Welcome to Terp Nation 4.0, presented by Paxil
OK, I guess I should say something about the state of the Terrapin Nation (http://www.paxil.com/depression/dp_ln.html).
Here’s comes the condensed version. Brace yourself, this will be insightful.
It’s not good.
The Longer Version
For the love of Gini Chukura, what in the world is going on in College Park? Not since Evers Burns manned the paint has a Maryland team seemed so utterly incapable of winning on a regular basis. This just in, the ACC isn’t even that good this year.
One thing that makes me a little happy about the state of affairs is the knowledge that Gary is exceptionally pissed off. Make no mistake, the man is angry. In his post-game radio interview after the Clemson loss, color man Chris Knoche commented on how Clemson kept hitting big shots when they needed them and Gary basically cut him off and said, rapidly, “That’s what happens when you don’t play any defense.”
Last night, I was listening to the Gary show on the radio and Johnny “every day is a” Holiday said something to the effect of “Maryland’s last five league games are winnable, as long as the Terps don’t ‘look past’ Georgia Tech this Saturday.”
And Gary laughed a “yeah right” kind of a laugh and said, “Look past Georgia Tech? We can’t looks past anyone.”
Any of the following responses would have also been in character:
“Look past Georgia Tech? Have you seen us play?”
“Look past Georgia Tech? Have you noticed that we can’t pass or dribble?”
“Look past Georgia Tech? Will Bowers started a game recently. I let Dave Neal play in the first half. We can’t look past West Virginia Tech.” (http://www.wvutech.edu/athletics/mens_basketball/)
“Look past Georgia Tech? Does anyone have Tamir Goodman’s phone number?”
Accentuating the Positive (kinda)
But let’s not focus on the negative, shall we? I mean, it’s Friday morning, I don’t want to bum anyone out. Look at it this way, every game that Maryland plays is one less game in the Travis Garrison era. One less game less game in the “I am soooo sick of this group” era.
You do have to give some props to Nik Caner-Medley. If anyone has played with purpose and something resembling a set of nuggets in his shorts since Chris McCray failed off the team in the second semester of his senior year, it has been Caner-Medley. I almost even like Caner-Medley. He’s not actually a great player, but he’s the closest things we’ve got and might even make an NBA team next year. I definitely like D.J. Strawberry, he tries very hard, you can tell he hates losing, and it’s not his fault he’s not a point guard. While we’re at it, here are some other quick thoughts on the players in Maryland’s rotation:
Mike Jones – whatever else happens this season, my favorite moment of the year will be when Jones boinked on the twisting, triple pump “I AM GOING FOR A 12 ON A 10 POINT SCALE” breakaway dunk attempt when Maryland was up by one … in a must-win game … at home against UVa … in the final 3 minutes of a game that Gary needed to win to become the all-time leader in wins for any Maryland coach ever.
That, my friends, was Classic.
Thank goodness Jones came back in the game (I was shocked Gary put him back in) and nailed a three-pointer to help the Terps win. Gary may have otherwise ripped Jones’ arms from his torso. Jones has been pretty good the last few weeks. He can’t pass, dribble or guard anyone, but he most definitely can score and he’s a very good rebounder. If nothing else, Jones is exceptionally entertaining, and that counts.
One more thing … has anyone else noticed that when Jones is really locked in, his three pointers go right into the middle of the basket? I mean, the net doesn’t even move, it’s kind of remarkable. Then again, every third shot he takes is so ill advised, that it hits all backboard. I love Mike Jones. It’s not nearly as fun when he’s not in the game.
Travis Garrison – Have you noticed that Gary only plays Travis for about 15 minutes lately? Travis, if you are waiting for just the right moment to have a break out game this season, go right ahead.
Ekene Ibekwe (I have never, ever spelled his name without having to look it up to see if I got it right, that combo of I’s and E’s, and E and I sounds… I can never remember the order. And what does it say about me and every commentator who calls a Maryland game that at least once we look at him and think, ‘Obinna Ekezie?’ Don’t answer that. Ekezie, by the way, recently got picked up by Lottomatica Roma in the Italian League, he’s averaging about 10 points a game (http://188.8.131.52/player/?id=EKE-OBI-75&year=2005&team=1104)
Back to Ibekwe -- I don’t think Ibekwe stinks, but he’s not as good as we hoped he’d be, right? Sort of a theme around the Comcast Center, no?
Sterling Ledbetter – I like Sterling, he seems like a good guy, has a cool name, overcame that bad car accident. But he just ain’t an ACC point guard.
James Gist – is it too early to start hating Gist? Just kidding. I like Gist, I just wish he’d be a bit more of a game-changing kind of a player who takes charge. The guy seems to have crazy talent but, like Ibekwe, he’s really skinny and doesn’t have that commanding presence you’re looking for in a power forward. Give this guy time, I think he’ll be very good next year. Really.
Will Bowers – better than we thought but not good enough to matter.
Who else am I forgetting… Parrish Brown… um, well, he’s OK. I don’t hate it when he comes in the game but he’s not exactly Drew Nicholas now is he?
The Rest of the Way
Let’s take a look at Maryland’s final five regular season games and give them the Gregg Viola “the glass is half, perhaps even 2/3rds empty” treatment.
Home vs. Georgia Tech – Viola says, “Maryland should win.” (16-9, 6-6) After the game, Caner-Medley post-game quote*, “Everyone took a look in the mirror and decided to do what they needed to do to get this win.”
At Florida State – Viola says, “That’s a loss my friend.” (16-10, 6-7). Caner-Medley post game quote, “It’s time for everyone to look in the mirror and see what they can do to help us win.”
At North Carolina – Viola says, “Please. It won’t be close. They killed us in College Park.” (16-11, 6-8) Canter-Medley post-game quote, “Everyone looked in the mirror and no one liked what they saw.”
Home vs. Miami – Viola says, “Miami is a good team. Maryland loses that game.” (16-11, 6-9). Caner-Medley post-game quote, “If you don’t get that mirror out of my face I am going to thrash you, your notebook, and your glasses.”
At UVa (final game ever at University Hall) – Viola says, “It’s their last game ever at University Hall. You think Garrison is going to get fired up or something? That’s an L my friend.” (16-12, 6-10). Caner-Medley post-game quote, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, someone get me a drink.”
*Terp doomsayer Ron Herbst brought to my attention the whole “Caner-Medley says the same thing about looking in the mirror after every game” thing.
What I really think – there is a chance, not a good chance, but a “maybe I’ll make this 10-foot putt” kind of a chance that Maryland will turn it around and get to the tournament with something resembling momentum. They aren’t that bad. They should beat Georgia Tech. They can win at Florida State, that’s a 50/50 game. They’ll probably lose at North Carolina. They ought to be able to beat Miami at home, that’s another 50/50 game. Then they close it out at UVa, another coin flip. That’s one win, one loss and three toss-ups… If they win two of the three toss-ups, that’s 8-8 in the league and probably enough to squeak in the NCAAs. Probably. Then again, if Maryland flops at home tomorrow, it’s all over.
Let’s Take a Spin Around Former Terrapin Nation
Speaking of Drew Nicholas (a few paragraphs ago anyway), let’s transition to some feel-good Terp stories, shall we? Picking back up on a topic I wrote about in a previous edition, Drew Nicholas currently leads the EuroLeague in scoring at just shy of 19 points per game. http://www.euroleague.net/stats/standings.jsp
Now, the EuroLeague is the league in Europe that brings together the best teams from the best country leagues. So Nicholas’ team, Benetton Treviso, plays Italian League games on weekends, and also plays EuroLeague games during the week. It’s wacky over there. Anyway, the EuroLeague has lots of good players in it who you’ve heard of if you follow hoops… some of the best are Louis Bullock from Michigan, Scoonie Penn from Ohio State, Trajan Langdon from Duke, Willie Solomon from Clemson, and a host of Euros being watched closely (or already drafted) by NBA clubs. And it is Nicholas, the lanky, overlooked gunner from Maryland, who leads this league in scoring by a margin of nearly two points per game. That is good stuff my friends. If you like checking out boxscores, take a peek on Thursdays or Fridays at the EuroLeague website for updates, www.euroleague.net, and for the basketball brave, you can dig through www.legabasket.it on Sundays to check out (in Italian) what’s up in the Italian League. Or, you can just wait for me to write about it. Whatever makes you happy.
Dixon and Blake Update
After a very encouraging start to the “Dixon and Blake are the starting backcourt for the Blazers era,” the team has sputtered pretty badly lately. This isn’t necessarily the fault of our Terrapin duo, but the team itself is a mess, one of the worst in the West. In a recent three-game stretch on the road, the Blazers lost all three by more than 30 points. Also, in recent weeks it seems coach Nate McMillan has decided to go with a four-man rotation in the backcourt with Dixon and Blake starting, but Jarrett Jack and Sebastian Telfair getting almost equal court time. Darius Miles just returned from injury so perhaps the Blazers will turn things around. I really need to buy a Blazers hat by the way.
Oh, one other thing. Just for kicks, there’s a relatively entertaining video you can watch on the Blazers website that spends some time with Blake and Dixon as they stroll around an outdoor market in Portland. You can find it at www.nba.com/blazers. On the home page, you’ll see a video screen of sorts, scroll down and there’s an archive you can flip through. In there, you’ll see a picture of Juan wearing some Farrah Fawcett shades. Click on that one. Later, you get to see Juan order a hot dog and Blake says something like, ‘we didn’t have outdoor markets like this in Washington.’ It’s riveting.
Stevie Franchise … why is his jersey in the rafters again?
This has nothing to do with anything, but I want to vent about something to some people who might care. Steve Francis had one great season at Maryland but I will never understand why the program felt compelled to hang his jersey from the rafters where it hangs along with that of true Terps greats and program defining players like Buck Williams, Albert, King, and Juan Dixon. Actually, I think I know the reason. I think they hang all the jerseys of players who were All Americans. It’s not a retired number thing, as evidenced by the fact that Dave Neal is currently blemishing the memory of Lonny Baxter’s #35. The next guy who throws on a #3, by the way, better be very, very good.
Francis acted like a jerk when he got drafted #2 overall and pouted, forcing Vancouver to trade him to Houston. Nice start in the NBA, don’t be grateful for the guaranteed multi-year, multi-million dollar contract. Instead, become the first man to ever openly sulk on stage next to David Stern. It hasn’t gotten a whole lot better since. He’s a fantastic athlete and has plenty of highlight reel moves, but Francis wore out his welcome and didn’t win in Houston, same thing is going on in Orlando and the Magic are openly shopping him around. I want that jersey down.
Speaking of Orlando, I am personally looking forward to the Darko Milicic era. It annoys me when commentators call him a “bust” in Detroit. He never got to play. He’s 20 years old. He’s 7 feet tall and can shoot. Keep your eye on Darko, he’s going to be good.
Tall(er) Terps Traded
Speaking of new opportunities, both Lonny Baxter and Chris Wilcox got traded recently, Baxter from Houston to Charlotte and Wilcox from the Clippers to Seattle. Baxter will hopefully get 10-15 minutes a game in Charlotte, I don’t think he’s ever going to be more than a well-traveled role player, but it’s nice that big LB collects an NBA paycheck (he went to Greece for a while last year but got a guaranteed 2-year deal from Houston, so he’s set for next year anyway). As for Wilcox, hopefully this is the fresh start he needed so he can emerge. He was stuck playing behind Elton Brand, who is just great, in L.A. and never got consistent minutes.
Leave ‘Em Laughing
Finally, as a public service, and with a nod to WVU fan club president Brian Pinsky, I leave you with a link to photos from West Virginia 7-foot gunner Kevin Pittsnogle’s wedding. Enjoy.
(isn’t the Internet a little scary?)