Monday, March 14, 2011

Season ends with a whimper

Maryland's season ended with the third and final matchup against the Duke Blue Devils in the ACC tournament on Friday night. The Terrapins were surprised by their absence from the NIT field that was announced last night and so the disappointing dawn of the post Greivis Vasquez era came to a close. It was a fitting end to a season that lingered too long and for a team that measured itself against the better teams in the country and was found wanting every time.

It was no surprise that the Terps gave Duke a spirited game for about 30 minutes, trailing by 3 with just about 10 minutes left in the game. Trailing by five points at 65-60 Maryland missed its next six field goal attempts that included a few at point blank range and then Jordan Williams missed two key free throws with 6:49 left in the game. Given that free throw shooting was directly responsible for Maryland's early season struggles, with Williams a major culprit, it was fitting that the season would end on the same footing. Duke's Nolan Smith struggled badly in the game scoring 7 points and injuring his toe before coming out of the game for good with the Terps trailing by five. Duke promptly went on a 7-0 run behind Seth Curry who filled in well for the ACC player of the year. One of the major distinctions between Gary Williams group and Duke is that the Blue Devils role players have the ability to carry the team for short stretches of games. Maryland's bench has been unreliable lacks any impact players. That speaks to the deficiencies in recruiting that the Terps have had in the past which has now come home to roost with a team that lacks any impact upperclassmen. As was the case in the prior games Maryland had no ability to contain a struggling Kyle Singer as he torched Sean Mosley, Hawk Palsson and any other player Gary Williams used to guard him.  Maryland's weakness in rebounding was exposed again as the Plumlee brothers grabbed 20 rebounds between the two of them and Singler added another 9. This time Duke did not shoot well from the 3-point line hitting on only 3 attempts from behind the arc all game. It hardly mattered as Maryland allowed them to shoot 58% from inside the 3-point line. Once again the defense was hardly present, a trend that became common as the season wore down. It is an issue that will be of primary importance if Maryland is to return to the NCAA tournament next season.

Cliff Tucker played one of his better games in weeks but 12 points on 4/10 shooting isn't going to beat many ACC teams. Fellow senior Adrian Bowie played 23 minutes but hardly made any impact taking just one field goal in his final game as a Terrapin and finishing with 5 points. Dino Gregory had 10 points on 5/9 shooting but as with the other seniors had little impact on the game. Terrell Stoglin suffered through his worst game in a month as he shot 2/10 and had 5 turnovers. Sean Mosley had another poor shooting day going 2/7 and since the downward spiral starting with the loss to North Carolina has been an abominable 27% shooting the basketball. Mosley is a good kid and hard worker but his offense is broken and he has declined to barely the level of a role player. Pe'Shon Howard had a good scoring night off the bench with 10 points but was out of control with the ball at times, only notching one assist, and struggled on defense. Jordan Williams numbers were very good scoring 16 points and grabbing 16 rebounds but though he is stuffing the stat sheet he seems to not be as dominating as he was early in the season. Perhaps the sophomore wore down as the season went on as he often was saving himself on defense while working significantly harder on offense.

Given some of the surprises on the bubble with Virginia Tech getting rejected yet again and Boston College not being one of the last few teams considered it appears that regardless of the losses to Virginia and Miami that Maryland was no where near getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The lesson for ACC bubble teams is that you had better win some games on the road if you are on the bubble. As I've written before a 9-7 record in the ACC doesn't mean much anymore. Virginia Tech and Boston College were a combined 6-10 on the road in the conference and played just four true road games in the non-conference schedule between the two of them. Clemson also had a bad road record but was 3-0 against their fellow bubble ACC brethren with two emphatic wins at the end of the season against the Hokies and Eagles. That is how the Tigers squeaked into the NCAA Tournament.  Only 4 of the 18 conference wins by Virginia Tech and Boston College were against teams with a winning record in the ACC. The days of the unbalanced schedule mean that a number (9 or 10 wins) doesn't control the argument. It was an awful day for the ACC which reinforced the notion that beyond North Carolina and Duke the league has nothing to offer. Clemson is a nice team but has little chance to get to the weekend and Florida State is a likely first round out, those were the third and fourth place teams in the ACC.


weary said...

I couldn't agree with you more about the ACC's decline. Since expansion programs like GT, WF, NCST and especially MD have all declined and some dramatically. Sure there have been anomolies like MD's 2010 season, GT 2005 and WF 2009, but those are the exceptions. On the whole, those programs have steadily trended downward. These days the ACC is UNC and Duke and a bunch of trash.

pag said...

. . There's more here that is very troubling than a lack of quality recruiting (something that has been prevalent recently, as you point out). What bothers me is the lack of effort that was absent in this year's team. I have not seen this kind of "mailing-it-in" basketball since I started following the MD program in 1967. This team simply went through the motions for most of the year. Much soul-searching needs to be undertaken by the coaching staff in this regard. If Maryland doesn't soon learn that quality recruiting, and "leaving it all on the court" is what success is all about, it soon -- very soon -- will become completely irrelevant in the men's basketball scene.

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