their run makes the loss by Maryland both more and less bitter. Less because they are proving just how deep and talented a team Izzo has, but more bitter because a Final Four birth would have been a real possibility for Maryland had that 3-point shot not fallen.

 

I’m going to go with Duke over Michigan State in the title game. West Virginia will battle the Blue Devils hard but Duke has the offensive firepower that Bob Huggins lacks. I don’t see Duke getting dominated on the rebounding front this time. Like last season I think the Spartans will have expended all their efforts to get to the title game and will be flat going up against Duke. Give Coach K his fourth, and most unlikely, title.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Goodbyes

Tough to accept that Greivis Vasquez has played his last game in a Maryland uniform. In an interview with NBC 4 Gary Williams gets choked up realizing that Vasquez will be moving on. Williams consoled himself with the knowledge that Vasquez will still be a part of the basketball program. Vasquez and Gary were meant for each other. Both are sometimes volatile and give their critics too much material to work with but they each have a burning passion for Maryland basketball and great pride in what they do. It is a shame Vasquez didn’t get the chance to play on the biggest stage in college basketball, the Final Four, but he saved the program from mediocrity. He chose to come back to Maryland even when he could have made good money playing professionally, even if not in the NBA. In the four years Vasquez played for the Terrapins they usually won or lost on him and for his last three seasons that was the case every night, game after game. No player since Walt Williams has had that kind of burden to win games with his own play. No player for Gary Williams since the end of the sanctions has had only two teammates make All-ACC teams in four years. D.J. Strawberry made 2nd team in 2007 and James Gist made 2nd team in 2008. Even John Gilchrist played on teams with four other All-ACC players: Steve Blake, Drew Nicholas, Ryan Randle and Nik Caner-Medley. Vasquez probably had the least help from his teammates of any player in recent Maryland history and yet his still finished 2nd all time in points and assists. Vasquez got his share of recognition this season with a Player of the Year award in the ACC, 1st team All-ACC selection and a collection of other All-American awards. He will have his jersey put in the rafters at Comcast Center next season for certain. Still he has battled doubters and detractors his whole career at Maryland in a way that is unlike any other player who has accomplished what he has at Maryland. The emotion in Gary Williams voice when asked what it felt like to know he wouldn’t get to coach Vasquez again tells you all you need to know about how important the senior guard has been to Maryland’s program.

 

Vaya con Dios, Grievis! It has been an amazing ride.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Vasquez’s heroics not enough to beat Sparta

In many ways the season ending loss to Michigan State was a fitting end to this season and the Greivis Vasquez era in College Park. Vasquez’s heroics in the last few minutes were the stuff of legend but were not enough to make up for the limitations of the rest of his team that were exposed by a veteran Spartan squad. Though the ending was one of the most bitter in Maryland post season history it was a game that the Terrapins had no right to win. They trailed for all but a few minutes of the game and were thoroughly outplayed by Michigan State in almost all facets of the game. It was only when the Spartan’s ball handling went to hell with the loss of Chris Allen and then Kalin Lucas that Maryland was able to get some easy scoring opportunities to close the gap. Unlike the close wins over Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, in which Maryland earned the win in both cases, if they had won this game it would have been a theft.

The key to this defeat was Maryland’s shoddy half court and transition defense. Starting with the regular season finale at Virginia Maryland’s defense had a dramatic decline. 

As you can see above starting with the Clemson game on February 24 Maryland’s defense was on a steady decline from that point onward. Maryland did play more difficult opponents later in the season but that isn’t the major factor in Maryland’s defensive problems. I think many of the starters including the three seniors wore down as the season went on. Maryland was a good shooting team all season but their shooting percentage also dropped in a similar pattern to their field goal percentage defense. In the last four games of the season Maryland allowed opponents to shoot 51%, 56%, 42% and 55% and offensive efficiency ratings of 115.3, 100.0, 106.9 and 119.7 respectively. The perimeter defense also collapsed in the last four games as opponents shot 48.6% from beyond the arc. In the first eight games in ACC play they didn’t allow a single opponent to shoot better than 33% from 3-point range but in the last but in the last eight games of the season only a single opponent shot less than 35% from 3-point range. It was their defense that abandoned the Terps in the post season and if you can’t guard anyone you won’t last long in the NCAA Tournament.

Michigan State may have had some out-of-nowhere performances by Summers and Lucious who combined to hit 9 of the 10 threes that the Spartans made during the game but part of that was the horrendous defense that Maryland played. Though he has never been a great defender even by his standards Eric Hayes had one of the worst defensive performances of his career. Hayes had an excellent offensive game with 18 points on 6/12 shooting and 7 assists without a turnover but as good as he was on offense he was as terrible on defense. The senior only played about 20 seconds of the last two minutes and that was mostly because of he was a defensive liability. Hayes wasn’t alone with his poor defense as Milbourne, Gregory and Vasquez all struggled at times. The press that Gary Williams had Maryland using in the 1st half was totally ineffective but he stuck with it. It gave Michigan State many open looks and contributed greatly to them building their lead in the 1st half. If it wasn’t for two unforced turnovers the Spartans would have buried two more 3-point attempts off the breaking Maryland press. One player stepped out of bounds before hitting another three and one shuffled his feat before draining his shot. The press may have gotten to Michigan State late in the game but not until Kalin Lucas went out with his injury and the Spartans have built a large lead.

It was no secret that Michigan State was going to pound Maryland on the glass and they did exactly that. The Spartans held a +18 rebound margin for the game and grabbed 48% of the offensive rebounds available. They only grabbed 13 offensive rebounds because they were shooting 55% from the floor and didn’t miss many shots to begin with. Landon Milbourne and Dino Gregory are both poor rebounders and in this game that was evident again. Jordan Williams was alone out there at many points in the game and grabbed 10 rebounds in just 29 foul limited minutes. Gregory and Milbourne played 47 minutes and had five rebounds.

Michigan State turned the ball over almost as many times in the 1st half as in the 2nd but the steals Maryland got in the 2nd half were converted into points more often. With Maryland not getting defensive stops it prevented them from getting out in transition and scoring as easily. The offense came alive in the 2nd half and the Terps shot 47% from the floor and 45% from 3-point range but it wasn’t enough because the defense couldn’t get stops when they needed it.

It was a difficult loss because of the circumstances but forget that Michigan State was a 5 seed. They were ranked about 8 spots higher in both polls and went 14-4 in the Big Ten. They were the better team going into this game. Even with a couple of their main players injured they still hung on to beat Maryland. If the Terps had lost Vasquez like the Spartans lost Lucas they would have likely collapsed. Michigan State didn’t and actually extended the lead after all the players knew Lucas’ season was probably over. Gary Williams will need to get more out of his bench next season and several underclassmen will need step up and take scoring roles. Sean Mosley, Cliff Tucker and Adrian Bowie combined to score 8 fewer points than Summers did alone. Lucious, a bench player who had not scored in double figures since December, made the big shot when Michigan State needed it the most. The Terps bench couldn’t come through like that when they were needed for most of the season. In a game like this that was enough to make the difference.

It was sad to see the great career of Greivis Vasquez come to a close the way it did. If only he had some better players around him for his last few years who knows what he may have been able to do at Maryland. Put Vasquez on any of the top seeds left in the tournament and they immediately become the favorite to win a championship. A player as great as Vasquez can take a team comprised mostly of role players to the Tournament but he won’t be able to take them far. I don’t think Vasquez’s time was wasted at Maryland. He didn’t show up to Maryland as an elite player and has worked very hard to get to his current level. It is a shame that Gary Williams didn’t recruit a better supporting cast around him but without Vasquez Maryland would probably be on a streak of four straight NIT appearances and it isn’t obvious that Williams would be the coach of Maryland in 2011. Maybe that is an achievement that Vasquez can be as proud of as a Sweet Sixteen.

This season is a Rorschach test for Maryland fans. I think this team achieved about what you would expect. They played very poorly in the nonconference part of the schedule and got hot at the right time in the ACC schedule. Combined that with a weak ACC this season and that accounts for a 13-3 record that looks probably better than it is. Maryland was unlucky to get the best 5 seed in the tournament in their bracket. There was no reason to assume that getting past Michigan State would be easy or even likely. Gary Williams has earned a 4 or 5 seed five times in his years at Maryland. Out of those five times three have come since 2002. Number of Sweet Sixteen appearances he has in those five tournaments: one. Maryland still doesn’t have the depth of talent that you need to make a deep NCAA Tournament run. If there are upsets perhaps your path becomes easy but you won’t beat the kinds of top 25 teams Maryland has faced in the tournament the last four times (Michigan State, Memphis, Butler and Syracuse) and win with the level of talent Williams has recruited. Perhaps that is changing with the last two recruiting classes but the remains to be seen on the court.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Gotta love Greivis

Maryland in good standing with 4 seed

Maryland was awarded a four seed in the 2010 NCAA Tournament and will face 13 seed C-USA Tournament champion Houston in the first round on Friday night. It was a good seed for the Terps and a reward for being co-champions in the ACC regular season with Duke. I felt like Maryland might drop a seed or maybe two after losing to Georgia Tech in their first ACC Tournament game but it seems that loss had no effect on where Maryland was seeded. Most projections had them as a 5 or 6 seed so a 4 was a pleasant surprise.

I don’t think Maryland will have much trouble with Houston. Conference USA is very down after Cheatpari left for Kentucky so winning the conference tournament doesn’t mean that much. The league has some solid but not great teams in UTEP, Memphis and UAB. Houston was 7-9 in C-USA and 15-15 overall until the conference tournament. Not very impressive. They were also 2-6 on the road and only 9-12 against teams in the top 150 of the RPI. The Cougars had also lost 4 out of their last 6 games and have a slew of bad losses on the season. Houston lost to Texas San Antonio (RPI 187), Central Florida (RPI 191) twice, SMU (RPI 208) and Tulane (RPI 282).  That is a pretty bad collections of teams and five bad losses is no fluke. Unless they get steals they will have little chance to guard Maryland in the half court as their defensive efficiency is ranked 165th in the nation and that is even worse when you consider their average opponent has an offense that ranks 96th in the nation. Houston’s coach Tom Penders will try to throw a slew of junk defenses at Maryland to disrupt their offense. They are lead by Aubrey Coleman who is most famous for stomping on Arizona’s Chase Budinger’s head last season. He is a pure volume scorer who took more shots this year (697) than any other player in college basketball. Most of Houston’s offense consists of beating the defender off the dribble and simple ball screens. They have a very good assist to turnover ratio but that is deceptive because they rarely turn the ball over. Their assist percentage is 324th in the nation and they mostly rely on Coleman, Kelvin Lewis, Maurice McNeil to make plays one-on-one. When you examine games in conference their offense doesn’t look as good shooting less than 40% from the floor with an efficiency of 105.1 which ranks them 101st in the nation.

The one interesting area that may become a factor is rebounding. Houston makes Maryland look like a five clones of Bill Russell. In conference play Houston is ranked 314th in defensive rebounding percentage and 190th in offensive rebound percentage. Just for comparison Georgia Tech was ranked 26th and Duke was ranked 5th in the nation for offensive rebound percentage in conference games. With Jordan Williams, Dino Gregory and even Landon Milbourne the Terrapins should enjoy the kind of rebounding advantage they have not had since ACC play began. Though Maryland struggles on the defensive boards on offense they rank a respectable 56th in offensive rebound percentage in league play. If Maryland can grab a decent about of second chance points then Houston will be in big trouble.

Houston is at a significant disadvantage in many areas against the Terps. It would take a continued defensive malaise and a large number of turnovers by Maryland for the Cougars to have a chance to win this game. It isn’t impossible for Maryland to lose as 13 seeds have won 21 games first round games since 1985 (losing 79) but there is a good reason why Ken Pomeroy projects Houston as having only a 14% chance of winning. An interesting note is that four of the last nine 13 seeds that defeated a 4 seed won in overtime. Recent 13 seeds that have won include Cleveland State over Wake Forest in 2009, San Diego over UConn and Siena over Vanderbilt in 2008. All those mid-majors had impressive conference records and were more impressive squads than Houston. Murray State and Siena are much close in profile to 13 seeds in the past that pulled off an upset than a Houston team that stumbled through their schedule and got hot for one weekend. I see Maryland getting to Sunday and facing a tough matchup in Michigan State. Neither team played well in their last game with the Spartans losing to Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament and Maryland losing to Georgia Tech. I think that Maryland is the deeper team and has been more consistent lately but I don’t like the way Maryland has played the last two games. I think Michigan State can control the tempo and pound Maryland on the glass to come away with the win.

I mentioned on a blog for Raycom Sports back in December that some ACC teams could be in trouble for their nonconference scheduling. Back then I predicted that only one team of the six worst schedulers would get invited to the NCAA Tournament. Low and behold I was spot on, thank you very much. The bottom six schedules in order were Boston College, Georgia Tech, N.C. State, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Miami. Only Georgia Tech made it in out of that list. There was a good bit of outrage over the Hokies being relegated to the NIT but back in December it seemed likely to me that they would be in deep trouble when the committee looked at their profile. A league schedule that turned out to be one of the weakest any team in the ACC played, only six games against the other top six teams in the ACC and 0-3 record against the top three seeds in the ACC Tournament doomed the Hokies. It is another example of the new reality of post expansion ACC basketball. Out of conference scheduling has become more important than ever. Gary Williams always schedules good opponents. Next year Maryland will play Notre Dame, Villanova and two out of Texas, Pitt or Illinois. Throw in a pretty good opponent in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and that is a record no one could argue with. Scheduling Penn State, Georgia and Seton Hall as Seth Greenberg did is no way to get in the NCAA Tournament. It isn’t even worth hearing arguments about how Virginia Tech can’t get decent out of conference matchups. Virginia scheduled Syracuse, Arizona, Xavier, Stanford, Auburn and UAB the last few years while Greenberg dropped very good programs in Old Dominion and Richmond from the Hokies schedule. He tried to get cute with the schedule this season and it blew up in his face. I was a little surprised they were not selected but the committee has been very clear and consistent, regardless of Greenberg’s comments to the contrary, about rewarding tough out of conference schedules. He could have just asked FSU’s Leonard Hamilton who went 9-7 in 2006 and got snubbed. His team had better wins than anything Virginia Tech had this season but it wasn’t enough.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Terps 1st half no-show

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 12, 2010

Hubris, thy name is Lawal

I’m not sure I’ve ever read quotes from a 7-9 team in the ACC with the level of delusion confidence coming from the Yellow Jackets after their come from behind win over 10 seed North Carolina. Lawal said after his teams not-so-convincing 62-58 win in the opening game of the ACC Tournament that, “We feel they can’t stop us.”

He wasn’t the only Yellow Jacket singing this tune as Zach Peacock nearly guaranteed a victory saying, “…if we don’t turn the ball over and execute…it’ll be another ‘W’ on our schedule.”

Really? This is the same Georgia Tech team that lost five of its last seven regular season games. Their only wins since January have come against Boston College, North Carolina and N.C. State. They had a chance to seal up a NCAA Tournament bid by winning at home against a mediocre Virginia Tech team and got thoroughly outplayed. The Yellow Jackets were 1-7 on the road in ACC play so I don’t suspect anyone told them that they don’t get to play this game at home.

I suppose that most of this posturing comes from the fact that they feel like they should have won the game against Maryland. Cliff Tucker’s (and Greivis Vasquez) hit a 3-point shot at the buzzer to win 76-74. Contrary to that narrative of the game I think it was the Yellow Jackets who got lucky. They shot well above their season averages and Maryland played a relatively poor game. Maryland led for most of the 2nd half and Georgia Tech had a lead for less than 8 minutes of the game. I would say they played about as well as they could and still lost. I’m sure Paul Hewitt wasn’t thrilled to read these comments. You know Gary Williams has made his team very aware of what the Georgia Tech players have said. If Maryland plays hard and focused Georgia Tech doesn’t have much of a chance. There is a good reason the Terrapins finished six games ahead in the standings, they are the better team. It is true that the Yellow Jackets have some matchup advantages against Maryland with their front court and it isn’t totally unfathomable that they might pull an upset but that is what it would be, an upset. These comments strike me as the bravado coming from a bunch of recruits headed off to a battle they know they are not ready for. I know Lawal and his teammates could not have given Gary Williams a better gift.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

TW ACC Awards

ACC Player of the Year: Greivis Vasquez, Maryland

No player in the conference has the kind of impact on a game like Vasquez. He can score, distribute and rebounds as well as any guard in the conference. There isn’t a guard who has his combination of inside-outside game and ability to score off the dribble and off screens. He is one of the better clutch shooters in the conference as well.

ACC Coach of the Year: Gary Williams, Maryland

It is amazing to think that in the middle of last season Williams was under siege after several recruiting foul ups and a hatchet piece in the Washington Post. Many fans, even me, were wondering if Williams time at Maryland was coming to an end. Since the end of the regular season last year, a depressing loss to Virginia, Maryland has won 15 of the last 19 conference games. Even at the beginning of the season this team didn’t look like a likely NCAA Tournament team but it has been a miraculous turnaround. Even though Williams received a great deal of praise for his coaching last season, mostly because of a weaker roster, I think his game management this year has been better.

ACC Rookie of the Year: Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech

A very close race between Favors and Maryland’s Jordan Williams. I give the nod to Favors because his conference scoring numbers are slightly better and he is a much better shot blocker. Williams has a big advantage in turnovers, 18 to Favors 35 in league play. Favors and Williams finished the season very strong and there were no freshman who were close to them in this race.

 

All-ACC Teams

1st Team All-ACC

G Greivis Vasquez, Maryland

G Jon Scheyer, Duke

G Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech

F Kyle Singler, Duke

F Trevor Booker, Clemson

 

The first three are fairly obvious though I think Delaney is probably an overrated player. After that Singler had a fantastic ACC stretch after struggling in the early season. He averaged 18.3 points per game and 6.6 rebounds in ACC play while shooting 41% from 3-point range. I chose Booker over Aminu, Nolan Smith and Tracy Smith but he isn’t much better than either of those three. Booker has a slightly better all-around game than the other three even though he often tried to go for the spectacular block instead of playing position defense.

2nd Team All-ACC

G Nolan Smith, Duke

G Sylven Landesberg, Virginia

F Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest

F Tracy Smith, N.C. State

F Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech

 

Smith has turned into a pure scoring guard who takes a boat load of shots and doesn’t get many assists or rebounds. Even though Landesberg ended the season by getting suspended he had an excellent year though he seemed stifled by Tony Bennett’s system at times. Aminu is a great talent but lacks the maturity and toughness that the best players in the conference possess. His disappearance at the end of the season when the Deacons were swooning is similar to Jeff Teague’s indifference last season. Tracy Smith is probably better than a couple of players in the 1st Team list but he has few credible players along side him at N.C. State and his guards are barely capable of getting him the ball as often as he should get it. Favors may be a bit of a surprise as he has had some up and down moments but the freshman ranks 2nd in field goal %, 2nd in rebounds per game, 1st in blocks and is the 16th best scorer in conference games. To me that ability to dominate in many different areas makes him better than the likes of Chris Singleton or Dorenzo Hudson.

 

All-ACC Defensive Team

F Chris Singleton, Florida State

F Solomon Alabi, Florida State

F Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest

G Sean Mosley, Maryland

G Terrell Bell, Virginia Tech

 

Both Singleton and Aminu are near the top of the conference in steals and blocks. Neither are great one-on-one defenders but they can guard anywhere from a SG through PF with ease. Mosley usually gets the leading scorer for the other team and has normally done a fine job. Bell is Seth Greenberg’s defensive stopper and uses impressive strength and quickness to guard forwards and guards.

 

All-ACC Rookie Team

 

F Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech

F Jordan Williams, Maryland

G Michael Snaer, Florida State

G C.J. Harris, Wake Forest

G Durand Scott, Miami

 

There is a big dropoff after the top two players. Williams had a spectacular freshman season and was notching solid performances against the best frontcourts in the conference. Williams doesn’t have much help in the blocks for Maryland, unlike Favors. Snaer, Scott and Harris all showed promise. Scott’s play towards the end of the season was particularly noteworthy. Still all three have a lot of room for improvement in the offseason.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

ACC Tournament

John Gasaway at the Basketball Prospectus has the lowdown on the ACC Tournament. The numbers give Maryland a 15% chance to win the ACC and a 43% chance to play in the final game. Duke is the overwhelming favorite to win it all at 63%. It is such a big drop off after Maryland and Duke that Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech combined only have a slightly better chance to win the tournament than Maryland.

Drinks are on Gary

The success of the Terrapins basketball team this season has also fattened the wallets of the coaching staff. Head man Gary Williams earned a tidy $318,000 for finishing tied for first place in the ACC. The assistant coaches all netted about $10,000 for this finish. That is a big boost for Rob Ehsan who is scheduled to make a paltry $66,000 this year and has been doing excellent work on the recruiting trail. When Maryland receives a bid to the NCAA Tournament the assistants will make another $15,000 plus other incentives if the team advances further. When you consider the athletic director gave James Franklin a $1million head coach in waiting deal the bonuses for the assistants and Gary Williams is money well spent.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Add another shelf to the trophy case

Grievis Vasquez and Gary Williams are getting some well deserved respect for a great season.

Vasquez was awarded the Player of the Year in the ACC by a fairly lopsided vote. Jon Scheyer was seen as a very close second to Vasquez by many observers but he was a distant 12 votes to Vasquez’s 39 votes. Some fools gave Malcolm Delaney two votes.

Gary Williams was awarded Coach of the Year in an even bigger landslide getting 42 out of 53 votes. Mike Krzyzewski finished second with 8 votes. I just shake my head at the two votes for Seth Greenberg and and the lone vote for Leonard Hamilton. The ACC Coach of the Year award has become something of a joke but this is a sweet victory for Gary Williams. He was under siege last season and now he has a COY award and a regular season championship added to his laurels. Not bad.

Vasquez was also put on the All-American 1st team by Sporting News.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Terps claim ACC title at Virginia

Maryland weathered a dreadful defensive effort in the regular season finale on the road at rival Virginia to claim a share of the ACC regular season championship with Duke. It wasn’t the pop the Champagne kind of game as the scrappy Wahoos, without leading scorer Sylven Landesberg who was suspended for academic reasons, came storming back late in the 2nd half to get within one point at 66-65 with just under two minutes left. Virginia made that run by packing in their defense and forcing Maryland to shoot contested jumpers while also exploiting some poor perimeter defense by the Terps. In a nine minute span Virginia hit 4 out of 5 three point attempts and made 9/12 field goals overall until the technical foul on Virginia coach Tony Bennett. Some pretty terrible defense by the Terps and certainly the worst stretch since the first Duke game. Given Virginia’s modest talent it might have even been the worst defensive effort since the William & Mary loss in December. The 53% shooting by Virginia for the game was the worst mark all year for Maryland in ACC play and the 45% from the 3-point line by the Wahoos was second only to the 47% Maryland allowed against Georgia Tech. Virginia shot a ridiculous 15/23 in the 2nd half, a 65% rate, but the Cavaliers have had a habit of settling for jump shots on offense. This resulted in them shooting only 6 free throws in the 2nd half even though Maryland committed 10 team fouls.

 

While Greivis Vasquez didn’t have his greatest game of the season he made his shots when they counted most. His shot selection was a little spotty throughout the game but with Maryland only ahead by three points and Virginia surging Vasquez hit three 3-point baskets in a row and scored 9 of Maryland’s 11 points in a critical three minute stretch. When Maryland got a double digit lead Vasquez stopped looking to score and only took three shots (missing all three) in the first 12 minutes of the 2nd half. Vasquez also had two critical turnovers late in the game, one on a drive to the basket when Jordan Williams wasn’t looking for a pass and then on a questionable charge call under the basket. After four years it is obvious that you have to live with some reckless plays from Greivis but he makes up for that by being the most clutch player since Juan Dixon. In the last 7 minutes of the game he scored 13 points while the rest of the team combined for eight.

 

Eric Hayes and Sean Mosley continue to be strong scoring options on the wings along with Vasquez. Hayes hit several critical shots going 2/2 from the floor in the 2nd half and finishing with 11 points and 5 assists. There wasn’t much to praise about his defense and he did have 3 turnovers in the 2nd half but he played steady down the stretch even without his normal 3-point shooting. Mosley only took three field goals but got to the foul line 8 times and hit all of them to finish with 10 points, his fourth double digit scoring game in a row. He seems to have shaken off his February funk and is making up for the puzzling disappearance of Landon Milbourne.

 

Milbourne shot 1/7 from the floor and scored five points, his sixth single digit scoring game in the row. During that six game span he is shooting a putrid 31% from the floor. His late season fade is one of the more perplexing collapses for an accomplished senior player I can recall. In his first eight ACC games he scored double digits in seven games averaging 13.4 points per game and shooting 50% from the field. In his last 8 games he has averaged 6.9 points per game and is down to 36.5% shooting. Milbourne has been getting slightly reduced playing time recently but short of injury it is a decline that defies explanation.

Jordan Williams struggled in this game and finished with “only” seven points and 5 rebounds. He really struggled with Jerome Meyinsse who scored 17 points, not all of it on Williams. Thank goodness Virginia didn’t discover Meyinsse until Mike Scott went MIA late in the season. Like the rest of the team the emotional highs of the last few weeks may have caught up to Williams and he had a letdown in this game. He should have been able to have success against Virginia’s unheralded frontcourt but wasn’t able to exploit the matchups.

Dino Gregory gives consistent effort but rarely produces a great game and against Virginia he kept that trend scoring 5 points and grabbing 5 rebounds off the bench. His defense was a little questionable and a breakdown by Gregory lead to a an easy dunk for Virginia. With Milbourne struggling Gregory is likely to see more playing time. James Padgett didn’t see the court against Virginia for some reason.

Adrian Bowie had another excellent game and continues to excel off the bench. In contrast to Milbourne Bowie has improved steadily the last few weeks and is now a dangerous weapon for Gary Williams. He scored 8 points in only 12 minutes and grabbed 3 rebounds. Bowie has made his last 10 field goals in a row and eight of his last nine 3-point attempts. You can tell he is finally getting into the grove of coming off the bench and taking advantage of his opportunities when presented with them.

Cliff Tucker also had a solid game with 5 points and 3 rebounds off the bench. Between the two of them Bowie and Tucker are combining to form some very solid backcourt scoring off the bench. The two are combining to average a very solid 11 points per game as subs. That has helped Maryland to continue winning with Milbourne and Mosley struggling through some slumps.

I wasn’t surprised at all that Tony Bennett was given a technical. If you have read this blog for a few years you know I’m not a big fan of Jamie Luckie. No official who regularly works ACC games calls more technicals than Luckie. Gary Williams and Greivis Vasquez both know this because it was Luckie who called a technical foul against Vasquez for slapping the padded basket support after getting a foul called against Boston College two years ago. It fouled Vasquez out of the game and probably gave Boston College the victory. Tony Bennett hasn’t been around the ACC long enough to know this I’m guessing. Luckie is the last official you want to see you storm onto the court and throw your jacket off protesting a call. The officiating wasn’t great and the crew blew several calls while giving an inconsistent standard of physical play throughout the game. Still the blocking call on Jerome Meyinsse that gave Sean Mosley two free throws with Maryland clinging to a one point lead was a correct call. I’m not sure Mustapha Farrakhan travelled on the prior possession but that may have been a makeup for the charge call on Vasquez that was under the basket. Virginia may have lost anyway as even without the technical Maryland would still have been up three points with 38 seconds left. It was surprising coming from the normally placid Bennett but the frustration of a nine game losing streak bubbled over at that moment. With Landesberg you would think Virginia would have a great chance to win the game given how poorly Maryland played. Perhaps Bennett was thinking the same thing. With the suspensions of Jamil Tucker, Calvin Baker and Landesberg this season it has been a challenging season for Bennett’s first in Charlottesville.

 

With the win at John Paul Jones Arena the Maryland seniors have won at every road site in the ACC with the exception of Miami. Maryland will get the 2 seed in the ACC tournament and face the winner of the North Carolina vs Georgia Tech game. You would think Georgia Tech would win that game but the Yellow Jackets are a confounding team and don’t play that well away from home.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Vasquez puts away Duke on Senior Night

The setting was perfect for the last home game of Greivis Vasquez’s career. His parents were in the stands having made the trip from Venezuela as was his high school coach, Stu Vetter, to see him knock off the first place Blue Devils on national television. Vasquez splashed out of the gate with five of Maryland’s first 7 points as the Terps ran out to a 10-2 lead before the first media timeout. Then Maryland got into trouble when the offense stagnated and the Blue Devils started hitting open jump shots. Vasquez turned the ball over three times the rest of the half and didn’t score for the final 12 minutes as Duke closed the gap to a two point Maryland lead at the half. Then in the closing minutes when it counted most Vasquez was at his best again scoring 11 points in the final 7:45 of the game to win the game for his team. Duke’s Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith all had the same opportunity for their team but could not come through in crucial moments. The game itself mirrored Vasquez’s career at Maryland as he burst on the scene as a freshman who dazzled fans with wins at Illinois and Duke. Then some fans seemed to turn on the sophomore as his flawed team struggled to make the NCAA Tournament. A tumultuous junior season followed as the team struggled to find its identity and was battered by some historic defeats to rise up with a momentous win over eventual national champion North Carolina. We all know what Vasquez did in that famous victory. The Terps struggled out of the gate again this season a looked destined to under achieve after losing at home to William & Mary at the end of December. Vasquez struggled to balance getting his teammates involved while still carrying the scoring load as the best offensive weapon on the team. As in the win over Duke Vasquez played his best when it mattered most this season and has had a phenomenal ACC campaign that will almost certainly end with an ACC Player of the Year award.

It has always been a struggle for Vasquez to be given the credit he deserves and it starts with the fans of his own team. If your own fans don’t show you much respect no one else is likely to either. When you compare Vasquez’s statistics to freshman phenom John Wall he is superior in almost every significant category: scoring, shooting %, efficiency, assists, rebounds, turnovers and 3-point percentage. The point is not to say that Vasquez is more talented or has a better NBA potential than Wall since neither is probably accurate. Nor is it to suggest that Wall isn’t a far superior athlete and that one day very soon he’ll be a better basketball player than Vasquez. The point is that day hasn’t come yet. Wall is an excellent player and will likely lead Kentucky deep into the NCAA Tournament but he hasn’t had a better season than Greivis Vasquez even though he has played in an inferior conference, the SEC. Vasquez doesn’t get the hype that Evan Turner or Wall get because he doesn’t look good on television. He isn’t smooth, athletic or physically dominant. The media has come to equate all those things with being a great basketball player. If Vasquez could produce highlight worthy dunks or if perhaps he wasn’t Hispanic then perhaps he would fit into the common conception of a great basketball player and he would get more attention. Perhaps if Maryland hadn’t struggled as a program after Vasquez chose to come to College Park that would have been different but I’m not so sure. Many Maryland fans see Vasquez’s physical appearance, his modest athleticism, his bravado and decide he can’t, cannot possibly be as good as the overwhelming evidence indicates. Even though he amassed over 700 assists he is too selfish. Even though he has fewer turnovers than Steve Blake he is too reckless. Even though he was the only Maryland player to ever lead the team in points, assists, and rebounds the team might be better without him. Vasquez is the ultimate ‘he’s good, but…’ player in Maryland history meaning fans always seem to have a caveat about him.

Pseudo reporter Mike Wilbon wrote in the Washington Post that Vasquez wasn’t even in the top 20 of all time Maryland basketball players, a claim so mendaciously stupid it cannot even be taken seriously. Even people who know something about college basketball and not often prone to off-the-reservation asininity of Mike Wilbon are reluctant to give Vasquez full laurels. It is sad but Vasquez needed his clutch performance last night to help get past the point where his minor limitations are given equal weight to his immense talents. As Vasquez drove between Jon Scheyer and the hulking Brian Zoubek and hoisted up an impossible shot that clanged around the rim looking like it would bounce out but then dropping through the basket he vanquished more than the Blue Devils. He also vanquished all the deniers he has had to put up with for the last four years. When that improbable shot dropped he won himself Player of the Year in the Atlantic Coast Conference, gave his team a chance to win a regular season championship and delivered a clear message to his doubters: you lost.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Party like its 2002

Duke versus Maryland to decide the regular season ACC champion (as an aside it is ridiculous that the ACC does not recognize regular season champions). This all sounds so familiar. For most of the past decade it was Maryland that has been the Carthage to Duke’s Rome in the ACC. Under Gary Williams no other ACC program has challenged Duke and Carolina’s hegemony over the ACC like Maryland. He is Hannibal and the students his barbarian horde. When Gary comes out of the tunnel on Wednesday and pumps his fist I can picture him hoisting the gladius from a dead legionnaire.

It has been more than a few years since the epic showdowns that the Terrapins and Blue Devils had to decide ACC supremacy but for most Maryland fans those games still burn bright in our memory. Neither of the current Duke or Maryland squads is nearly as good as those predecessors but both are very good basketball teams in their own right. Hopefully this will be a new chapter in what was one of the best rivalries of the last decade.

Home court has been a huge advantage in the conference this year. Home teams are 57-27 so far and only Duke, Maryland and Florida State have won more than two road games in conference play. The Blue Devils have certainly been good on the road with a 5-2 record but they have played at a much lower level away from Cameron Indoor. Losing to Georgia Tech on the road isn’t anything to be ashamed of but there is also an inexplicable loss to a bad N.C. State team in a game that wasn’t even close. When you consider the thrashing that Duke received from Georgetown in a game that wasn’t near as close as the 12 point margin there are some chinks in the Blue Devils’ armor on the road. Duke’s road slate this year wasn’t all that challenging anyway as their last four road games were at Boston College (5-9), North Carolina (4-10), Miami (4-10) and Virginia (5-9), a combined 18-38 in conference play. They narrowly escaped with a 3 point win at BC, trailed Miami by 12 points at halftime and creamed Virginia, who without Sylven Landesberg isn’t much better than an average CAA team. The Blue Devils best road win would be at Clemson with an injured Demontez Stitt. As Maryland fans have seen good teams find a way to win on the road, even if it isn’t pretty, so Duke must get some credit for that but I think you can throw that 21 point Duke win out the window as a predictor for this rematch. Here is a home versus road comparison for the Blue Devils:

Duke 2009-10 Home Road Opp. Road Opp. Home
Points per game 86.2 69.4 60.1 67.6
FG% 47.1 41.7 38.2 45.7
3pt% 42.3 35.8 26.7 30.2
Reb/game 41.6 34.4 33.8 31.7
A/TO Ratio 1.5 1.0 0.67 0.92

As you can see there are dramatic differences on both offense and defense for Duke depending on where they play.

Since the last game against Maryland there have been some changes for Duke. Kyle Singler has shaken off his early season funk and is Duke’s best player at the moment. He is shooting a team best 42% from the 3-point line and grabbing 7.1 rebounds per game in ACC play. Over his last four games Singler is averaging 21.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and is shooting 41.6% from 3-point range. Sean Mosley will likely get the difficult task of defending Singler who is back to playing his more conventional inside-outside game from last year than the perimeter dominant role he had earlier in the year. The hulking and stiff Brian Zoubek has carved out a role for himself by setting screens and crashing the offensive boards. His offensive rebound percentage leads the nation and he grabbed 16 offensive rebounds in the last four games. His weakness is foul trouble as illustrated by the 14 minute and 4 foul line he had against Virginia on Sunday. If Jordan Williams can get Zoubek in foul trouble it will put a serious dent in Duke’s offensive rebounding, a stat in which they are tops in the ACC.

 

Duke is not shooting very well since the last Maryland game at just 37.9% from the floor and 38.2% from outside the arc. That includes a home game against Tulsa. The trio of Singler, Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith provide the majority of Duke’s scoring but it is worth noting that they get away with that because role players like Zoubek and the Plumlee brothers only take high percentage shots. The 52% shooting that their frontcourt role players contribute will likely balance out a poor shooting night by one of their top trio. The Duke frontcourt isn’t one of the more skilled in the league but they know their roles perhaps better than any group. Getting a layup off a dribble penetration or offensive rebound is what that group does best and they don’t hamper the offense by trying to do much more than that. The Blue Devils have also made an effort to be more aggressive and settle for fewer jump shots over the last few games. In the Virginia Tech game they got away from going inside and were in danger of going down at home before they got aggressive on the offensive boards and started drawing fouls. Much of the key to defending Duke is limiting their easy scoring opportunities via offensive rebounds and in transition. Duke has slowed their tempo significantly in the latter half of ACC play but they will take their fast break opportunities if given them. If you reduce Duke to shooting jump shots you have a much better chance of winning. I’m not convinced that pressing Duke is a great idea and Maryland hasn’t had great success with its full court press this season. Perhaps a three quarter press would be more useful in pushing Duke out away from the 3-point line and running off some of the shot clock. It is tough to press Duke successfully because their passing is excellent and they don’t turn the ball over very often. Usually a press just leaves you vulnerable to open shooters and quick scores.

 

The Blue Devils have improved their defense with the exception of the Miami game where the Hurricanes shot over 50% from the floor. Duke has had great success in pushing Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes far out with their defensive pressure in prior games. It disrupts Maryland’s flex offense and leads to more turnovers. Vasquez and Hayes must do a better job of attacking Duke’s extended defense early in the shot clock. A passive approach in the half court plays right into Duke’s strength. Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker might be useful in playing more with the ball and having Vasquez and Hayes run off screens. That would force Duke to either put one of their weaker defenders on Vasquez or Hayes or be more vulnerable to dribble penetrations. It is a risky proposition because Bowie and Tucker are weaker ball handlers and more subject to turnovers than either Hayes or Vasquez. On the inside Milbourne and Jordan Williams should have an advantage on offense which they failed to exploit in the last matchup. The duo combined to go 4/15 in the last game and scored only 8 points. They will have to do better to keep Duke’s defense from keying on Hayes and Vasquez.

An interesting stat is that since ACC play started Duke has gone 1-3 in games they have allowed five or more 3-point baskets. At Comcast Center Maryland is shooting 50% from 3-point range in conference play, an average of 7.9 3-point baskets per game. How Maryland shoots from outside might be the determining factor in the game. The Terps are also shooting 46% from the floor at home and scoring 83.9 points per game in ACC play at home. In short the Terps have been an awesome offensive machine in the confines of Comcast. Duke’s vaunted defense against Maryland’s high powered offense will be a fascinating matchup.

Duke has won six in a row against Maryland since the Terps swept Duke in the senior’s freshman season. In that time I think Mike Kryzyewski has done a better job of game planning for Maryland than Gary Williams has done against Duke. Williams and Kryzyweski are by far the best bench coaches in the league and two of the best minds in all of college basketball. Kryzyewski has probably won more often between the two because he had better players but has keenly identified the Terrapins’ weaknesses over the last few years and exploited them ruthlessly. My guess is that Gary will have a new plan against Duke than we saw last month at Cameron. It should be one of the biggest games in the short history of Comcast Center.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Maryland vs VT highlight video

From our friends at Raycom Sports:

In other news Grievis Vasquez was awarded his fourth ACC Player of the Week award this season after averaging 28 points, 9.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds. Amazing. He just might have pulled ahead in the ACC Player of the Year race with Duke’s Jon Scheyer.

Jordan Williams was voted Rookie of the Week after averaging 13.5 points and 10 rebounds in his last two games. It was Williams’ second ACC Rookie of the Week award this season.

Win worth the wait

An out of control beer truck would seem to make more sense in the plot of a Bill Murray movie than the prologue to a Maryland basketball game but when said truck crashed into a fire hydrant on Virginia Tech’s campus it started a wild evening that ended in a satisfying 104-100 double overtime win. The game was scheduled to tip off at 4pm but didn’t end until almost 10 o’clock at night after 50 minutes of play. Maryland fans were sent scrambling to find the game on television as it was bumped from the local affiliate originally scheduled to air the game. The game was the highest scoring ACC game since the the Wake Forest versus North Carolina triple overtime classic that the Deacons won 119-114. It wasn’t nearly as pretty as that game and there were multiple opportunities for Maryland to end the game at the end of each period but the experience, skill and mental toughness of this group prevailed.

 

Greivis Vasquez seems to be acutely aware that he is playing his final handful of ACC games. The senior was one of only three Maryland players to score more than 40 points against an ACC foe joining Ernie Graham who scored 44 against N.C. State and Len Bias who scored 41 against Duke. Joe Smith and Gene Shue also scored 40 points against an ACC opponent. It was his career high in points and while he didn’t shoot a high percentage and took 33 field goal attempts he made the big shots when it counted. After going 2/10 in the first half Vasquez shot 48% in the 2nd half and overtime periods and was 5/10 from 3-point range. Three of his five 3-point baskets gave Maryland the lead when he hit them: 53-52 with 14 minutes to go, 78-77 with 1:29 left in regulation and 87-84 with 2:43 left in the 1st overtime. His virtuoso triple-double against North Carolina last season is still the best game he ever played as a Terrapin but this 41 point, 7 rebounds and 6 assist effort on Saturday takes a rightful second place in Vasquez lore. It was all the more amazing that Vasquez played 48 minutes of the game and had the ball in his hands for almost every possession down the stretch yet he only had two turnovers the whole game against a team that aggressively tries for steals. Vasquez was clearly the best player on the court and proved that he deserves ACC player of the year, at least to everyone outside North Carolina. During the game Vasquez also passed Adrian Branch to become the 3rd all time scorer in Maryland history, he currently has 2,069 points and trails the great Len Bias by 80 points.

 

Vasquez got just enough help from his teammates to win with Eric Hayes getting the second double-double of his career scoring 12 points and adding 10 assists. Hayes almost scored the game winning shot at the end of regulation but his foot was on the 3-point line. He then drained 5 free throws in overtime but missed his sixth to give the Hokies a chance to win the game. Thankfully Erick Green missed a 3-point shot in the closing seconds to give Maryland the win. Sean Mosley had a surprisingly poor defensive effort and it nearly cost Maryland the game when he left Terrell Bell open for a 3-point basket with less than a minute left in the 1st overtime. He made amends by scoring six points, grabbing two big defensive rebounds and getting a steal in the two overtime periods. He has exploded out of his offensive slump with 37 points in 12/16 shooting in his last two games. After Landon Milbourne fouled out Mosley even took turns guarding Jeff Allen. Mirroring his team Mosley didn’t always look pretty but he got the job done.

It is a good thing Mosley has emerged because Landon Milbourne continues his late season slide. With 8 points on Saturday the senior forward has only scored in double figures once in the last six games. His points per game average has dropped from 14.5 after the UNC game to 12.9 which this late in the season is a dramatic decline. Milbourne has been struggling in all aspects of his game and has been dominated on defense as well. Gary Williams put Milbourne in the game to inbound the ball with 21 seconds left and Maryland sitting on a three point lead. It turned into one of Williams’ worst decisions of the day as Milbourne carelessly threw the ball in bounds to Dino Gregory and had the ball easily stolen by Terrell Bell. A few seconds later after a Seth Greenberg timeout J.T. Thompson nailed a 3-point basket to send the game into the 1st overtime. It was a horrendous mistake by a senior with Milbourne’s experience. The improved play of Dino Gregory has helped to limit the damage from Milbourne’s decline but Gregory isn’t much of an offensive threat and freshman James Padgett doesn’t have Gary Williams’ confidence in a close game. The other forward slot will be interesting to watch in the next few weeks as Maryland gears up for the postseason.

Jordan Williams struggled with his shooting, 31% from the floor and turnovers but grabbed 15 rebounds (7 offensive) and largely helped keep Maryland from getting destroyed on the glass. The Hokies are not a great rebounding team and their +9 advantage for the game and 20 offensive rebounds is further reason for Maryland fans to be be concerned about a potentially fatal weakness for this team. Maryland’s guards will be able to hold their own against most teams in the NCAA Tournament but they may get beaten by a lesser squad if they continue to struggle to guard their own glass.

In games like this one Gary tends to get a little tunnel vision and not use his bench much. Foul trouble made him play Gregory for 32 minutes but Cliff Tucker and Adrian Bowie only combined to play 21 minutes in a two overtime game. The duo had decent contributions with 9 points on 4/7 shooting. Bowie and Tucker will need to be a factor against Duke if Maryland is going to win.

Maryland defense struggled in the game but wasn’t terrible unless you factor in the defensive rebounding. Nine of Virginia Tech’s 37 field goals were a result of offensive rebounds and the Terps would have probably enjoyed a halftime lead if they had prevented the Hokies from getting so many easy put backs in the 1st half. The offensive rebounds were a major factor that helped Virginia Tech stay in the game. Virginia Tech missed four of their six free throws in the 2nd overtime including two by Malcolm Delaney who shots close to 85% from the free throw line. Perhaps the Hokies were gassed at that point, Delaney had played all 50 minutes, but Maryland made 9/10 free throws in the last overtime to take the game.

While Maryland’s defense was weaker than normal the offense scored 51 points in the 2nd half and shot 7/15 from the 3-point line and 18/22 from the foul line. The continue to share the ball as well as any team in the ACC with 23 assists and only 11 turnovers for the game. Another important factor was that the Terps had 10 steals, only the third time they have had double digit steals in ACC play and oddly all those games have come on the road: at Boston College, Clemson and Virginia Tech.

The thrilling win gave Maryland 11 wins in league play for the first time since 2003 when Steve Blake and Drew Nicholas lead Maryland to the Sweet 16 as a six seed. Duke travels to Maryland on Wednesday for a game that will likely decide the regular season champion in the ACC. I’m not sure anyone except the most delusional Maryland fanatics thought that this team would be heading into the last week of the regular season with a chance to win the ACC and an NCAA Tournament bid locked up after losing to William & Mary in December. What a turnaround. The Terps have a decent shot to sweep the coach and player of the year awards depending on the next two games. It is a farce that Gary Williams has only won coach of the year once in his time at Maryland. The win over Virginia Tech gave Williams his 200th career ACC win and he joins Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski as the only coaches in league history with at least 200 conference wins. At worst Maryland will be the 2 seed in the ACC tournament and is assured a first round bye for the first time since the ACC went to the 12 team tournament format.