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.