1. It's been a season of ups and downs, and thanks to the emergence of the freshmen guards, it ain't over yet.
This year hasn't turned out exactly the way Maryland envisioned it. They lost a bunch of close games early, failed to pick up a signature OOC win, and haven't gotten the consistent effort out of the seniors that many figured was needed to make the tournament. Despite all that, the team stands a chance, (not a great chance, but a chance) to be dancing this March.
How, you ask, can a team who couldn't muster a resume-worthy OOC (or in conference) win be on the bubble? It's simple. The emergence of Terrell Stoglin and Pe'Shon Howard as legitimate ACC players.
We all knew they could play from early on. With Stoglin, it was the 15 he dropped in the season opener. WIth Pe'Shon, the game-winner against College of Charleston. After that, I wrote in a different Four Things post that both freshmen guards we're players and the future was bright. It was a matter of when and not if. Well, with three games left in the regular season, Stoglin and Pe'Shon are starting to find their fit.
Stoglin has been simply All-ACC the last three games, scoring 25, 25, and 17, respectively. Pe'Shon hasn't been as dynamic, but has become more comfortable in his role; limiting his turnovers and finding his teammates. If these two were playing at the level they're playing now, back in January, the Terps would likely have a couple more Ws and be on the right side of the bubble.
Unfortunately, development takes time, and in the case of these two it's taken most of the season. But here we are, with three ACC games remaining, and chance to finish 10-6 in conference play. It hasn't been pretty and it hasn't been easy...but at least it isn't over.
2. Aside from the development of Terrell Stoglin and Pe'shon Howard, there's another reason why the Terps are still kicking. His name is Dino Gregory.
14, 18, 12, 15, and 14. Those are Dino's point totals the last five games.
We all complained about his hands, his size, his lack of scoring and his lack of rebounding at the beginning of the season. And now we are all eating crow because Dino has proven us wrong.
He was sensational tonight, scoring 12 points in the second half and swishing jump shot after jump shot. It's actually ridiculous how automatic he is from inside 17 feet, and how quickly he's developed that jumper. For most of his freshmen, sophomore, and junior years, Dino couldn't hit the broad side of the barn (I think that's the expression), and now it's like he can't miss.
Dino went from being a recruit fans complained about taking, to a junior fans complained about starting, to a senior who's averaging almost 15 points in the second half of his final ACC season. He wasn't blessed with superb athleticism or skill, but he's worked hard and been persistent. That persistency has payed off as Dino has developed from a Top 200ish high school player to a legitimate ACC starter. Simply put, Dino is what's great about college basketball.
Maryland may or may not make the NCAA Tournament, and this senior class will undoubtedly be judged harshly. But let the record show: Dino Gregory did his part.
3. Cliff Tucker seems to be back in the doghouse.
After starting the last two games, Cliff was benched tonight for most of the second half. And frankly, you can't blame Gary. Cliff scored a whopping 4 points in 26 minutes of play against NC State, and posted a goose egg and three turnovers in just 12 minutes of play tonight.
I feel bad for the guy because he's a senior and the potential is clearly there, but right now, the Terps are simply better with him off the court. It's harsh but it's true. He still has the ability to hit the three, and he's decent in transition, but I'd rather see Hawk or Mosley out there over Cliff. Neither of them turn the ball over as much as Tucker, and both play with more confidence (yes, even Mosley.)
Could Tucker surprise us all and drop 20 against UNC? Absolutely. This is the guy who averaged 14.4 ppg during a 5 game stretch between late December - mid January, and is currently averaging 4.6 ppg in his last five games. Inconsistency and unpredictability is what you get with Cliff Tucker.
Gary knows this and I'd imagine he'll give Cliff at least one more shot against UNC. Then again, maybe not. Gary Williams' doghouse isn't a very easy place to leave.
4. When the Terps get consistent scoring from someone other than Jordan Williams, they are a very dangerous team.
The game-plan against Maryland all year has been simple: double-down on Jordan Williams and make someone else beat you. That worked for most the year because Maryland never really established another consistent scoring option. But that's suddenly started to change.
Stoglin has been the real scoring threat and his big games have been well documented. But it's the points from other guys that have really made this team multi-dimensional. Including Jordan Williams, five players scored in double figures tonight: Jordan with 11, Stoglin with 17, Dino with 15, Bowie with 12, and Mosley with 10. Additionally, Pe'Shon Howard was just a point off from joining the club with 9. For a team that's been dominated by the star player for much of the last 3-4 seasons (Greivis and then Jordan for the most part this year), it was pretty refreshing to see.
Can the Terps collectively keep this up? Who knows. It's unlikely that we'll see too many games where 5 players are in double figures. But it does seem like the Terps have found two (non-Jordan) semi-consistent scoring options in Stoglin and Gregory.
Their next, and biggest test, takes place Sunday night.
If the Terps win, they're squarely back on the bubble, and two more regular season ACC wins away from making a pretty strong case.
If they lose, well, we can pretty much forget about the Tournament.
One game. One chance. One powder-blue team from North Carolina. The season comes down to Sunday.