Look at the stats from last night, and it will be painfully obvious which contender for the fifth starting spot had the better game. Dino Gregory played 22 minutes and had two points, two rebounds (none offensive), one assist, and two fouls. Jordan Williams played three fewer minutes than Gregory and yet tallied 8 points, 8 rebounds (three offensive), and 2 blocks.
That's been the case since Dino has started playing, too. Just check the stats on the season (compiled by myself, so there may be errors):
Right then. Problem solved. Jordan Williams is massively outperforming Dino Gregory statistically, and yet Dino is receiving more minutes and more playing time down the stretch of important games. It's not just stats, either - Williams looks better when he's on the floor, and the team seems to run smoother.
Yet tt was Dino who finished out the game, not Jordan. That made sense when Maryland was beating this mid-majors - when they're losing, the best player needs to be on the floor at all times.
Ah, there's one stat I don't happen to be including here: the all powerful plus/minus, the measure of how a team does when one player is on the floor.
Jordan, on the year, is outperforming Gregory by a somewhat sizable margin - .38 per minute compared to Dino's .23 per minute. There have been two games this year when that wasn't the case. And yes, one of them happened yesterday.
Last night against W&M, Dino was the only player to have a positive plus/minus. Sure, he looked lost at times, but he was doing something right. When Dino was on the floor, Maryland was +2. When Jordan Williams took the court, they were -8. (Thanks to Patrick Stevens in what is likely his last D1scourse entry ever. Sad day for Maryland sports journalism).
Come as a surprise? It did to me too. When you watch the game, Jordan seems to be an entirely better player. You get the feeling that, if left in longer, Williams would reach a double-double and improve the offensive efficiency of the team greatly almost every single night. That might not be the case.
The stat is flawed, certainly. Dino happened to be in at the end of the game when they made a run to close the lead from 15 to 6 or so, and that made up for a big loss in his stats. It wasn't really his doing in that period, but he still gets credit for it. Williams happened to be in the game when W&M couldn't stop hitting shots. That's not really his fault, nor his place.
But it's not too far off. The stat is objective even if it is flawed, and when Williams sees that Maryland is scoring ten points fewer even when the greater performing player is on the floor, it makes the decision on who to play down the stretch much more difficult.
The other game in which Dino outperformed Jordan in +/-? Eastern Kentucky. You might remember Eastern Kentucky as a William and Mary clone that played "trash basketball" - three point shooting a gimmicky zone. Those are also the two games in which Dino has significantly out-minuted (?) Jordan.
Once Maryland gets to ACC play, they'll face teams that are much bigger and play much more traditionally. When that happens, Jordan Williams will need to play, and play a lot. I'm not sure we can really draw any conclusions from these performances, though, which a lot of people seem to be doing.These are the types of games that just fit Dino better, and that explains why he's gotten more playing time. I'm not sure we can expect the same when ACC play comes.
For the record, I'm the type of guy that wants to make the lesser team play to the better team, which is to say play Jordan because he causes a matchup problem for them. But I can at least understand why Dino received more playing time, even though I don't agree with it, and I don't necessarily expect this to be the situation all the time.
I'm not saying that Jordan is worse or better than Dino - the stats speak for themselves. If it was up to me, I'd play Jordan more because he's infinitely more productive even in fewer minutes. Unfortunately, it's just not as cut and dry as that - Dino brings something to the table and Gary has reason to play him, even if that reason is an inherently flawed stat and a philosophy I disagree with. I also don't think that, because of two games, you should assume Dino will receive more minutes than Jordan all season.
This decision is more difficult and complex than you or I make it out to be.
I strangely feel out of place here, defending Dino Gregory and Gary Williams' lineup management, but there it is.