The Good, The Bad, and Ugly Part II

2/4/2007 5:19:04 PM This is my second article today. My first one was lost to cyperspace (except for the picture of Eastwood). So let me try again.

The good: The Terps won on the road in the ACC for the first time this year and looked impressive for the first 28 minutes last night.

The bad: Wake Forest. Boy are they a long way from the days of Josh Howard, Tim Duncan, and Randolph Childress.

The ugly: The last 12 minutes. The Terps and only the Terps can torment their fans in this way. A win on the road, but somehow, the fans are left with queasy stomachs. At least they won. The season continues. We are not dead yet. (Insert cliche here).

It has been a tale of two seasons for the Terps. November and December were by all accounts, fantastic. 14-1 in non-conference play. Some great looking road wins against Big Ten and Big East opponents. Vasquez drew favorable comparisons to Manu Ginobili. Osby to Ben Wallace. The seniors were holding things together and seem to underestand each others roles.

Then came the ACC. Inconsistencies and poor leadership exposed the team. They started to fall apart. Blowout losses to UVA and Florida St demoralized the fan base. A third straight trip to the NIT still appears likely for these kids. However, last night proved that all is not lost.

Halfway into the ACC, the Terps record is a pedestrian 3-5. But let's take a look at that record. There won't be too many teams winning on the road against BC, UVA, Va Tech and Florida State this year. Take away the Miami loss (which will haunt us all year) and the Terps haven't lost any games that they shouldn't have. What scared the fan base (myself included) has been the blowout losses. Florida State is a good team with a great player (Al Thornton) who could have gone pro last year. UVa has great guard play and we are inexperienced there. Looking back, no other school in the ACC has played a tougher first half schedule than the Terps. They are a win against Miami from being 4-4 in the conference.

(I really can't let this go. We should be 18-5 right now. If we are left out on Selection Sunday the Miami loss will be the reason why. The Terps MUST win a game that they are not supposed to win to rectify the situation. That means beating UNC or a road win against Duke or Clemson. The home games against UVa or Duke do not count as they are must-wins.)

Five of our remaining eight games are at home. Will it be easy? You don't need me to answer that. Every team in this conference is capable of winning on any given day. NC State's win against UNC proved that. It is up to the players and the fans to say that the Comcast Center is going to be a hard place to win.

Gary has had 2/3 of the season to figure out what he has. Hopefully, he has realized the following:

- James Gist is the key. He needs to be our inside presence and number 1 option. He has the athletic ability to create down low. Give him the rock.

- Vasquez and Hayes should be playing together and starting. Vasquez can knock down clutch shots and wants the ball in crunch time. Hayes makes good decisions and together, these two can create opportunities for each other.

- Strawberry and Jones are both winners of the genetic lottery, but they do not have court sense. Each has regressed in different ways. Strawberry no longer plays shut down defense and takes terrible shots (actually he always took bad shots). Jones has been maddening. His defense has always been suspect, but he does nothing to create opportunities for himself and spends way too much time behind the arc. If I could surgically implant Juan Dixon's brain and heart into Mike Jones' body; we would have the consensus national player of the year on our team.

- The other seniors: Ibekwe (stupid shots, stupid foals, terrible FT shooting), Bowers (where to begin? the most overmatched Terrapin since Chris Kerwin) and Parrish Brown (non-factor) cannot and will not get it done. Gary needs to rely on the younger players.

Gist, Vasquez, and Hayes will define the success of this team. The season depends on the next two games. Can we hold serve at home? No one, including Gary Williams knows which Terps team will show up. Let's just hope we see a return to the Terps of November and not a continuation of the Terps of January. As always, we will know within the first five minutes of the UVa game, which team took the court.

Five regular season wins (plus one in the ACC Tournament) and we're in.  That is a tall order, but it is doable.  Get to it, boys.
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