Saturday, November 29, 2008

Zags Win Big

Time will have to tell whether Maryland's win over Michigan State on Turkey Day was indeed a big-time victory over a top 10 team. The Spartans' ranking said 6th, but they certainly didn't look or play like it. It was a perfect set-up for a Maryland win - their big 7-footer was out with an injury and their athletic, do it all, 6-8 forward got into early foul trouble and was never a factor. As a result, Maryland got to play a game against a team as small as they are; and the Terps got it done. 

Last night against Gonzaga, Maryland ran into a team that looked and played much more like a top 10 team. The Zags were huge and athletic and pretty much man-handled Maryland, winning easily, 81-59. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Last I checked, this was a "big time" program, right?

As readers of this blog and my other stuff know, I enjoy Maryland basketball. Even when it's bad, it's good. There is never a shortage of story lines and intriguing player developments. Is Greivis really that good? (maybe) Will Gary ever calm down? (don't bet on it) Will the fans embrace the team even if they lose more than they win? (only the die-hards). My favorite subplot this year might be just simply watching Jin Soo Kim. He's interesting.

Hell, wouldn't it be a little boring if Maryland just clicked along in the top 10 every year like ... well ... nevermind. Here at Terps Nation, we embrace the underdog role, we even like it.

So it is that to keep myself informed, I often venture over to to check on the basics, like the stats and the schedule and to find out which network is carrying the game, and then get annoyed when the SEASON OPENER is not on televesion. But I digress from where I'm going with this, which is online.

I am often amused, but the right word is incredulous, to see that in this era, the basketball program does not A) don't do anything particularly interesting or innovative on their site; and B) does not even make sure the content is up to date.

Here then, is a short list of exciting things you can do on the Maryland basketball portion of the website:

Watch a video with the click inducing headline "Maryland All Access," with about half the picture missing from the little box, encouraging viewers to buy tickets to the upcoming 2K Sports College Hoops Classic. The only problem is that this took place in early November. Last year.

Link to a copy of the 2007-2008 men's basketball media guide, just in case you wanted to re-read Boom Osby's player bio.

Link to the Coach Gary Williams website, where our fearless leader welcomes you with a "message from the coach" that begins, "The 2007-2008 season is quickly approaching and I am very excited about our team this year." I was too coach.

You can also link to the always fun, "Terps in the Pros" section of the site, which informs the inquisitive reader that Maryland's all-time leading scorer and ultimate hero, Juan Dixon, currently plays for the Toronto Raptors.

Listen, I'm not saying everything has to be perfect. I don't think anyone is going to bitch if you don't have the link to the team Mike Jones is currently playing for in Romania (link courtesy of the fabulous, "Maryland Basketball: Where are they Now?" But wouldn't it be fun if it did? Why shouldn't Maryland's own basketball website keep religious track of its former players in the pros for the enjoyment of its fans?

I simply cannot imagine that there is not a hoops crazy Maryland student who would like nothing more than an internship with the sports information department where his sole responsibility in life is to update content constantly on the basketball portion of the site. A few minutes cruising around to other ACC teams' sites might even inspire some creative new ideas. They could even just look at what the women's program is doing on the web, which is pretty cool. Tons of video and exclusive content.

There was a time, and it wasn't long ago, that Maryland didn't need to do much to promote its men's basketball team. They had great college players, won a national championship, and opened a beautiful new building. The fans came running, wallets open. Those days, however, are long gone. The seats will likely be filled for the top ACC games, but if the early season is any indication, there very little buzz about this team, and plenty of apathy. More fans than anyone inside the program would like to admit, even in the student section, seem to be disguised as red seats. One place where the program could get it right and encourage more and better fan interaction is online; and right now, the Terps are dropping the ball.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Greivis Heaves Us to Win, But it Was Not Pretty

I attended the game Friday night at Comcast and here are some thoughts, impressions, questions and random observations after Maryland's 89-74 overtime win:

They are 3-0 with wins over 2 bad teams (Youngstown and Bucknell) and one win over a quality small conference team in Vermont.

Vemont should have won the game. They played better.

Don't know about you, but if I'm UVM coach Mike Longergan, I foul Maryland with 10 seconds left when I'm up by three. To tie the game, Maryland has to hit two foul shots and foul again and hope for another possession; or make the first, miss the second intentionally, get the rebound and score. I am convinced that it's WAY more difficult to pull off either of those scenarios than it is to make a contested 3-pointer. Your D is typically paranoid and doesn't want to foul, so sometimes teams get good looks, and it just seems to happen all the time where the team that's trailing forces overtime. On the flip side, I've NEVER seen a team come back to tie or win when they are down 3 and then forced to shoot 2 and get a rebound and another basket, doesn't ever seem to happen.

Maryland doesn't appear to have anyone in the frontcourt who is even decent for this level.
Dave Neal might be their best big man, he can certainly shoot - made two HUGE three points to help save the Vermont game down the stretch - but I would venture to guess that Dave is not going to win a dunk contest anytime soon. Not that you have to win a dunk contest to be good big man. But you do have to be able to jump or be taller than he is (listed at 6-7).

Braxton Dupree started Friday night and played 8 total minutes. OK...

It's kind of an interesting coaching challenge for Gary. He really does have impressive guards and wings in abundance - Greivis has been outstanding and Hayes is solid. Both Tucker and Bowie appear to have improved since their freshman year and can be relied upon. Then there's the freshman Sean Moseley, who is skilled and strong at 6-4, 200+, but his minutes might be sporadic early on as he learns Gary's system. Milbourne is solid but clearly playing out of position as a 4; and then you have the X factor in Jin Soo Kim, the 6-8 South Korean who has yet to get off his feet for the jump ball that started the overtime period against Vermont.

So what we're seeing Gary do is play 4 skilled guys and one big man, and those four guys rotate among the group that includes all the guys I just mentioned. The 5-man is a rotation between Dupree, Steve Goins, Neal, and Jerome Burney. It's definitely interesting, not sure if it's any good, but it's interesting. Put it this way, James Gist would look like Dwight Howard on this team.

The crowd was about 2/3 to 3/4 full. Not a packed house, but I would say the house capacity was about the equivalent of my hair line back in about 1995; there were still remnants of the jew-fro, but it was retreating quickly. Now I don't expect Maryland's crowd to, uh, go Chrome Dome, but the Terps could use some Rogaine in the form of wins against good teams. [What ever happened to Propecia? I tried all that stuff in the 90s by the way and eventually just said forget it, I'll be a bald guy, been happier ever since.]

I sat for most of the game with friends who actually WENT to Vermont directly behind the Catamounts bench. Cool view to see what the coaches were saying and doing. Not so cool to not see about 1/3 of the action with the players an coaches standing. "um, excuse me coach, down in front?" Nah.

The Maryland fans love Jin Soo Kim. They go crazy whenever he gets in the game. Something about a 6-8, 135 pound Korean guy just gives them the feel goods.

You know, in basketball, it is possible to have a very good team with only one GREAT player and a solid supporting cast. Look at what the incandescent Stephen Curry is doing at Davidson. So if Greivis really is a special player and not just a good player, perhaps Maryland can have a solid year. But I think the reality is that Greivis is very good, like second team All ACC good, but he thinks he's Magic Johnson, and Maryland will be OK, but will be climbing uphill against any team with a decent front court.

This week will be a good test. It's Michigan State on Thanksgiving night, the winner or loser of Gonzaga/Oklahoma State on FRiday, and a consolation game Sunday.

Random plug here, but if you ever go to a Maryland game and can get there early and want to grab a drink, head straight to the golf course bar off 193, delightful scene in there, really.

After the game, we went to Bentley's for a few drinks. We got there are 10:30 and the crowd was light. By 11:30, it was a packed out college crowd. I felt ancient, but it was entertaining to watch the youngsters take lots of camera pictures, I assume to post immediately to Facebook. College.

That's all I've got for now, I can't decide if I want to care about this team.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Md. 73, Youngstown State, 49

Maryland won easily over another bad team last night, 73-49 over Youngstown State. From listening the game on the radio and reading a few reports, sounds like Greivis was great and everyone else was, eh. GV had 28, a career high, with his family in town in the stands. That's good stuff.

What's not is Maryland getting outrebounded by 10; I guess it doesn't matter when you're winning by 25, but the frontcourt, or lack of any talent on the frontcourt, will continue to be a problem.

Give credit to the schedule makers, for making sure that the young Terps were not tested by anyone decent en route to a 2-0 start; now it gets tougher.

Friday night, Vermont will come in expecting to win the game, as Gary said in his post-game press confernece last night. The Catamounts, coached by Mike Lonergan - who spent many years building Catholic into a DIII powerhouse and one year on the sidelines with Gary -- bring a quality squad to College Park. They were picked to win their league, the America East (same conference as UMBC) and are 1-1 so far, having blown out Yale and losing to George Mason in overtime.

By the way, no TV for the first two games is a joke for a wannabe big-time program. Find a way Maryland, how many regional sports networks does one market need before every game is on TV? I've also heard rumblings that Gary is pissed that the seats aren't full. I'm guessing the tickets are sold, but plenty of the boosters who ponied up when the Comcast Center opened don't bother attending the non conference games, hence empty seats and a subdued atmosphere. Maryland wanted a new, modern arena and to get it, they sold Terp points like PSLs and priced out the old, and brought in the new. The new blood doesn't care much about Youngstown State on a Tuesday night. Hopefully a Friday night game against a decent team will encourage more fans and more noise. Maryland might need it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Terps Beat Bucknell Await Youngstown, Vermont

Maryland is (whew) 1-0 through the first of its "you must win this game" games on its schedule, with a sound if not exactly smooth thrashing of visiting Bucknell last week. According to those who attended the game - who were, incidentally, the only people who actually SAW the game because there was, unforgivably in my opinion, no TV coverage -- Maryland played OK and Bucknell stinks to high heaven and doesn't have anyone who is any good.

So a bunch of guys scored in double figures, led by Cliff Tucker's 14, a career high; everyone played, and Maryland avoided embarrassment. Onward and upward to tonight's game vs. Youngstown State, then Friday night against Vermont. Then it gets real interesting, with a game on Thanksgiving night (no turkey for the Terps) against Michigan State in the first round of something called the Old Spice Classic in Orlando.

Having not seen Maryland play in actual competition, I will reserve judgment and evaluation on this year's team. I have tickets to tonight's game and may go if, at 7 p.m., I feel like driving to College Park for an 8 p.m. tip on a really cold night to see the Terps take on Youngstown State. I read somewhere that Youngstown has five Juco transfers on its roster which is, incidentally, five more than Maryland. I think this might be the first year since Steve Francis that Gary hasn't grabbed a juco guy, ending a line that included Ryan Randle, that point guard who got into a car accident, what's his name, Jamar Smith, Boom Osby, and I'm sure I'm missing a few.

My chief concern about this Maryland team is the fact that they don't seem to have anyone over 6-7 who belongs on the court in an ACC game. I am willing to suspend disbelief and give Braxton Dupree a chance to prove that he can become the second coming of Lonny Baxter's third cousin, Sal, who played briefly for Virginia Commonwealth and averaged 7 points and 5 rebounds a game back in the 80s, but I fear that he is a beefy, semi-competent placeholder until better talent arrives.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Welcome to the Start of the 08-09 Season, Inspired?

I have been kind of avoiding my own blog lately, not sure what to say about Maryland basketball these days. If you pay any attention to preseason polls or previews, most people think Gary and the Terps will be either A) bad or B) largely irrelevant.

The Maryland season tips off Friday night at home against Bucknell at 8 p.m. in a game they could definitely lose. Bucknell is a decent team and Maryland might not be.

The Washington Post pointed out that some previews didn't even mention Maryland in their ACC games, teams, or players to watch list; Maryland has become uninteresting.

Time will tell. I have always said, "let's evaluate the product on the court" as opposed to getting worked up about which players are on which recruiting top 100 lists. Put it this way, Juan Dixon was on no one's lists and Mike Jones was on everyone's. Who was the better college player?

So let's give Gary a chance this year to show what he can do with a new team. It should be interesting to see Greivis playing the 2 and the wing with Hayes running the point. I am curious just how good Sean Moseley might be; and if Landon Milbourne has improved from a decent role player to a solid ACC performer.

Then there's perhaps the season's most intriguing subplot. The 6-8, 190-pounder from Suwon South Korea, Jin Soo Kim. Apparently the dude can play, he had 20 points in 20 minutes in the Terps' only preseason game, and get this, he has three names, all with three letters, and he likes to shoot 3-pointers. Coincidence? I don't think so.