I saw the future tonight and it’s names are Braxton Dupree and Cliff Tucker. Dupree played like an uber Lonny Baxter in the first half. He has Baxter’s wide body, but more defined and slightly taller. There is not an ounce of fat on that kid and yet, he has a nice touch around the basket. He’s our rebounder folks. When the game started, I thought something might be wrong with Osby. Why wasn’t he in the starting lineup? Then as Dupree picked up where he left off against Lehigh, the question answered itself. He’s better than Osby. I am salivating at having him in the pivot for the next four years.
As for Mr. Tucker. He will be starting over Milbourne by midseason. He has a decent touch, is fearless around the basket, and he can leap out of the building. Once he learns the offense, he will be a star.
Eric Hayes played the best game of his career tonight. Like it or not, he will need to play out of position all year. He is our best shooter. Check that. Our only shooter. There is no one else who can hit a jumper with consistency (namely Vasquez and Milbourne. More on them in a minute)
If you had told me before the game that our best two players, James Gist and Greivis Vasquez would have off-nights, then I wouldn’t have even watched the game. That’s how sure I would have been that we would lose.
Gist needs to assert himself offensively. He is not demanding the ball and he looks tenative with his open jumpers. On the bright side, he brought it from the defensive end. He is a show-stopper on that end of the court.
Vasquez is mired in AWFUL shooting slump and that pales in comparison to his horrendous decision making. While he has cut down on the turnovers, the shot selection is so bad its mystifying. My buddy Danny calls him Nik Caner-Vasquez. Unfortunately, the comparison is appropriate. I can deal with the shooting slump. Eventually, those shots will start to fall, but the fadeaway threes with 20 seconds on the shot clock? The alley-oop pass on the break when Illinois has three men back on defense? He knows better.
It’s not all bad. At least he took care of the basketball. Combined, Hayes and Vasquez accounted for 14 assists against only 3 turnovers.
Jay Bilas said after the game that Maryland is the third best team in the ACC behind Duke and UNC. Umm, apparently, he did not watch any of the games in KC last week. Bilas is wrong, but he may be on to something. The Maryland team I saw tonight could have beaten Missouri and probably even UCLA. We had 44 turnovers (maybe more) in those two games. If we had just taken better care of the ball, last week would have turned out differently.
Maryland continued to take care of the ball for the second straight game (only 12 turnovers), but they have not solved some key problems. Despite Hayes’ shooting, we are missing a significant piece that all good perimeter teams have. All of Hayes’ perimeter points came as a stationary shooter. Think about the way Steve Blake used to shoot vs. the way Juan Dixon did. Blake was the stationary shooter: catching kick-outs off penetration; while Juan was always in motion, coming off screens or shooting off the dribble. Hayes cannot provide that. It is not his game. In order to get consistent production from the outside, Gary needs to find someone who can fill that void. Let’s hope one of the freshman swingmen can emerge during the season because I don’t think Vasquez is the guy (12% from three- YIKES).
I can’t remember the last Maryland squad that was more comfortable playing games in the 60’s than in the 80’s, yet here we are. This squad is not capable of filling up the stat sheet with lots of points. But if you contrast that with their athleticism, the lack of point production is confounding. This team is a contradiction. They love to get out and run, but they have yet to score more than 75 points all year. It’s not just the poor shooting percentage and the turnovers. Tonight they shot 47% from the field and only turned the ball over 12 times. Most Terps teams would have put up 85 points with similar stats.
Tonights win didn’t answer all the questions we have about this team, but it did open up possibilities again. The NCAA Tournament seems possible now and if we can find a consistent perimeter scorer, watch out. Jay Bilas may wind up being right.