Saturday, February 27, 2010

Post Game Thoughts After Maryland 104, Va. Tech 100 in Double OT

Post game thoughts:

That was a GREAT college basketball game. The kind of game that makes you love college basketball all over again. I was a nervous wreck the entire time.

I'd like to apologize to Greivis for all those times I yelled at him through the television. Sorry Greivis. This run he's on, carrying Maryland to their best ACC season since 2001-2002, has propelled him to the category of an all-time Terps great. His jersey will hang from the rafters and he deserves it.

If you are going to watch a game that makes you feel like you can't breathe and you love the excitement but hate the anxiety at the same time, I highly recommend watching said game with your 5-year-old offspring, in front of whom you don't want to act like a complete lunatic. It's calming.

That said, I had a whole conversation with my brother where we agreed that it's very hard to watch Maryland basketball. It just wracks the nerves. Both of us said that sometimes we record the game, then fast forward ahead to see what happened before settling in to watch because it's too hard to watch the game in real time and not be able to fast forward. Now that I think about it, this might be more of a family anxiety issue more than a Maryland basketball fan issue. Let's move on.

If the national polls come out on Monday and Maryland hasn't cracked the top 25, then they should shut down the national polls. At 21-7 and 11-3 in the ACC, Maryland should be a top 15 team, not just top 25. For the first time since the second half of the 2005-2006 season, I really feel like Maryland has a very solid team that can make a run in the tournament.

I stayed up late to watch SportsCenter, thinking that the excitement of this game might make it one of the top highlights. Nope, since they show highlights in the pecking order of the top 25, the SportsCenter that started at 11:30 didn't show anything about Maryland-Va Tech until after midnight. And the college basketball show that followed at 12:30 of course focused for a long time first about the losses from #1 and #2, Kansas and Kentucky; also spent a ton of time on Syracuse-Villanova and other Big East contests like Georgetown -Notre Dame and a West Virginia Cincinnati.

All of this annoyed me. ESPN should have recognized that even though Maryland and Va. Tech aren't currently ranked, they were the second and third place teams in the ACC, historically the best basketball conference in the country, and more importantly, had just finished playing one of the most epic, exciting, toe-to-toe battles in college basketball this season or any other. That was an amazing game. Here's Seth Greenberg's post-game quote in the Washington Post game story:

"It was a heck of a game," Virginia Tech Coach Seth Greenberg said. "It was like a prize fight, with punches and counter-punches, teams getting knocked down and getting right back up."

Terps already have the most conference wins of any Maryland team since the 2002-2003 team went 11-5. So if Maryland can win one of their last two - home against Duke or at UVa, they'll have the best ACC record of any Maryland team since the national championship team went 15-1 in 2001-2002.

I heard it first at NC State and again in the first half at Va. Tech. Home fans chanting "U-S-A, U-S-A," as Greivis Vasquez handles the ball. And on behalf of everyone with a clue, that is some non-creative, xenophobic bullshit. This is not the Iron Sheik against Hulk Hogan. This is a college senior who happens to be from Venezuela, but has never, ever had a negative word to say about this country and I would be that Greivis Vasquez loves America. I got no problem with opposing fans trying to rattle Greivis, but chanting "U-S-A" at him is weak and dumb.

Tech's Jeff Allen is very talented, athletic, and ... plays dirty. He throws elbows, pushes, and whines after every call. He also walks almost every time he makes a move to the basket. He does a quick little two-step and for some reason that I don't understand, the refs don't call it. I officially don't like Jeff Allen.

Dino Gregory is more important to Maryland basketball than you might think for the following reasons:
He plays with lots of energy and heart and plays solid defense.
He has great timing on blocked shots.
He can knock down free throws, shoots 84 percent.
Maryland was 5-3 without Dino; they are 16-4 with him.
I officially like Dino Gregory.

I don't think Va. Tech is a bubble team. I think they're an NCAA tournament team. those guys can play.

Malcolm Delaney is a bad man. He's a pro. His end-to-end play at the end of regulation was indicative of a guy who is a really smart and talented player. He knew he had enough time to get to the rack, knew Maryland didn't want to foul, and got it done. Shame on Maryland for not double teaming him and getting the ball out of his hands. Of course I'd rather see the drive to the hoop than a potential game-winning 3, but still.

I read in the post game reports that Hayes thought he had made a three and therefore did play as tight defense as he would have otherwise. Which is semi-defensible, but the Terps should NOT have just played phantom D with the game on the line like that.

Here's a great summary of how well the Terps took care of the ball from the Sun's Tracking the Terps Blog:

The Terps had only 11 turnovers in the game, and just two in the second half. It helped that the Hokies didn't press, but Maryland gave itself scoring chances nearly every time it had the ball. Vasquez had only two turnovers playing 48 of the 50 minutes. Eric Hayes had 10 assists and two turnovers in 40 minutes.

Grevis went 13 of 33 from the field, 10 of 10 from the line and scored a career-high 41 points. OK, 33 shots is probably too many, but more than anything, what GV did (again) was hit HUGE shots and was absolutely sublime in the second half. I think he got a little tired by the 2nd OT (who wouldn't be after playing 48 minutes?) but I have finally and completely come around to respect this guy 100 percent.

Seth Greenberg might be a bigger spaz than Gary. He pleads. He stomps. He sweats. He goes into anaphylactic shock after calls don't go his way. I like him. He's definitely done a nice job with Virginia Tech basketball which was never much of a program before his arrival. No doubt that joining the ACC has helped, but Greenberg is a great coach.

Maryland really should have won in regulation. Terps were up 80-77 with 22 seconds left and had the ball. That's when Milbourne threw it away. Then Tech made the 3 with 18 seconds left. Put me in the camp of people who think you should just foul and send a guy to the line when you're up 3 at the end of the game and the other team has the ball.

You see guys nail 3s to force overtime all the time. How many times have you seen it work when you force the other team to make a guy make 1 of 2 free throws, then miss on purpose and get the ball back and score? My count is never. It's definitely not a no brainer because there are risks - like if the opposing player is too quick and gets a 3 off while you're fouling him - but I think it's a better strategy than just playing D and hoping the opponent doesn't hit a 3.

Sean Mosley had a very quiet 17 but it's great to see him scoring again. I'm a little worried about Landon Milbourne right now. Doesn't seem to be in the flow of the offense and can disappear for long stretches.

Overall, I am personally very excited about Maryland basketball and I'm sensing more excitement in this region about the Terps for the first time since 2002. The Terps are playing great basketball when it matters most and seem to be coming together as team.

Duke at Mayland Wed. night will be a lot of fun and I think Maryland will win. They are ready to beat Duke. It might not happen, but at least you can think about it without feeling like you are being an unrealistic homer. Two more wins and the Terps will go 13-3 in the ACC for the season ... if they do that, and then get to the ACC finals, we're looking at a 3 or 4 seed. Win the ACC tournament and they'd be 26-7. Is that a 2 seed? Probably.

Terps have come a long way since losing at home to William & Mary, don't you think?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Do Terps Belong in the Top 25?

Certainly Maryland's recent run of strong play -- highlighted most recently by their buzzer-beating home win vs. Ga. Tech on Saturday -- has made them a team that feels deserving of being ranked in the Top 25.

Yet when the polls came out on Monday, Maryland was stuck near the top of "others receiving votes," hands pressed against the window, on the outside, looking in. That likely won't be the case when NCAA bids are passed out come the third week in March. With their current 9-3 mark in the ACC, Maryland has already won 2 more league games than it did last season, when they advanced to the round of 32 after winning a few nice games in the ACC tournament.

But back to this discussion of the Top 25. Today the Baltimore Sun's Jeff Barker reported that Gary Williams said, "We should be ranked."

If I was Gary, I would probably think so too. After all, Maryland sits alone in 2nd place in the ACC at the 3/4 mark of the league season. The ACC is typically regarded as one of the top 3 best conferences in the country. And if you're good enough to go 9-3 so far in the ACC, then you damn well ought to be considered one of the 25 best teams in the country.

I kinda like Maryland being kept out of the top 25 for now. Keeps em hungry. Keeps em feeling doubted and disrespected, and there's no better motivation to a player than to tell them that no one thinks they are any good. (unless, of course, you are former Terp big man Braxton Dupree, who wasn't any good).

Anyway, here are five reasons why Maryland should be ranked:
1. They've been smoking teams all season long. When Maryland gets a nice lead this year, they put teams away, big-time. Terps have defeated UNC, UVa, N.C. State, B.C., and Miami and a bunch of early season patsies by 15+ points in games that weren't ever close. That's the mark of a good team.

2. Maryland's 76-74 win over Ga. Tech on Saturday was electrifying. It's the kind of win that makes people take notice and often can/should/will propel a team playing well into the top 25. Didn't happen. Kinda weird.

3. Terps are .500 on the road in the ACC and perfect at home. That's the prescription for success and, in just about any other season, a top 25 ranking. Maybe top 15.

4. Because Maryland is good enough to beat any team in college basketball right now.

5. Because, as I wrote above, they are alone in second place in the ACC three-quarters of the way through the season. ESPN's bracketologist says 7 ACC teams should make the tournament, but the one alone in second place isn't ranked?

And here are five reasons why Maryland doesn't belong in the Top 25 and haven't don't squat yet:
1. Terps are 0-3 against Duke, Clemson and Wake. Those are 3 of the top 5 teams in the league (Maryland plays at Va. Tech Saturday, big game to see who will be #2 or if Maryland will have a chance to knock Duke off at the top).

2. Maryland lost, at home to William & Mary. I know William & Mary is having a good season and was hot at the time. It's still inexcusable. You don't lose at home to William & Mary.

3. Maryland lost to every decent out of conference team it played this season. 0-3 against Wisconsin, Cincinnati and Villanova (and you can throw in William & Mary if you feel like it). Wisconsin and Villanova are both very good, but Cincinnati is 6-8 in the Big East and a bubble team at best. Maryland just didn't beat anyone good... until the ACC started.

4. Maryland didn't even give Duke a game. I know Duke is really tough to beat at home. But if you're legit, you don't just get pummeled from the tip and allow that stiff Greg Zoubek to have the game of his life.

5. The ACC is down and Maryland is benefitting from playing weak competition. It's a fact that this week is the first time in 33 years that only one ACC team - guess who - is ranked in the top 25.

So, what's this all mean? Not a thing, really. Being ranked is just something to keep fans interested and provide some semblance of a pecking order among 300+ teams until the NCAA tournament starts.

For decades now, college hoops has been all about the NCAA tournament. Certainly regular season wins, and league championships matter, but they all pale in comparison to what happens in the tournament.

Did you make it?
How many wins did you get once you got there?

More than anything, what's been nice about this year's team is that they look like they belong. Early season losses aside, Maryland has been very good in 2010 and it's the second half of the season that matters. Maryland has a bona fide superstar in Greivis Vasquez, the kind of guy who can throw a team on his shoulders (he can also make you want to throw your shoe at the TV, but less and less).

So... here we go. Down the stretch ... home against Clemson, at Va. Tech, home against Duke, then at UVa to close it out before the ACC tournament. 2-2 will be good enough. 3-1 would be great. 4-0... and Maryland could earn a 3-seed.

The last chapter for Greivis Vasquez and company has yet to be written in Maryland basketball history. The view from here says we are going to do some celebrating this March. I'm looking for 12-4 in the league, a finals appearance in the ACC tournament, and a run to the Sweet 16. That would make for a GREAT year, top 25 or not.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Quick Reality Check

It's Feb. 19th and Maryland has five ACC games left:

Home vs. Ga. Tech, Clemson and Duke
At VT, at UVa.

Let's take them one at a time:
Ga. Tech - should win that one. GT is just OK, a .500 ACC team and has been sliding lately.

Clemson - see Ga. Tech.

at VTech - Hokes are 21-4 and tough at home. We are probably going to lose.

Duke - we ought to beat Duke at home. That would be the only marquee win we'd have. We have no other good wins. The only team Maryland has beat that will probably be in the NCAAs is Florida State. The rest of their wins are against the bottom half of the league (NC State twice, UVa, Miami, UNC, and Boston College).

at UVa - should win that one.

Best case - 12-4
Worst case - 10-6
Mostly likely 11-5 - best ACC record since Drew Nicholas and Steve Blake were seniors, that's 7 years ago.

Are they legit?
Not really. But you know what? They are legitimately pretty good, if that makes sense. Much better than last year, even though this year's ACC is very weak. Worst overall ACC I can remember in a very long time.

Greivis has been sublime at times. About 70 percent of the time. Which is great.

Best quality about this team is that when they get up on a team, they pummel them and put them away, very few Md. teams have ever really done that.

Terps already have 8 ACC wins and And last year, god love Dave Neal and all, but when Dave Neal is the starting center on your team and you play in a good ACC, I'm sorry, but you suck.
Go Terps.