It's baaaaaaack. With the start of the new basketball season, Ben B., Ben G. and I all sat down to discuss some of the upcoming issues and questions surrounding Maryland basketball this season. We've done these in the past, including our mid-season one last year, in which I correctly predicted a 13-3 ACC Champion season.
But the past is now behind us. Pittsburgh stares us in the face tonight, so let's get the conversation going with our discussion below.
So, we've seen this team play in three games so far, what are your thoughts/knee jerk reactions? Is this a tourney team?
In short, yes. I don't think they'll be as good as last year's squad (replacing GV, Eric, and Landon is a very tall task) but they will be more athletic and perhaps more exciting to watch. The three biggest things we've learned through three games are: Jordan is a legitimate stud, the freshmen can play, and Cliff Tucker seems to be emerging as scoring option #2. Past that, we need a bigger sample size to determine how good this team really is. Thursday's matchup against Pitt should provide us with some more answers.
My initial reaction is MVPe' and Sotglin are awesome. Not just in how we'll they've played, but in their basketball IQ, their quickness, and their willingness to score, even in tight spots. I was a little worried about this team before the season started, but this incoming class has definitely helped ease those fears. I think we'll be in the top half of the conference and be in the tourney, unless some of the new guys hit a wall late in the season.
We're as much of a bubble team as you can be, but they'll probably end up just in.
(Ben did an entire story on this very question, which you can find here.
Stoglin and Howard have both been impressive in the early going. Is that because the competition has been weak or are they legit? Follow-up - will their good play continue as the teams get harder and are you surprised that both weren't rated higher coming out of high school?
They're legit. Even through three games, I can tell you that much. Pe's takeover in the final minute and a half of the COC game was very impressive, and looking at all three games, you could argue that Stoglin has actually been the better of the two guards. Pe'Shon and Stoglin are similar to Greivis and Eric Hayes of 2006-2007, in that they're clearly the future of the team, and they're making immediate impacts as freshmen. Whether Pe'Shon or Stoglin will emerge as an all-time great Terp (ala Greivis) is hard to say. But I'd be shocked if they don't have more postseason success than Vasquez and Hayes did.
We'll know for sure about both of them after the Pitt game, but I definitely think they're legit. BG's comparison to Eric and Greivis circa 2006-2007 I think is a good one, but I think both of these guys are better scorers than Eric was that year. Greivis was probably better offensively, but Stogs and Howard seem to be more mature point guards than Greivis was then. I've been to two games this season and one thing that really impresses me is how fast these two are. I think their biggest problem right now is that they both want to push the ball up the court on every possession. They're like two energizer bunnies out there. Stogs sometimes reminds me a little of John Gilchrist.
Not quite sure, but I'm guessing they're legit. What's really been surprising is how self-assured and confident they've been. It's very rare for a freshman to be able to control play like they've done at times throughout the first three games The confidence both have shown early should serve them well in ACC play, because some of the things they've showcased - nice jumper, surprising court awareness - are for real no matter who the competition is. They both have real star potential. I don't think we'll see that potential become reality anytime soon, but the pieces are there. (I will say that both have looked "meh" against pressure. Many PGs do, so it's not meant to be a negative, but they haven't been perfect.).
I'm not really surprised at the low ranking, or at least not any more surprised than I was at the start of the year. We knew that Pe' was a little underrated, for reasons unknown to me (guessing poor AAU play), and Stoglin was underrated because of the poor competition out in Arizona, but he had put up some huge numbers. I'm not quite surprised by either of them looking so good, rankings be damned. Palsson, for the record, is pretty much the exact opposite.
To quote Dennis Green, Jordan Williams is who we thought he was. Going back to the NCAA tourney from last year, he has five straight double-doubles. Some have talked about him leaving Maryland early. Do you think that will happen if puts up a 16/10 type season?
I'm going to jump in here first and say no. I've had the chance to talk to Jordan and I think he's dedicated to this team through and through. I think he appreciates that Maryland recruited him and say his potential and he'll reward that. He also knows he wants and needs to continue to get better and I think he believes Gary will do that for him. Unless you're talking lottery pick, I don't think he'll be going anywhere early.
Probably not this year. He's still got a lot to work on in the eyes of scouts: his game isn't aesthetic, his athleticism (in the traditional sense) isn't up to par yet, and he's not really a defensive force. Plus, Gary's never been one to encourage his players to go pro. Then again, if he has some dominant periods, I could see it happening. It wouldn't be a stretch at all if he keeps churning out double-doubles. And if he continues progressing, he's a lock to leave early his junior year.
Not this year. Jordan is terrific, don't get me wrong. But he doesn't strike me as NBA-ready after this season. Of course, a lot can change between now and March, and the individual numbers will certainly be there for Williams. I just don't think NBA scouts are fawning over him just yet. He's not listed in NBADraft.net's 2011 Mock, and they've got him going at #51 in their 2012. Like Greivis, I think he'll benefit from coming back to school another year or two.
Who has been your early season surprise, aside from the huge impact and play of Stoglin and Howard?
It's a knock-down, drag-out fight between Haukur Palsson and Cliff Tucker. CT hasn't just made the leap offensively, he's been awesome defensively, too. Palsson has given Maryland a lot of quality minutes and if his shot (that he supposedly has) starts to fall, he'll be pretty dangerous. Considering what everyone, including me, thought of him early on, that's really surprising. I'm leaning toward Tucker, because that defensive play came out of nowhere, but both have been above-and-beyond my expectations.
It's got to be Haukur Palsson and Mychal Parker. First, the good: Hawk has been better than anyone thought. He hasn't dropped a ton of points, or made you say "Wow" too many times, but he seems like a hard working, glue-guy, Gary player. He brings real value to this team, and if he can start finding his shot, he's going to have a major impact...this season.
As for the not so good, I'm going to say Mychal Parker. We knew coming in that there were some issues with his work-ethic and ability to pick up schemes and such, but he just seems lost right now. His athletic ability is off the wall; we saw that when he threw down that monster jam at the end of the Seattle game. But I see a little Mike Jones "where am I suppose to be right now?" in him. It's been three games and he's a freshman. I am by no means writing him off. Players take time to develop, and Parker likely will too. It's just that the stellar play of other freshmen has me wondering why Parker isn't there too yet.
Good points guys, especially BG's about the not so good surprise about Parker. BB and I were talking about him and I mentioned Landon his freshman year, and I feel like Parker is in the same boat. He needs to get stronger and he's got two fellow freshman guards who are playing really well and stealing some of his playing time, just like Eric and Greivis did to Landon. I think Gary knows he needs Parker to contribute, so you'll be seeing him more.
As for my surprise, I'd definitely say Hawk and Tucker as well. I'll give the edge to Hawk for now because I wasn't really expecting much out of him this season, as I said in my pre-season wings prediction, when I thought he'd get about 6 minutes per game. I think he's going to help a lot at the 4 this season. Tucker could end up winning this honor, but I need to see him do it over a larger sample size. He's always shown his potential, but the question has always been can he keep it up consistently. You could also consider Mosley for this, after the performance he's given during the last two games.
Are you concerned about Maryland's depth at the 4 position? Dino hasn't really given us the type of production you'd expect against the competition we've played. His stats in the first three games: 23.5 mins, 4.6 ppg, 2.6 TOs/game, 5 boards/game. Those stats are okay, but you'd expect more against Seattle, C of C and Maine. Dino has great ability and is a very good free throw shooter yet has only gotten to the line once thus far. Padgett has shown some promise, but has struggled early at the line, going 4/8. Hawk has stepped in and done well, but will likely be very undersized once ACC play starts. Are you worried or do you think it will work itself out?
I am slightly concerned, although I think Hawk could end up lessening my worries. I think we need better production out of Dino and Padgett. You almost wish you could combine the two. Dino is a great free-throw shooter who has a great jump shot and James can bang inside and score, but his free-throw shot has been struggling. I guess Weijs could play some 4, but I see him mostly in the 5 giving Jordan a break. But Weijs is also better than I expected.
A little bit, but not extraordinarily so. Williams and Dino are the only two consistent big men so far, but Padgett will be playing major minutes whether he's serviceable or not. I'm actually pretty comfortable with Padge at the 4; he's raw, yeah, but he's also long and tough. He's been productive through a couple of games and should be able to provide some length in the post if nothing else. He's probably a bonus over what Maryland's had the past several years. Ashton Pankey's injury really hurts here, but when you count in Berend Weijs, Maryland has four contributors that I feel moderately comfortable with. I still expect a lot of small lineups, but they've been successful with that in the past.
A little worried, yes. But I can't say I'm surprised. To reference Denny Green once again, Dino is who we thought he is. He's got some length, he'll block some shots, grab some boards, and usually give you 5-10 points a game. In a perfect world, I don't think Dino is your starter at the 4 spot. Then again, in a perfect world, Dave Neal should have never been our starting center. You work with what you've got, and Gary does that better than perhaps anyone in the country. His numbers will improve and he'll be serviceable. I'm more concerned for the future, as we don't have a big in the 2011 class, and it doesn't seem like we landed a great one in the 2010 class either. (This is where we cross our fingers and pray for Baru.)
Bowie struggled a little early, but played a great game against Maine. Come March, is Bowie still the starting point guard or has Stoglin and or Howard pulled ahead?
I've talked a lot about this so I won't go into too much detail here. I don't think Bowie gives the Terps the best chance to win as PG. He's talented, he's a big part of the team, but I think he'll provide more as a first guy off the bench than starting PG. Whether or not Gary is willing to pull a senior for a freshman is a whole other issue.
I agree with BG here. I think Bowie could be best coming off the bench like Hayes did. He's great at providing that instant spark and I think that serves him and the team best. I also think he's better as the 2 guard rather than running the point, especially if he slashes to the basket more and can get to the line. I think Stoglin and Howard are going to gradually get more minutes running the point as the season progresses, but Bowie will still get his minutes too, either as a shooting guard or point guard. I trust Gary will find out what works best and go with it. In Gary we trust.
Bowie will have plenty of time to earn his starting spot. Based on his play against Maine, he might not need all of it. He looked bad the first two games, but the fouls threw him off against Seattle and he took a knock against CofC. His stat line against Charleston was respectable and he was great against Maine. I'm not yet sure if he'll be a finisher, ala Eric Hayes in his late junior season, but I'm guessing he'll be a starter in March.
We saw Greivis struggle in the early going last season, but eventually he picked it up and had a wonderful year. Do you think Mosley will do the same thing or do you think he'll remain inconsistent, especially since Howard and Stoglin have both shown they're not afraid to score and take shots?
I was still pretty confident that Greivis would come back. Part of the reason for that was because he was so good in his junior season, in particular that crazily awesome UNC performance. He had proven his success. With Mosley, not so much. There were long periods of time last year when he looked a lot like he does now. Remember, it's not a given that he's going to progress; he might, he might not. For now, it's looking more likely that he's pretty close to what he was last year: he'll get points and provide a lot of intangibles, but he's not The Guy.
Sean Mosley will find himself. The Terps need him to. I think he may be having some problems adjusting to all the new pieces. Part of the problem may be that Mosley plays better in that half-court sets (where he doesn't have to dribble the ball as much) and with a new PG and some more athletes, this team is all about running. I honestly can't tell you exactly why Mosley hasn't been good the last three games, just like I couldn't have told you why Greivis was so cold at the start of last season. Sometimes players go through stretches. Like Greivis, Mosley is a tireless worker and he's talented, and like Greivis, I think he'll rebound from this cold streak.
I think Mosley will eventually pick it up. I think he's still settling into a leadership role in terms of his scoring. I think he's already an invaluable leader on the court, but he just needs to not be timid about scoring. I think he'll get progressively better as the season progresses and then he'll be a stud his senior year.
Final question - where is this team on selection Sunday? Pre-season predictions are stupid, but they're also fun. Where does MD finish in the ACC standings and what is their seed (if you think they'll make the tourney)?
I'm going to say 4th in the ACC. Duke is great. I would be (pleasantly) surprised if they finish anything but 1st. Carolina should be good, as well. Past that, it's anybody's game. I see Maryland finishing between 3rd and 5th. VT has one of the best players in the conference in Malcom Delaney. They could finish ahead of the Terps. I just thought to myself, "hey maybe NC State could finish ahead of us, they have a bunch of talented freshmen" but then LOLed and remembered they have Sydney Lowe. I'll stick with #4 and play it safe.
As for the Tourney, I say they make it with a seven seed, and win a game. That's just where we are as program right now. Fast forward to next year with a junior Jordan Williams, senior Sean Mosley, this group of freshmen as sophomores, and a sharp-shooting swagtastic freshman from Baltimore, and I say we finally break out and reach the Sweet 16.
Just inside the bubble. An upset win over Temple and a sweep of Virginia Tech, who, yes, will make the tourney, give Maryland a 9 seed to overcome an otherwise average résumé.
I definitely think they make the tourney, probably in the 6-8 seed range. I think we'll finish around 10-6 in the conference and win a game or two in the ACC Tourney just to fully lock up our resume.
Clearly I should make the same prediction as last time, since that worked out well for us. BG, I'm still laughing at your Sydney Lowe comment. I think we finish in the 4-6 range in the ACC. I think we'll claw it out with NC State, Virginia Tech and UNC, but our inexperience will cause us to drop a few road games and pull us back from that upper portion of the conference elite.
Okay folks, there you have it. What do you all think? We have some time before tip off, so lets get a nice dialogue going.