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.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Hey Terps fans!
Well, I'm on spring break right now in Vermont, but I thought that some recent news deserved a small update.
The Maryland women are going to the NCAA tournament in style - as a No. 1 seed. They beat out Rutgers and Stanford for a top spot in the Spokane region, and they'll face Coppin State on Sunday.
The local battle is a surprise to a lot of women's bball followers, including me. I thought their second-round lost to Duke over a week ago would result in a No. 2 slot ... but I guess not.
The road is a little easier but not much easier: There are a lot of contenders out there. ESPN has a breakdown that I really like.
Also, for those of you wondering what the men are up to after their big disappointment this weekend, don't look to Comcast. The Terps will be playing away at Minnesota for the NIT. I don't think they want to be there, so I'll predict they do themselves a favor and lose the opener. I stress themselves.
Well, make sure you buy your tickets for Maryland v. Coppin State and the second round game as well. I think I might catch one of those when I get back to town.
Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Ed Note: This actually happened about a week ago, but I've been behind. Anticipate a lengthy break during spring break, BTW. - kgoon
Even in the relatively small space of Ritchie Coliseum, there was an electricity about walking in the building for fight night: watching the fighters tape up, take jabs at phantom opponents, seeing the ring, being a part of the pre-bout hubbub. Students turned out in droves to support their friends, and grizzled old vets came out to see the young blood of the sport.
As Dickie V would say, "It's boxing, baby!"
For $5, you could watch 11 fights - all amateur - and get good seats, too. Arriving 10 minutes early, we managed to grab front row spots in the bleachers. There wasn't any smoking or drinking, pretty much no one wore fly threads, and it wasn't terribly glamorous overall (they didn't even turn down the house lights for the matches). But there is something about amateur fights that really brings a purity to the event.
There's not really much trash talking, not much flash, no one is getting paid for the entertainment - it's really just about a bunch of young guns suited up after months and months of training, trying to beat down whoever takes the corner opposite them in the ring. What you see is raw: pure passion, pure fury. Some of the fighters may not have the best form, but you're guaranteed to see something real.
My friend, Andrew "The Bronco" Hallowell, is a boxer, but meeting him, you might not know it. He's a nice guy: he smiles and is quiet when you meet him.
But he is fiercely competitive. Like all members of the UMD boxing club, he wakes up at 5:30 in the morning to go run. He goes to the gym several times a week to spar, hit the bag, do sit-ups, and basically give his body a beating until it can take one and keep going. Before weigh-ins, he'll stare longingly at us as we munch on pizza or burgers, and then he'll look down sadly at his broccoli (even though he apparently claims he loves it).
But to him, it's worth it. The work and the diet pay off the second he steps in the ring, because he knows he's more prepared than his opponent.
So imagine 22 fighters, finally off their diets and workout schedules, ready to pound someone or something into pulp. If you take them two at a time and sic them on each other, essentially, that's Rumble at Ritchie.
And there was a pretty mixed crowd too. It was apparent that some people hadn't been to a fight before, like me, and were just taking it in. But there were also some older gentlemen looking on the festivities with great admiration. I later learned that they were the men who had been there before, in the ring. Great fighters from Maryland from the 50s and 60s still came just to see and perhaps remember.
And how could I forget the crazy fans - the ones with the painted chests and the enormous signs, supporting their various teams and fighters, yelling more loudly and more passionately than anyone in the building. It certainly made the atmosphere more vibrant.
We watched a lot of fights. We watched fights that were close and fights that weren't. The fights last about three rounds, and a lot of bouts lasted the duration. Some did not.
One guy from Maryland (who will remain nameless, bless his heart) got pummeled by a much stronger, quicker fighter. By the end, he was getting back up, but he was bleeding all over himself and clearly disoriented. The fight had to be called. I ran into in the locker room sometime later (during a lengthy search for a bathroom), and tried to say something encouraging.
"Good fight, man."
"Yeah, if you want to call it that," he said. "That's the hardest I've ever been hit in my life."
I was taken aback. I didn't know what to say, and I started wishing I had never said anything in the first place.
It's hard to lose. When you get rocked in boxing, you really get rocked. It's tough to admit defeat after training so hard for victory. The competitive nature of the sport increases tenfold because the participants put a concentrated effort that last for months into a 15-minute fight. Andrew has come back from losses before, and sometimes you have to avoid the subject.
But there is something to be said about the guys who are losing but keep getting up off the mat. There is pride in a man who loses a bout, but goes on to fight another day. Those guys work harder and harder. They have the courage to go back again, even though they know how bitter defeat is. It's a beautiful thing, sort of a microcosm of what it takes to get through life.
I happy to say Maryland did pretty well. I didn't see all of the matches, but I did see at least 3 Terp wins (and one that probably should've been a Terp win).
The big fight for me and my group of friends was just the second bout on the ticket. I was immediately nervous when I saw that Andrew's opponent, a guy from Shippensburg, was taller and had longer arms than he did. But I remained sure that The Bronco wouldn't let down his home crowd.
Andy took the first jab: short. Uh-oh. I sensed that this could be a problem.
But the other guy had a bigger problem - his interior defense was vulnerable. The Bronco seized on this opportunity and took the aggressor role. He pounced in the inside, hitting whatever he could until the other guy backed off. Unfortunately, Andrew also got a few nice shots to the head.
At the end of two rounds, Andrew was clearly in the lead. The audience, led by a chorus of fans from Philly, his hometown, and my own section, started a chant of "Bronco! Bronco!" It was a thrilling moment, and we were only five minutes away from a victory.
The Shippensburg guy started realizing that he would need to take more than a few extra shots to take the lead. He got a little more aggressive. He started taking harder swipes.
Andy wasn't nervous, and neither were we. He handled his business, and we cheered louder than ever when the bell rung. Minutes later, the ref was holding up his arm, and the Bronco had won.
We ran over to the Maryland bench, and everyone gave him sweaty hugs. He was walking on air.
"How does it feel when the ref holds up your arm like that and you know you've won?" I asked.
"Aw man, it's the best feeling in the whole world," he said.
Later that night, where could our boxing champ be found? Over at Panda Buffet, stuffing his face with orange chicken and fried rice. The only reward an amateur boxer really needs and wants after all that broccoli: a full stomach.
Photos courtesy of Mike Brennan
Friday, March 14, 2008
... But it still hurts.
The Baltimore Sun
The Washington Post
East Coast Bias
Today's ACC Headlines
As if I have to say any more. Why does the team need to be criticized? They're hurting themselves more than anyone ...
... actually, you know what? Maybe they aren't. Because sometimes it looks like they don't give a damn about whether they win or lose. A lot of times, even Gary looks like he doesn't care. Are the fans the only ones that don't want to be humiliated?
Please post a comment on whether you'll go to the NIT or not - I'm still trying to decide whether I want to give a damn about the rest of this season.
Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
I don't have much time to write about the Terps' chances in the ACC tournament, so I thought maybe I would just offer some predictions about how things will go overall.
- Florida State over Wake Forest: Wake has gone cold, losing 4 out of their last 5 games. It's a bad time to run into the Seminoles, who recently beat Clemson and closed out with a win over Miami.
- Miami over N.C. State: The Wolfpack is trying to continue their 8-game losing streak, and the Hurricanes won't try to stop them.
- Maryland over Boston College: As poorly as Maryland has played, one win in your last 13 games is pretty terrible, BC.
- Virginia over Georgia Tech: Not only did UVA win this game a week ago, the Yellowjackets are a model of inconsistency, and Sean Singletary is playing dominant basketball.
- North Carolina over Florida State: The Heels beat them 8 days ago, and I see no reason why this would change.
- Miami over Virginia Tech: Last time they played, the Hokies were totally flattened on the boards. They kept it close with good shooting, but I think that they won't get that lucky this time, and Miami will still crash the glass.
- Clemson over Maryland: Both teams are inconsistent, but I don't think the Terps have the spirit to beat the team that delivered one of the program's toughest losses this (or any) season. Yes, I am calling them out. Please prove me wrong.
- Duke over Virginia: Duke has set up their defensive schemes with great discipline this season, and the Cavaliers are just not talented enough to beat them.
- North Carolina over Miami: This should be closer than people think, but it's hard to forget that UNC has only been defeated twice this season, and they're just starting to enter their element (see win over Duke).
- Duke over Clemson: Clemson can beat Duke if they play their best, but the Devils haven't let many teams play their best all season.
This is the game the pundits want: UNC v. Duke III. They split the regular season games, now it's time to decide the real powerhouse in the ACC - and possibly play for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
I predict that the game will be pretty close, but Duke is too reliant on their outside shooting to win this match up again. The Tar Heels are better rebounders, and have better inside players. The Devils might be able to come out with the upset if they can rattle UNC's questionable defense with cutters like Demarcus Nelson and Gerald Henderson, but I would chalk up a No. 1 berth to the tournament right now for Hansbrough and crew.
PROJECTED CHAMP: NORTH CAROLINA
So that's how I think the tourney will go. Hit up the comments, y'all.
Photo Credit: Adam Fried
Monday, March 10, 2008
I remember talking to people about NCAA prospects for the Terps a month ago, saying that in their last seven games, if they only went 4-3, they could slide into the tournament. Now, let's look at the final seven game stretch:
- Loss to Duke, 77-65
- Win over Florida State, 82-72
- Loss to VaTech, 69-65
- Loss to Miami, 78-63
- Win over Wake Forest, 74-70
- Loss to Clemson, 73-70
- Loss to Virginia, 91-76
It hasn't even been a relatively challenging schedule, but it was completely bungled, topped with the drubbing at the hands of Virginia. Yes, I realize it was on the road and on Senior Day, but really? A loss to a team fighting for 10th place in the ACC?
I think it's safe to say that Maryland will not be invited to the NCAA tournament, barring a trip to the ACC finals. However, Maryland has proven (besides their great upset of then-No. 1 UNC) that they can't beat ranked teams. Realistically, I have to doubt their ability to:
A) Beat a better team
B) Win under pressure of not making the postseason (see above listing of final games)
We'll talk about the ACC tournament later the week, but at this point, I think we can almost guarantee that we all will be looking for NIT tickets very soon - if you want to go that is.
I'm really not that crazy about the officiating (21 UMD fouls v. 9 UVA fouls). The difference in those numbers is somewhat alarming, and I thought that some of the called fouls were pretty ludicrous, but I don't want to make excuses for a team that's gotten more than enough breaks in their last few games to end up better than 8-8 in the conference.
Writing this stuff is tiring, but it is still to early to give up. As long as Maryland has a chance to redeem themselves, I think the fans should give them one. And I think they will. It's just all we can do. I mean, it's been so hard trying to support this team this season - for me, for everyone. Inconsistency has plagued this team for a while now, but that's part of being a fan.
On the wall of my dorm room, I have the front page of The Baltimore Sun from Maryland's championship victory, with Lonny Baxter, Juan Dixon and Tahj Holden all celebrating.
Though we go through long stretches of doubt, discontent and painful losses, the beauty of fanhood is to be there when it pays off. When we have success, that's when the fans will have their moment, a moment that they can hold onto for a long, long time.
So that said, please be mindful that rooting for a team isn't about any one season, it's about a history and a tradition, and a hope that one day, an investment will be paid off.
Just not this season.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Unfortunately, it would seem like the third time was the charm for the Blue Devils.
The Maryland women lost 74-63 in the semi-final to a team that they defeated twice in the regular season. Duke is always a threat, and they'll face No. 1 seed North Carolina in the ACC finals.
The loss is disappointing, but not crippling. One thing it almost certainly assures is that Maryland, the No. 5-ranked team in the last AP poll, will be a No. 2 seed. A final showdown with North Carolina might've pushed them ahead of Rutgers for that last slot, but it was not to be.
People always say losses are good for teams because they can learn lessons from their defeat and further motivate themselves to be better. I think that's pretty cliché.
Losing is losing. Sometimes, after a loss, teams regroup and focus, but that doesn't mean it's good to lose. No ... because losing doesn't prove anything. Only winning proves to yourself and everyone else that you have the salt to hang with the big dogs. Regrouping and focusing on improving is a necessity to survive a big loss. I think you can see from the photos how distraught the team was - would you say to their faces that the loss was good for them?
So what went wrong against Duke? Turnovers. Maryland had 19 to Duke's 10. If Maryland has an Achilles' Heel, it's turnovers - it's been a terrible problem for the entire season. Duke ended up taking 64 shots to Maryland 49 attempts. Why? More opportunities caused by more possessions caused by turnovers.
The Lady Terps are going to get their tournament going in two weeks at home, a lucky turn for them. Until they get out on the court once more, they should focus on ball control, avoiding travels, and making good decisions. Their shooting and rebounding are solid facets of their game. But to take it to the next level and beat the powerhouses that will be waiting for them at the top, they'll have to aim for some mistake-free basketball.
Good luck and Go Terps!
Friday, March 7, 2008
Well, even though Saturday tends to be the slowest day for INRCP, I'm rounding up some stuff from around the web, hoping that maybe some of you will wake up on Saturday afternoon hungry for some Terps news.
I can't deny it's been a very slow sports week - all of us are kind of holding our collective breath hoping that the men's basketball team will squeeeeeeeze into the NCAA tourney, some are hoping that the women will eke into that No. 1 seed in their tourney. But stuff is going on.
- The Diamondback has put out a few soft features this week: The most prominent one was a profile of James Gist, but this one about Laura Harper is also worth a read. This article about Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes deserves some attention, if only for one quote:
"He's a regular guy," Vasquez said. "People get it wrong because he don't talk, but he has a pretty strong personality. He's fun to be with, and I don't know if he gets a lot of girls or not, but I bet he does."
- The women won their first game convincingly against Boston College, 93-81. Laura Harper murdered them, dropping 25 in an 8-for-8 game and 9-for-10 in free throws. Crystal Langhorne had 24 points. Tomorrow, as I predicted, Maryland will play Duke at 3:30. All four top seeds advanced, so assuming Maryland wins tomorrow, they'll play Virginia or (more likely) UNC. None of these games are easy from here on out. The good news is that the Terps have already beaten Duke twice, so let's get a threepeat!
- Sugar Sean Mosley had a dream ending to his high school career: The Terp guard commit won the Baltimore Catholic League title by beating perennial power Mount St. Joe, led by his good friend and Georgetown-bound center Henry Sims. Mosley scored 35 in the title game, and he allowed his retiring coach to leave the team with a championship. He also finishes his career tied for second among the state's all-time scorers. Next year, he's playing for us. Nice.
- Future Lady Terp Lynetta Kizer is a McDonald's All-American and Rival's No. 5 player in the 2008 - also nice. But as Matt Bracken reports, the season didn't exactly end as planned. She was tossed out of her final game after her second technical foul. Passion is great motivation in games, but it can also be very dangerous - hopefully this isn't a reflection of a trend.
- Also brought to my attention by Recruiting Report, Jin Soo Kim is on tape! The 2009 commit has been extremely hard to track in the Connecticut prep leagues, but Bracken recently linked to some YouTube videos with Kim, one of which I'll offer now:
Finally, I want to thank you all - the readers. As we're coming toward the close of basketball season, I see we've had just about 15,000 hits. You guys have really kept this project going, so thanks for your input, comments and support. I'll see what happens in the spring, but I hope to keep the site rolling.
Some big games this weekend - hopefully all goes well.
Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun, Adam Fried
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Hey guys, time to talk about the women - they've earned the attention.
The Women's ACC tournament is this weekend, and the No. 2-seeded Terps get a bye until Friday when they play the winner of Boston College/VaTech. After that, the Ladies are likely to face Duke AGAIN on Saturday, before they likely face UNC again on Sunday (if they keep winning).
The accolades are already showering down on the Terrapins: An unprecedented FOUR Maryland players earned all-ACC accolades, and Crystal Langhorne was announced as the ACC Player of the Year this afternoon. Not too shabby ... right?
- Langhorne and Kristi Toliver to the 1st team
- Marissa Coleman to the 2nd team (next year, this will improve)
- Laura Harper to the 3rd team (first-timer)
Overall, Maryland led the conference in FG percentage and 3FG percentage, rebounding margin, and assist-to-turnover ratio. They missed a share of the conference title by one game to North Carolina (the only conference opponent they lost to). Toliver, Langhorne and Coleman all finished in the top 10 in scoring. Langhorne and Harper both finished in the top 5 in rebounding. Toliver was 4th IN THE NATION in assists per game.
Very cool stuff for the women. But they have a lot of fighting ahead.
Boston College wasn't a sweat for the Terps this year, but Virginia Tech was. Even though the Hokies have played poorly in the ACC, they gave Maryland a serious run for their money back in February (a 74-71 OT win).
After that, Duke is the next probable opponent. So far, the Terps lead this series 2-0, but the Blue Devils are always a threat: In both games, Duke closed the lead to single digits in the last three minutes.
Then we're talking about the Tar Heels, who have been a machine this season and squeezed out a double-overtime win in the previous matchup. However, I think that you can't discount the possible presence of Brenda Frese. She was still knocked up during that game, and if she comes out for the tournament (a maybe at best), I think that Maryland will win a close battle.
Yes, it's a long way to go to predict a final matchup of UMD and UNC, but they are the only two teams in the conference that have been overwhelmingly dominant this year, so I don't think it's very risky to guess.
Even if we do lose, Maryland fans can look forward to the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament at home. At this point, Maryland is either a first or second seed no matter what happens, so we can hopefully enjoy some warmup throttles of mid-major teams. I already bought tickets for my dad - I think you should get some too. It's really not that much to see a team that might win another national championship this season.
Well best of luck to the Lady Terps - go get 'em.
Monday, March 3, 2008
I was working at an event today, watching some middle-aged guys schmooze around before things got going. All they were talking about was the Clemson Clobbering, as some are now calling it. They talked about all the things I routinely discuss in these columns - turnovers, the freshmen in the rotation, Vasquez, missed shots and even Jerome Burney.
I didn't say a single thing.
It was simple: I didn't have the heart to say anything because I was at that game. I still don't understand exactly what happened last night, and I probably never will. This is what I felt like last night:
Today? I just don't know. It actually humiliating to thing we choked with a 20-point lead in hand. We got the lead at 11:21 in the 2nd half. We scored exactly one point all the way until 6:44, when Clemson had shrunk the lead down to 7 points. Also, from 4:48 left to 1:30, Maryland didn't score once. By then Clemson was down only by four, which became two, which became a tie, which became a 3-point lead with 2.3 seconds to spare.
By the way, most effective full-court press I've ever seen. We could not break it at the end of the game. Instead, our strategy was to play kind of badly, or at least that was the strategy we executed.
It stinks to get all the negative press just after we got on the radar. We were being talked about as an "in team." Now, what are we? Uhh ... well in this projection, but for how long? Do we really want to be among the last four in? ESPN pundits yesterday were saying Maryland is the team that is saying, "Please, take us out of the tournament!" Kinda sorta, we speak with our play.
I know Gary calls out the fans every once in awhile, and I'm for trying to have positive outlooks, but the truth is that sometimes the fans deserve better. When I was looking around, it looked like there wasn't an empty seat in the house. The crowd came out, and they did their job, and they cheered when they were supposed to. Some people on the court did not do their job, and I think the players would likely agree with that sentiment.
It's a harsh reality to face, but let's face it:
- One win against ranked teams
- A mediocre 18-12 record (we'll have to reach for 20 wins)
- A mediocre 8-7 conference record in a muddled conference
- Weak final opponent before ACC tournment (UVA)
- Probably a weak first ACC tourney game, followed by a hard one
That's not NCAA material. Bottom line. Period. Finito. I can't put anymore emphasis on that.
If we want a partner at the dance, I would advise the team to start winning. We can do this by:
- Making more than 2 three-pointers
- Limiting our opponent's offensive rebounds (The Tigers had 17)
- Not turning the ball over 21 times
But I'm not sure that we can do those things. I'm going to be honest: the thought that the Tigers could actually win didn't even enter my mind until they cut the lead to 4. Even the last shot, I didn't think would go in (and it was a fantastic shot, to Oglesby's credit, plus he was fouled). But the letdown after ... something I have trouble describing.
JEROME BURNEY WATCH: Burney played a solid 16 minutes and ended up with 6 points, 3 rebounds and a stunning 4 blocks. Good overall effort, but I thought that he could've rebounded better and that his blocks typically led to a Clemson offensive rebound. Still, he played just as well as Boom, who had a bad night for his standards.
I know everyone is down now (except other ACC team fans), but I thought maybe some things would brighten up your day.
Some of you are aware that Hank Steinbrenner recently denied the existence of a national Red Sox fanbase. ESPN got his take on some other franchises as well.
Also, an interesting story and a cautionary tale about why you should never let your players take too many liberties with their bios.
That's it. Let's regroup and crush UVA.
Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun