Marylands Holds It Together Against UVA

I apologize for my tardiness with the post-game article. I was without access to the Internet last night. Fortunately, I was able to watch the game because ESPN remembered the University of Maryland has a Men’s Basketball Team. Shocking, I know.

Unlike the Duke game, where Maryland was only able to put together 20 minutes of exceptional basketball; last night’s game had about 33 minutes of good hoops.

Maryland completely dominated the first 10 minutes and were able to extend their lead in the middle 20 minutes. The final stretch saw UVA climb back into the game on the shoulders of an injured Sean Singletary (can someone put a body on him?).

In the end, the Terps held off the Cavs, thanks in large part to Bambale Osby’s FT shooting.

On the whole, there were more positives than negatives last night. The Terps were able to cut down on the turnovers. For most of the night we saw Greivis Vasquez, not his alter-ego, Nik-Caner Vasquez. Eric Hayes was deadly from three-point range, AND to my extreme excitement, I even saw Hayes run around a screen and hit a jumper. (It was the Juan Dixon curl play and he ran it to perfection).

Gist and Osby are a force in the ACC. Outside of Hansborough, I haven’t seen a frontcourt that can match up with Maryland. Osby’s FT shooting has vastly improved from last year and that makes him a real threat when he gets the ball in post. Gist has a tendency to fall in love with his outside shot and I think he needs to demand the ball more in crucial situations. But again, his play in the ACC warrants 1st team All-ACC consideration. He has been that good.

Here’s the bad part: a solid 33 minutes will not cut it on the road against Georgia Tech. Maryland needs to play a solid game from start to finish with no lapses. That is how road games are won in this conference.

These next two road games are crucial. Georgia Tech can match us athletically, but if our guards can limit the turnovers and Osby and Gist show up as they have been; the Terps can win. After that, it’s a revenge game against BC. I think these games are must-wins. But lets not look too far ahead.

Right now, it is all about beating Georgia Tech.

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Why There Is Still Hope

I pretty much share everyone’s thoughts on the Terps loss on Sunday night. They gave the game away, literally, in the 2nd half. They could or SHOULD have been up more than 9 points in the first half if they had taken care of the ball. Duke is a good team and eventually their shots will go in, and they were the more aggressive team in the 2nd half. That’s why any complaints about foul calls are baseless. The more aggressive team gets the benefit of the doubt when it comes to call, and Duke was that team in the 2nd. They battled harder in the end, they deserved to win. Our players aren’t yet experienced enough to be consistently good at the end of games.

Now, losing this game hurts the Terps in a huge way if we have hopes of an NCAA tournament bid. Another win over a Top 5 team would have been big, but they still have a good chance to make the tourney if they are able to finish 10-6 in the conference. That would mean going 8-3 the rest of the way. Look at the schedule. They can finish 8-3. They can also finish 3-8.

I truly believe they can win 8 of the last 11 games IF, and it’s a big IF, they can summon the passion they played with for most of the past 2 games. I’d like to believe they will. These past 2 games were growing experiences for this young team. Our senior bigs will score and lead us, but it’s the freshmen and sophomores that determine if this team will win games. They played well for most of the past 2 games and the key is learning that you need to play with that desire in EVERY game, not just against Duke or Carolina.

The past is the past, we can’t take away the losses to Ohio and American, but we are a much better team now. We also can’t use the North Carolina win as a barometer as well. They are only as good as their last game. Now it’s Virginia. It’s the most important game of the season and a must-win. No excuses. By Wednesday night, we should learn a lot about whether this team has a chance to go to the tourney or if they will be lucky to make the NIT.

Maryland – Duke Thread

Pregame: 1:30 CT

The Gold Palace is preparing for a classic battle of wills this evening. The anticipation is killing me. I may have to go run on the treadmill to relieve the anticipation.

I have added the “chat” feature for this evening’s game. It’s at the bottom of the post on the left hand side. If you feel like commiserating with the rest of Turtle Soup during the game, that is the venue.

Tipoff 5:40 CT

Because Sean Singletary was allowed to take 5 steps on his way to a game tying layup; we are going to have to endure overtime of the GT – UVA game. This is ridiculous. No one cares about these two teams. Switch to Maryland – Duke!

1st TV Timeout 5:50 CT

13-12 Maryland. We look to be shooting the ball well, but judging by the number of shots Duke has taken; we are either turning the ball over or giving up offenisive rebounds. Switch to the game already!

Under 8 timeout 6:13 CT

Turnovers are killing the Terps. They are still in the game thanks to good shooting, but they need to take better care of the ball. Part of it, is that Duke’s hands are all over the place. I think they are reaching and committing fouls, but of course that’s what I think. Just take better care of the ball, Terps!

Under 4 timeout 6:21 CT

Some great sequences. The Terps are really clicking on offense. There was an absolutely atrocious call against Jim Gist. That was a clean block. The announcer claimed that Gist got Singler on the hand. Umm, the hand is part of the ball, jackass.

1:32 Left in the half

My eyes have seen the glory! Coach K got T’d up for complaining to the officials! Sweet justice! The best part is that the play he was bitching about (Gist’s follow-up dunk) was a clean play. No interference. What a tool!

Halftime

The 2008 Terps scored 51 points in the first half. 51 points! Who thought that possible after what we endured in the latter part of 2007. Like Coach Williams said as he went in to the half, “It’s just 20 minutes.” 40 minutes make a game, but I love what I see. The Terps cut down on the turnovers in the last 8 minutes. If that trend continues, we should win. Perhaps the best outcome thus far is that it is clear last week’s offense was not an aberration. The Terps have found an offense. Let’s hope in continues throughout the second half.

12 Minutes Left

Just a disastrous 8 minutes. Maryland gave back the entire first half cushion. Too many turnovers and frankly, Duke outhustled them. How will Maryland respond?

Post Game Thoughts

Duke demolished Maryland in the second half. They outscored the Terps 51-33. DeMarcus Nelson would not miss in the second half. Every loose ball went Duke’s way. Coach K spread out his offense and neutralized Maryland’s inside advantage. The players executed the game plan perfectly.

Duke is a good team, but for Maryland to play so well in the first half and then collapse in the second half is just disheartening. The season is not over, but Maryland needs to rebound from this loss quickly. UVa comes to town badly needing a win. Can the Terps put together a run to finish the season?

The Case Against Duke

Some years ago, I stumbled upon what I called, at the time, “The Anti-Duke Manifesto”. It was written by a brilliant young UNC Law student, named Brian Allen. His entire treatise has been republished for posterity on Truth About Duke. Allen has since published a book of his musings (you can find it here).

I mention this because with the Duke game approaching this weekend, it is a good time to revisit why we do (or should) hate Duke. Who am I kidding? It’s always a good to time to talk about why Duke is the worst.

I will briefly summarize (for Lord knows, I could spend all day dissecting the minutiae of hating Duke) what are for me, the three biggest reasons that Duke sucks.

Biased Officiating

Often cited, it is one of the most mystifying phenomenons of modern sports. Literally thousands of examples exist, but for Terp fans; the 2001 Final Four is forever burned into our collective psyche. I won’t resurrect that painful weekend for you, but if you can recall another instance where 60,000 fans simultaneously booed the referees at a neutral venue; please let me know.

Shane Battier became known for being great at drawing charges. Excuse me? WTF does that mean? The blocking/charge call is the consummate bang-bang play. If someone is particularly adept at drawing the charge, perhaps they will get the nod 60% of the time as opposed to an average player getting the call 50% of the time. Shane Battier did not have a blocking foul called against in either his Junior or Senior season. Perhaps that is an exaggeration, but you get the point.

What’s even worse is how often game announcers (namely Dick Vitale and Mike Patrick) will morph this into a positive attribute and a testament to Duke’s superior style of basketball. A case in point is the way in which Vitale and his ilk treat huge discrepancies between the number free throws Duke attempts vs. their opponents FT attempts. Somehow, it’s not biased officiating. Instead, hapless defenders have no choice but to foul under the pressure of Duke’s unrelenting athleticism and style of team basketball.

Racist Undertones

Duke has a reputation for having “lots” of white players. Even the most ardent of Duke fans will not deny the label. An unfortunate outcome of this reputation is that it can and does attract racists. In particular, you will find this characteristic prominent among fans who are not alumni (or related to an alumnus).

Typically, the racist undertones are not out in the open . Instead, it is cloaked in other language. Things like “they play team basketball” or “they are real student athletes”. I interpret these phrases as code words that are used to hide old and odious racial prejudices. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but think about how many times you have heard that said about Duke. Of course, every utterance of those phrases does not implicate the speaker as a racist; but the language clearly has a subtext. To deny it is to ignore the reality.

Not only are the implications in these cloaked statements disrespectful to every African-American student athlete in the history of college athletics, but a quick check of the facts reveal that Duke’s “whiteness” isn’t even grounded in truth. If you tally the Duke All-Americans under Coach K, that the majority of them are African American (8) and not white (5)!

The Cameron Crazies

The media has anointed them “the best fans in college basketball”. The truth is that they print out “cheer cheats” so they can coordinate their disgusting drivel. Some gems from the cheer cheat include:

– Referring to Juan Dixon’s deceased parents as “crackheads”

– Calling Steve Blake “ugly”

– Referring to DJ Strawberry’s Dad as a “cokehead”

Some may chalk these comments up to a “few bad apples” in the crowd. How then, do these epithets descend from the student section year after year?

Look, all college students lack class. Just look at our student section. I’m not suggesting Terp fans are any better. They are just as poorly behaved as the “Crazies” and they are definitely less organized. What I’m suggesting is that the media stop fawning all over these over privileged rich kids like they are some sort of uber-fan.

I could go on and on. In fact, I haven’t even started on Coach K (after all these years, I still can’t even begin to spell his name). Frankly, he deserves his own post.

Hopefully, my little journey through the “aura” of Duke has sufficiently prepared you for Sunday’s game.

Until then, let’s go Terps!

DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?

YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

OK, so it wasn’t USA 4, USSR 3 from the 1980 Olympics, but beating #1 UNC at the Dean Dome is one of the all-time great wins in Maryland history. This from the team that was justifiably ridiculed by Billy Packer just four nights ago? Impossible!

What happened today is why we love sports. To quote the greatest sports movie ever made, Hoosiers, “And David put his hand in the bag and took out a stone and slung it. And it struck the Philistine on the head and he fell to the ground. Amen.” There were about 15 people who thought Maryland could win this game: Gary, the coaches, and the players. That’s it. No one gave them a chance, not even their fans (read: me). But that is Gary Williams at his best. The ultimate underdog.

The winning sequence couldn’t have been more improbable: James Gist throws an entry pass to Bambale Osby who gathers himself for a difficult lay in which he completes without traveling. Amazing!

Of course, the officials were determined to give Carolina every opportunity to pull this one out. Carolina knocked the ball out of bounds with 10 seconds left and Maryland up two. Game over right? Nope. Still Carolina ball. Was there a Maryland fan anywhere in the world who wasn’t throwing something or screaming obscenities after that call? It was epic in its atrociousness. Vintage Karl Hess. But in the end, our boys prevailed.

The Terps apparently now own the Dean Dome. Has there been a peskier visiting opponent for UNC over the last 24 years? Len Bias dealt Carolina their first ever loss in the building. In my only trip down there in 1996, Johnny Rhodes and the boys beat them. Now, we upset them as 18-point underdogs! I’m sure the Terps overall record in the Dean Dome is still under .500, but it is definitely better than one would think and probably better than any other school in the ACC.

My favorite non-game moment from today came from the footage of the Cameron Crazies going nuts after Maryland completed the upset. What a bunch of morons! As we all know, a Maryland win can completely rejuvenate this team. With Duke next on the Terps docket, one has to think that the Blue Devils will now have their hands full next Sunday. Yet there they were, cheering in full throat. God, I hate them.

Now, back to some reflections on today’s historic win. If you scroll down to the post from this morning, you will see my recipe for a Terps upset. Let’s review:

  1. The Terps need to own the glass. (Didn’t happen. UNC outrebounded MD 46-38
  2. The Terps need to record 8-10 blocks. (Didn’t happen. MD had only 5 blocks)
  3. Greivis must play under control and commit no more than 4 turnovers (Check*. Even though he had 6 TO’s and he took 3 -4 inexcusable shots, Greivis only committed 1 TO in the second half and he stepped up down the stretch when it counted. I am giving myself a “check mark” with an asterisk on this one.)
  4. Terps must hit 6 three pointers. (Check. With Milbourne surprisingly contributing two)
  5. Gist must score 25+ points. (Check*. Technically, it was 22 points, but Gis was all that and then some today. James played the best game of his young life and Maryland needed every single bit of it. Every time that Maryland needed a bucket, Mr. Gist delivered.

So with my liberal scoring, I was correct with 3 of the 5 “needs” that Maryland had to have to record the upset. But the question remains, how did the Terps win without dominating defensively? The answer is that Maryland scored more points today than they have in every game this year except for the laugher against Morgan State. Where did all of this offense come from? I’ll tell you in the form of the prettiest two stats I have seen all year:

  • 20 assists
  • 10 turnovers

In the other words, “the best game Maryland has played all year”. Vasquez had five turnovers in the first half alone. That means that without taking a look at the first half stats, at most, Maryland committed only five turnovers during the entire second half. Simply put, Maryland played smart for 40 minutes for the first time all year.

Our young Terps had many opportunities to cave in under the pressure tonight. For me, the most salient moment– the moment when I knew we would be in it until the last second, occurred with about 11 minutes left. UNC began to score in bunches, and the Terps actually went toe-to-toe with them for a few possessions. As the scoring spurt continued, UNC started getting the best of the frenetic pace.

Up four, Eric Hayes shot a three, and the ball was 90% in the hole and somehow, it rimmed out. UNC got the ball and gave it to Ellington who immediately hit a three. A six-point turnaround and Maryland’s lead had been trimmed to one. The entire stadium thought that Carolina was about to go on a run and put the game away.

What ensued were the defining moments of the game, and perhaps the Terps season. How would the Terps respond? After the timeout, the Terps went down to Gist (after moving the ball around the perimeter) and he scored. It was a tough shot, but he took the shot within the flow of the offense. Over the next few minutes of play, the Terps actually extended the lead. Maryland was not going away.

When the post script is written on the 2007-08 season, it could be that the sequence I just described propelled the Terps toward a memorable February and March. The road ahead is not easy, but with a win like today’s, anything seems possible.

As Wheels noted in his comments, I’ll be convinced if the Terps are able to play consistently through the Duke game and into the UVa and GT contests. But it is too early to think about that now. The Terps have the week off before the hated Blue Devils come to town. That should be enough to keep the boys riding high until next Sunday night.

One final anecdote: Maryland came into today’s game ranked #122 in the RPI. What do you think a road win vs. the RPI #2 team will do to those rankings? For the first time all year, I actually be inclined to check when the new rankings come out.

Maryland – UNC Thread

There is not much chance for a win today, but I will never say never (even though I did in my last post). In order to be competitive; the Terps need own the glass and record 8-10 blocks. Greivis needs to play under control and limit his turnovers to less than four. The Terps also need to hit 6 or more threes and Gist must score 25+ points.

I’m hoping for a sweep today. A Terps win and an Obama win. Don’t ask me which one I want more.

I added in the chat feature for today’s game, so if you want to rant with your fellow Soupers, click the button and get to it.

Rating the Freshman

This weekend’s game at UNC has the potential to turn the Terps season around. As I die hard, I can’t bring myself to say we have no chance, but we have no chance. I fear that it will demonstrate what we know to be true. This team is a mish-mash of parts that don’t quite fit together –yet or maybe ever.

Much has been written that the majority of the rotation is made of freshman. So I am going to break down what I think about each of them.

Adrian Bowie

The positives: When on the floor, he is our best defensive player. Always. That will guarantee him playing time in Gary’s system. He seems to have a decent handle and his decision making has improved over the last seven games. His quickness will help the Terps against the quickest point guards in the conference. He has a huge test against Lawson this weekend which has the potential to be a defining game for him.

The negatives: If he can shoot, I have not seen it. His handle is not that of a point guard, but without a reliable jump shot, he is no shooting guard either. I’m not sure what he can offer in the half court. It seems that the majority of Bowie’s points this season have come on drives to the paint. If you are 6’2″ and not named Allen Iverson, you need to find other ways to score. Bowie needs to come off screens and hit jumpers. The flex offense can’t work without guards who can do that consistently.

The verdict: If he can develop a jumper, we have a keeper.

Jerome Burney

Who? You will eventually remember him as the guy who started on the 2010 UConn Final Four squad and won the MOP Award. In his acceptance speech, he will extend his middle finger at Gary Williams.

Braxton Dupree

The positives: Size and strength. He actually has quickness and agility too.

The negatives: Imagine Lonny Baxter’s doughy body combined with Travis Garrison’s manos de piedra (stone hands), and a dash of Mario Lucas’s defensive effort. It’s a horrid combination.

The verdict: I hope that all of the negatives are tied to his lack of understanding of the system in which he is playing. If the proverbial light bulb goes on between now and next season, he has the potential to be great. We saw flashes against some early season opponents so we know that he has the ability to score in bunches. To extend a tired metaphor, I just hope that light bulb doesn’t have a dimmer switch.

Dino Gregory

Never heard of him. Is he on the team?

David Pearman

Ladies and Gentlemen, the next Jason McAlpin!

Cliff Tucker

The positives: He is a gifted athlete who posesses the smoothest jump shot on the team (I say this because Eric Hayes practically shoots a set shot.). Tucker can create his own shot. No small feat in the ACC. He can take it to the rack or he can pull up from anywhere.

The negatives: He doesn’t know what he is doing out there. As maddening as that is, it is perhaps that the most promising thing about him too. The flashes he has shown could become the norm if he can learn the flex offense. His defense is terrible too and needs to improve dramatically. With his athletic ability, he should be one of the best defenders on the court, yet he is one of the worst. Right now, there are just too many holes for him to be consistent.

The verdict: Of all the freshman, Tucker has the highest ceiling. By his senior year, you will grow to love him. I promise.

Shane Walker

Shane is the forgotten man. I honestly can’t remember one thing (positive or negative) that he has done all year. Despite writing a regular Terps blog, I can’t say that I have seen every minute of every game, but I have watched enough and not a single moment stands out. All I know is that is the guy is the “project”. Hailing from England, he is supposed to develop under Gary’s tutelage.

I feel like I’ve seen this before. You never know what you are going to get with the “project”. For every Hassan Fofana, there is an Obinna Ekezie. Some of these guys develop into consistent performers, and some transfer after one season. No one can tell you which one Shane will be, Not even Gary knows.

In Summation

So there you have it. Gary’s got a mixed bag. At this juncture, the freshman nucleus of Bowie, Dupree, Tucker will be the group that Gary will build around. A big man, a quick guard, and a slasher. On paper, that is what you want. The problem is that the promises made on paper ain’t worth much.

If this were 2002, I would be giddy. All of these guys are loaded with the potential to be great and back then; Gary got the most out of his players. Ahh, but there is the rub. Potential ain’t worth shit anymore. Either Gary has lost his mojo or he has been knocking on the wrong doors for five straight years. I’ve been disappointed with a litany of potential stars. Strawberry (don’t forget the first 3 and half years), Mike Jones, Travis Garrison, Nik Caner-Medley, John Gilchrist, etc. etc.

Now, I am seeing it again. In his second year, Greivis Vasquez has disappointed as those who came immediately before him. I even renamed him Nik Caner-Vasquez. I’d be more optimistic that he will eventually learn if I hadn’t endured the last 5 years of Maryland basketball.

So now, I am supposed to believe these freshman will develop? I’m sorry but I have lost faith. It is going to take a great deal for me to get it back.

A miracle win at UNC would be a start.