Friday, February 29, 2008

Terps 74, Wake 70

Not very good with a lead, are they?
Not exactly clutch free throw shooters either.
Don't take care of the ball.
Don't have much of a bench.
No killer instinct.
But...
Gist played like a lottery pick, which always helps.
Vasquez abused anyone who tried to guard him.
And...
Terps 74 Wake 70.
Two more to go, vs. Clemson Sunday and at UVa a week later. I still say they gotta win both, not one of two.

Other thoughts on last night's game:

That Ish Smith would not be fun to guard, would he?

Good Gist + Good Vasquez = Maryland win (not exactly calculus).

What a nerve-wracking, borderline annoying bunch of players to care about, this Maryland team. You root for them and enjoy the win, but it is maddening how they refuse to put teams away.

Before the game, Gminski said the "key to the game" for Maryland was bench production because they typically only get 10 points a game off the bench. So if we know the bench stinks, why is production off the bench the key? Wrong answer. The key is Gist and Vasquez playing great and at least a few other guys contributing. It ain't complicated.

I think Maryland is a better team when Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker get some minutes.
These usually come at the expense of Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne, which I can live with.

Gary had laryngitis, insert joke here.

Why exactly hasn't Gary been playing Jerome Burney until now? The sophomore is built like Joe Smith, is clearly a good presence on defense, and can even do a little something with the ball. It would be one thing if this guy were getting like 5 or 6 minutes a game and then Gary started increasing the number to 10 or 12, but he wasn't playing at all. He was almost like a last resort and guess what? He's pretty good. Weird.

I guess I like this team.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Lunardi says Terps Still In

I can't believe it, and it truly doesn't mean anything, but espn.com still has Maryland in the tournament field with a 11 seed according to the latest bracketology:

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/bracketology

In my mind, however, the NCAA tournament starts tonight. For the Terps to be a lock for the tourney, they need to win their last 3 to go 10-6 in the ACC. Anything less, and then you have to start thinking about how deep they need to go in the ACC tournament. And, news flash, Maryland almost never plays well in the ACC tournament.

Wake is a very good home team, 14-1 this year, and they are on the bubble too. So, tonight is obviously big, here's hoping the Terps play well, not much more you can say.

There is, however, A LOT going on in Turkey right now. Here's the latest on Drew Nicholas and a group of his American teammates who did not feel safe traveling to Serbia this week:

http://www.thenewanatolian.com/tna-31463.html

Go Turtles.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Drew Nicholas and Teammates Decide Not to Travel to Serbia After Political Unrest, Off Team?

Some serious craziness going on with Drew Nicholas and 3 of his teammates on Efes Pilsen right now. Basically Nicholas and American teammates Loren Woods, Rashad Wright and Andre Hutson decided not to accompany their team to a game scheduled for Thursday night in Serbia agains Partizan. Apparently the US gov't warned their citizens not to travel to Serbia b/c of unrest there. Last week, Serb demonstrators set fire to the US embassy in Belgrade to protest US backing of Kosovo independence.

Here's a report available on a great site called Ball in Europe:
http://www.ballineurope.com/countries/turkey/serbia-crisis-affects-euroleague/

EFES Pilsen shocked just before the away game against Partizan which will be played Thursday, as four of the American players, Drew Nicholas, Loren Woods, Rashad Wright and Andre Hutson, refused to go Serbia due to security reasons. Efes Pilsen GM Engin Ozerhun said, ‘We do know that the US government warned their citizens not to travel to Serbia, because of the situation in Kosovo, but Serbian government gave us warranty for a safe game and trip as we all had to go there. Scoonie Penn and Kenny Gregory decided to come and play including our US citizen coach David Blatt, but other four Americans refused to travel.

This is definitely unacceptable situation as I can easily say that those four players, Drew Nicholas, Loren Woods, Rashad Wright and Andre Hutson will not play for us anymore.’ Efes Pilsen arrived Belgrade with 8 players, but due to rules there should be 10 players for an official game as there’ll be a meeting with ULEB authorities to play the game with 8 players.


If you go to this link, you can see a post that looks like it's from Drew himself:

http://forums.interbasket.net/showpost.php?p=148672&postcount=65

I think it would be really horrible and unfair if Drew and his teammates were dropped from Efes as the GM is saying. I mean, these guys are being told by the US gov't that it's dangerous for them to travel there, and instead of standing up for them, their management is saying they are disloyal?

What makes matters even stickier is that two of the six Americans on the team, Scoonie Penn and Kenny Gregory, as well as American coach David Blatt, decided to make the trip.

Sooo... I'll keep an eye and ear out for what happens next. As many readers of this blog know, my good friend Doug Neustadt is Drew's agent so we'll see if Doug can keep us up to date.

GA

Juan Dixon News

As reported on the Baltimore Sun's recruiting blog -- http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/sports/college/recruiting/2008/02/honors_for_dixon_liles.html

Juan Dixon's little brother is having a big season for Tallahassee Community College, just named to the first team all conference Florida panhandle. He's headed to Pittsburgh, hmmm.

As for big brother Juan, I was initially upbeat about his trade from Toronto to Detroit last week, but in 2 games with the Pistons, he's played only a couple of minutes. Tough situation for the all-time leading scorer in Maryland basketball history. Last year, Dixon made a nice initial impact in Toronto after being traded from Portland, averaging 11 points in about 20 minutes of playing time over 26 games.

Then Raps coach Sam Mitchell thinned the bench for the playoffs, and Dixon fell out of the rotation. This season, the last in his current contract which pays about $2.7 million, he has barely seen the court. He was buried on the bench behind Jason Kapono. The indignity of it all.

http://www.nba.com/playerfile/juan_dixon/career_stats.html

One thing Dixon has proven is that when he gets minutes, he puts up points. Right now in Detroit, however, the team is playing great, they are 42-15. Chauncy Billups and Rip Hamilton are the starters in the backcourt of course. But get a load of their back-ups: Arron Aflalo, the rook from UCLA gets about 12 mins/game; Jarvis Hayes, who stinks, gets 16 minutes a game; and Rodney Stuckey, another rookie, gets 16 minutes a game. I mean, I don't think Juan Dixon is an impact player in the NBA, I am not delusional, but he's gotta be better than those guys, right?

Here's an article from the Detroit News about how Dixon will have to earn his time. And why not, you know? They are 42 and freakin 15.

http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080223/SPORTS0102/802230337/1004


It'll be interesting to see where Juan winds up after this season. Be nice to see a team want him in their lineup for real minutes.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Terps go BLAH at Miami, Lose

What a BLAH, nothing, lame performance at Miami. No one stepped up, no one decided "we aren't going to lose this one," the better team won the game, plain and simple.

So here we are, with 3 left in the ACC:
At Wake
vs. Clemson
at UVa.

Anything worse than 3-0 and I don't think you can make a credible argument for Maryland deserving to be in the NCAA tournament unless they get to the finals of the ACC tournament. That's how I see it. Run the table to get to 10-6 and they deserve to be in. Go 9-7, gotta be in the finals of the ACC tournament. Go 8-8 or 7-9, Md is going to have to WIN the ACC tournament.

Here's why, and it's not a news flash: their out of conference record sucks. Maryland has five losses out of conference to VCU, American, Ohio, UCLA, and Missouri.

And Gary can't have it both ways. He can't say that Md. would deserve to be in if they go 9-7 b/c that's a winning record in the so-called best conference in the country, when you can't hold serve against teams from the Colonial, Patriot League and MAC at home.

Those games were ancient history until the debacle at home vs. Va Tech. Losing at Miami was and is forgivable. The Canes are pretty solid this year and have owned Maryland the last few seasons. Hate to say it but it's true. Hate to admit it, but Maryland is not very good against the former Big East teams across the board. Terps are 1-4 against BC, Va. Tech, and Miami this year. None of those teams are locks for the tournament. Va. Tech has been just as bad as Maryland out of conference this year, but the Terps inexplicably laid down for them at Comcast last week. Saturday at Miami was just a bad performance. At home vs. Va Tech, blowing double-digit leads in the second half to a mediocre squad that was ready to lose... that's a complete train wreck.

No matter what happens, you won't hear me complain about whatever the Terps get come NCAA selection Sunday. It would not shock me if they went 3-0 to get to 10-6, but then if they lost in round one of the ACC tournament, they would not be safe. No, there are too many good teams out there that have proven they can play with and beat a team like Maryland. The Terps need to clean up this house but quick if they want to play meaningful basketball in March.

I've written it before: wouldn't it be a crime if James Gist went to one NCAA tournament in his career?
Such a big difference to the state of the program if they make it or don't this season. Make it, and you're back on track, having been to the tournament two straight years after two misses. Miss it, and that's three out of four years missing the tournament.

We shall see, soon enough.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Great Performance

I saw a fabulous performance by a Maryland team at Comcast Center last night; one that had Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, new head coach John Harbaugh, and D coordinator Rex Ryan on their collective feet, high-fiving the athletes and reveling in the moment. The Maryland student athletes came ready to play, put on an amazing show, and left the crowd buzzing.

Unfortunately, I am talking about the Maryland "Gymkana" team, the high-flying gymnasts who vaulted their way to a standing O at halftime. I am not kidding either, these guys were great. Inspiring and acrobatic, they had everyone transfixed, always do.

Check out Gymkana on YouTube:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=XFgLkd5cugM


As for the basketball playing Turtles, blech. Greivis and Osby showed up to play, the rest put on a disinterested performance to match the energy level of the crowd. Losing to Va. Tech, at home, during the stretch run of the ACC is a bad loss. Gary's teams almost always bounce back after situations like these, so let's not throw them under the bus and forget about the great games of the past 6 weeks.

But I can tell you from a first-person perspective, that attending last night's game (aside from the company of good friends) was the least fun live sports experience I've had in a long time. Here's a list of things would have been more fun than attending last night's game:

Cleaning the kitchen - at least you feel like you accomplished something.
Having your car stolen - at least you learn a little something about the insurance system.
Watching "the girls" on American Idol.
Not going to last night's game.

A few game notes:
Not having Cliff Tucker, the sometimes scintillating freshman, hurt. On a night when Maryland needed some "pop" off the bench, they got Dave Neal, who looks like he graduated three years ago and has packed on 15 pounds of beer weight, and Jason McAlpin, a feel-good walk-on story who actually gets playing time but never does anything with it. Gary actually trusts this guy, lets him play in real situations, but he doesn't appear to have the goods in game situations, tightens up, as evidenced by two horrendously bricked free throws before and during the Va. Tech player puked on the court.
Never seen that before by the way. Student fans were pretty funny afterward with a few chants including, "That's Dis-gus-ting," and "M-V-P" for the lady who came out with a mop.
Not sure why it took 15 minutes to clean up some puke by the way. You'd think he laced the court with arsenic the way they went over and over the area.

I am bummed about this loss. Losing to Va. Tech is very annoying. They are not a particularly strong program, they have a young team that had just lost by 39 at UNC and were on a 3-game losing streak. They were so ready to lose.

And Maryland loses to them, at home, when a win is crucial this time of year. Hate to say it, but this year's squad cannot be trusted. The Terps could still go 11-5, of course, and make this loss a distant memory, but they could also go 7-9. Who knows? Anyone who thinks they do know, is kidding themselves.

I guess this is just another reminder of what it means to be a Maryland basketball fan. After the "gone in 60 seconds" game at home to Duke in 2001, I told a friend that I could no longer invest emotionally in the program. It was a lie. Later that same season, I traveled to Anaheim to watch Maryland beat Georgetown, then Stanford to go to the first Final Four in school history. The next year, Maryland won the national championship.

Much as we might want it to be ture Maryland basketball is not a super-power that dispatches teams with ease, a thoroughbred like Duke, Carolina, or Kansas. Never really have been. No, the Terps are more like a lovable family dog, who provides many moments of heart-warming inspiration, but, once in a while, takes a giant shit on the carpet.

GA

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Terps - Va. Tech preview

written in 10 minutes, without any online research, I'm just sayin:

I mean seriously, it's Virginia Tech basketball. Is there ever a scenario where losing to these wannabe's is acceptable? I think not.

Random thoughts:
  • I'm going to the game tonight, will file a first-person report late-night.
  • Upon 10th viewing, my favorite part about Landon Milbourne's Dunk against FSU, was not the throw-down itself, but the fact that after he did it, he just jogged down the court like he made a routine lay-up. Dude is smooth.
  • You think Gist is an NBA player? Not just do you "hope" he's an NBA player because he seems like a good dude, but if you had to bet $100 on whether or not James Gist can make - and stay - on an NBA roster, which way you going on that one? (vote to the right).
  • Really hoping for a solid wire to wire performance tonight. Would be nice to have a relatively low stress win to prepare for 3 of the last 4 on the road. (we all know that won't happen).
  • I interviewed UMBC head coach Randy (don't call me Rodney) Monroe on the show on Saturday and he was great. Was legitimately appreciative of the opportunity to talk about his program and seemed like a great guy. For the first time, um, ever, UMBC is pretty good this year, 10-2 in the (pause and try to guess their conference, I dare you... scroll down for answer)





America East and have some quality road wins, including one at powerhouse American University.
  • Hey, at least AU is in first place in the Patriot League. If they win their conference tournament and go to the NCAAs, at least.... NO NO NO, that loss will always be horrendously horrendous.
  • I mean, really, Maryland LOST AT HOME TO AU. The students at AU barely know they HAVE a basketball team. Let's move on.
  • Terps 88 Va. Tech 74 tonight, then a big one at Miami Saturday.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Drew Nicholas interview on Euroleague.net

After Drew Nicholas dropped 29 against defending Euroleague champion Panathinaikos last week, he attracted lots of attention. Here's a Q&A with Drew from the Euroleague website:

http://www.euroleague.net/features/interviews/i/24640/179

Here's the text of the interview:

You can count on a single hand the number of Euroleague players who have been able to score on mighty Panathinaikos the way that Drew Nicholas of Efes Pilsen did last week to open the Top 16 for his team on a true high note. A former Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy winner, Nicholas is in his second Euroleague season with Efes, having been rejoined for this one with head coach David Blatt. Nicholas says his team was inconsistent in the regular season but that it has all the talent to compete from this point until much later in the season, just as it showed in the Top 16 opener. "On any given night, we're capable of playing with anybody," Nicholas told Euroleague.net. "All year long, the guys on our team and people outside our team have been saying that we're one of the more talented teams in Europe. It's just a matter of being consistent and coming to play all 40 minutes or more, instead of just 20 or 30, which has been our major issue so far."

Hi Drew. Not too many players have ever dropped 29 on Panathinaikos. Most important, Efes won the game. Can you think of a better way to start the Top 16?

"Definitely not. We knew it was going to be pretty much all-out war, like any time you play against Panathinaikos. Everyone knows that Panathinaikos and CSKA are two of the favorites to win the Euroleague. Coach Blatt told us that if we want to move on, we at least have to take care of our home court and then steal another win away. That put a lot of pressure on us, but we played the game we needed to. Thankfully, every player on the team stepped up and played well."

What does beating Panathinaikos say about the potential of Efes Pilsen?

"I think it really shows that on any given night, we're capable of playing with anybody. All year long, the guys on our team and people outside our team have been saying that we're one of the more talented teams in Europe. It's just a matter of being consistent and coming to play all 40 minutes or more, instead of just 20 or 30, which has been our major issue so far."

What was your opinion of the team's regular season performance?

"We were inconsistent. We had some really good wins against big teams, twice against Lietuvos Rytas, at home against Unicaja rather easily. Then again, we had some bad losses in games that we should have won but we let them slip away."

What was your first reaction when the Top 16 Draw threw Efes in with two of the top five-rated teams from the first round - Panathinaikos and Montepaschi - plus a giant-killer like Partizan?

"Coming into the round of 16, if you look at every group, each one of them is a huge fight. There's no real group you can look at and say 'These two teams are definitely moving on'. With us being in the third seeding level, we know we were getting two heavy hitters. Plus we got Partizan, which is a very tough team to beat on their floor."

Tell us about your team a bit. First what has been the influence of David Blatt as head coach?

"I think he just brings his own style and approach to the game. Obviously, Efes before this was considered much more of a control basketball team, with its focus almost entirely on defense. That's not to say that we don't focus on defense now. For the most part we do, but Coach Blatt also likes and up-tempo game and on the defensive side we do things tactically to disrupt the other teams. For me, having been with Coach before at Benetton, it has been a joy to get back together here."

Indeed, you were scoring champ in your first Euroleague season with him at Benetton a couple years ago. Can you compare the two situations, that first year with Benetton and now with Efes?

"It's a little different. It's a little more difficult for Coach to handle this situation just because of all the Americans we have, six on the Euroleague roster, but only five can be on the bench for Turkish League games and only three in the game at the same time. Sometimes, that makes it hard to balance our chemistry on the floor all the time. The rotations differ from one league to another. I think Coach Blatt has done the best job possible, but that's the biggest difference, getting everyone on the same page chemistry-wise."

What effect did coming to the Euroleague have on you with that first, breakout scoring season in Treviso?

"I just remember being so excited to just be a part of the Euroleague. That year I cam to every Euroleague game trying to be the most focused and determined as I could possibly be. That transferred over to the way I play. I just think the Euroleague is the top in Europe and it's always pleasure to play in it. Hopefully, I can continue to do so at this level a few more years."

Istanbul is one of the biggest basketball markets in the world, with several pro teams - four major ones between the Euroleague and the ULEB Cup. What is it like to be a basketball player in Istanbul?

"Especially this year, it's very tough. The Turkish League has made a dramatic improvement over last year, when it was basically us, Fenerbahce and Turk Telekom fighting for everything. This year, the top six teams in the Turkish League can really compete at the highest levels. Istanbul is like most Europe places in that soccer predominates, but people definitely go crazy for their basketball, too.

What effect does the stronger Turkish League have on your team?

"The improvement in the Turkish League is helpful because you get in tough situations and games that unite guys on the team. As the year progresses, you learn to handle situations that might come up in the Euroleague later, down the road in hostile environments. I think that teams need those kinds of tough games to grow and mature."

Looking ahead after the Panathinaikos win, what would make this a successful Euroleague season for Efes in your opinion?

"To get to the Final Four. That's the ultimate goal for us right now, but obviously everyone on our team is mature enough to understand that this is one game at a time now. If we don't take care of business against Siena this week, I won't say it negates the win against Panathinaikos, but it would make it less important. We have big opportunities ahead of us and have to make sure we take advantage of them now."


Saturday, February 16, 2008

MD 82, FSU 72

Quality second half performance by the Turtles today and we are back in the WIN column, as Joe Angel would say.

The 82-72 win over FSU puts Maryland back in a tie for third in the ACC with Clemson. Greivis almost pulled off a triple double with 20 points, 8 assists and 8 turnovers and later told the media he played "horrible." But if that's horrible, I think we can all live with it. After all, GV got Maryland back in the game in the first few minutes of the second half with a couple of big 3 pointers, even if he was a little sloppy with the ball.

Thoughts on the game:
I didn't get to attend in person today, watched on non-HD channel 54.
Love Dan Bonner on color commentary, the most under-rated color guy in the country in my opinion. He's been doing it under the radar for like 20 years. The guy is as insightful and smart about hoops as Billy Packer, without all the holier than thou attitude.
GREAT game by Milbourne; as Gist said after the game, he's a big X factor for this team, when he and Hayes are scoring, Maryland is very tough to beat.
Hayes has looked a bit weak the last two games, but did make a few big threes today.
Gist had either a bad good game or a good, bad game. All of a sudden he isn't finishing as well as he was prior to the Duke game. He made his free throws and was disruptive on D, so ... decent game, just not a dominant game like you'd like to see out of Gist. I guess he can't do it every night.
At 17-9, 7-4, Maryland has to win 3 of its last 5 to lock up a tourney spot. You gotta believe they are going if they make it to 10-6 in the ACC right? So here's what's left and what I think will happen:
Wed. night, home vs. Va Tech - VT just lost by 39 at UNC today; they are a bad road time, Md wins this one to guarantee at least a .500 season in the ACC.
at Miami -- I think Miami has won four of the last five vs. Maryland and they are going to really need this game. It's a toss-up but I think Maryland wins.
at Wake -- another toss up ... but one thing that scares me is this.. Wake is 5-5 in the league right now. Their next two are home vs. Duke and at UNC, so they'll probably lose both and be 5-7 when Maryland visits. That means wake will be playing for its season ... not good news for Maryland. I think the Terps win 1 of these 2 road games, not both.
vs. Clemson - Md. usually beats clemson, though the Tigers have a very solid team this year, another tough one, but I give the Terps the edge for their home finale (even though they've been a mediocre home team this year).
at Va. -- Md. should win; Cavs have Sean Singletary and not much else and typically handle UVa.

If I had to bet it, I think Maryland beats VT, goes 1-1 at Miami and Wake, and then beats Clemson and UVa to finish 11-5 in the ACC, 21-10 overall. That would be solid.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Drew Nicholas Scores 29 in Big Win Over Sarunas' Team

Last night in Euroleague action, Efes Pilsen took on Panathinaikos, which is relevant to Terps hoops followers because Drew Nicholas plays for Efes, and Sarunas Jasikevicius plays for Panathinaikos.

Big win for Efes, 74-64; and Nicholas scored 29, a season high I believe. Sarunas, or Saras as he is known to the Euros, had 12 points.

Here's a link to the boxscore:

http://www.euroleague.net/main/results/showgame?gamecode=169

And here's a quick summary:
Efes Pilsen got the Top 16 off to exciting fashion in Group D by beating defending Euroleague Basketball champion Panathinaikos 74-64 on Wednesday night at the Abdi Ipecki Sports Hall in Istanbul, Turkey. Drew Nicholas scored 23 of his 29 points – equaling his career-best – in the first half as Efes took a 46-35 halftime lead and the hosts only added to that in the second half.

Here's how the wacky Euroleague works by the way. They start with 24 teams in about 30 countries (slight exaggeration).

Every team plays once a week on weekdays, because they play in their country leagues on weekends. For example, Drew's team, Efes, plays Euroleague games on Wed. or Thursdays, and plays games in the Turkish league on weekends.

The "regular season,"
is a Round Robin System with 14 games played by each club. There are 3 divisions of 8 teams. The Top 5 teams of each group plus the single
best sixth-placed team advance to the Top 16.

In the Top 16 round,
it's another Round Robin System with 6 games for each club in four, four-team divisions, so you play each team in your division home and away. The four group winners and the four second-place teams in each group advance to the quarterfinals.

Once it's down to the final 8, they start with a more American-stile, best 2 out of 3 playoff series. So there's four best-of-three quarterfinal playoff series between
first and second-place finishers from the Top 16. The four series winners advance to the Final Four.

Once there's a final four, it reverts to American style college hoops, a single elimination event held in a different city each year (potentially, but not purposefully, the home court of one of the teams involved.). This year, the Final Four is in Madrid. Last year it was in Athens, the year before that, Prague; and the year before that, Moscow. I went to that one. It was wild.

Hope you enjoyed this little euroleague education segment. You can catch the odd game on NBATV if you play attention.

GA

Duke Scores More Points than Maryland in Basketball Contest

Sigh.
Much to the chagrin of the homers like myself who predicted Maryland victory, Terps got the short end last night.
Not much you can really say.
Duke is very talented this year.
Here's an idea, guard Singler.
Anyway, wasn't to be. Terps fought very hard to cut it to 2 in the second half, we had a glimmer of hope for a big comeback, but the ball just wouldn't go down when Maryland needed it to. That, and Duke seemed to hit every big shot, especially Singler and Paulus, both of whom were great last night.
Good game, great atmosphere. I still say Maryland is a very good team that will make the tournament.
Did anyone catch the "Fear the Classroom" sign? Now that's funny.
Actual huge game is Saturday at 3 p.m. at home against FSU. Now that's a must win.

GA

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Maryland at Duke - Big 'Un Tonight

Here are the numbers of Maryland vs. Duke over the last 7 years:

Series record over that time: 7-7

2001-2002 (1-1)
L @ Duke, 99-78
W @home, 87-73
Md. went on to win the national championship.

2002-2003 (1-1)
W @ home, 87-72
L @ Duke, 75-70
Md. lost in sweet 16

2003-2004 (1-2)
L @ home, 68-60
L @ Duke, 86-63
W ACC Tournament Final, 95-87*
When Gilchrist went nuts for 3 days (in a good way)
Md. lost in round of 32 to Syracuse

2004-2005 (2-0)
W @ Duke, 75-66
W @ home, 99-92
Note – in the '04-'-05 season, Maryland beat Duke twice, but went 16-12 (7-9) and went to the NIT. Beating Duke feels good, does not guarantee a good season.

2005-2006 (0-2)
L @ Duke, 76-52
L @ home, 96-88
NIT disaster, home loss to Manhatten, that wasn't fun.

2006-2007 (2-0)
W @ home, 72-60
W @ Duke, 85-77
Back to the NCAA tournament, round of 32 loss to Butler.

2007-2008 (0-1)
L @ home, 93-84
?? @ Duke

If you stretch out the results to 8 years, that includes the epic 2000-2001 season, when Maryland made its first ever Final Four. They played Duke four times that yeare and went 1-3; 1-1 in the regular season, then Duke won in the ACC tourney, and the NCCA Final Four in Minneapolis. That's when Duke had Jason Williams, Duhon, Boozer, and Battier, and Maryland had Dixon, Blake, Baxter, Morris, and Wilcox. Those were four of the most intense and exciting games in the history of the rivalry; they were in fact, the marquee games of the college season.

Maryland vs. Duke BECAME a huge rivalry during that season for a couple reasons. First, as noted above, great players. A bunch of NBA players and very, very good college players.

Second, great games that meant something – ACC championships, Final Fours.

Third, during an era of Duke dominance over the rest of the ACC, Maryland stepped us as the only team that could actually win on their court, or win against Duke at all, during a period when Coach K. re-established his team as the team to beat in the ACC and the country. (UNC was fumbling and bumbling through the post Dean, pre-Roy era.)

Say whatever you want about Coach K. and the Dukies, but they have great players, and they win and win and win. Also, if you allow yourself to drop the hate and watch the game pure and simple (which is difficult), Duke is, forgive me, a fun team to watch. They share the ball. They shoot a lot of threes, they play with fierce intensity.

It's the whole 'floor-slapping, we are Duke, sign the court, Cameron Krazies, how dare you think about beating us' thing that makes us, as fans, get particularly annoyed by Duke. They are very annoying.

So what will happen tonight? This isn't just a homer pick, I honestly think Maryland will win. The Terps are playing great basketball right now and probably want this game more than Duke at this point in the season. Plus, Greivis plays his best when fans are all over him and the spotlight shines brightest. I wonder what hair style he'll come out with tonight? D.C. Sports Bog did an entire column on this topic, a great read:

Greivis is Mr. GQ

Duke is great, but right now, I think Maryland is up to the task, especially when Vasquez and Gist are playing well, which they are. Those two I would put up against any point guard and power forward in the country. That said, Duke has more depth and has lost only once this year, at Pitt, by one. Still, the pick here is Maryland 88 Duke 84 because it just feels right.

Finally, keep one thing in mind. Maryland can lose tonight, get blown out tonight, and it doesn't make or break the season. The most important games are the other ones - must wins like home vs. FSU and Va. Tech, and needing to get 2 out of three vs. Clemson and at Wake and at UVa. Do that, and the Terps will go 10-6 or 11-5 in the ACC and back to the dance. Wouldn't it be a crime if James Gist only went to one NCAA tournament in his four years at Maryland? Just gotta take care of the games you're supposed to win. Tonight is for fun.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Terps Getting Some Respect from National Tourney Field Pickers

We've reached the point in the sports calendar -- Super Bowl is over, baseball hasn't started yet, NBA is in the the middle of its long season, NHL is irrelevant -- when college hoops takes center stage. It's building, we're not there yet. But we have reached the point where the mock field of 65 becomes a popular topic of debate, with ESPN's Joe Lunardi as the reigning king (inventor) of this sports geek phenomenon. The online "field of 65 if today was Selection Sunday" is fun to read, but essentially pointless. I mean, it's great to see that those who pay attention to such things think Maryland is "in" as of now, but, repeat after me: it doesn't matter. At all.

There are 7 ACC games and the ACC tournament left to play, and Maryland and everyone else can redefine their season in this stretch. Look no further than last year, when a Maryland team that hadn't been to the tournament the prior two years, won 7 straight AC games. The Terps went from "out of the field" to a 4-seed. Lots can happen this time of year.

That said, it's great that people are finally noticing the great play of late by the Terps.
Greivis got player of the week on ESPN: G.V. is Player of the Week
Joe Lunardi has the Terps as a 10-seed and not even one of his "last four in": Lunardi Bracketology and Fox has Maryland as a 4-seed as well:

http://msn.foxsports.com/cbk/story/7773102?MSNHPHMA

Another Terps reference... they aren't ranked yet, but ESPN's Andy Katz has them #2 on the list of "teams not ranked worth watching:"
1. Louisville
2. Maryland
3. Florida
4. Gonzaga
5. USC
6. Arizona
7. Baylor
8. Clemson
9. Rhode Island
10. Mississippi State

Enjoy. Big Terps-Duke preview coming tomorrow, gonna work on it tonight.

GA

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Maryland 84, N.C. State 70

Ladies and gentlemen of the Terrapin Nation, we got ourselves a basketball team. Yes, after all the early season hand-wringing, consider this bunch officially straighted up and flying right.

That was James Gist, flying high with a career high 30 Saturday night.
And how about Vasquez? He went off for 13 points, 15 assists and 9 rebounds. I can't believe that there are more than a handful of players in the country -- or in the history of Maryland basketball -- who are capable of a line like that. Once in a while, great point guards go off for 15 assists, but how many can also score and rebound like Vasquez?

Now, part of the reason he piled up the assists was because his teammates didn't miss much. The Terps shot 20 for 27 in the second half and pulled away from a pretty good N.C. State team that came into Comcast with plenty of intensity and desire.

But it was the Terps who took over in the second half and they are now alone in third place in the ACC at 6-3. They also won for the second time in the alternate home yellow uniforms. Great article on this in the Post's D.C. Sports Bog --

DC Sports Bog - Terps Go Gold

Quite a turnaround from earlier this year, huh? Let's all give Gary Williams some props for turning this thing around; it's a team that's not only playing like it belongs in the tournament; it's playing like a team that could make a run in the tournament.

This all feels a bit similar to what happened last year; albeit with a different flow. Last season, you might recall, the Terps took care of business in the non-conference schedule (unlike this year), but went 3-6 through the first nine games of the ACC. So, it was at exactly this juncture that fans didn't think much of the '06-'07 Terps. But then the team led by D.J. Strawberry, Mike Jones and Ikene Ibekwe ripped off 7 straight wins to go 10-6 in the league and earn a 4-seed in the tournament. So it just goes to show you 2 things:
1.) The Terps are playing great now and should make the tournament.
2.) There's a still a very long way to go.

Bottom line: it took a while -- much longer than fans, players, and even Gary expected -- for this team to gel and understand its identity and respective roles. For example:

  • Greivis had to learn (continues to learn) that playing under control = playing great.
  • Gist had to learn how to be the man, and not a role player.
  • Osby had to learn that he had enough game to take on anyone in the ACC.
  • Gary had to learn what he had with this freshman class; i.e. who is legit, who can do what, who can he trust in big situations.
  • The fans had to learn some patience. I am one of them. So are you. NO ONE (OK, Maybe Ira Gluck, who is holding a bet for Md. to win the national championship at 150-1) thought the Terps were headed for a great season after losses to VCU, Ohio, and American. Once in a while, you gotta hang in there. All of sudden, no one is whining about Gary's inability to recruit anymore.
  • Remember, even though Gist and Vasquez started last year and Hayes and Osby played plenty of minutes, those guys were all role players. This year, it's their team. Big difference.
  • Landon Milbourne almost never broke a sweat last year; he was buried on the bench. This year he's become a reliable, go-to scorer, and more so as the season goes on (has a lot of Byron Mouton in him, less gritty, better scorer).
On and on it goes.

Next stop: Durham.

The next "biggest game of the season" takes place at 7 p.m. at Cameron Indoor. Should be very interesting. I like Maryland's chances, but Duke is playing better basketball than anyone in the country right now. The good news is that the Terps aren't far behind.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Gary Talks, No One Makes Eye Contact

video

After a displeasing turn of events during the Ga. Tech game, Gary Williams turns to the bench to make a point. Hilarity ensues.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Terps 70 BC 65

Hayes from the corner... and it's good!! Great win tonight by the Turtles, even if they refuse to win a game easily and without stress.

But, a road win is a road win, and Md. got even with BC for the earlier loss at Comcast when the Terps were playing like crap.

Gary's 600th win will be remembered as a classic Gary win, gritty, a little ugly, but his boys gutted it out.

More and more, I think losing at home to American was a good thing. Getting taken to OT by Northeastern and losing to Ohio weren't enough. Like a drunk in denial, the Terps had to hit rock bottom, and hit bottom they did when a team from the Patriot league that has never played in the NCAA tournament came to College Park and won. Going away.

Then came the whole "take the name tags off the locker thing" and some soul searching, and since then it's been 9-2 with losses only at Va Tech (shoulda won that one) and home against Duke. Who is better than Maryland in the ACC right now? Only UNC and Duke by record, and I'd argue the same in terms of how the team is playing right now.

Did anyone actually see the BC game by the way? ESPNU is a joke around here because anyone with Comcast, which is just about everyone, can't get it. So I broke down and -- rather than listening on the radio -- went over a neighbor's house who has DirecTV and caught the game; he's a Va. Tech fan, humored me while I paced all over his living room as the Terps barely hung on down the stretch.

Game notes from my perspective:
The announcers on ESPNU, I don't recall their names, were so bad, it was almost like a Saturday Night Live skit about "generic sports announcers." They didn't know anything about either team, didn't say anything interesting, and filled 2 hours of a college basketball game with bland, non-specific comments like, "Vasquez is playing great tonight." Because the game was at BC and Doug Flutie was in the crowd, of course they felt obligated to interview him, which would have been fine... but they kept him on for 10 minutes of game time, during the second half, while Maryland made its run. And during that time, they straight up interviewed Flutie about BC football and college signing day, AS IF THEY WEREN'T SITTING COURTSIDE AT A BASKETBALL GAME. It may as well have been a college football talk show, with periodic breaks for commercials. I am not exaggerating. They talked to Flutie and ignored the game completely.

Then there were the commercials. Wow. The commercials on ESPNU are one notch above what you'd expect to see on USA Up All Night with Rhonda Shear back in the day; no 900 line ads, but the kind of late-night, home video stuff that just makes you laugh, I think I saw five or six different ads for workout machines, a blood monitoring device, and, of course, house ads for ESPNU programming. It really is a crock that an important ACC game is on ESPNU when most people who follow Maryland in the Baltimore area at least (not sure about DC) don't get the channel.

I asked good friend and ad exec R. Weinstein in NY why Comcast doesn't get ESPNU, whether it was a fight between the networks or what, and he said:

Comcast is in a battle with everyone over everything…

They have equity stakes in a bunch of Fox Regional Sports Networks – which carry a lot of college programming. SO, they don’t want the competition. The arguments are always over what tier it should be on; the carrier wants it on a sports/digital tier so they can charge for it and the network wants it on more of a basic tier so they can get the widest coverage. The U actually has solid programming…


Back to the game, Vasquez DID play great. He led everyone in scoring with 25, had some insane assists and basically carried Maryland along with Gist, who had 23. Love Gist. This is the Gist we hoped for -- scorer, finisher, leaper, exciting, leader. GV still took some shots where you were thinking, "WHAT is he doing" but a few of them went down, as did BC, now reeling with five straight losses.

And guess what? Lookee here, lookee here, Terps are alone in 3rd place in the ACC. 15-8, 5-3, the AU loss feels like a different team and a different season.

The next "biggest game of the season" take place Saturday night against NC State.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Terps at BC on ESPNU = Awww, Man!

There's a phrase that comes out of my mouth unconsciously at certain moments in my otherwise charmed (not really) life: "Awww, man!"

I usually say "awww, man" when I get ketchup on my shirt, which is about 30-35 percent of the time that I use ketchup.

Awww, man moments are those moments when something suddenly becomes apparent that you don't like, but have to deal with. It's not a complete disaster worthy of a stream of obscenities, but it's something you're just kinda bummed out about.

The sudden realization factor is a big part of this. In my book, "awww, man" happens when you think everything is going according to plan... you're just eating your french fries, enjoying the dipping and the dining, when all of a sudden out of your peripheral vision you catch a hint of red, and you think to yourself, "does this shirt have red in it?" and you don't think it does, but you don't want to look down, but you know you gotta... "awww, man!" There it is, a big gloopy buzzkill.

Other Awww, Man moments
  • When you are in a hurry to get somewhere, scramble out to your car in the morning and the front windshield is iced over = Awww, man.
  • When your computer crashes and you don't think you've hit save yet = Awww, man.
  • 30 seconds AFTER you finish a "meal" from McDonald's = Awww, man (this one sometimes followed by, 'why did I do THAT?")
  • When you get in bed, all snuggly and ready for sleep and your five-month-old starts crying and your wife looks at you with that "can you please deal with him?" = AWWW MAN!
  • When you buy a bookshelf from Target -- you know the ones where the back panel is a piece of cardboard made to look like wood from 40 yards away -- and you put the whole thing together, and then you tap in 135 small nails around the perimeter to seal the faux wood background, and just as you are completing the tap, tap, tapping process and feeling good about actually putting something together that required the use of tools ... you realize you put the thing on backwards = AWWW MAN!
  • When you get to the trailer outside of the yet-to-be-opened Comcast Center, and you've been sitting in great seats in Cole for the last 4 years because you got a hook-up from a former colleague, but you've only been paying $125 in TerpClub donations the last four years, and you know you're gonna get screwed, and then they walk you over to this big board and show you the remaining seats you can pick from, and the only ones left are in the deep recesses of each of the corners.... you know what's coming... Awww.... Actually, I think I said F...

Anyway, why am I bringing up all these "awww, man" moments? Well, this Wednesday night's Maryland at BC game is on TV alright, but it's on ESPNU. And I have Comcast cable, which means I don't get ESPNU. And by now I think you can guess my reaction when I found out this news:

AWWW, MAN!!

This is criminal. Terps are on a roll, BC is reeling, Md needs the win, Osby is playing like a man possessed, Gary has these guys believing, Hayes is stepping up to can open 3s, etc., etc., etc. and I have a TV that gets like 500 channels but one of them is not ESPNU.

My choices, if I want to watch the game, are to go over to a friend's house who has DirectTV or to a bar. More likely, I won't see it, because it's on at 7 which is a hard time to completely ignore your family, so I would otherwise record it and watch it later, but I can't do that. AWWW Man, man, man!

Do people in DC have ESPNU? How can Maryland do this to us? Aren't we in the era when it should be rather easy to see every ACC game?

I actually called Comcast cable tonight to see if I could buy some sort of delux sports package that includes ESPNU. But it's not that I'm not paying for it, it's simply not available via Comcast. Is this ESPN's way of trying to get a grassroots movement going to add "The U" (please) to Comcast's lineup?

I am willing to do a lot of stupid things, but complain about the need for a fifth (seventh?) ESPN channel on my cable lineup ain't one of them.

What to do, what to do. Well, give it to me straight Johnny Holiday, I can take it. But in the back of my mind I'll be thinking, AWWW MAN!

Terence Morris is Euroleague's Player of the Month

A few months ago, I went to NY and watched former Terp Terence Morris play at Madison Square Garden against the Knicks... for Maccabi Tel Aviv. Yeah, after bouncing around the NBA for 5-6 years, never getting much playing time, Terence took his game overseas last year and had some success. His agent is my boy Doug Neustadt, and this year Doug and his up and comer Mike Kneisley got Terence a gig for Maccabi, which plays at the highest level of Euro hoops and regularly sends players over to "The League."

So it's a very big 'make or break year' for Terence, as I wrote about in this feature for the Baltimore Sun: http://terpsnation.blogspot.com/2007_10_01_archive.html

Truth be told, that night at MSG I wasn't real impressed. He looked physically like he belonged and even had some good moments, but his energy seemed low and I wondered if he had the desire to go out and work hard in Europe ... it wouldn't have shocked me if his career fizzled.

But guess what? T. Morris is getting it done in Israel baby. Playing alongside Marcus Fizer and Vonteego Cummings, and bad-ass Will Bynum from Ga. Tech, Terence averaged 13 points and 11 rebounds in January and just got named Euroleague Player of the Month.

Kudos to Terence for getting it done. Here's a cool quote from the press release:

Although a perfect 5-0 month didn't mean first-place in its regular season group, Maccabi emerged from January in a stronger shade of yellow, thanks in great part to Morris. His consistency, versatility and selflessness was clear as a player who took more rebounds than shots while giving his team momentum for the Top 16. Morris and Maccabi's fans will get to celebrate together when he receives his January MVP award at an upcoming home game.

Here's a link to the full text: http://www.euroleague.net/news/i/24043/180/item

If you love hoops and "where are they now" stuff like me, check out euroleague.net and just click on some teams and you'll see lots of recognizable names all over the place.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

MD 88 Ga. Tech 86

Whew.

Should NOT have been that close.

Kudos to the Terps for getting it done on the road against a Ga. Tech team that had won 3 straight in the ACC. The Yellow Jackets NEEDED that game as much as, or perhaps even more than the Terps.

Another big game for Boom Osby. Can't believe he was the guy to hit clutch free throws down the stretch and our two points guards, Hayes and Vasquez both missed ... at the free throw line... in the last minute... with the game on the line. That's cause for concern.

But overall, Terps now 14-8, 4-3 and on their way. I think they'll go at least 10-6 in the ACC. The next "biggest game of the season" is Wed. night at BC at 7 p.m. Win there, and then you've got NC State at home before a trip to Duke. So, best case scenario, you are 16-8, 6-3 going to Duke, that would be nice.

GA