Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thoughts on Maryland-Michigan

I believe I speak for many Maryland fans when I say that the Maryland Terrapin men's basketball team desperately needed that win. Not only for standings, but for the confidence of both fans and players.

Maryland was able to squeak out a win over a respectable (and feisty) opponent who beat UCLA earlier this season. It was a day in which the Terps did not shoot well from three on the whole, and were trailing for a large part of the game. The young Terrapins showed a good deal of resilience, and finally started to reflect the staple of a Gary Williams' team in coming out strong in the second half. Very quickly (life is unfortunately beckoning) I would like to go over a few observations I had from last night's win.

1. Maryland's man-to-man defense was outstanding. Sure, the Terrapins lack an inside presence and cannot defend well down low (although Dino Gregory did show some signs of being a decent frontcourt defender), their work on the Michigan guards were very strong on the whole. All season in fact, we've seen tenacious defense particularly from Greivis Vazquez and the freshman Sean Mosley. Vazquez was able to limit Manny Harris to only 15 points last night, which is a huge accomplishment.

2. Dino Gregory played himself into an expanded future role. I have no doubt that Gary Williams will be putting in Dino Gregory for more minutes down the stretch, possibly starting him for a game or two based on his performance. Gregory scored six points and six rebounds, and most importantly showed the aggressiveness that Maryland needs down low. With Braxton Dupree benched for missing class on Monday, Gregory made the most of his opportunity.

3. The Terps need to make three-pointers to win consistently. No, the Terps did not shoot well from three and did win this game. However, their second-half runs were sparked by three pointers, and those were the key to opening up lanes through which Maryland can drive to the basket. When Maryland spread Michigan's zone, they shredded it. When Maryland did not, Michigan tightened in and made it nearly impossible for the Terps to have decent looks at the basket inside. If this group can hit from three they can take advantage of Maryland's longer and more athletic guards driving to the basket.

So those are just a few of my observations, but the overriding message of last night's win was this: it is fair to expect Maryland to be a fairly good team this year, but not a great one. If the Terps are hitting from three and establish at least one good post player they are capable of beating most good teams. At the very least, it should be an interesting and exciting ACC season. But for now, we enter the month of the cupcakes...

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