Duke is pwn3d!

We own Duke.  We have won 5 out of 7 (were favored to win none of the games).  If this Maryland team were to play this Duke team 10 times, Maryland would win 8 of the games.  We are better at every position.

We are a good team.  The seniors have really stepped up.  Jones was great.  Strawberry was great.  Sure, there a few ill-advised shots strewn about; but by and large, it was a dominant performance.  I didn’t doubt the outcome for a minute.

How about General Greivis?  The kid nearly turned in a triple-double!  When was the last time that happened in ACC play?

My roommate (a neutral observer because he is a Wisconsin grad) and I tallied all of the unfair calls throughout the game.  The final tabulation?  Duke 8, Maryland 2. (Editor’s note: one of the calls against the Terp, the non-goaltending call with under 10 seconds left, was irrelevant). That is typical.  Duke at Cameron get about six extra possessions per contest due to the one sided officiating.

And we still kicked their ass.

No one is playing better than Maryland right now, yet we were subjected to the overflowing toilet that is Dan Patrick and Dick Vitale in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Dan Patrick’s gushing over Duke is to be expected; but was there ever a more ridiculous comment uttered than when he mentioned ACC freshman of the year candidates and included John Scheyer, but not Greivis Vasquez?  Is there anybody in America who would actually choose John Scheyer over Greivis Vasquez right now?

John Scheyer is not a good athlete. He can shoot, sure.  But you know who else can shoot?  The autistic kid who hit 7 threes in two minutes in that high school game last year.  No one is mentioning him as a freshman of the year candidate, are they?

While I am in at it, ESPN absolutely punted tonight. Forcing us to miss the first six minutes of an abysmal Big East game is one thing, but the technical difficulties down the stretch?  Are you kidding me?

Here we are, 17 days removed from our first victory against Duke.  Is there anyone other than loyal poster, Kaze, who actually believed that these kids could run the table? I don’t even think the players believed it.  Gary knew they had it in them,  but this run has been nothing short of perfection.

Gary is ACC Coach of the Year. Period.   (Yes I basically called him out for the entire month of January). UNC may be the most talented team in the country, but Maryland is playing the best.

Right now, I think the committee gives the Terps a #4 seed or even possibly a #3 seed because they love to reward hot teams.  The question becomes, what happens now?  How far can the Terps go?

Duke Listed As Six Point Favorite Tonight Against Terps

A little history lesson. Maryland has been underdogs in 9 of the last 10 games against the Blue Devils. The result? Maryland has 5 wins. You’d think at some point the betting public would wise up and give Maryland a little support tonight. No luck. The Terps are heading into Cameron as 6-point dogs.

The game will be a tough one and I refuse to predict a Maryland win (especially because of our tendency to get in foul trouble, and the refs tendency to support Duke), but I expect a close game.

This is not the Duke team of old. Sure they are on a four game win-streak, but those wins have come against some slumping teams (except for what I think is an undermanned Ga Tech squad). Let’s see how they perform against a surging Terps squad.

Look for General Greivis to take it to Paulus. He is a liability on defense and our guards should be able to get into the lane against him. Penetration will key easy baskets and open things up for Gist, Strawberry, and Ibekwe on the interior.

Ibekwe and Gist must avoid foul trouble at all costs. The refs will be looking for any excuse to blow the whistle in Durham tonight.

Go Terps.

Hail Gary! Hail the Seniors

What a game! Can you believe they pulled that one out? The most crucial sequence of the game came when Mike Jones turned the ball over, and the Tarheels were heading for an uncontested layup. The layup was missed, and Jones promptly drained a three cutting the lead to seven. That was a five point swing and it was all Terps the rest of the way.

A collective mea culpa is in order. Gary Williams, I doubted you. We all doubted you. Losing has a way of doing that to a fan base. Gary’s Terps completed an improbable ressurrection and Gary above all and should be recognized. He is the best coach in the history of the University and will be in Springfield one day. In no small part due to what he has acheived this year.

These kids have been left for dead twice. For the seniors, it was missing the tournament for two straight years. And then most recently, this January. The Terps were 2-5 in conference play. Now they are 8-6!! Who can believe that?

The first four games of this run were sparked by the play of the underclassmen. James Gist, Grevis Vasquez, and Eric Hayes were turning heads. The Sun, The Post, even Jay Bilas were writing about them.

Tonight it was the seniors. DJ played the game of his career. 27 points on 12-18 shooting. Jones played the way he should have been playing for the last 4 years (He got a ton of open looks coming off screens). Ibekwe committed his required three stupid fouls, but played great defense against Hansborough down the stretch and rebounded the ball well.

Vasquez and Hayes played poorly, but the seniors picked them up. It was a team effort. This team never gives up. Gary has taken two freshman and a JC transfer and molded them with a star-crossed upper class. Few coaches can acheive that kind of balance and commitment to unselfish play.

I think Gary Williams warrants consideration for ACC Coach of the Year. If the Terps pull this off and win out, he gets the nod.

Something special is happening in College Park. Many Terp fans will be reminded of the teams’ Final Four run in 2001. Left for dead after the Duke (gone in 53 seconds) and Florida State losses; the Terps miraculously rebounded and made it to the grand stage.

Can this team replicate that? That may not be in the cards for this team, but who cares? These players have given their fans a gift. The gift of an unexpected run to glory. For that, I am grateful.

Duke is on Wednesday. Who can wait?

Gary’s Best

In preparation for the biggest game of the year, it’s a good time to look back at some of the greatest wins of Gary Williams’ tenure at Maryland. Hopefully, this will get you pumped for the Carolina game.

In reverse order:

#5 January 31st, 2002. Maryland 91 – Virginia 87

Also known as Drew Nicholas game #2. Let me set the scene. The Terps were down by nine at Virginia with three minutes to play. If I recall correctly, Gary even had the boys roll the ball up the court for a few possessions (that never works). Then, Nicholas caught fire. He rained a barrage of threes and suddenly the Terps were winning. Virginia was shell shocked and the Terps stole a win on the road. I remember turning to my buddy and saying, “we never win THAT game”. I couldn’t remember a comeback as miraculous as that in the history of Terps basketball. It was at that moment, I knew the Terps were cutting the nets down in Atlanta.

#4 2003 NCAA Tournament, First Round. Maryland 75 – UNC Wilmington73

Also known as THE Drew Nicholas Game. Who could forget this one? UNCW played out of it’s mind and was just taking it to the Terps for 39 minutes and 57 seconds. In the final minutes, Maryland pulled within 1 and had the ball with three seconds left. Gary called timeout. Many thought that Steve Blake would take the final shot, but for anyone who remembers the aforementioned game at Virginia, it was clear who was taking the final shot. I can picture it like it was yesterday. What Maryland fan can’t? Nicholas caught the ball on the baseline and hit a three as he was falling out of bounds. Swish. Game over. If you were in the Sports Book at the Mandalay Bay Casino that day; you saw me and 10 of my college friends go ballistic in front of 1000 strangers.

#3 2004 ACC Championship Game. Maryland 92 – Duke 87

Not only was it Gary’s first ACC title, but it ended Duke’s streak of 6 straight ACC Championships. The Blue Devils can say all they want about Maryland “not being their rivals”, but if they look at their most devastating losses over the last 7 years; many of them are at the hands of the Terps. Of course, the same could be said for the Terps worst losses. And that proves my point. Great rivals do that to each other.

People remember that photo (so eloquently photoshopped in the previous post) of the crying Duke kid, but forget what an incredible game it was. The Terps were down 10 with three minutes to go in regulation. Mike Jones caught fire and carried us to OT. Looking back, MJ was limited; but boy he is clutch isn’t he? It turned out that the title was bittersweet as it was the end of an amazing run. The Terps would miss the Tournament the following year and the class of 2006 would self-destruct. It was still a win for the ages.

#2 1993 NCAA Tournament Second Round. Maryland 95 – UMass 87

This was the game that brought Maryland back into the national spotlight. I was a sophomore at the time and so were Johnny Rhodes, Exree Hipp, and Duane Simpkins (all local kids, by the way). The most memorable moment ocurred when Exree had gotten fouled while converting a difficult layup attempt, got up from the floor, pounded his chest and said, “This is my game!”. I don’t know who was calling the game that day for CBS, but I will never forget what he said after that moment: “The number 2 seed in the Midwest is in trouble!”. The history of Maryland basketball was changed forever.

#1 2001 NCAA Regional Final. Maryland 87 – Stanford73

No one would have beaten the Terps that day. It was the most dominant performance I had ever seen the Terps turn in. Stanford was a good team and they didn’t stand a chance against Juan, Lonnie and the boys. Lonnie destroyed their bigs
One of my favorite stories about the 2001 season occured in the ACC Semifinal. After Duke squeaked by with an 84-82 win (remember Juan’s desperation 40 foot heave that almost went in?), Shane Battier walked up to Juan, hugged him and said, “I’ll see you at the Final Four”. Battier knew a good team when he saw one.
Much like this season, the 2001 Terps went through some extreme highs and lows. From gone in 53 seconds to the win at Duke. The Terps were streaking heading into the Tournament and everybody felt the breakthrough was coming, but the Stanford game provided the moment. Anyone who had ever spent time in College Park or grew up in the state had waited for that moment. The school with the most Top 10 finishes to have never gone to a Final Four was no longer Maryland. Our suffering had ended.

Even Coach K upon being interviewed after making the Final Four himself said “I’m so happy for their kids” in referring to the Maryland. I think it is the only time in my life that I actually didn’t hate the man. Of course, I was wasted and still celebrating Maryland’s win, so it could have been the booze.

Best. Photoshop. Ever.

Does it get any funnier than placing one of Jon Scheyer’s contorted faces on the photo of the kid crying from the ACC Championship in 2004? Enjoy.

Out of Sync, But We’re Dancing

This was just one of those games that you kept looking at the clock and the hoping the game would end sooner. Every one in Terp Nation just wanted the “W” and you could just feel that the players played that way too.

That was a brutal final eight minutes of the first half wasn’t it? In January, that meant a loss. The stupid fouls and overagressiveness killed us. Even when Maryland took a 29-21 lead, I knew we were in trouble. We had 18 points from three pointers. That is not our game. With our starting frontcourt on the bench with foul trouble, the Terps were in trouble. But, we held on.

The second half started with an impeccable four minutes. 12 unanswered points keyed mostly by turnovers and fastbreaks and Comcast was rocking again. But somehow, the game didn’t feel like it was over. The Terps just weren’t playing their game. The offense was out of sync and the halfcourt offense was not working. The 12 minute timeout came and we just couldn’t stay out of foul trouble. Gist, DJ, Ibekwe all had 3 fouls. I thought, “if we could just make it through the next 4 minutes with none them picking up their 4th”, we’ll be home free.

For the most part, that happened (except Ibekwe); yet somehow I’m left uneasy. The optimist would say, “we played poorly and still won by 18!”. If you are reading this, then you know by now that I am not an optimist. Florida State really frustrated the Terps in the halfcourt and forced us into countless bad decisions. Is this a roadmap for how to beat Maryland? Stop the penetration and get our bigs in foul trouble and the Terps will struggle mightily.

All of this is reason for concern, but guess what? The good teams have off-nights and still win. Can we play this way and expect to win on Sunday? No way and the players know it too. How excited are you for Sunday? The Terps have a chance for a signature victory. An exlcamation point on this remarkable resurrection. 11 days ago who could have imagined this?

The resume has us dancing. 21-7 overall, 7-6 in the ACC, RPI in the teens and rising. So why is it that Duke is ranked #18 and the Terps are unranked again?

Can they make a Tournament run? Absolutely, if they continue to pound the ball inside and let Vasquez and Hayes make the decisions.

The seniors have finally accepted their roles. Strawberry is a slasher, and with able passers in the half court, he can get to the hole and use his athletic ability to finish or get to the stripe. Jones is our shooter and remarkably not a whole lot of anything else. He knows it now and so do we. Ibekwe rebounds and plays defense. His offense should come off putbacks and the occasional low post move if there is a mismatch situation.

With Gist and the freshman leading the way and playing consistently, the Terps can make a run. The NCAA is pretty mediocre this year. No team outside of the Top 5 or 6 teams have demonstrated consistency. That helps to explain our high RPI ranking.

MD could rise as high as #2 seen in the NCAAs should they finish 10-6 in the ACC and win the ACC Tournament. Granted that is extremely unlikely. What is more likely, is a 9-7 conference record and a run to the semis of the ACC Tournament (if the draw works in our favor). If that is the case, we are 25-9 and I think that warrants #5 seed in the NCAAs. From that position, I think we make the Sweet 16 and depending on the matchup, an elite 8 is possible.

I can’t believe I just wrote that.

A Phoenix From the Ashes

7 days ago, the Terps were a talented team that had woefully underacheived, squandered an impressive start, and seem destined to destroy the program. After today’s gi-normous victory at Clemson, the Terps are riding a three game winning streak, have won four of five (including three straight road wins) and have reached the upper-division of the ACC. What a roller coaster!

How did we get here? Yahoo Sports and all of the other popular websites that produce the box scores will list DJ Strawberry as the star of the game. After all, he did score the most points. Those of us who watched the game know different. Greivis Vasquez played the best game of his short Maryland career today. He finished with 11 assists (which explain 3/4 of DJ’s points). It was a virtuoso performance. Aside from Strawberry playing the role of finisher to perfection, Gist and Hayes also played well. I love what Osby gave us when our bigs got in foul trouble (although, I could have done without all of those Clemson offensive rebounds he was letting up). It was a team effort today.

7 days ago, who could have imagined this? It begs the question, how far can this team go? I’m not ready to go there, but what I am ready to talk about is the talent that is beginning to come out of its shell. Pun intended.

There are three guys on this team that I could see in the NBA one day. Vasquez, Gist, and Hayes. The reasons for Vasquez and Gist are obvious, but Hayes makes the list simply because if Stevie Blake can dish out 7 dimes a game for the Nuggets; why can’t this kid? In some ways, he is further developed than Blake at this stage. He will be great by the time he is done in CP.

But let’s get back to Vasquez and Gist for a moment. Did you see these two in the first half? Gist was draining 15 footers and dunking. Vasquez was just dominant. Playmaker, scorer, defender– he did it all. Vasquez is the best freshman in the ACC not wearing Carolina blue and Gist has made a case for All-ACC honors (not first team, but likely second team).

It’s hard to criticize on a day like today, but I still don’t trust our seniors and here’s why:

-Ibekwe: there was one sequence that sparked Clemson’s comeback when the following happened: Ibekwe got the rebound, hurried a pass that got intercepted, and then let up an easy basket. Where is the leadership? He is constantly in foul trouble, and I don’t think he has ever finished a three-point play
– DJ: Clemson was in the midst of their run, Strawberry received a pass, stepped back, and promptly airballed a three point attempt. Not exactly what I would call a good shot.

– MJ: Did you see that insane baseline turnaround that missed the hoop by about three feet? Yeesh.
– Bowers: Overall he played well but he gets no respect from the officials. I mean ZERO. Maybe it’s his two left feet, or his concrete hands; but the guy is incapable of getting a charge call on defense or get fouled in the act of shooting. It’s as if the officials refuse to believe a guy that unathletic could possibly get to the spot early or miss a shot that badly because he was hacked. It’s the anti-Jordan rules.

As you can see, the underclassman, have been and must continue to carry the day. FSU is reeling, but gave UVA a serious test over the weekend and will not go quietly. The Terps need to carry their competitive fire over to Wednesday at Comcast. A win will virtually assure a .500 conference record and will in all likelihood seal an NCAA bid. It does not get much bigger than that, so Greivis and the boys need to treat it as such.

From what I have seen over the last 7 days, I’m inclined to expect it. If we stop FSU, then Terp Nation can contemplate a Tournament run. We are peaking at the right time. Can you believe it?