My Thoughts On Greivis’ Comments

I just read through Greg’s remarks and all of the subsequent comments about Vaz and I have this to say:

Leave the kid alone!

If there were indeed any racist slurs hurled at GV as has been alleged; then I am indeed ashamed as we all should be. If true, than the University needs to do a better job of policing the student section. That is an absolute disgrace and something that I would expect out of the Deep South, not from a cosmopolitan campus like Maryland. For Shame!

MD fans are angry. I get it. I’m angry too. We won the National Championship in 2002 and now we are praying that we can squeak into the Tournament every year. It is not fair. There is plenty of blame to go around for that believe me. But to concentrate your ire at Greivis Vasquez– the most talented player on the team is insanity.

Let me remind the haters….

HE LEADS THE TERPS IN EVERY SINGLE OFFENSIVE STATISTIC!!!!!!!!!

He is also a 20 year old living in a foreign country speaking a second language. Yes, he has a hot temper; but just try to imagine yourself at 20-years old. If someone called me a racial slur; I would have jumped over the scorer’s table Ron Artest-style.

There is no other player in major college basketball who carries a heavier burden night in and night out than Greivis Vasquez. Again, HE LEADS MARYLAND IN EVERY SINGLE OFFENSIVE STATISTIC!

Oh, and let’s not forget about the fact that his family is living under an incompetent regime in Venezuela and desperately needs him to make good so he can give them financial security.

What exactly were your biggest concerns when you were 20 years old? If you are like me, it was where am I going to get wasted tonight and how am I going to my chain yanked.

Sorry, for the vulgarity; but this whole incident is more embarassing for the University than it is for a 20 year old kid who carries more burden on his shoulders than most of us have in our lifetimes.

Whether we go 6-10 or 10-6, Maryland is a better team with Greivis Vasquez on the roster than without.

O-line, Turner Horrid

You know, Ralph Friedgen is always complaining about lack of fan support for the football team. Well, if he expects to have good crowds, I would think he’d like to show up in the biggest game of the year.

The offensive line, one that is big and experienced should be ashamed of themselves. They have been just miserable and they should offer apologies to Chris Turner. 5 sacks???!!! Give the guy some help.

Second, Turner should offer apologies to the defense. When he has had time, he’s been horrible. We were getting right back into the game late in the 2nd quarter and he had Davin Meggett so wide open, yet he decides the throw into quadruple coverage. I know he’s getting nervous back there with all the pressure, but my goodness, complete a pass.

The entire team should be ashamed.

Oh, and did anyone know that there is this Rolle kid who was arriving late tonight?

Halftime – Wow. What a stinker.

I have to say I’m shocked. Sure, the terp fan in me could see this coming, but I did not want to believe that the team would come out and play like a bunch of bums, thinking this was going to be a romp. They have looked listless in offense, very little creativity in the play calling. No screens, no slants, nothing.

The defense looks horrendous. No tackling, confusion on what a QB making his THIRD START EVER is going to do.

Just getting beat from one end of the field to the other. Do I have faith in a second half comeback? After what happened last week, it’s possible, but the difference is UVA has cashed in on all of its scoring opportunities. We are not staring at an 11 poing deficit. We are 21 points down.

Who can we blame?! I’d love to blame somebody, but I have no idea why this team contiinues to do this to us and itself.

They Can’t Win (& Cal Game Thread)

I don’t mean the Terps can’t win the game against Cal on Saturday. They might.

I mean the Terps can’t win in the media, and that’s not a good sign for this program.

First let me say I’m as frustrated as anyone in the Terps inconsistencies in the past 4 seasons. They have not earned the benefit of the doubt in any way, but the way some of the media (notably David Steele of the Sun, and we’ll get to him in a second) have bashed this team borders on unfair. I’m not saying they don’t deserve criticism, but in today’s world the way the newspapers cover the team has a huge affect on recruiting and like I said earlier, this is not a good sign.

All week, most of the newspapers and “insiders” have asked for predictions and dug up former Terp players for their insight on the team. One notable former player Lamont Jordan took a mighty shot at the Fridge and basically said all his success was due to the players Mike Locksley recruited. Now there is a discussion to be had about Locksley’s departure and the success he has had in pretty much every school he’s coached at, but to say that the Fridge had very little to do with the success is plain wrong and unfair. He seems overmatched in the past few years and it could be time to start talking about a replacement, but he has still led the team to 5 bowl games in 7 years and anyone who was watching this team in the 90’s would have given anything for that. I’m not saying he should be safe or off the hot seat, but it’s not all him.

The column I read that made me want to write this was from Steele of the Sun today. His column pretty much said that if the Terps beat Cal, it wouldn’t mean anything, it would just be a tease. He states facts from the previous few years that Maryland has played well against top teams, but doesn’t seem to get up for the lesser teams. We all know that to be true, but to come out and say a win means nothing is ridiculous. Every game is big for this program and beating a ranked team is a major accomplisment whenever you do it. I understand Steele’s point, but it just seems like the Terps just can’t win in his eyes. If they lose, well, they suck. If they win, it’s just a tease and they still will underachieve. I know he’s paid to give his opinions, I just don’t agree with this one.

Look, I just want to see some fairness. Everyone on that coaching staff works hard and while we would like to see some changes or at least some changes in philosophy, it’s not right to bash them like that. It seems so many of those columnists or ‘insiders’ just want to make headlines and say outlandish things to get people to read and react to their websites. It’s like sports radio, and we know that sports radio has very little to do with facts. Leave the bitching and moaning and negative rants to the bloggers and be a little more fair.

I may be overreacting to the article, but as a die hard fan of the Terps, I want to see my school do well and I want them to play on a fair playing field. We all know changes have to be made, but if they were to win this game, it would be huge and perhaps a start to a memorable season. It might be a tease again, but I’d rather get a win and take it from there. Then again, we might get creamed on national TV and the frustration will continue to build. Whatever happens, I’ll try and treat this team fair.

Now bring on the Bears and let’s see if we can give them a game!

Terps Lose the Battle of Murfreesboro

Judging from the box score, the game was not all that dissimilar from a Civil War era slaughter.

The Terps came into the game against MTSU thinking it was a trap game. A trap game it was. Chris Turner played like absolute ass and the play calling was atrocious. Here’s a news flash for Friedgen and Franklin: if you only bring in Josh Portis for running plays, options, and QB sneaks; then the defense will put 11 guys in the box to stop it. This is not rocket science. Change things up a little!

The Fridge has gone from offensive genius to moron in a matter of 5 years. It can’t all be personnel issues. Where’s the creativity? It can be argued that Maryland has the best receiver and the best running back in the ACC (Da’Rel Scott had another strong game); yet we stink. 11 touches for Scott? 2 for Heyward-Bey? That is just plain ineptitude.

Defensively, the Terps have exactly zero sacks – on the season. Can we blitz some of the these 1-AA QBs? For the love of God, gets some pressure on these guys!

Even more frustrating is that the ACC is terrible this year, and given the talent; Maryland should have had a shot at a BCS berth. Instead, we are losing to Middle Tennessee State. I’m trying to recall the last time Maryland lost to a 1-AA school (or whatever it is those schools are called these days). I’m too tired to look it up, but I think that even the likes of Mark Duffner and Joe Krivak were able to steer clear of a loss like that.

The optimist in me is saying look at all of these also-ran programs that are beating big schools. East Carolina looks ready to challenge for the national championship. Utah goes into the Big House and beats Michigan. So Maryland went on the road and lost to a scrappy team? The pessimist’s response? Well, you can polish a turd all day and at the end of the day, you still have a turd.

So just how bad is the ACC? How about NC State’s rousing 34-24 win against William and Mary? Or maybe you were impressed when UVA stuck it to Richmond 16-0. ACC teams should be beating these teams by 30+ points. Instead, they are either scraping by or losing outright. It’s never been a football conference, but the ACC is embarassing itself.

I’ve gone from being bullish on the season to thinking that the Terps might win three games all year. California beat Wash St. (a Pac-10 team) 66-3 today. They are going to crush Maryland. I was in Byrd Stadium in the fall of 1993 when Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions came in and whupped the Terps 70-7. Next week could be that bad.

On the upside, Midnight Madness is five weeks away. Then, there will be a whole bunch of other things to complain about. Orioles, Ravens, and Terps. What did I do to deserve this?

EDIT: I have since been corrected. The Sun Belt Conference is D-I.  How I could have possibly forgotten that such a prodigous and powerhouse conference is D-I?  After all, beating Maryland may be the best thing that ever happened to the Sun Belt.  Now that is a sorry statement.

Irrelevance Continued

If you haven’t already seen it, Andy Katz came out with his always meaningless Top 25 for next season. Of course Maryland wasn’t on the list. I didn’t expect it to be. But, the thing with these lists that invariably come out as soon as the season ends is that they are based on historical information.

It is impossible to handicap 300 Division I programs and factor in things like: the contributions for incoming recruits, or the losses from outgoing seniors. Usually, the author fills the list with teams that always seem to the end the season in the Top 25 and then adds in a few dark horses just for fun.

Maryland always made these lists because you could write it down in uneraseable ink that the Terps would be there at the end of the year. Yet another reminder that we are what we are. A middling ACC team.

Salt in the Wound from the Worldwide Leader

Thanks, ESPN. Maryland fans really need to be reminded that our program has sucked over the last five years. Not only did the ESPN write an article about how far Maryland and other programs have fallen, but it decided to feature Gary Williams on the front page this morning. Gary looked like the poster child of the “over the hill” gang. To make matters worse, Gary Williams sounded like a whiny baby. And I quote:

“A lot more schools around the country that don’t have football have figured it out that if you pour most of your budget into men’s basketball, it’s going to generate a tremendous amount of income. The level and the numbers are way up compare d to 10 or 15 years ago in terms of teams that take it serious enough to be good enough to play in the NCAA tournament.”

Pleeeeaaase! We can’t compete anymore because George Mason sinks all their athletic budget into the basketball team and we have to share that money with the football program. Are you convinced? How about taking a little personal responsibility here? Gary could have easily said “I’ve made some terrible recruiting choices over the last five years”. But instead he gives ESPN that whiny diatribe? Horrible.

I’m probably making too much of this. In the grand scheme of things, all this really isn’t that bad. It is not as if we are seeing that infamous picture of a drunken Gary Williams with two ugly chicks and a half-eaten chicken wing in his left hand for the first time. Now that was a bad day for the program.

(Note: I refuse to link to it but it is the number one image result when you Google “Gary Williams”.)

Seriously, can you think of a photo that embarrassing that did not involve the coach’s firing? I mean Larry Eustachy got fired for eerily similar behavior.

How many recruits’ parents have been shown that photo and have said, “umm no thanks”? If you think that opposing coaches aren’t despicable enough to dredge that photo up when Maryland is the running for a blue chipper; think again. Coincidently, we have lost an awful lot of recruits since that photo surfaced, haven’t we?

Drunken behavior is somewhat permissible when you are cutting down nets, but not when you are going to three NITs in five years.

I will now swallow my own tongue.

How Did the Terps Beat Carolina?

If anyone else has been following the Tarheels blast through the East Region, you are probably wondering the same thing. Louisville is an excellent team. That Terrance Williams is a special player, but Louisville can’t do anything to slow Carolina.

Louisville threw a 2-3 zone at UNC after made buckets and UNC either shot over them or grabbed the offensive board and laid it in. Tyler Hansborough runs the floor better than any big man I can remember.

As I watch UNC dismantle their opponents, I keep trying to picture the Terps playing them. It’s not a pretty picture. I can’t seem to remember how we beat them.

Whenever UNC would start to pull away, I’d flip over to ESPN to watch the Maryland women playing Vanderbilt. The Lady Terps are dominating. It would be great if one Maryland basketball team could cut some nets down this April.

Speaking of which, Vasquez could learn a thing or two from Kristi Tolliver, Maryland’s point guard. She didn’t attempt a shot in the first half, yet she dominated the game. She dished out assists and had no turnovers. Every thing she did made things easier for her teammates. She also lightning quick. Alas, neither Messrs. Vasquez or Hayes can be taught quickness. You either have it or you don’t.

A (Not So) Quick Note on the Zone Defense

Since I write a blog about Maryland basketball, it is hard to get excited about events that do not include the Terps. Nevertheless, the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is the best sports weekend of the year and I enthusiastically gave the goings on their due attention.

I have a long personal history with the Tournament. I’ve been to Las Vegas eight times during the first weekend. I was in the Mandalay sports book in 2003 when Drew Nicholas hit The Shot. If you ever wanted to see ten twentysomethings piling on top of each other in a sportsbook, that would have been your chance. My buddy Danny’s father was there and to this day claims it was his favorite moment ever as a sports fan. A die hard New Yorker, Danny’s dad has lived through some of the greatest sports moments of the 20th Century, yet that shot and our reaction to it, remains his favorite.

(Interestingly enough, the guy who played Kenny Bania on Seinfeld was there that day rooting for UNCW. At one point, standing right next him, I yelled “Bania is killing me!”. He walked away.)

So, whether the Terrapins make the field or not, the NCAA Tournament is still special. After all, while my Vegas tradition has waned, I still have the myriad pools and other exotic betting opportunities that can only be found during March Madness.

But I digress.

So it was with this excitement that I sat down to watch the opening round game for one of my predicted great eight teams: Clemson. As the Tigers slowly disintegrated on Friday night; it became apparent that the neither Coach Oliver Purnell (a Lefty Driesell disciple, by the way) nor his players had any answers for Villanova’s 2-3 zone defense. I had an epiphany.

The zone defense is an equalizer. It forces teams out of their comfort zone (pun intended) and can negate individual matchups that a more talented team would exploit in a more conventional man-to-man defense.

I began to wonder, why don’t more teams utilize the zone? After all, until recently the NBA made zone defenses illegal because they were too effective. Teams often couldn’t score consistently against a good zone and scoring totals suffered. Even now, the NBA only allows zones on a limited basis.

Certain coaches became known as gurus of the zone defense. Jim Boeheim and John Chaney come to mind. Both coaches almost always have been able to get their respective teams in the Big Dance during their career and have usually been able to advance beyond the expectations of their seeding. Part of the reason for their success, I think, is that too many teams play man-to-man defense and when they run into a team that plays a tough zone defense; they can’t figure out how to score against it.

This happens all the time with Maryland. I can’t tell you how many times over the years that I have seen Maryland get taken down by a lesser team because they couldn’t solve the zone defense (both Temple and Syracuse have consistently gotten the better of us).

Which brings me to the ultimate question of this post? Why don’t more coaches, and specifically, Gary Williams focus more on perfecting the zone defense? Am I missing something? Is there a negative side effect that a zone causes? As far as I can tell, a pressing team, a running team, a half court team should all be able to play a zone defense without it negatively effecting the offensive end of the floor.

I’m no basketball expert, so I am sure that I am missing something, but what is so great about the man-to-man defense? How many teams that specialize in the zone get one game farther than expected in the NCAA Tournament? It seems like every year, there are two to three teams that sneak into the sweet sixteen because of their zone defense.

Could Maryland benefit from running zone? It would have to help with rebounding right?

Maryland’s Season Ends Predictably

Post Mortem

When the clock struck double zeros, it was another miserable ending in what was almost an uninterrupted string of miserable endings. It is really saying something to call this year’s Terps the most inconsistent squad ever to play for Gary Williams, but it is true.

(I say this and I remember the John Gilchrist years! Winning the ACC Tournament after finishing 7-9 in the regular season is the very definition of inconsistent, but this year’s team surpassed that standard.)

The reason I give this year’s team the “edge” is that the 2008 Terps could not even play consistently within the same game. At least with Gilchrist, you knew pretty much from the get go what you were getting that night. Every single starter on this team has disappeared at times this season. No one played consistently from December through March. That is epic.

Maryland turned the ball over so many times this year that it became the team’s hallmark. The same guys are going to be bringing the ball up the court next year, so something needs to change. It’s been said before, but what scares me the most is that no one demonstrated marked improvement in limiting turnovers during the season. Vasquez and Hayes made dumb passes against N. Florida and they were making the same dumb passes tonight. It’s maddening and it is not getting any better.

Since Steve Blake’s departure, Gary has brought in two top 10 rated point guards (Gilchrist and Hayes). Vasquez turned out to be better than both, but none of them are good enough. I’m not giving up on our sophomore guards just yet, but there needs to be significant improvement if Maryland is to return to the NCAAs with regularity.

It would be great if the backcourt was the only area in need of improvement, but alas, there is concern up front as well. Jamar Smith is the last Terp who could score with his back to basket. That is four straight years without a post scorer. Garrison sucked beyond belief. Bowers was worthless. Ibekwe was soft. Gist was soft too and did most of his scoring on fastbreaks and turnarounds. Osby was the closest thing we have had and that is really saying something. For a player as limited as Bambale Osby to emerge as our best post scorer over a four year period is a shot across the bow. We need better big men and I am looking at you, Gary Williams. Can you bring us a legit power forward or center one of these years? Maybe Augustus “Big Caesar” Gilchrist is such a player, but who knows? (Yes, I just coined that nickname)

Another point of concern is the Clemson loss. The team simply never recovered from that game. Gary Williams will need to rebuild the team’s psyche during the offseason. Make no mistake, The Terps are damaged goods. Our turtles are snake bitten and that feeling will not go away until we see the Terps get a lead and hold onto it for 40 minutes.

Which brings me to another problem. I can recall many leads blown, but I can only recall one deficit overcome (UNC). This team did not believe it in itself. There was no confidence that when the an opponent took the lead that the Terps could take the punch and fight back. They just rolled over and died. There was no fight.

The talent is there. The attitude is not. Greivis Vasquez will enter his junior year as the unquestioned team leader. I know that he has plenty of fight in him. But will the team rally around him? Cultural differences aside, he operated on a different wavelength from everyone else on the team this year. How many times did he zig while the rest of the team zagged causing yet another turnover?

The Terps face the fundamental challenge of learning to play as one team and not 5 individuals just playing on the court at the same time. With essentially the same cast returning, whether or not they are up to challenge will determine how the rest of the decade plays out.

(Shuddering).