Saturday, March 18, 2006

How About Them Jaspers?

The argument goes something like this: Air Force never should have been invited to the NCAA Tournament, because a team like Florida State or Maryland had nine ACC wins this year, and teams from the ACC wipe the sweat from their big, ACC-inflated biceps with those the rags that play in the Mountain West.

Then the tournament comes around, and you see Air Force come out and play with Illinois.

Then Wichita State and George Mason and Northwestern State and Bradley and all those other tiny schools from Anytown, USA, pull big upsets.

And then Maryland, which ended up in the NIT instead, comes out on ESPN and loses to Manhattan, 87-84.


The Maryland loss would be more surprising if I didn't know a number of things about Maryland already:

  1. The Terps have no offensive skills. By which I mean:

    • They don't have a true center
    • They don't have a consistent outside shooters
    • They don't have a point guard
    • They don't pass the ball well
    • They don't dribble the ball well
    • They don't rebound well
  2. They Terps have no defensive skills. By which I mean:
    • They don't defend the 3
    • They don't do a good job of one-on-one defense in the post
    • They don't switch or hedge on screens
  3. They Terps aren't very smart. By which I mean:
    • Chris McCray was declared ineligble because he couldn't get a 2.0 GPA for the first semester of his senior year
    • Ekene Ibekwe has been named the team's LeFrak Foundation Scholar two years in a row, even though the only player who carried a 3.0 GPA those years was walk-on Darien Henry
That just about sums this year's team up. They've got no fundamentals, no smarts, and no heart. Today, Maryland came out and was blown out by a Manhattan squad that was excited to be playing in any postseason tournament. The Jaspers played tough, diving into the crowd for loose balls and banging with a much larger Terps squad. They left nothing on the floor and no one on the bench, since four Manhattan starters fouled out in the game.

ESPN actually flashed a graphic in the final minute that said, 'Manhattan: No bench players remaining.' The Jaspers were forced to use all nine players on their team, and at the end of the game, only one starter remained. That starter was Jeff Xavier, who finished with 31 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 steals.

So Maryland managed to lose despite a home court advantage (You can see from the photo at the top that Maryland fans really came out en force for the 11 am tip off) and despite an incredible advantage at the foul line. They shot 39% from the field, even though they grabed 25 offensive rebounds. Maryland also gave up 27 points from beyond the arc, as is typical for a Terps game.

I've got to feel bad for Gary Williams. His teams are usually excellent on defense, and they usually play tough. But this team is lazy, has no heart, and gave up 47 points to Manhattan in the first half. Their strength is size, which is nice, but I would rather see the Terps be very strong at, say, rebounding or defending the 3.

Let is be known that in his final game, Travis Garrison, a McDonald's All American just four years ago, airballed a layup. I am not sure how he managed to miss the backboard and rim on a two footer, but he did.

It was truly a season to forget in College Park.

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