Monday, December 1, 2008

Lessons of the Old Spice Classic

The Old Spice Classic started with hope and ended with disappointment for Maryland. What was expected to be a first round loss to Michigan State then two contests on ESPNU turned into a huge upset of the Spartans then two losses to ranked teams Gonzaga and Georgetown. Now that Maryland is 4-2, and the rest of the non-conference schedule does not have much to gain from with the exception of Michigan and American, they need to learn lessons from the Classic. The ACC schedule starts in five weeks, and Maryland needs to be ready.

Big men dominate Maryland. Not that we did not expect this, but Maryland undersized frontcourt got dominated by Gonzaga's Josh Heytvelt, Austin Daye, and Georgetown's Greg Monroe, all who stand at 6'11''. Normally Gary has at least two players that can play down low well enough the spread the floor, but Maryland does not have those type players right now. Braxton Dupree is the only player that has the physical nature to be able to play with them, but he is still getting used to starting. He is having trouble receiving the ball on Vasquez's passes and is not being physical enough in the paint. The ACC may be a guard-heavy conference, but a few teams do have strong big men, and Maryland needs to develop the frontcourt game more.

Hello Dave Neal! Dave Neal plays his guts out during the Classic. He got Player of the Game against Michigan State and was always hustling out on the court. For the first time in his four years here, he is playing like he is a forward that can shoot for three. Physically, he is not a great player, but he is showing good senior leadership on the court. With the frontcourt problems, don't be surprised if Neal sees 20 minutes a game come down the stretch if he continues play like this.

When Maryland shoots well, they can play with anyone. Against Michigan State, Maryland was 9-19 from downtown, six of those shots missed from Greivis Vasquez. Adrian Bowie and Dave Neal were hitting those shots from beyond the arc. Combined for the other two games, the Terps shot 4-31 on three-point shots. Vasquez, Eric Hayes. Bowie, and Jin-Soo Kim are considered the main threats from three-point range this season, but all will need to step up. With the problems in the front court, the shooting needs to be better to keep Maryland in contention. Before the season, Gary said that shooting has never been a problem in his time with Maryland. That may be true, but they don't have defense to fall back on if they have a bad day. But, the Michigan State proved that they can play with anyone if they are on their game.

The starting five still are not set in stone. Cliff Tucker did not start against Georgetown, as he had a bad Classic. Landon Milbourne and Dupree were not playing great either. Bowie shot very well, and Neal was a big spark off the bench. Sean Mosley got the start against the Hoyas, but he did not play like anything special. The starting lineup could easily shake up during the year in more inconsistent play is seen. Bowie could start if Maryland had another backup point guard, but with Vasquez and Hayes starting, he may have to stay a reserve for now. It does not look like Dupree will be replaced, as Dino Gregory and Jerome Burney are not playing much. Neal can not replace Dupree; that would be giving up any reasonable down low play.

Maryland made a huge mistake letting Bobby Maze go. Maze is the starting point guard for Tennessee after Maryland pulled their scholarship offer to him to get Tyree Evans, which as we all know ended in Evans not coming here after his criminal past came up. If a Maryland fan saw Maze play for Bruce Pearl's Volunteers this weekend, it would hurt. He is the kind of point guard the Terps would love, a primary passing guard that does not shoot often and shows a lot of energy and passion on the court. Obviously he would not have solved many of Maryland's problems, but they could have used a player like him. Maze wanted to come here, did not have a major problem in his past off the court, and Maryland did not take him over Evans.

Maryland must win the rest of their non-conference schedule. As previously mentioned, only Michigan and American provide any competition to Maryland's remaining non-conference opponents. Though the Classic ended with two losses, that Michigan State win was huge, and hopefully one that will mean something in March. The Terps can not afford a defeat like last year's loss to Ohio. These games are all at home except the BB&T Classic against George Washington. It will be hard for them to win eight straight games, especially after nearly losing to Vermont, but it will give them a lot of leeway for the ACC stretch.

Maryland's next game is the ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup against Michigan on Wednesday at 7:30.

(Photo credit: Baltimore Sun)

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