“Top Ten” – Obstacles The Maryland Terps Men’s Basketball Team Faces This Season: Mid Season Review

 

As the Maryland Terps men’s basketball team tackles the heart of their ACC schedule, I thought it would be appropriate to flash back to my early season evaluation and see where things stand.

[Current notes will be in italics.] The Terps just hung on today at Georgia Tech for an important 88-86 road victory. But it had to be a concern that despite dominating the play for the entire game (up by 10 most of the time), they allowed Tech to make a run at the end. Another concern is that ACC teams are just not playing that tough this season.

There is much to like about the current Maryland Terps men’s basketball team. Their guard tandem of Hayes and Vasquez has a year of experience playing together – which is huge in college ball at this level. [If they stay healthy all four years they will be the strength of this program.] Gist seems ready to assume the leadership role and be more assertive on the offensive end – although it seems he still goes through long stretches without seeing the ball. [That has certainly proven to be the case. He will never be a real vocal leader on the court. He still is too soft on the rebounding end and more of a finesse player. He needs to look for his mid range jumper more.] Bambale is a force underneath and gives 100% effort. [He has surprised me and surpassed my expectations. I give him the vote for the most improved player on the team. Other teams just don’t seem to have an answer for his low post play. He also does a good job avoiding foul trouble while still blocking a lot of shots. Fatigue seems his biggest enemy.] Vasquez has the heart of a champion and the guts to want to take the difficult shots in clutch situations. [The counter to that is that he also takes some very foolish shots that leave the Terps vulnerable when a more level-headed temperament would be content to run the offense rather than push things and try to “be the man.”] Milbourne has potential to develop into a smooth small forward with a delicate shooting touch. [In the past several games he has blossomed and is gaining confidence in his shot. He might be the big difference maker down the stretch.]

But there are too many hurdles facing this team. They have yet to win convincingly [The victory against the Tar Heels and the first half against the Dukies negate that comment] and it won’t be long before the tougher stretch of the season is upon them. It is difficult to imagine them earning a berth into the NCAA tournament. [Still a stretch, but they certainly have shown they have the talent if they could just play more consistently and avoid killing themselves with the turnovers.] Here are the Top Ten Obstacles I see after only 5 games into the season: [I would still maintain that these remain the top concerns for the Terps . . . but at least they have shown flashes of top level play.]

10) The lack of any killer instinct means that the Terps play down to the level of their competition. This makes them susceptible to some ugly losses down the road to teams that they would typically handle quite easily. On the other hand, they seem to be able to get other teams to play to their tempo . . . but they will have difficulty pulling off the couple of major upsets that are needed to make a name for themselves. UCLA played poorly with a depleted lineup and still did not have any trouble keeping the Terps at bay. [Today’s comeback by Georgia Tech was just another case in point. Ten point leads can disappear in a hurry when you are not a very disciplined team. The Terps play best when they are the most aggressive; so it is difficult to ask them to slow the tempo down and try to protect a lead in the late stages.]

9) The void in the junior class is glaring and contributes to the Terps’ lack of depth this season. Dave Neal who is currently out with a problematic shoulder injury is the only junior listed on the roster. What went wrong here? [Remains a problem that will really be exposed next season. Gary will have to dip into the Junior College ranks again to find a big man.]

8) More offense is needed from the shooting guard position. Hayes seems to have a nice touch but is very passive about looking for his shot. There is no one to back him up who can come into a game and get on a hot streak. Milbourne seems to have a nice soft left-handed jumper at the small forward position. But he has yet to really break out with a dominant game. [Hayes has played better since returning from his ankle injury. He even has made a few nice jumpers off the dribble instead of just being a spot up shooter. Milbourne is starting to assert himself as well.]

7) Offensive lapses will be hard to overcome this year. In the past, the Terps could go stretches without scoring in a game, but still recover with their intensity and defensive pressure to get back in the game. This year when those inevitable droughts occur, it doesn’t seem like the Terps have the firepower to catch up. You already hear the TV commentators wondering where the Terps are going to turn to for offensive production. [The Terps seem to be getting more balanced scoring of late. All five starters were in double figures in today’s game. Their interior passing is excellent. Their offense is predictable but seems to be improving. Fortunately their defense in the half court has been outstanding.]

6) Sideline decorum may be an issue for Gary as the frustration builds this season. With the refs instructed to pay closer attention to the antics and verbal barrages from the bench, Gary might find it difficult to stay away from the technical fouls. [This has not been an issue. In fact Duke’s Coach K was the one who got T’d up recently. I thought Gary was going to lose it today when the officials clearly missed a momentum-changing foul on a slam by Gist. But he said his piece and then let it go.]

5) Three point shooting has always been a strong suit for the Terps. But no more. In the last 2 defeats they have shot a combined 2 for 24 from downtown. This club has no go-to shooter to help dig them out of a hole. [We don’t have one go-to shooter from downtown; but we seem to be getting a sprinkling of three pointers at critical times in the game.]

4) Recruiting too many players that fit into the same mold = the small forward, slasher, athletic type that Gary is known for developing. Some of the incoming freshmen look like clones – when what is really needed is a legitimate shooting guard and some tall bruisers to be effective in the paint. The season is young . . . but so far we have not seen much production from the new big men — Shane Walker, Braxton Dupree, and Jerome Burney. [I have liked the play of Turner. He seems to have a good basketball head on his shoulders and is productive in limited minutes on the court.]

3) Low Post play has been erratic ever since the stellar performance of Lonnie Baxter back in the championship heyday. Someone should analyze how many turnovers and mistakes are associated with trying to force feed the ball down low to Bambale. He is just not a polished low post player. When he rushes, he looks very rough around the edges. He needs to take his time, gather himself and operate more smoothly around the basket. He also needs to finish off more of his short range shots. (It would be nice to see him go for the dunk more often as well.) Why does Georgetown always get the dominate centers? These trends have a way of perpetuating themselves. [Stop the presses here! I must say that Bambale has risen to the challenge and polished his game significantly in the last month. Maybe Keith Booth has been imparting some of his work ethic to get him to over-achieve. He is certainly a fan favorite and has been a force inside. His shot is much softer and he has improved on receiving the passes as well. No complaints on his performance now.]

2) Turnovers continue to plague the Terps. Look at the contrast between disciplined teams like Duke which value every possession and the type of helter-skelter approach that Gary promotes with his pressure defense. You cannot give up 20+ turnovers every game and expect to defeat good teams. We need to cut down on the sloppy passes and the careless play. [Ditto! No change here.]

1) Rebounding will be a major problem all season . . . and until Gary is able to recruit the much-needed inside players. Gist is more of a finesse player. Bambale can’t be expected to handle the load on his own. Look for other teams to get a significant number of second chance points on the offensive boards. I am surprised that Bambale has stayed away from foul trouble early in the season. [This has not been as much of a factor as I expected.]


2 Comments

  1. Steve Kirchner

    Paul,

    My early season assessment of the Terps was that they were about as inconsistent a team as you could imagine. With losses to Ohio U and American (whom my alma mater (UMBC) beat) I was disconsolant.

    I agree with much of your assessment of progress of Boom (Fear the Fro) Osby and Mr Millborne. They are becoming road warriors (as were all ACC teams last night).
    If they can keep beating the teams they are supposed to, I think they are a lock for a NCAA tourney bid.

    Hats off to Coach Williams on righting the ship and his 600th win last night.

    Go Terps!
    Steve

  2. Steve Kirchner

    Paul,

    One more thing… I hate ESPN U. All local ACC games should be televised! Talk about a pet peeve!

    Steve