Monday, February 28, 2011

Another ranked opponent, another loss for Terps

I'm getting a little weary of writing about yet another loss to a likely NCAA tournament team for this basketball team. This time the opponent was North Carolina and the setting was Chapel Hill but the result wasn't any different from most of the other times Maryland played a good opponent. If you are generous and consider bubble teams Virginia Tech, Boston College and Clemson in the tally Maryland is 2-11 in 13 games against teams with a decent chance to make the NCAA tournament at this stage in the season. At this point there isn't much to write that I have not already written about this squad. They are good enough to beat the teams they probably should but not good enough to beat opponents that are marginally more talented than (fellow ACC bubble teams) or teams that are clearly superior (Pitt, Duke, UNC). Sitting at 7-7 in the ACC after the 76-87 loss to the Tarheels last night Maryland probably needs to win out the rest of the season and get to the ACC championship game to earn an at-large birth in the NCAA tournament.

North Carolina's height and athleticism carried them past Maryland on a night when they were ripe for an upset.  The Tarheels shot a meager 40% from the floor and only 29% from 3-point range and didn't really play all that well on either side of the ball. They dominated the backboard grabbing 20 offensive rebounds led by Harrison Barnes and John Henson who had 5 each allowing UNC to shoot 7 more field goals than Maryland for the game. It was a good thing for Carolina that they got so many chances because Henson (3/10), Barnes (9/23) and Strickland (0/6) did an awful job shooting for the night. It also helped that Leslie McDonald scored more points than Maryland's entire bench. Despite all that the Tarheels found enough ways to get the ball in the basket while Maryland continues to struggle to score outside of Jordan Williams and freshman Terrell Stoglin. Once again seniors Cliff Tucker and Adrian Bowie failed to come up big in a critical game. It is clear that unfortunately these two are nothing more than role players. The problem is that outside of Stoglin Maryland doesn't have much to offer to make up for their deficiencies. Pe'Shon Howard has some promise but isn't ready for extended playing time yet and Sean Mosley has been a huge bust as a junior. Mosley seems like a good kid and a hard worker but the evidence is overwhelming that he isn't a scorer at this level and is more suited to be a role player himself. The best guard on the floor was clearly Stoglin but his 2nd half heroics were not enough to make up for a collection of backcourt teammates that cannot produce much offense. When Stoglin was on the bench getting a breather the various lineups Gary Williams employed were hard pressed to muster much scoring or playmaking ability.

Jordan Williams had a great stat line with 16 points and 19 rebounds but didn't play anywhere near as well as that sounds. Tyler Zeller repeatedly burned Williams for 25 points on 10/16 shooting in a manner that should give Williams pause if he thinks he is ready to play in the NBA. Zeller is a fringe prospect in the league but his size and athleticism gave Jordan Williams all manner of problems. Williams supposedly had a stomach bug the night before and did seem sluggish throughout the game but he and Dino Gregory were clearly outplayed by North Carolina's frontcourt. John Henson was a terrible matchup for Gregory with superior size and quickness he had no chance to prevent him from grabbing rebounds or scoring. Gary Williams tried to use James Padgett, Hawk Palsson and even Berend Weijs. Weijs had not played in four games and had only played 13 total minutes in the last month leading up to the game. Against UNC's frontcourt a lineup of two poor rebounders in Padgett and Gregory or a combination of Palsson and one of those two they were bound to get manhandled.

Gary Williams even went to a zone during the game which turned out to be a terrible strategy as it was the last time he used it. Jordan Williams got into foul trouble trying to guard Zeller who set up in the lane like it was his crib so the zone was partly a response to that. It really wasn't a great game plan by Gary Williams and whatever flaws it had were compounded by poor efforts by Cliff Tucker and Sean Mosley.

Maryland has two winnable games remaining in the season with a trip to Miami on Wednesday and then at home against Virginia. Miami has been a house of horrors for Maryland since the Hurricanes joined the ACC but I have a feeling this squad will bounce back from a disappointing loss to UNC and come out with a win.

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