Virginia Tech started the game with a 12-0 run, Erick Green dropped a career-high 24 points, and the Hokies destroyed the Maryland Terrapins on their home floor, winning 74-57 in a crucial ACC matchup. Maryland now drops to 1-3 in the conference, putting their NCAA tournament hopes in precarious position.
Oh, and here's a fun note: the 17-point margin is Maryland's biggest defeat ever in the Comcast Center. Yeah, it's a relatively young building, but the thing is nearly a decade old at this point. They've played any number of ranked teams in this building, including some highly-ranked Duke and UNC teams, many times when they were NIT-bound, and they never lost that badly.
That tells you plenty about how Maryland played. In fact, it tells you pretty much everything you need to know.
I'm not in the mood to do much recapping, nor are you likely in the mood to read much of it. Virginia Tech started out on a 12-0 run; Maryland's first seven possessions resulted in 0-5 shooting from the field and two turnovers. VT went with a zone and Maryland simply didn't know how to attack it; they sat on the perimeter, passed it around, and took bad perimeter shots.
That was pretty much the story of the game. Maryland battled back to get the game within single digits near the end of the first half, but a Manny Atkins three at the buzzer gave VT an 11-point lead going into the half. I'm not quite sure how to describe the second half other than saying it wasn't much different than the first one; except for a Beast Mode sequence by Cliff Tucker that brought the lead down to 8 around the 8:00 mark, the Terrapins looked pretty lifeless. They never got closer than eight after Tucker's run, and the Hokies pulled away down the stretch.
Here's how bad things got: Mychal Parker got 8 minutes of playing time. And not in garbage time and/or in an ironic manner. Yeah, it was that bad. And you know what, I wish he got even more PT.
There's a variety of things worth noting, chief among them the change in the starting lineup: Gary Williams pulled Terrell Stoglin and Adrian Bowie in favor of Pe'Shon Howard and Cliff Tucker. Obviously, that was a pretty short-lived line-up after that terrible 12-0 start. I don't think that was the reason for that awful run, but I also don't think we'll see it starting out any other games.
Past that, though, anything that might've otherwise had been considered "notable" is kind of tough to put weight in because the performance was just so bad. Maryland's the best defensive team in the country according to KenPom, but you sure as heck wouldn't know it by that performance. Just as an example, Erick Green, a sophomore starting only due to Dorenzo Hudson's injury, dropped 24, including 14 in the first half. Yes, that was a career-high; he averages only 10 points a game.
But don't think I'm cherry-picking. VT looked great offensively, and a lot of that was Maryland's doing. Again, they were lifeless and looked both disinterested and incompetent.
Things were worse offensively. I pray that I don't hear any type of "Well, VT used a zone" excuses tomorrow. Virginia Tech used a 2-3 zone, yeah, but that's a pretty basic basketball concept. Just because it's a zone doesn't mean the only recourse is to sit there, stare at it, and drool. Gary Williams has been coaching basketball for decades, these guys have been playing basketball for their entire lives, and I'm fairly certain both have encountered a zone before. It's not an excuse for that poor of a performance.
Jordan Williams, the best Maryland post player this decade and possibly the best player in the ACC, was all but ignored in the first half (and even much of the second). I counted a grand total of two touches (that weren't rebounds) inside the three-point line in the first half, and that's unacceptable for someone of his talent level. I don't know if it was Williams' fault, everyone else's fault, or both, but that cannot happen. Zone or no zone, Jordan needs to be touching the ball consistently down low.
And if you're wondering, yes, Jordan got his double-double. All but two of his 11 points came in the second half, but he got it done. 11 and 11 is a pretty bad total for Jordan these days, but hey, at least he tied Elmore and kept the streak alive.
I could go on. And on. And on. Sean Mosley played terribly again, shooting 2-9 with four turnovers. Terrell Stoglin and Pe'Shon Howard looked lost at point guard for the first time all year; they combined for 2 assists, 5 turnovers, and 1-6 shooting. No one looked nearly aggressive enough against that aforementioned zone. They were 6-20 from deep. They shot 35% from the field. They were outrebounded by an inferior rebounding team. And Erick frickin' Green lit them up on the other end of the floor.
In other news, expect to see a lot of zone defense the rest of the year. Like, every single game.
I hate to question effort, and I'm not going to. Far be it for me to know how much exactly Sean Mosley wanted to win this game, or how much Adrian Bowie wanted to get to loose balls, or whatever other complaints there may have been. But even without criticizing effort, I can safely say that was the worst performance I've seen from a Maryland team at the Comcast Center, and the worst overall since that 40-point thrashing at Duke a few years ago. It was simply sad to watch. I don't know if it was preparation, focus, competency, or, yeah, maybe effort, but that was just terrible.
As a wrap-up, no Maryland's not out of the NCAA tournament picture. This is Maryland we're talking about after all: this program has made a living off of unexpected, late-season runs in the ACC to sneak into the NCAAT. But they're now firmly on the outside looking in, and the NIT certainly appears to be the most likely outcome. They can obviously play with anyone, but if they're not ready to go, they're not good enough to beat even the Virginia Techs and Boston Colleges of the world on their home floor.
No matter how many close games they lose to good teams, they're not going to get into the tournament without victories. And after watching that performance, it's not irrational to think that they can't get those wins.
It's tough to predict what will happen. In half of the games they've played, they've looked like an unquestionable NCAA tournament team, just waiting to break through. In the other half, they've barely looked like an NIT team. I have no idea which way the season will break, nor would I be surprised by either potential outcome. That's the nature of Maryland's team most years, and this year especially.
And no, that doesn't make being a fan very much fun. Things aren't over yet, but they're not looking up.