Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Winter of discontent

I've probably used that turn of phrase before regarding Maryland sports but I'm too lazy to look it up. Morale in Terrapin Nation is not at all time high levels. The 18 point loss to Duke in basketball reminded everyone how far the Terps are from being a top team in the ACC. The friction between Terrell Stoglin and Mark Turgeon bubbled over after the game with Stoglin taking to twitter to complain about getting benched. Three more players decided to transfer from the football team including QB Danny O'Brien. While Randy Edsall did have a huge recruiting victory when WR Stefon Diggs of Good Counsel signed with Maryland over the likes of Ohio State and Florida it seems like every time he goes out in the media he just makes things worse. The problem is you cannot have your head coach hiding under a rock but Edsall is like a politician who drops in the polls every time he gives a speech. The head coach needs to be the face of the program. The question is whether the rift between a sizable number of fans and Edsall is irreparable already. The amount of animus between Edsall and the fanbase is unlike anything I have seen. Many fans have lost all reason in their desire to see Edsall fail. When some fans would rather see the program struggle so they could get rid of a coach you know things are poisoned. Then again a vocal minority of fans wanted Gary Williams gone both before and after he won a national title.

For my part I don't think Randy Edsall is a great coach but neither do I harbor any real dislike for the man. If he was successful at Maryland I wouldn't have a problem with him. His grooming standards and rules for players are of little consequence to me. His stilted and wooden persona in the media makes it hard for any fans to really embrace him. Even if he is successful in the coming years he will likely never be embraced by the entire fan base. In that sense then the Edsall regime is already a failure and Kevin Anderson's hiring of him was a mistake due to his failure to access Edsall's suitability to the culture at Maryland. With Mike Locksley bringing in the top talent in Maryland it will almost certainly raise the fortunes of the football program. In a number of weeks Locksley has landed more talent than the Friedgen and Franklin pair did in their final three years. When the fortunes of the team do turn around it is almost certain to create an uneasy stalemate between those fans who have grown to hate Edsall and those who only desire a winning program.

I can only great the transfer of Danny O'Brien with a shrug. I wasn't convinced he was going to be the starter going into the fall regardless. His play last season was abysmal and putting aside issues regarding the system and the quality of his teammates he struggled with basic reads and decision making at the QB position. It was one of the worst seasons by a Maryland quarterback since Joel Statham in 2004. Chris Turner's 2009 season with an equally putrid 2-10 team was better. With a good offensive line, decent running backs and one of the better wideouts in Maryland history O'Brien looked good as a red-shirt freshman. Without all those elements he was one of the worst quarterbacks in the ACC. That isn't an elite player. Perhaps he will transfer to a program that is loaded with talent and he'll flourish distributing the ball to the kind of elite players that Maryland does not possess at the moment. I tend to doubt that will happen. O'Brien worked hard and was a good representative for the University. He'll graduate in the spring and move on somewhere else. It would have been good for Maryland had he stayed but it isn't as if the program has lost an elite player either.

It wasn't surprising that Maryland lost by 18 at Cameron. Once again Mark Turgeon tried his outside-in defense and it resulted in the Plumlee brothers dominating Maryland's big men. Alex Len got into early foul trouble and that pretty much obliterated any slim chance Turgeon's strategy would work. Ashton Pankey, who hasn't played a good game in weeks, and James Padgett had little chance to stop the assault in the paint that Coach K unleashed. The only real bright spots in the game were the play of Mychal Parker and Nick Faust. Both showed they can by dynamic players on the wing and it may be a blessing in disguise that Pe'Shon Howard's injury will ensure that these two will get extended playing time as the season draws to a close. Howard wasn't playing well before his injury and I doubt it will make a significant difference in the fortunes of the team. I saw this as a 6-10 squad before he was injured and I don't see that changing.

What could make a difference is if Stoglin decides to check out like Jordan Williams did last year down the stretch. I think Turgeon has totally mishandled this situation with Stoglin. His criticism of Stoglin in the media has been surprising and shockingly inept for a coach of his tenure. It is important to note that Turgeon has never been a coach at a program with the profile and location of Maryland. With all due respect to Texas A&M it probably did little to prepare him for that it would be like at a school with the expectations of Maryland. Turgeon's seeming inability to deal with Stoglin outside of the media eye has given me my first doubts about his ability to return Maryland to its former glory. If he cannot deal with the ego of a player like Stoglin then how will he be able to recruit and coach elite high school players who are almost all divas in some way? I think the way that Gary Williams handled the cancerous junior season of John Gilchrist would be educational to Mark Turgeon at the moment. Hammering away at Stoglin after every loss, notice when Stoglin bails out the team with his scoring there isn't much comment from the coach about his lack of assists, serves no purpose and seems to betray a lack of ability to coach a potentially difficult player. Stoglin bailed out his coach who was flummoxed by Brad Brownell's 1-3-1 zone gimmick in their 64-62 squeaker against Clemson. Without Stoglin this team may have two ACC wins and no one would be talking optimistically about next season. More to the point if Turgeon mishandles Stoglin and the sophomore decides to transfer you can push back Maryland's return to the NCAA tournament until at least 2013-14. With Sean Mosley departing and only a lightly recruited guard in Seth Allen arriving next fall the backcourt would be one of the weakest in the ACC without Stoglin.

The Terps get Boston College at home later in the week and then travel to UVA before hosting Miami next week. It will be a pivotal stretch for the team and a potential turning point for the coach and his relationship with the squad's only star player.

Friday, February 10, 2012

ACC odds & ends

Has the hype regarding the finish to the North Carolina versus Duke game gone a bit overboard? It is as if that was the first time a 3-point shot in the closing seconds won a game for a team, or the first time anyone ever came back from 10 points behind to win. The game did demonstrate that both of these squads have serious deficiencies that will probably prevent them from a deep run in the NCAA tournament. I'm not sure I have ever seen worse on the ball defense from a Duke team. Andre Dawkins is Duke's version of Mike Jones and Quinn Cook could barely guard a folding chair. For UNC Kendall Marshall has never played good defense and without Dexter Strickland they don't have anyone to place on a dangerous shooter. It is too bad Tyler Zeller has turned into the goat because his play was the only thing keeping the Tarheels close in the 1st half. For the game he thoroughly dominated the Plumlee brothers and controlled the low post. With a seven point lead and two minutes to go both Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall turned the ball over but little blame was given to either of them. Not surprising that in a battle of coaching wits that K would best Roy Williams. Not sure what Williams was thinking switching Zeller on a basic high screen it wasn't as if Rivers had not already made 5 3-point shots prior to that. Another thing this game showed was that North Carolina's bench is a serious weak sport for this squad.

We going to see if N.C. State's 7-3 record is a bit of a fraud very soon (I think it is). Their next three opponents: Duke, Florida State and North Carolina. Lucky for them two out of the three are at home.

I am surprised that Jim Larranaga has gotten Miami playing at this level so quickly. Their 6-3 mark in conference play is also a bit misleading but they did have a signature win against Duke at Cameron. As with the Wolfpack things get a little more difficult with two games against FSU, a home game against North Carolina and road contests against Maryland and N.C. State. They should probably find their level at 9-7 and in the NIT.

Perhaps it was a surprise that FSU was upset by Boston College the other night but anytime Leonard Hamilton gets off the bus the opponent has a chance.

In other news former Maryland football head-coach-in-waiting James Franklin really put his foot in his mouth when complaining about some players who had changed their minds after giving a verbal non-binding commitment to Vanderbilt. Without naming names he questioned their character and honor. Given the climate in college recruiting "de-commits" are always a factor and it seems silly to attack a kid over an honest change of heart. As long as they are a man about it and don't have their mother call to tell the coaching staff they changed their mind, yes Terrence Ross I am talking about you, then coaches shouldn't whine about it. New North Carolina coach Larry Fedora must have spit out his morning coffee after reading Franklin's self serving comments. Fedora recruited QB Patton Robinette who was in the midst of student orientation for an early enrollment at Chapel Hill before he hopped in a car bound for Vanderbilt. You can read Fedora's scathing comments regarding Franklin's hypocrisy in the Atlanta Journal. Maybe Franklin's misstep is just the result of a coach who is a little in over his head going up against the sharks in the SEC.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Wacky night

Maryland's two overtime loss to Miami has to be one of the most bizarre games the Terrapins have played in the last decade. Four technical fouls were called, 47 total fouls, 5 players fouled out, Miami coach Jim Larranaga looked like he was about to keel over at any moment, and Mark Turgeon was tossed out of the game. Anyone who was worried that Turgeon was too Milquetoast for the ACC must have been heartened by his explosion when Nick Faust was called for a charge with seven minutes left in the game. After getting tossed Turgeon could be seen calling the official, Brian Dorsey, a "[bleeping] p*ssy" before he went to the locker room. I've always felt Jamie Luckie was one of the worst officials that regularly works ACC games, who can forget his technical against Greivis Vasquez that resulted in a DQ and Maryland's defeat against Boston College in 2007. This was an awful crew in a sport that has too many awful officials. I'm not sure what the ACC is really doing to improve the quality of officiating but this crew, well known as they are, should not be officiating ACC games next season.

The game itself was a poorly played affair until about 7 minutes left when Maryland, galvanized by their coaches ejection rallied to tie the game at 69 with a minute left. I thought assistant Scott Spinelli did a good job managing the game in Turgeon's absence and was probably more aggressive using the press than Turgeon would have been. The results were good as Maryland forced Miami into three turnovers in the final few minutes to tie the game.

I thought that once Reggie Johnson and Durand Scott fouled out that the game was Maryland's to lose going into the second overtime. A bad shot from Terrell Stoglin to start the second overtime and some defensive breakdowns sealed the game for Miami as they went out to a five point lead and never looked back. Maryland struggled to grab defensive boards at critical moments and could not guard Scott (24 points in 11/14 shooting). Pe'Shon Howard didn't start for some reason but still played 43 minutes though it was one of his poorer efforts of the season. He may have had 8 assists but he matched that with 5 turnovers and probably should have been credited with several more. His offense continues to struggle as he is shooting 24% from the floor (11/45) in ACC games. He simply could not stop Durand Scott, who isn't a particularly great guard, when matched up one-on-one. It is trend this season that Howard has really struggled to defend dribble penetrations. I don't know if his foot or conditioning are still an issue but he has been a liability on defense for a team that isn't blessed with great defensive guards.

Alex Len had a bit of a renaissance against Miami with 11 points and 7 rebounds to go with 4 blocks. He certainly played better than doughy Reggie Johnson. There were several moments in the overtime periods when I felt Maryland should work the ball to Len with Daquan Jones trying to guard him but Len's teammates didn't recognize the mismatch and the one time they did throw it into him it was a poor pass that resulted in a turnover. Len will be up against one of his biggest tests of the season with North Carolina coming to town with John Henson and Ty Zeller.

Terrell Stoglin has certainly put up points his last two games but I didn't think overall that he played as well as the stats would indicate. He was a little too focused on his 3-point shooting, he probably should have gone to the basket at the end of regulation instead of settling for a perimeter shot, and threw up a few too many bad shots for the game. Allowing for his mistakes without Stoglin Maryland didn't have a chance of being in the game last night. I really don't get the level of criticism for Stoglin in the press and even sometimes by Mark Turgeon. Scorer's like Stoglin are going to take some bad shots. He probably took too many 3-point shots but even players like Vasquez were guilty of that from time to time. I'm not sure where the idea came from that if Stoglin was more of a pure point guard that Turgeon's offense would run like a well oiled machine. It wouldn't. Turgeon's offense is fairly plain and not really suited for the talents of this squad. For his offense to function at a high level you need really talented players and Maryland only has one of those at the moment. This is a young team that is also a little light on offensive talent. Everyone needs to accept Stoglin for what he is, warts and all, because he is the only player that can keep Maryland competitive with their opponents in the ACC. I'm not sure watching Mosley, Howard and Faust clang shots off the rim is a great alternative.

Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg, who to use the language of his people is the biggest schmuck in the ACC, said Stoglin sometimes plays for both teams. Besides being a douche-bag Greenberg also happens to be wrong. In the 2nd half Stoglin scored 21 point on 6/12 shooting, including 4/8 from the 3-point line to sink Greengerg's Hokies. Not sure how that constitutes keeping the other team in the game. With a 10 point lead and three minutes left in the game Maryland should have coasted to a victory. Sean Mosley was called for a flagrant foul, turned the ball over and committed another foul resulting in the lead going down to 7 points. Then Nick Faust, who was in the game for some strange reason, missed the front end of two one-an-ones, followed by another Mosley foul. At that point the lead was down to five. The only role Stoglin had in the harder-than-it-should-have-been win was he missed three free throws at the end. It had nothing to do with his shot selection or selfishness.

Stoglin will get his share of criticism and a guy who throws up 20 3-point shots should, but I would also point out it isn't fair to let guys like Sean Mosley, Pe'Shon Howard, Ashton Pankey off the hook while blasting Stoglin. Those three went 4/18 from the floor and had just as many boneheaded plays as Stoglin did, Mosley's charge on the a fast break may have just been the pivotal moment in the game, but they won't get much as a peep of criticism by Turgeon or the press. Throw into the mix that Steve Czaban of the local ESPN radio affiliate said ominously yesterday that sources had told him that Stoglin "didn't fit the long term plans of [Turgeon]" and I'm a little dumbfounded.

Turgeon isn't exactly burning up the recruiting trail with talented guards. Take Stoglin off this roster and next year they are likely to be the same level of team they are now, perhaps in the NIT but with a losing record in the league. A backcourt of Howard, Faust, Parker and a gimpy freshman Seth Allen would be one of the worst in the ACC. If Turgeon does chase off Stoglin it may be his down fall.

To end on a positive note Mychal Parker seems to be finding his groove as a sub scoring 6 points in just 15 minutes and showing some of his high flying athleticism. He is one of the few players who can run the floor well on a squad that has big men who rarely ever get out on the break. When Maryland was struggling to score his ability to get out in transition was a great asset.