Back from break finally! Sorry for the delay, I know y'all have been awake at night, wondering when INRCP was going to be updated - you can rest safely now. But you know what's going to be keeping me up at night? The Maryland women's basketball team.
If you haven't been watching the women's NCAA championship at all, and if you didn't have the courtesy to spend $8 and walk to Comcast to watch a session, then you're probably pretty comfortable with the first round 16-point victory and the second round 12-point victory. I'm here to tell you that you shouldn't be satisfied.
What am I not buying? All of it. I'm not buying that the Terps are a legit No. 1 seed. I'm not buying that they're playing their best basketball. I'm not buying they can win the championship. I'm not buying they can win their next game.
I attended the first round game and watched the second round game on TV. I was disappointed at the Terps' performance in both. Their play has me very nervous for next week.
We have problems (typically ones that can be addressed) in several areas. Here's what I've seen in the past two efforts:
- DEFENSE: We are simply getting killed in transition, and last night was the second time in a row we got beat in fast break points. Our players look slow when they have to run the floor, and often the opponent ends up with numbers down on the other end. There was a play against Nebraska where Ashleigh Newman ended up on an island and had no idea what to do against two bigger, athletically superior players who would've dunked on her if it was a men's game. Plus, it also looks like Toliver and Newman are having trouble guarding their marks: Three starting guards in the last two games have gone off for 20 points or more. Maybe the best option is to put Coleman or Strickland on the leading scorer.
- PASSING: For whatever reason, the last two game have been filled with errors and miscues, most resulting in Maryland turnovers. I grew very frustrated last night watching a string of UMD turnovers that led to a 16-2 Cornhusker run, closing a Maryland lead to a single point at halftime. The women play streaky ball - they go on runs, then let the other team go on a run. Coleman and Toliver both run the point, and a lot of the problems stemmed from trying to thread the needle in risky passes. Teams are covering Langhorne and Harper and making us beat them from the outside, which leads to my next point...
- SHOOTING: This team is not showing the touch that made them the No. 1 three-point shooting team in the ACC. Against Coppin State, they shot 30.% from long range, and against Nebraska, they shot a dismal 25%. Not going to cut it when Langhorne and Harper get double- and triple-teamed in the paint. Toliver has been struggling to find her shot, going 2-for-12 in the tourney, while Marah Strickland has only scored 3 points total so far and hit only one field goal. Maryland will have to diversify their game if they want to advance.
- FATIGUE: This is a huge problem which contributes to the other areas of concern. All five Maryland starters were in the top-30 list of minutes played in the ACC this season. The rotation typically only has Jade Perry and Newman get significant minutes off the bench. That's not going to cut it. It's obvious that the Terps get more tired toward the end of halves and the end of the game, even though they've been finishing strong. Now is the time when you have to see what depth you have and hope it works out. Nine Nebraska players had double-digit minutes compared to seven on Maryland. Drey Mingo was the only other person who played from UMD, and she was in for a whole whopping minute.
Here's the deal: I trust the Terps to handle these problems. Yesterday at the post-game press conference, Marissa Coleman expressed that the team was nervous about getting over the second-round hump where they lost last year. I understand that. There might be butterflies floating around in their stomachs right now, and the newbies - like Strickland - might be a little nervous about playing on the big stage (maybe, I have a hard time explaining her drop-off).
Coleman said it was like a weight had been lifted off of them. Maybe it was keeping them down. There were still great things about their game: Langhorne and Harper have played really well when they can get the ball, Coleman had an excellent second half last night and rebounding, even by the guards, is going very well.
Right now, this is not a championship team. I'm wary of our next opponent, Vanderbilt, and I'm absolutely terrified of the looming Stanford and Candice Wiggins, who is considered a class-3 lethal weapon in some countries.
However, it still can be. We have a lot of good parts, and we crushed top-five competition early in the season. I truly believe that when this team is in gear, they can defeat anyone. Now it's up to Brenda and company to make it happen.