After watching the Terps' basketball team stave off a Providence rally to win the Paradise Jam Tournament Monday - a game in which I suspect all of us were concerned we were about to witness an epic collapse - it occurred to me that, despite still having plenty of room to improve, the three-game tourney also offered some encouraging signs. And instead of focusing on the negative.......
1) Shaq was a much more effective presence in the paint than he had shown through the first three games of the year. He was pretty solid on the defensive end, and was more aggressive offensively. Now, if he can hit his shots more consistently.
2) We may have discovered someone who can relive some of the pressure, and provide some depth, at the point guard spot. Varun Ram also added a degree of quickness, and decent defensive capabilities, contributing three steals against Providence (he's tied for second on the team in that category with seven steals on the season), and - albeit a small sample size - and hitting 40% of his 3-pointers.
3) Roddy Peters is going to be really, really good; and he's not waiting to prove it. One thing that was missing last season - to a certain extent - is the guy who can drive the lane and dish a no-look pass to a wide open teammate. I'm REALLY looking forward to seeing him in a Terps uni for the next four years.
4) This is not necessarily going to be a two-man offensive threat. There's no doubt that most teams will want to keep Dez and Jake from beating them. But in the first half against a good Providence team, Dez played about 10 minutes due to foul trouble, and Jake was shutdown pretty effectively. But Evan Smotrycz, Charles Mitchell and Shaq sparked the team to a double-digit halftime lead, while Dez and Jake were limited to just seven points.
5) Our previously-dubious defense seems to have suddenly solidified (fingers crossed). The Terps held a Providence team to a near all-time record low for field goal percentage. To be fair, the Friars were ice cold, but how much of the paltry 21-point first half was a result of just cold shooting and how much was due to excellent defense? That's a valid question.
There are probably other encouraging signs (the coaching staff included), that I didn't include. And there are certainly areas in which we need to improve. For that matter, if you disagree with what I consider encouraging signs, feel free to say so in the comments.
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