Friday, March 20, 2009

buh bye Cal, Hello Memphis

We've learned two things about Maryland basketball this season:
1.) They are capable of beating anyone.
See UNC, Wake, Michigan State - and solid but incomplete performances at Miami and Florida State, home vs. BC, and home against Duke.

2.) They are capable of losing to (almost) anyone.
see Morgan, Vermont miracle escape, at UVa.

But wow, that was a FANTASTIC win yesterday against California. Maryland played confidently from the tip and Greivis was fantastic and got plenty of help. Interesting decision by Gary to keep Adrian Bowie on the court for nearly the entire game and play Mosley more sparingly (Bowie got 36 minutes, Mosley 15).

Tomorrow against Memphis Maryland will have to play at an exceptionally high level to win (obviously), but it's not impossible. In fact, I don't think it would be shocking at all. Maryland has played a much more rigorous schedule than Memphis, simply because the ACC is way better than Conference USA, which the consistently funny Sports Pickle renamed "Memphis."

I could not name one player on Memphis, so that either makes me a bad college basketball fan or someone who doesn't care much about who plays on Memphis.

Either way, what I do know about them is that they seem to go 27-3 every year and John Caliparri looks like a guy who would sell you a bad policy, OK?

Go Terps.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy for the Terps

It's a short attention span world out there, here are some quick hits on the Terps:
How can you not be happy for this group of players? They really fought hard to get some big wins and earn a bid.
That said, they have not been able to sustain an excellent level of play for any length of time this year, so the idea that they'll be able to turn it on now and make a run in the tournament is not realistic.
How much do you love Dave Neal? He's your favorite Terp right?
I'm tired of all of this being about Gary and redemption. It should be more about the players.
Two 10-6 SEC teams didn't make the tournament and Maryland got in with a 7-9 record in the ACC. Everyone should be thankful that we play in the ACC.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

As it Should Be

Calling Maryland's season "a little eratic" is like calling Hummer sales a little slow and my hairline a little receding.

They have been alternately inspiring and wretched this season, with little in between. Who knows what to expect today, I'm just happy they're still playing and we get to watch, even if it is with one hand covering the other eye.

And here we are. Deep into March, with a date against Duke to go to the tournament. Sure, Maryland might make the field of 65 even without a win today, but it's not a lock.

Put it this way, if Maryland loses today, I don't think anyone can gripe, 'we got robbed.' Why? Well, at 7-8 in the ACC, needing to win one game a UVa, they couldn't get it done. 7-9 in the top heavy ACC ain't all that. Wins against Michigan State, UNC, and Wake look great, but Maryland also lost by 40 at Duke, lost at home to Morgan State, and got thrashed at Clemson. They also blew big second half leads to BC and Miami and needed a miracle three in the final 3 seconds to beat Vermont. OK? This is not a great team. It's a team that's fun to watch and capable of great things, but they are not great.

So anyway, I don't mean to be negative, I'm just saying that anyone who says "look what we did, we belong," isn't looking at the full picture. Then again, the full picture also includes the tournament resumes of a half dozen to 10 other bubble teams whose tournament worthiness is just as dubious or credible as Maryland's.

Bottom line - win today vs. Duke and a it's a stone cold lock. You can't keep out a team that has 4 wins against teams in the top 10 (and mabye you can't do that to a team with 3... maybe). So I'll be watching and hoping. I want it for Maryland because making the ACC finals would be a great acomplishment for this team and winning it would be amazing.

Couple other random notes:
Check out my brother-in-law Matt's blog post about Binghampton University hoops, then and now, great stuff.

I'm really tired of this exchange:
Play-by-play guy: And there's DAVE NEAL with the 3!
Color guy: Unbelievable. You know, this is a guy who wouldn't get picked in the the church league in the top 5. Ha ha ha
Play-by-play guy: ha ha ha that's so funny, ha ha ha. Yeah, he's a big fat white guy who doesn't look like a good basketball player, but it's so weird, he's actually pretty good.
Color guy: Yeah, yeah, what you said, if you would have told me he would average 8 and 4 for Maryland before the season, I would have told you, 'no way man,' he's way too big and fat and slow looking to be good on Maryland.
Play-by-play guy: yeah, yeah, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

You know what? If Dave Neal showed up at your church league or rec league on the JCC, you'd pick him first, because he's 6-6 and can shoot and people would say, 'hey, there's Dave Neal, he starts for Maryland.' OK?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

ACC tournament schedule

See schedule below. Terps play NC State, then would play Wake, then would play winner of Duke vs. BC or UVa, then would play for the title on Sunday. A guy can dream, right?

Thursday, March 12
No. 8 Virginia Tech vs. No. 9 Miami, Noon (Raycom)
No. 5 Clemson vs. No. 12 Georgia Tech, 2:30 p.m. (Raycom)
No. 7 Maryland vs. No. 10 NC State, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
No. 6 Boston College vs. No. 11 Virginia, 9:30 p.m. (Raycom)

Friday, March 13
Game No. 5: No. 1 North Carolina vs. Virginia Tech/Miami winner, Noon (Raycom/ESPN2)
Game No. 6: No. 4 Florida State vs. Clemson/Georgia Tech winner, 2:30 p.m. (Raycom/ESPN2)
Game No. 7: No. 2 Wake Forest vs. Maryland/NC State winner, 7:00 p.m. (Raycom/ESPN2)
Game No. 8: No. 3 Duke vs. Boston College/Virginia winner, 9:30 p.m. (Raycom/ESPN2)

Saturday, March 14
Game No. 9: ACC Semifinals, 1:30 p.m. (Raycom/ESPN)
Game No. 10 - ACC Semifinals, 4:00 p.m. (Raycom/ESPN)

Sunday, March 15
Game No. 11 - Championship Game, 1:00 p.m. (Raycom/ESPN)

I guess we could still win the ACC tournament

I won't add to the stream of misery spewing from Terps followers. As you look back on this season, you see a team capable of great things, but also deeply flawed. They have an engimatic guard in Greivis Vasquez, a potential star playing out of position in Milbourne, some very nice role players and a coach who cares very deeply about the team and wants to win. But they aren't good enough.

7-9 in the ACC is about right. There's always the chance for a miracle in the ACC tournament, a la John Gilchrist in 2004, with the leading role occupied by Vasquez. More than likely, Maryland will return to the NIT and we will have to decide if we want to watch.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Burney's Done and Greivis is a Game-Changer

From the Maryland Sports Information Department:

Sophomore forward Jerome Burney will be out for the remainder of the season due to a broken sesamoid bone in his right foot. Burney appeared in nine games and averaged 0.9 points, 1.9 rebounds and 7.6 minutes per game.

Greivis Vasquez’s triple-double and 35-point effort against North Carolina has been selected as a Pontiac Game Changing Performance. For more details, the following link is available:

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Gabe's Take

Here's my buddy Gabe's take on last night's game. I should note that after filing a running commentary during the first half of the ball game while seated on press row, I moved to a seat in the stands with big bro E and friend B Flaks for most of the second half. Had to cheer.

Here's Gabe's take in an email exchange from today, he always brings it strong:

Wake is big but they don't seem to have shooters. I see them as the #3 seed that goes down in the first or second round to Boise State or Evansville or Butler

Gary has been was a good idea and fortunately it works pretty much the last 12 minutes of the game. Neal was inspirational...missed the touch fouls early which is too bad he missed some minutes, but he was ready for the second half. The three at the end of the half was big, would love to know what he was barking at the Wake bench. (That one definitely came back to haunt him later, when J-Teague dropped the hammer on him, that was NASTY). Place must have been totally bonkers in the second half when he started raining them in. GA, your running blog was great in the first half, wish there was more but I can understand and appreciate that you were just into the game, I would have been. Your boy Dave Neal Sr got lots of air time - I would say at least 45 seconds total, mostly random donks from Bowie and Odenton running up and double high-fiving him. TV guys said when wake made their comeback run that someone needed to step up and help GV, and he did right on cue. Then they came with the trivia question when he got to 14...what is his career high. It was 18 vs Morgan State, not necessarily a good omen but I just KNEW at that point that he would drill a three at the buzzer to get to 19, which is exactly what happened. Hopefully it at least got the cover for some Terps-loving gamblers.

GV was great - dished the whole second half, including 2 or 3 to set up Hayes for wide open looks, he knocks down even one of those and I think we get it done. Gary postgame was classic....someone asked if they would be ready for the UVa game after a tough loss like this, he just stared him down and said "watch the game". I have done a 180, I am loving Gary and this scrappy can do team...GA I disagree on what it will take. There are less worthy mid majors than usual, and whatever happened to the days of 8-8 in the ACC gets you in? I think 8-8 and a first round win (vs someone like Miami or NC State) should be enough.. We have some quality wins, we are playing well down the stretch, and we are a name brand.

Good job on the radio (only heard the pregame)...the format is ridiculous, every time you start to get going on a topic the music comes on...half of Steinberg's interview was fighting with the music to be heard. Honestly, if it wasn't you I would have tuned out right away, nobody wants to hear a commercial every 3 minutes! (And ESPECIALLY when it is the same dumb Geico commerical twice in a row, but you probably don't hear that). I think Dave Neal Sr should have his own 30 minute hoops talk show, I loved his breakdown on how Jr guards the bigs.

We better beat UVa, it will be a tough on, nothing is easy on the road, but I like our chances.

Bummed but Happy for Dave Neal & Family

Tough loss last night. Wake is good. Maryland almost had them but the shots stopped falling for Greivis and Hayes, never fell for Milbourne, and one electric night for Dave Neal wasn't enough. On to UVa Sunday afternoon with a chance to get back to .500 in the ACC. I think Maryland needs three wins to get in, Sunday at UVa, then 2 in the ACC tournament, including one over a ranked team. Short of that, it's not happening.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

There Will be Blogging

We are live from Comcast Center tonight Terps Nation. As noted earlier, I was the fill-in host for the pre-pre-game show and will later host the post post game show. Always fun to swoop into the press center on occassion, some early observations:
Subway is tonight's game sponsor, hence the 6" turkey sub I enjoyed as part of a box dinner, complemented by a side of Utz and a large, crunchy chocolate chip cookie.

Very nice moment before the game honoring Mayrland senior Dave Neal where his whole family came on the court and he received a framed jersey. You can tell this guys' teammates love hm.

We've got a "Dave Neall, clap clap, Dave Neal clap clap chant going people.

Dave Neal signs seen:
"Dirty Dave"
"I crave Dave"
35 on the court, #1 in my heart
We love you Dave

In case you were wondering, I plan to file a series of stram of consciousness obvservations as this game goes on.

So I hosted the pre-game show and was going to bring on my friend Jeremy, who runs the very popular Turtle Soup website, where you can find Maryland fans (forgive me) twittering on about everything in that night's game in real time. Jeremy lives in Chicago. He was very excited about the potential guest slot. But when I got to the arena, I was told by my producer that since Subway is tonight's game sponsor and Jared is here at the Comcast Center, I would be doing a segment or two (of the five, 3 -minute segments I get) with Jared. Oh... Kay. So I call Jeremy and tell him the news, which he found more entertaining than actually going on the air... and then Jared bailed! Decided he was too tired from his meet and greet with Maryland VIPs to go on. Let's add "stood up by Jared" to my on-air resume.

Where are we? OK, let me set the scene for you. there's about 3 minutes left in pre-game and the teams are just shooting around. Gary is about to walk out on the court, the cheerleaders are lined up in the runway and here he comes:

Gary gives the big fist pump AND THE CROWD GOES WILD

This is going to be fun.

We have now reached lineup introductions and I would say the place is 85-90 percent full. Exactly how late do you need to start a college basketball game to get this crowd to show up on time?

The guy next to me is drinking Pepsi out of a can a little too close to my new Macbook for comfort.

Dave Neal just got introduced. I'm kinda bummed I can't cheer right now. I guess I could.

Wake's size is going to be a problem.

Terps wearing gold unis again tonight; haven't played poorly in them yet.

Chippy foul called on Dave Neal 2 minutes into the game, his second. Hello Dino.

We have reached a point where it's "greivis, do whatever you need to do." 10-9 Wake, 16:13 to play in the first half.

Braxton Dupree has now been on the floor for more than five minutes, does Gary owe him money?

Note to Wake: we are not about to be destroyed by Chas McFarland, OK? Not going to happen.

I don't know if Greivis has yet reached the unconcsoiuc Juan Dixon in 2002 status, but he is definitely in "Walt Williams in 1992" territory.

When has Wake basketball not been counterfeit?

Jared from Subway is now doing a Subway promo on the court. Five dollar footlongs. Go away Jared.

Dave Neal is back at 2:02, that was a 15 minute rest. Md keeps turning the ball over , it's 27-22, was 27-16, not a high scoring affair people.

Wake trapping zone giving Md problems but they finally break the drought, 29-24 on a mosley layup from GV.

I keep fighting the impulse to clap.

Huge 3 and even bigger smile from Dave Neal at the half. Have I mentioned I love that guy?

Breaking News - I'm hosting Maryland pre and post-game tonight

Just got a call from Terrapin Sports Radio network; yours truly is pinch hitting for the regular pre- and post Johnny Holliday Terps radio coverage tonight.

So we'll break it down, Md. vs. Wake at 8 p.m. for a half hour before turning things over to Johnny and Chris. Then about half hour after the game ends, I'll be back on to take calls.

So please tune in, call, oh yeah.

(feeling a bit rusty)

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Solid W over the Wolfpack, this Might Just Happen

Drink it in. That's the refreshing taste of a satisfying road win in the ACC. Just feels refreshing, doesn't it?

GREAT win at N.C. State Sunday night on the back of a vintage Good Greivis performance. How does 33 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, and one turnover sound? Pretty good? You gotta give it to Grevis, when he is good, he is real good and can carry a team on his back like no one in a Terps uniform since a guy who wore #3, people. You know who I'm talking about. The guy currently riding the pine on the Wizards, which is a travesty for discussion on another day.

But I digress ... At 7-7 in the ACC with two challenging but winnable games left on the docket -- home vs. Wake and at UVa -- Maryland might just do it. And wouldn't that feel good Turtle fans? My thought is they have to win both and go 9-7 in the league, 20-10 overall to nail down a bid. If they go 1-1, I think Maryland has got to win at least one ACC tournament game, and even then they're not a shoe-in. But go 9-7 in the ACC and Maryland can't be ignored.

Here then, are a series of thoughts and observations following Sunday night's 71-60 win:

If there is a Dave Neal fan club, I would like to join it and if there is not, I would like to be president, so long as being president of the Dave Neal fan club does not require any actual commitment of time. I got lots of man love for Dave Neal. I mean this is a guy whose career in College Park could easily have been made up of a series of Mike Grinnon-like mop-up minute appearances.

But here is the beefy, lovable Neal in his senior year, playing big minutes and making big shots on a team that might just sneak into the tournament. Remember that Gary started the year starting Braxton Dupree at the center and probably hoped to use Neal for 10-15 minute a game, if that. But as the season evolved, it's been Neal who has seized the starter's role and given Maryland a consistent and, dare I say it, entertaining boost. What's better, I ask you, than watching DN pull up for a 3-point set shot and knock it down? Or take a pounding in the lane and get up off the deck full of red-faced intensity? Love that guy.

I'm liking the rotation that Gary has finally settled on -- starting Greivis at the point with the ball in his hands as much as possible (not the 2 or 3), Bowie at the two, Mosley at the 3, Milbourne at the 4, and Neal at the 5. Then at the 15-minute mark, Eric Hayes checks in and plays 30-35 minutes the rest of the way at point and 2-guard. Hayes has been very solid the last few weeks. Confident and clutch. The other rotation guys are Cliff Tucker on the wing, Dino Gregory up front, and Braxton Dupree buried on the bench.

We know Maryland can win at UVa next Sunday night, but can they beat Wake Tuesday night? Well, it won't be easy but it's not exactly impossible either. Wake is a solid 22-5, but before winning at UVa Saturday (70-60) they had lost their last four ACC road games, including Ls at Ga. Tech, Miami, N.C. State and Duke. So there you go, they ain't all that on the road.

After its three-part rectal examination of a series into the state of Maryland basketball last month, the Washington Post saw fit Sunday to run yet another enterprise story about Gary's program, this time with a focus on the recruitment of NY hoops hotshot, Lance Stephenson. Apparently Stephenson is being recruited not just by Maryland, but also by Under Armour, to potentially wear their moisture-wicking basketball shoes if he makes it to the NBA and they make basketball shoes.

Now, Under Armour is the official provider of athletic gear for Maryland teams, and founder Kevin Plank is on the university's Board of Trustees, so the Post went a diggin, and as far as I can tell, didn't find anything too scathing. Here's a link to the story, which I didn't read because I didn't feel like reading another 2500 words about the gross underbelly of college basketball, because it makes me not want to watch the games, and I really wanted to watch Maryland-N.C. State on Sunday night.

Before Kevin Plank named Under Armour, Under Armour, do you think he considered: "Polyester. Who knew?"

I really think Maryland will win its next two games and go to the tournament. We're doomed.

Gary Williams and the Talking Points - When is Enough Mediocrity Enough?

On Friday, The Washington Post's Michael Wilbon filed a column that presented the key talking points in support of Gary Williams:

Remind me, one more time, of how many national championships Maryland had won before Williams arrived? Remind me, one more time, how many Final Four trips Maryland had made before Williams arrived? Remind me, please, of who left a comfortable job with a perennial 20-win team at Ohio State to come bail out his alma mater, whose program was about to receive sanctions just short of the death penalty. Maybe their memories are short; mine isn't. Maryland basketball after Len Bias's death was on life-support. It was nothing.

These are bullet points A, B, and C in defense of Gary Williams: he brought the program back from the brink, he took the program to 2 Final Fours, he won a national championship.

And while I agree that these accomplishments have earned Gary the full respect and appreciation of Terps fans forever, I do not agree that they grant him a free pass forever.

Here's my gripe. And it's not a "fire Gary" kind of a gripe, but it's a "c'mon Gary, at least acknowledge that this isn't good enough," gripe.

Here it is: The Terps have not been a nationally relevant, week-in, week-out top 25 college basketball program since the 2002-2003 season. That's six seasons.

The Terps went on a great late-season run in 06-07, when D.J. Strawberry and company ran the table from 3-6 to 10-6 in the ACC to get back in the top 25 and earn a 5 seed in the tournament. But other than that run, and the John Gilchrist-led blitz in 2004 to win the ACC tournament, Maryland fans have watched rather average squads for a long period of time.

Whenever Gary is questioned about his recent record, or his recruiting, he falls back on the talking points: I brought this program back, I went to 2 Final Fours, I won a national championship. He's right, and no one can ever take those accomplishments away.

But that said, isn't it absurd that James Gist went to one NCAA tournament?

Gary always says, "judge me by my record. I stand by my record."

Here are the ACC records since 02-03: 7-9, 7-9, 8-8, 10-6, 8-8, and so far this year, 7-7. During that periond, Maryland has two NCAA tournament appearances and two wins.

The conference record comes out to exactly .500 for past six seasons time period, which isn't horrible, but at least a rung or two below the top tier in the ACC, which is where we want to be.

And here's one more point I never see anyone make: If it were not Gary, don't you think it would have been someone else?

What I mean to say is that had Gary Williams not "saved" Maryland basketball following Bias' death and the sanctions brought on the school in the wake of the Bob Wade era, don't you think Maryland basketball would have recovered eventually? Now, we may never have won a national championship -- and that's a BIG mark in Gary's favor -- but Maryland basketball was not going to stay down forever.

Before Gary Williams arrived in College Parks, fellas who wore the jersey included Buck Williams, Albert King, Len Bias, Len Elmore, Adrian Branch, Mo Howard, Ben Coleman, John Lucas, Brad Davis ... the list goes on. Maryland is, after all, a basketball school.

My point is not that Gary Williams does not deserve our respect and appreciation for everything he's done for Maryland basketball. But I am saying he is not above thoughtful criticism; and those who point to the 3 talking points (saved the program, went to 2 final fours, won a championship) in his defense, are relying on data that's now seven seasons old.

No matter what happens on the court this season, I don't see the university making a change anytime soon, and I personally don't want one.

I like Gary a lot as a coach and motivator and would like to see him get back on top. To be sure, the man has endured an avalanche of criticism this season, much of it justified. And as that has gone on, his troops have responded, playing their best ball of the season when it matters.

I guess the toughest part is drawing some sort of a line: how many 7-9 and 8-8 seasons and embarrassing losses to subpar teams warrant a change at the top? For everyone who loves Maryland basketball, I hope we never have to find out.