Wednesday, November 19, 2008

season preview: Maryland

ACC Roundtable roundup coming tomorrow. Waiting for one more response, but I'll post it tomorrow either way. So I apologize - today was going to be roundup day, instead you get an ugly flasher turtle because it's Maryland's turn in the hopper.

Media prediction: 7th

ACC schedule:

Twice: Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia
Once: Boston College (H), Clemson (A), Florida State (A), NC State (A), Virginia Tech (H), Wake Forest (H)

2007 All-ACC:

First team: None
Second team: G Greivis Vasquez, F James Gist
Third team: None
Freshman: None
Defensive: F James Gist
HM: None

(italics: returning)

Projected starters:

PG: Greivis Vasquez (Jr.)
SG: Eric Hayes (Jr.)
SF: Cliff Tucker (So.)
PF: Landon Milbourne (Jr.)
C: Braxton Dupree (So.)


G Sean Mosley (Fr.)
G Adrian Bowie (So.)
F Cliff Tucker (So.)
F Jin Soo Kim (Fr.)
F Dave Neal (Sr.)

(italics: returning starter)

Coach: Gary Williams (20th year)

It's all about the perimeter in College Park. Guards guards guards. Last year, Maryland had a pair of pretty dominant forwards in Bambale Osby and James Gist, and with a sophomore manning the point, Osby and Gist provided the leadership, the defense, and a huge chunk of the scoring. But now they're gone, and that sophomore is a junior, a fiery Venezuelan by the name of Greivis Vasquez (you might have heard of him, given his second team all-conference status), and the leadership burden is now on his shoulders.

Vasquez has played alongside Eric Hayes for two years now, and the combination is going to be a dangerous one. These guys have grown up together with a combined 97 starts over the past two seasons, and the chances are good that one or the other (usually Vasquez) will lead Maryland in scoring on any given night.

If not, it'll be Landon Milbourne, who's equally deadly as Hayes (if not quite as prolific) from 3-point land. Milbourne, like the other two, is a junior, but unlike the other two, waited until last year for his breakout party. He caught up fast, though. These are the three names you'll hear called far more than any other during a Maryland game. Cliff Tucker is another guardish forward that rounds out the Terrapins' perimeter-heavy starting lineup.

Despite these three, Maryland is picked only 7th in the conference. Part of that is because this is the friggin' ACC - the Memphis Grizzlies would probably be picked 4th. The rest of that is because of the squishy middle that Maryland offers. With Gist and Osby gone, the interior is a huge, looming question mark. They could have really used 6'10" Augustus Gilchrist, but too bad, so sad, he's gone to South Florida. That leaves Braxton Dupree to man the middle - so far this season, though, he's getting outrebounded by the point guard. Dupree and Dave Neal represent Maryland's only real bulk in the middle. Neither is going to be called on to score, but if Maryland's going to make any noise at all in the ACC, they're going to have to play far bigger roles than they're used to, especially on their own end of the court.

Maryland's extremely iffy frontcourt is going to keep them from serious ACC title contention. But their excellent backcourt (including Tucker and Milbourne, who are nominally forwards but not low-post bangers) makes them capable of being a nasty surprise to someone who's got real championship aspirations. Their schedule might keep them from having as successful a regular season as they might like - they get three of the top four media picks twice. But a strong ACC tournament run is a real possibility, and that could be enough to earn them a middle-to-lowish seed in the NCAAs. For sure, they won't drop down below the NIT.

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