As Maryland Enters the NCAA Tournament, Media Begins Swirling

It's March, and that means its time for perceived and real media slights to set in. They're what Gary Williams thrives on, his very lifeblood. And boy, are they plentiful. I hate to seem like I'm whining about the media, but honestly I have nothing better to do and there's an ample amount of hate to go around this time of year.

After Steve Yanda went out and wrote a piece on Moses Abraham's recruitment - implying that Gary Williams is a poor recruiter in the process - he comes back two days later bringing up good ol' graduation statistics

Maryland knows that it's graduation statistics from the turn of the century period are poor. It's been pored over...and over...and over. They hadn't been brought up recently, though, which was encouraging, and Maryland had been improving in this regard. Just when you think you're out, though, they pull you back in.

Maryland had the lowest graduation rate -- 8 percent -- among the 65 teams in this year's NCAA basketball tournament, according to an annual study released Monday by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida. The Institute focused its study on an increase in the disparity in graduation rates between white and black players on tournament teams, but the rankings brought unflattering attention on Maryland.

Terrapins Coach Gary Williams disputed the significance of the figures, which assessed the classes that entered college from 1999 to 2002 and their success in graduating within six years.

Citing ten year old stats? Well, that sure is relevant. Cue Gary Williams:

"Obviously, those years we had players leave early and they're millionaires now, and they're coming back to get their degrees, just like other guys have come back and gotten their degrees," Williams said Monday in a phone interview. "Plus we've graduated, let's see, I think it's 10 out of 12 and most recently of our seniors, we'll graduate all four of our seniors this year. Our academic support system has completely changed since 1999-2003. That is ancient facts, and you know it.

"See, you'll never put in there that our four seniors will graduate this year or that we've graduated 10 out of our last 12 players. That's my quote. And our academic support system is completely different than it was '99 to 2003. You're talking about eight years ago, seven years ago where things were different.

...

"Once again, we've graduated 10 of our last 12, we have four seniors this year, and they will graduate. I will put that graduation rate for the last five years up against anyone in the country."

I'm not going to single out Yanda here, because the article itself is pretty fair and gives plenty of time for Gary to talk angrily, but who exactly thought this was newsworthy? "Oh, ten year old statistics that have been recited hundreds of times before indicting Maryland....again? Sounds great, let's run it." I'm not a journalist by trade, but I definitely remember some of the key rules of newsworthy stories, and these break them.

The idea of the report wasn't to figure out the worst at graduating, but instead the disparity between black and white athlete graduation rates. The AP ran a story on it, and shockingly focused on the goal of the report - not a mention of Maryland.

Can we please just drop this? Doesn't everyone know the facts by now, and that they're improving? Good.

Onward and upwards. Or downwards.

After Gregg Doyel went on a slightly facetious but mostly serious rampage about the Terps, his CBS colleague (again, we're semi-partners with CBS) Jon Rothstein decided it was his turn to hate on the Terps (thanks to aMo for the heads up):

Rothstein [on how difficult a matchup Houston will be]: Well it's very difficult. Because they're a team in Houston that has momentum, and momentum is a very funny thing in the NCAA tournament. But you look at this year's Maryland team, and they're vintage Maryland. They have one pretty good guard, and a couple other ancillary parts, and they kind of piece things together from there. So it's typical Maryland, Gary. They have one big win and they'll lose in the second round.

Did I miss something somewhere? This isn't the mohawk-ed Doyel - Rothstein is a smart guy, and is paid to be an analyst, not a rabble-rouser. I don't see any analysis there - despite only have "one pretty good guard", three other players average double digits, and a fourth averages nine points and eight boards. And I also happened to miss when Clemson and Florida State in Tallahassee became negligible. Maybe I should expect less; he clearly doesn't listen very well, and then doesn't make sense:

Gary Parrish: How far can Maryland go? I don't know. They finished second in the ACC, they're clearly a good team, better than most anticipated. But I still think that from a talent perspective, how good are they? I don't think this is an Elite Eight team, a Final Four team, but are they good enough to get past Houston? Yeah, I think just about anybody is.

Rothstein: Elite Eight, Final Four for Maryland? You're being generous there.

Parrish: No, I said that wouldn't happen.

Rothstein: Yeah, but even in the same sentence.

You're right. We should be barred from using a term when we're saying it won't happen. "Maryland won't....you know." Oh, and one more piece:

Rothstein: You know, it's really funny. I said earlier on a radio interview that I don't care who Michigan State is playing, I'm not touching them with a ten foot pole. And I looked at the bracket, and I'm gonna have them in the Sweet 16.

So, uh, Maryland's the worst team in the tournament then? Did them being in the tournament surprise you? Sure, Jon.

All this on the heels of being called overrated heading into the tournament.

This is the perfect time for newspapers to run these types of pieces, and of course with so many talking heads on TV at least one guy is going to say something like Rothstein. But they do their best when disrespected - maybe there's no better timing for the Terps for this type of stuff. The last time they were under this much pressure? Probably UNC last year.

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