….how I put the chemistry problems of twelve 18-22 year old boys and their coach into perspective.
Before I get to the question I posed in the title of the post; I am going to attempt to explain Maryland’s season through a complicated metaphor. That’s right. I’m going to compare the University of Maryland’s Men’s Basketball team to, of all things, the US Economy.
Still here? That last sentence didn’t scare you off? Well then, here goes.
The entire banking sector of the economy is behaving like Maryland did in the last 10 minutes of the Clemson game: panicked.
These banks have worked together for years. They have borrowed money from each other and bought securities from each other. All of a sudden, there is no trust. Instead of extending Bear Stearns a lifeline of credit, the banks hovered like vultures waiting for them to collapse. Everyone is out for themselves. Sound familiar?
That’s how I think the last seven Terp games played out. Instead of working with Greivis to run the offense, everyone seemingly forgot their roles. Out of sync and turnover prone, the Terps slowly disintegrated until there was nothing left but Greivis running around haphazardly forcing passes and chucking up bad shots because no one else was doing anything.
So it is with the current financial crisis. Mortgage securities caught the cold, but none of the other credit markets stepped up to bring stability. James Gist disappears, no one fills the void.
An investment banking pillar, Bear Stearns, is now toast after a distinguished 85-year history. Similarly, Maryland is in disarray. A school with an elite pedigree and a team comprised of proven winners who are now, if I can continue the metaphor, a bunch of soon-to-be-laid-off losers.
Now the Fed has attempted to give a couple of “slaps in the face” to the financial markets in hopes that they would come to their senses. Lord knows what measures Gary Williams has taken to prove to these kids that they are good and they should trust themselves and each other.
Which brings me back to the title of this post. Why should the Terps be kicking themselves? Let’s start with a look at some key team statistics I uncovered; or put another way, the Most Frustrating Team Statistics in the History of Maryland Basketball.
In ACC play, Maryland finished tied for first in FG% (47.5%) and also finished first in FG% defense (41.6%).
Read that a couple of times. If you don’t believe me, the proof is here (just sort by the FG% in the first chart). When you shoot the ball well and defend well, you should win. Period. End of story. Have you ever heard of such a thing for a team that finished SIXTH in the conference?
Adding insult to injury, the Terps finished first in the conference in assists and second in blocks. Can an entire fan base simultaneously and spontaneously combust out of frustration?
Of course, we know the counterbalance to these gaudy stats: turnovers and rebounding. Now we are getting somewhere. Limiting TOs and hitting the glass are the pillars of effort and focus on a basketball court. The best rebounders are not necessarily gifted athletes. They are just the hungriest. The teams that protect the basketball best, are not the best dribblers. They are just the most focused.
Why did this team lose its focus and stop trying? We’ll never know, but methinks it comes down to chemistry. This team just didn’t click. It’s impossible to outline all of the ways this team had bad chemistry, but I will point out two of the most obvious.
- The Greivis – Hayes situation caused more of a problem than I think any of us realized. Two point guards on the floor at the same time proved disastrous.
- Our quietest player was our senior leader (Gist) and our most outspoken player was a sophomore. How many problems did this cause that we don’t know about?
I’m sure there are more and I will leave that up to the ensuing discussion, but after looking back at the wreckage of this season, it is hard not to think about how good this team could have been.
In what I think will prove to be the most important offseason since 2001, Gary Williams and the boys will need to figure out how to live up to the potential that is brewing inside the numbers. There is a great team in there somewhere. I know it.