Thoughts on Miami, Future

1/27/2010 8:21:58 PM Okay, now that everyone’s had 24 hours to digest the awesomeness that was the Terps’ beatdown of Miami last night. Everyone’s had their chance to brag to their friends that the Terps are on top of the ACC, and have in no way left any doubt that they’re better than BC, NC State and Miami. I’m psyched, I’m pumped, I’m jacked, I’m hyped. It’s a great feeling, and a new one for me since my Terp fandom is young.

Let’s put this all in perspective for a minute here. We have clobbered the doldrums of the ACC. Miami’s so bad that BC beat them twice. BC’s so bad that they lost to Maine and a few other mid-majors in non-conference play. NC State’s so bad…well they have one great, two good, and 9 mediocre-at-best players. I don’t mean to belittle the wins in any way, mostly because there have been bad teams in the ACC before and we haven’t beaten them like this since ’03, but to me, conference play begins now.

We have road games at Clemson and Florida State coming up. I’ve heard a lot of talk about how hungry Clemson’s going to be because they lost to BC. That’s garbage. This is the ACC. Maryland’s number one in the conference. They’re at home. If they weren’t as hungry as possible already, Oliver Purnell isn’t doing his job. They have Trevor Booker, and we have Maryland’s best defensive big man in years, and he’s a freshman. Oh, and we also have a rotation filled with guys who can drop double digits (save Dino Gregory) on any given night.

I’m getting ahead of myself now, back to the Miami game. I’m going to go all Jeremy here and list my most important stories of the game. I’m going to one-up my co-blogger, though, and list my five key developments from last nights thrashing:

Landon Milbourne: Holy cow. Where has this guy been for 3 and a half years? I knew he was talented and a good shooter, but his big problem was inconsistency and wearing down. Not this year. He’s just getting better and better. He’s shooting 21-30 in his last three games (a ridiculous .700 clip), and is giving defenders nightmares. He’s consistently matched up against bigger and slower guys, giving him open looks from midrange out to three-point land, and he just flat-out isn’t missing.

What’s most impressive to me is when you further break down his incredible shooting percentage. First of all, he’s fifth in the ACC in field goal percentage on the year, second in ACC play (behind Trevor Booker). Sean Mosley doesn’t have enough attempts to qualify, but he’d be higher still. However, Landon’s 6’7” and he’s playing against guys who are 2-3 inches taller than he is. That means his layups are more difficult than their layups, which makes his shooting percentage more impressive. Then when you consider how many jumpers and three-pointers he takes? That’s truly incredible.

Against Miami, he was deadly. They left him a bit of room; he’d knock down a jumper. He stepped back and hit a three, he grabbed offensive rebounds and got easy putbacks. He kicked out when he didn’t have it and set screens for Greivis. It was just an all-around studly performance from arguably the hardest worker on the team (according to Mosley).

Greivis Vasquez: Another blowout, another shimmy. He’s getting better at them too, more rhythmic, less spasmic, and his most recent version against the Hurricanes was right in front of, and directed at, the Hurricane bench. Not sure I’m okay with that, but no one was yelling at him from there and they didn’t seem too upset (about the shimmy, anyway. They look depressed all game long).

Greivis had nine assists to only two turnovers in this one. That’s the fourth straight game for our fearless leader with only two TOs. Think he’s playing a little smarter? The incredible thing is, despite his not forcing things, he’s still making absolutely insane passes. Not insane in the lack-of-sanity way, but in the “how did he just put that ball there?” way. Gary’s offense works so well because he finds cutters everywhere on the court from everywhere on the court. Sometimes I think “how on earth did he see that cutter?” Truly astounding, and he was at his best against Miami, dominating smaller guards as is his forte.

Jordan Williams: I’ve said this before, and I’m not making an exact comparison, more a remark about the similarity, but Williams looks like Tim Duncan on defense. High praise, and he’s not that good (not even close), but the way he seems to control literally the entire paint when he’s in the ballgame is jaw dropping.

There were a couple of possessions where he stepped out to stop a guard from slashing to the basket, then when the guard dished it to the big man, Williams would slide over and contest the shot and force a miss. Then he’d grab the rebound, and make an outlet pass to start a break. That happened at least three times, and happened even more against NC State. Gary mentioned in the postgame how he really helped Landon offensively, but Maryland hasn’t only won the points in the paint battles the last few games, they’ve dominated them. In the last four games, they’ve scored 180 points in the paint. The bad guys? 76.

That’s the kind of defense this kid who can’t drink, can’t gamble and can’t rent a car is bringing to the table. Think of how good he’ll be when he puts in summer work with the Maryland strength coaches and learns the game a little better instead of on-the-fly, as Gary would say, this year. Scary, exciting stuff.

Hustle: Okay, a trademark of great Maryland teams is hustle. But for the last two games guys have been diving all over the floor for loose balls and forcing turnovers – multiple guys on the same play. Greivis did it, Mosley did it, Bowie did it, Dino did it. Not only did these plays really hype up the crowd, but also they forced the other teams to burn timeouts, and beget more plays just like it. It’s great watching players do this, it’s a coach’s dream, and it’s what every fan wants to see. These guys eat, sleep, and breathe basketball, and it’s really showing on the court.

Consistency: This has been a big-time buzzword for Maryland teams in the Vasquez era. So many times we’ve watched as the Terps pull a big upset, only to witness a puzzling loss soon after. Since William & Mary, that hasn’t happened. There haven’t even been those long stretches of stagnant offense where the other team gets back in it. The team has kept the pedal to the floor for 40 minutes since ACC play started. It’s great to see, and I hope we see more of it.

Obviously, this all starts with Vasquez. Other than for five minutes against Wake, he’s been leading the consistency charge (I think that’s an oxymoron, but I like it, so it stays). He hasn’t been making silly plays, shimmying aside, he hasn’t been selfish, he hasn’t been careless and he’s working his tail off and using his length on defense.

He’s been consistent, and Hayes is Hayes because Hayes is consistent (and calm). Milbourne’s been, as previously mentioned, ridiculous, but also consistent: double-digit points in nine straight games. Williams has been the one thing that no one ever expects from a freshman, which is consistent. Mosley has consistently played well on D and grabbed rebounds (3rd on the team in boards by the way, over 5 a game). What more can you ask for when your starting five just doesn’t take games off ever?

There’s a lot to be excited about. If we go down to Clemson Sunday and play the same game we played against Miami, we’ll win, and it will look easy. In fact, the games against Miami and NC State we played were so good, that if repeated, I’d guarantee we wouldn’t lose to anyone in this conference, including that team in Durham. That’s how well we’ve been playing, and that’s how well we need to keep playing to keep our top spot.
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