I feel a little like Jim Mora today after hearing about Maryland's 67-66 loss to VaTech on the road.
It hurts so much.
Yes, it's not unexpected - after all, we suffered losses to American and Ohio, plus the Terps were again without starting guard Eric Hayes and his 35 mpg are really hard to replace. Especially when your other point guard has a bad game.
First to blame is me: I jinxed the outcome by not watching the game or listening to it (that's always my first thought when this happens). But I think more people will be pointing fingers at embattled Terp guard Greivis Vasquez, who pulled out a clunker of a game, missing his first 11 shots, going 2-of-14 total and missing the potential game-winner. He also had twice as many turnovers (6) as assists (3, if you're not good at math). On a happy note, he did make 6 out of 6 free throws.
Looking at the box score, I can see some of the problems I've been talking about for weeks manifested themselves and cost us this nail-biter: we were outrebounded and only shot 2-for-12 in threes. James Gist should never provide half the long-distance scoring load. And our front court has been dramatically inconsistent this year. But no matter, these problems are hard to solve at this point in the season.
So let's address one thing first - yes, we need Eric Hayes. He hasn't been the deep threat we all expected, but he is a good game manager and he slows things down when he runs point. When we only have one of our point guards, we'll be hurt. But don't take this as a sign that Greivis should be benched - he's been doing very well lately, and everyone has bad games, especially when you're asked to do so much and play so many minutes. We just need balance, we need Hayes and Vasquez to both play and complement each other on the court; that' s when we have the best results.
Now, about the NCAA tournament:
- We're only 10-7
- We're the only ACC team with triple digit RPI
- We'll need to go (at the very least) 10-6 in conference play
- We're going to need to beat North Carolina and/or Duke
- We're already in a 0-2 hole in the ACC
That doesn't sound good, does it? I love to be optimistic about this team, especially given their miraculous run last year when everyone went to sleep on them and they reeled off 7 wins in a row, including over North Carolina. But this just is not the same team. I might start looking for some extra tickets at the end of the season for the NIT qualifiers.
There is a lot we can still take from this season. Obviously, it's most important that we not give up - we can win big games, we have the talent. If Gist and Vasquez blow up on the same night, we can beat most teams the way we torched Holy Cross. Gary Williams is not the type of guy who mails it in, anyway. Also, I think James Gist will want to end his senior year with some pride (not to mention make a late NBA Draft push).
Also, we have to be concerned with how the youth develops and make sure they get playing time. Right now, there's a lot of inconsistencies with minutes, and guys like Shane Walker, Dino Gregory, Braxton Dupree and Jerome Burney don't know how much they'll be playing or if they'll be playing on a given night. Let's just acknowledge that this is a rebuilding/growing year. In two years, this will be a team of juniors and seniors, plus Sean Mosley and Gus Gilchrist who come highly touted. Next year we will be competitive and the year after that we will be competitive for sure. So this year is a time to battle through adversity and set a standard for the young guys and encoruage them never to quit.
This is why it's important that the fans support the team more than ever. Lately, Maryland fans have been resting on their laurels, scanning and leaving or just not trying to show up. Comcast Center isn't nearly as loud as it should be, and I think a lot of it has to do with fair-weather fans that don't want to bother. I think the Terps have a great chance to perform in the future, but they need support. And if you want to complain about Gary or Vasquez or how whoever is ruining the program, why don't you just shut it and get in the seats so you can actually see what's happening? Fans stay for the dark times so they can say they believed all along when the good times roll. I mean, Boston fans really annoy me, but I understand that most of them waited their whole lives believing that someday they would see the Red Sox win the World Series. That's admirable.
So stop complaining, stop the chatter on the forums and message board that this is such a bad team, stop whispering about firing Gary (it won't happen) and just go to the game. This is your team, isn't it? So cheer for them. There's a brighter future ahead ... because we know it won't get worse.
Photo Credits: Baltimore Sun