Based on overwhelming popular demand, the roundtable is back. This time we're talking Terp basketball at the midway point: MVP, MIT (Most Improved Terp), Surprise of the first half, and Predictions for the rest of the season. We decided to do this roundtable more like a conversation as opposed to just answering each question individually. Let us know which form you prefer better.
Without further ado...
Ben G.: Alright, I guess we'll start with MVP at the midway point.
Ben B.: I'll kick it off I guess. I think this one's fairly obvious, and we'll probably all have the same answer, but I'll take the unquestioned team leader, Greivis Vasquez. He's had his rough spots, but without him and his 20 or so points a night, this team is far, far worse. He's outstanding all while making everyone around him better. Rare combo.
Dave: Yeah, have to say I agree. I think he has to be who you go with. I think the other thing he does is because teams have to focus on containing Vasquez, that's really opened it up for Milbourne and Hayes and even Mosley and Williams to an extent. So no Vasquez = they're not getting as many open looks and might appears worse.
Ben G.: Yeah it's Greivis. And it's not really that close. Without him, this is a bubble team at best. When you take a closer look at his numbers, you realize just how valuable he is. 18.1 ppg, 6.3 assists, 4.5 rebounds. He's the guy that makes this team go, and he's arguably the best player in the ACC.
Dave: I'm pretty happy he came back for his senior season. And I'm kind of happy we didn't end up with Stephenson.
Ben B.: That's a whole new can of worms. I won't say I'm happy we missed out on our first legitimate five star in forever, but I'm not particularly upset about it either. Born Ready would've been great for a lot of reasons, but he's a gamble. Turns out it was a gamble we didn't need to take.
Dave: Yeah, probably a better way of putting it. That does raise a question worth bringing up in the future - should we care if Gary doesn't land 5 star guys all the time?
Ben B.: I agree it's a question for the future, so I'll leave it for now, but I will say the more 5 stars the better.
Ben G.: I'm not upset about not having Stephenson for this season. My concern is next year when our top three scorers are gone. It would have been nice to have a guy who can create his own shot.
Ben B: Yeah, I'm slightly afraid of Mosley's ability to become a go-to guy. He just seems too tentative.
Ben G.: Alright, getting back on track...what's been the biggest surprise of the season thus far? A certain player? One aspect of the team's play?
Dave: I think Jordan Williams. I expected him to do well but I thought he'd struggle/hit a little wall once we got into ACC play. But he's continued to excel.
Ben B: Yeah, J-Dub has been great all year. One of the most impressive things about his play has been how well he's done against some of the best bigs in the ACC and sometimes the nation. Antonio Pena, Tracy Smith, Trevor Booker - he had good games against all of them. That's not easy. I do have a feeling that it's gonna be Williams across the board, though, so I'll deviate a little: Landon Milbourne. We knew he was good, but he's been better than I expected and a legitimate #2 option and All-ACC contender (ok, maybe 2nd team contender). His 3 point shot has been great. And his story, from almost no PT freshman year to star senior year, is great.
Ben G.: Both good choices here. I'd probably go with J-Will. You could also throw in Mosley, but he's cooled down a little.
Dave: Yeah, I thought about both of those guys too. I think Mosley has hit a wall recently and I think Ben B. is right in that he seems timid and I worry about that next year. Landon has been wonderful for us and probably our most consistent player throughout the season. Can anyone hit a mid-range jumper like he can?Back to J-Dub, he's not only done well offensively against those good bigs, he does a great job of limiting their production when he's on D against them. And he's been improving as the season has gone on. Recently, he's stopped going for a layup when he's right under the basket; he just slams it home and he's not missing some of those layups he was earlier as a result. You can just see him forming into a dominant type player. And he's the second best freshman in the ACC this year. Favors over at Georgia Tech beats him out. But I think people expected Favors to be there; most people didn't expect Jordan to be in that same sentence this year.
Ben G.: Lots of good points in there. I'll hit on a few of them. Mosley's tentativeness concerns me a little bit but I think come next year, you'll see him start to shake that off. In the beginning of the season when Greivis still hadn't found his game, you saw Mosley take over as the team's number one offensive weapon. Once Greivis came around, and Milbourne and Hayes started to heat up, he sort of resorted back to his limited offensive role.
In terms of Landon, I think he is a perfect example of what a four year player should be under Gary Williams. He didn't come in highly recruited, didn't play as a freshman, but he worked his butt off to the point where he's one of the best players in the ACC.
His development, and J-Will's early development, should send a signal to recruits that Gary WILL make you better if you work hard.
Dave: This is what I remember from Landon's freshman year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9R03UcKh8KQ&feature=related
Ben B.: Swear to god, I was about to post that. He's always had that athleticism, but you never saw him his first year.
Dave: I remember seeing that highlight on Sportscenter's top 10 and everyone was like who is this kid?
Good points about Mosley Ben G. I think you're probably right. I think we've seen he CAN be that guy and that should be a little reassuring.
Also valid points about Gary developing talent. I think one thing people don't realize is that a lot of Maryland's recent players might not be playing in the NBA, but they're still making $300K playing in Europe. There is a pretty long list of players who are playing over seas: Caner-Deadly, Boom, Drew Nicholas (Who I think is one of the top players over there), Gilchrist, just to name a few...
Key To Success Going Forward
Ben G.: Next question: What do you think is the key to this team's success going forward in the second half of the season?
Ben G.: I guess I'll start it off and go with Landon Milbourne. Greivis is great. Everybody knows that. But when teams focus on Greivis the rest of the season, someone else is going to have to step up and score points. Landon has been that guy so far, but last season, as the year wore on, Landon began to fade a bit. If LM can keep up his production, this team can go far. If he begins to wear down, points are going to be harder to come by.
Ben B.: That's a good point, because its easy to forget that Landon really started to wear down toward the end of last year. My hope is that JWill's presence will keep him fresher; last year, he was the guy down low. Now JWill can at least pick up some of the slack there. Hopefully Landon lasts the entire year.
Dave: Yeah, I agree with both of you on Landon. I'd say the other two big keys for us continuing to win are our bench play and our three-point shooting. If we can keep getting solid contributions from Tucker, Dino and Bowie, that's key, especially if Landon or J-Dub do start to tire down the stretch.
Another thing I think a lot of people don't realize this season is how well we're shooting the three this year; we're one of the top teams in the ACC. Probably a result of having a better inside presence and being able to go inside-out, but Hayes and now even Landon have been shooting lights out beyond the arc. We need that to continue.
Ben G: Agree on both points there. The three point shooting has been especially surprising.
Ben B.: That pretty much covered it for me. Bowie and Tucker are key for me, and have been for a long time. I'll agree, too, that 3s are big keys. The one thing I'll add has to do with Greivis: maintaining this pace is very, very important. When he was struggling early in the year, a lot of people weren't sure this was an NCAAT team, and rightfully so. When he's clicking, we're so, so much better. When he's not, there's no other consistent offensive option.
Dave: And part of Greivis playing well is playing good D and being able to get out and run. This team is one of the best when they're flying up and down the court and Greivis is a big reason for that. Take that away from us and we struggle.
Most Improved Terp
Ben G.: I got another superlative to hand out here: Most Improved Terp. Go!
Ben B.: Tough one. Does J-Dub count? If not...uh, Milbourne? The thing is, we've seen Hayes' offensive aggression and Milbourne's occasional dominance before - they're just more consistent with it now. Had Mosley not, for lack of a better word, "regressed" in ACC play, it'd be an easy choice, but I don't really feel like I have anywhere else to go except maybe Dino, so I'll say Sugar Sean.
Ben G.: Yeah, I have to go Mosley here. He's averaging 11.5 points and 5.6 rebounds this year. Last season, he averaged 5.3 points and 3.7 rebounds. Yes, Mosley has "regressed" a bit lately, at least from an offensive standpoint, but he's still made significant improvement. There was a stretch of games earlier in the season where Mosley looked like the team's best player. Hopefully, he can regain some of the confidence and swagger he had during the first part of the season.
Ben B.: That's right on. And even though he's regressed offensively, he still ends up with ~5 loose balls a game. Uncanny.
Dave: Yeah, awesome stuff. I think it has to be Mosley. I feel like he's always going 100% and does so many things that don't show up in the box score. He's like a Mouton in that regard but has much more upside and will end up being a better player than Byron was, but he's definitely improved the most this season I think.
Ben B.: I've always seen Mosley as a more skilled Mouton. I'm no Dino lover, but since we're here I'll give him a quick shoutout - he has gotten better since last year. He still rushes way too many shots and seems lost at times, but he's stronger, better on D, and when the jumper works he's tough to guard.
Ben G.: How about a final prediction for the rest of the season and then we'll call it a day?
Ben B.: KenPom has us at 11-5 in the ACC, with predicted losses to Duke. Honestly, that sounds about right. Those are the only games we shouldn't be favored to win, but I do see us pulling out the one in the Comcastle - they're just too good this year not to win one. I wouldn't be surprised to see another surprise loss or two, though - maybe that's just the past few years speaking, but I'll say 11-5, one loss to Duke and road losses to the Virginia teams (VT, UVA). No real reason, just a gut feeling.
Ben G.: I feel pretty uncreative here but I'm going to go 11-5 as well, with a surprise ACC Tourney Championship. The second part of the prediction may be nothing more than wishful thinking, but for some reason 11-5 just sounds right. I'm thinking we'll split with Duke and drop two more somewhere along the way, most likely on the road. I think we'll wind up 2nd in the ACC behind Duke unless we manage to beat them twice. In terms of the Tourney, anything less than a Sweet 16 appearance would disappoint me.
Ben B.: ACC Tournament Champ > ACC Regular Season champ. Personally. So I'd take that.
Dave: I agree about both the sweet 16 and about the ACC Tourney> ACC Regular season. I'm going to be brave here - I think this team only loses one more game and I don't think it's going to be to Duke. I think we'll sweep Duke but like Ben B., I think we'll drop one to either UVA or Va Tech. Probably Va. Tech because for some reason, even though Gary is 1,000 > Seth Greenberg, we always seem to struggle against them.
I just think Greivis is going to have a monster game at Cameron and he, Hayes and Landon aren't going to let this team lose on Senior night. And after watch Duke play UNC last night, I don't think they're that good. We need to not get caught up in their screens and let them get wide open 3's and if we do that, we'll be fine. I think Jordan is better than anything they have inside. It amazes me, Duke always has some 7 foot guy and they never have any post moves. And Singlar tends to want to hang out beyond the arc a lot, so I'm not that worried about him inside. I'm actually more worried about one of our bigs trying to guard him out there and letting him make 3's. But I digress...
I think they either go 13-3 and win the regular season title or go 12-4 (maybe lose to Duke or even Ga. Tech) and give everyone a run for their money in the ACC Tourney. At least we'll know they'll be use to play these games on short rest after the streatch they have coming up...
Ben B.: Wow, Duke sweep. Ballsy prediction. Hope you're right.
Ben G.: I like the confidence, Dave. I would be elated if we were to sweep Duke. Its certainly possible, just not probable.
Alright, that's a wrap. Feel free to agree, disagree, and comment away, below.