Four Things We Learned from Maryland's Loss to Virginia Tech

1. We have no idea how good or bad Maryland is, but they aren't as good as we thought.

On the one hand, it's unfair to judge an entire team by just one game. With the inexperience on this team, they'll have some bad games. It's just the way things go. They have two freshmen point guard and much of the team is rounded out by sophomores and first-time starters. They're rebounding from a tough, disappointing loss to Nova against an experienced, veteran team in Virginia Tech.

On the other hand, this isn't necessarily one single game: they lost to Boston College on their home floor, too, and one could argue that Temple was similar. For whatever reason, this team has struggled against teams that are of similar talent level mightily. Those are three games that, in all honesty, Maryland should've won, and that they didn't - not just once, or not even twice, but three times - is pretty damning.

That's not to discount the great games they played against superior teams. But after watching close game after close game earlier in the year, I didn't think Maryland was even capable of a game like this. How a team can go to Duke and Villanova and nearly win both before coming out and performing so disastrously bad at home is baffling.

So what's going on here? It's a good question. For one, it's possible that one of the two sets of outcomes - the close losses to good teams or the losses to bad teams - is a fluke. With so many instances of both, though, I find that difficult to believe. The true answer is going to be more difficult to ascertain; perhaps it's a lack of focus or preparation, as many teams suffer against less-than-great teams, or maybe they just find a way to play out of their league against the better teams. Maybe it's both.

Either way, it doesn't appear they are what we once thought. That's okay, but let's hope for their sake that they aren't nearly as bad as they showed last night.

2. Maryland can expect to see a lot of zone the rest of the year, and they have no idea how to attack it.

I'm far from a Gary-basher, but he doesn't escape blame here. Look, a 2-3 is a basic concept. Virginia Tech flat-out said they were going to play the 2-3 zone before the game. And the 2-3 zone basically shut down Maryland in the second half against Villanova. With several days in-between games, that should've been a huge game-planning point in practice. And yet for the first half of the game, the blueprint was essentially "Pass the ball around the perimeter, and then take a bad outside shot." That's a bad blueprint normally, but it's terrible against a zone.

I don't know for sure if Gary didn't prepare the players correctly, so perhaps I'm overstepping my bounds. But if they that heinously ignored Gary's instructions, then they probably should've been sat down right away. Either way, something there wasn't right.

For the record, this is also a personnel problem. The 2-3 zone VT used was designed to stop the flow of the ball inside to Jordan Williams, and that's exactly what happened. Without Jordan getting normal touches, the rest of the players on the team - none of which are viable secondary options - didn't seem to know what to do. We've known this for awhile, but Maryland lacks both consistent outside shooters and perimeter scorers. VT challenged Maryland to shoot over them; the Terps not only took the bait, they failed the challenge miserably.

Don't think other coaches haven't seen the past two games. They'll start brushing up on their zones before Maryland games, because it's obvious that the Terps don't have the personnel to defeat it. They need to brush up on a zone offense stat if they're going to have a chance down the stretch.

3. Sean Mosley's slump continues.

I want to love Sean Mosley. I know I used to love him. For the life of me, I can't figure out what's up with Sugar Sean. He's been in a huge slump the past few weeks, and last night might've been the nadir: 6 points, 2-9 shooting, 4 turnovers, 4 fouls.

Surprisingly - at least to me; Gary usually gives his guys a long leash - he's seen his playing time drop as a result. He hasn't seen more than 25 minutes a single time since way back in December against North Florida. Since that game, he's averaging only 6.8 ppg. In the past three games, the most minutes he's received is 23.

I don't know what's up with Sean, but at this point, it looks like this is the player that he is. The scoring champion we saw in high school isn't around anymore, and instead we get a scrappy, gritty, offensively-challenged role player in starter minutes.

There's not much wrong with that, except for the fact that so much more was expected and needed out of him. Mosley's lack of emergence has been one of the more disappointing developments of this already disappointing year.

Yeah, some people will say I'm late to the party on this one. Whatever. I wanted to believe, and you still see those shining moments occasionally. They just don't happen nearly often enough.

No, he's not the reason for the loss. This was a 17-point crushing, and every single player on the floor, from Jordan Williams to James Padgett, shares blame in it. But that doesn't mean that Mosley's lackluster performance can't be noted. It's important not to blame him for this, necessarily - he is who is he, and that's all he can be - but it makes it no less frustrating. Just as frustratingly, Maryland has no better option at the 3.

4. Maryland's NCAA tournament hopes aren't over, but they're certainly on the outside looking in at this point.

Over the past decade, Gary Williams' teams have made a living out of making late runs to get into the NCAA tournament. Last year, Maryland won their last 7 games and overcame a lackluster OOC slate to sneak into the tourney. In 2008-09, they started out 2-4 in conference before pulling things together late in the season with two wins over top 10 opponents. And who could forget 2004, when Maryland won the ACC tournament on the back of John Gilchrist?

See, that's been Maryland's M.O., in a way: improvement down the stretch. Betting against Gary is a bad idea, and always has been.

With that said, betting on him is pretty foolish, too. There aren't a ton of similarities between those three teams and this one. For one, last year's team had Greivis Vasquez and began the ACC season just as well as they finished it, with a 4-1 start. They had Vasquez in 2008, too, plus two really good OOC wins in Michigan State and Michigan. Those two wins boosted the resume, but also proved that they were capable of winning tough games; we don't know that yet out of this team. And in 2004, they had not only proven their ability to win big games (they beat then-#1 Florida on the road), but John Gilchrist also went nuts over four games; Maryland doesn't yet have a player with that ability to take games over. As good as Jordan Williams is, he relies upon guards to get him the ball.

This year's team has played really well against some good teams, but they're yet to win one. And they're yet to even prove that they can beat the average teams in a down ACC year.

If you want to believe that there's a chance for Maryland to get hot and sneak into the tournament, there's no hating on that. It's definitely possible. In fact, I wouldn't even really be surprised if they caught fire and finished 10-6 in the conference this year. But if you think that will happen, or that it's probable at this point, I can't agree.

Bonus Knowledge: The starting lineup still isn't settled. If Gary's still willing to change things based on (questionable) matchups, there's no way he's 100% dialed in to the Stoglin-Bowie lineup. ... Point guard play is still a question mark. I love me some Terrell Stoglin, and Pe'Shon Howard for that matter. But 1-6 with 2 assists and 5 turnovers between the two of them is baaaaad. ... James Padgett is in the building. No, he's still not a rebounding presence (just one board) but those eight points were mighty pretty. ... We saw what Cliff Tucker could've been. Tucker dropped 11 points in ninety seconds. That was Reggie Miller-esque. Unfortunately, he scored just two points the rest of the game.

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