Gary Williams didn't seem to have an answer for the pitiful performance of his team in a 74-57 drubbing by Virginia Tech last night. It was the worst home loss for Maryland since 1999 when the Terps lost to Duke by 18 at Cole Field House. That Duke team was #2 in the country (Maryland #4 at the time) and should have won the national title that season. This Virginia Tech team doesn't have an impressive win all season and is a likely bubble team again this year. The glory days of Maryland basketball are getting further and further in the rear view mirror. Once again Gary Williams' team is in dire straights in the middle of January and, at 1-3 in the conference with two home losses, looking like a team that will be out of the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in seven seasons. Once again it will require some coaching magic to get this threadbare roster to win enough games to impress the NCAA Tournament selection committee. With the ACC being as terrible as everyone says it is double digit wins is probably a minimum starting point for getting to play in the only tournament that matters. I just don't see enough on a squad devoid of upperclassman leadership and talent in the backcourt to get to that point.
The game was over almost from the opening tip as Virginia Tech raced to a 12-0 lead in the first few minutes. The decision to start Cliff Tucker and Pe'Shon Howard turned out to be a disaster as neither seemed ready or able to get the offense into a flow early on. Howard started in place of Terrell Stoglin who was benched for a violation of team rules. Turned out that was all the lead that the turkeys needed as they never trailed and were never really threatened.
The defense of this group is overrated but the offense is as bad as it seems. Bucking the trend of shooting well at home, admittedly accrued against mid-major squads, they shot 35.7% from the floor last night and bricked their way to 6/20 shooting from the 3-point line. Why a team with poor outside shooting is taking 20 three point shots is a mystery. The Hokies were playing zone, as they have done prior to this game, but mid-range jumpers should still be there against a 2-3 look. Who can play that mid-range game like Vasquez could last year? As bad as the Terps played in the 1st half they were even worse after the break going just 8/28 from the floor. Many of those misses also lead to fast breaks or run outs for Virginia Tech. The 16 turnovers added up to a turnover rate of 23.5%, which is horrendous. Only the Seattle, College of Charleston, and Penn State games were worse in that regard.
It is easier to just say that the only player who had a decent game was James Padgett. The sophomore finished with 8 points on 3/5 shooting in 15 minutes. It was probably his best game of the season. No one else played well. The entire Maryland backcourt was dominated by Malcolm Delaney and Erick Green. Green got to the rim whenever he wanted and went 12/16 from the floor because most of his shots were layups. For the game Virginia Tech had 19 field goals that were dunks or layups, in contrast Maryland had 8. The help defense when VT dribbled into the lane was non-existent. Jordan Williams had a truly awful performance on the defensive end of the court. His lapses lead to many of Davila's 13 points including an egregious episode where he and Dino Gregory were lazy in getting back on defense and gave up a dunk in transition by Davila. Even though he kept the double-double streak alive it was a very poor performance by the sophomore.
The frontcourt for both teams was largely irrelevant to the outcome of the game. It was an area that Maryland should have been able to exploit. Padgett outscored Jeff Allen in just 15 minutes of play but Gregory could only muster 2 points. Virginia Tech did a good job of preventing Maryland from getting offensive rebounds a weakness of theirs which North Carolina and FSU had been able to exploit. Part of that was also due to the poor shot selection by Maryland and the guards inability to grab offensive rebounds. When a team is struggling with its shooting offensive rebounds can be an equalizer but this team isn't getting many.
College basketball is a guard dominated sport. Maryland was in any game they played last year because of Greivis Vasquez and his ability to take over a game. Eric Hayes was a solid complement to him at the other guard position. The current seniors are nowhere near that level of quality. The freshmen are going to struggle, especially Howard who was awful last night, but the seniors are providing no stability, leadership or reliable scoring. It is a tough situation for Gary Williams having recruited some players with limited abilities he hasn't a plethora of options. As I wrote last time perhaps going back to a more traditional two guard lineup would be helpful. Three guard lineups should give you better shooting and ball handling at the cost of rebounds and possibly defense. Right now Maryland's guards are not giving the team the advantages of a three guard lineup but with many of the drawbacks. Perhaps there just are not any answers to what ails to the Terps this season. The upperclassmen on the squad may have just topped out being role players but the younger players have some room to mature and get better. The appearance of Mychal Parker last night and the growth of Hawk Palsson are glimmers of hope.
Maryland has a quick turnaround for the Clemson game on Saturday. Another vital home game followed by a two game road trip to Virginia and Georgia Tech which are no pushovers. Virginia has stretched Boston College and North Carolina, teams way above Maryland in the standings, to the brink at home. Georgia Tech pounded a UNC squad that dispatched Virginia Tech in the Dean Dome. To get back in the conversation Maryland will likely need to win four of the next five games but if they can't put away Clemson, and avoid going 0-3 at home for the season, then it could be a long season in College Park.