FTF - Mea Terpa
Before I go on with this column, let me start by apologizing to my readers. I hate hype. No, I despise it. Because of this disdain, I feel like I'm pretty good at seeing through it. Maryland's tournament chances this season, from the get-go, were pure hype. And I contributed to it. For that reason, I apologize.
Initially, I wrote the column hyperlinked above in February trying to convince myself to stick with my gut instinct, that this Terps team could not deliver the goods. But by the time I finished it, I wrestled with my conscience and decided that, as bad as I thought the Terps were, there was no way they could lose to Clemson twice (much less three times!) and to Virginia Tech to end the season. I overrode my tingling Spidey sense and wrote a column that seems, well, overly optimistic in retrospect.
Part of the reason is this: in reacting to some of my columns, emails, and comments, members of this website tried to pick me up when I was down and said I needed to believe in my team more, or have "hope." I thought, well maybe I am letting my fears of disaster color my objectivity. I have a history of that. I am a DC area sports fan, after all. So I gave in. But consider this: Ed, Colin, and Birkel are graduates or fans of UNC, UNC, and Western Carolina (But I'm a Duke fan. - Birkel). As a friend of mine said to me today: "UNC [or Duke] fans saying you need to stay positive is the equivalent of a friend who has a super hot girlfriend and says looks are not everything." Is that ever the truth!
Prior to joining this blog, I wrote about Maryland on my own blog. Since my clientele was less hoops hungry than you, my valued readers, I spoke more from the heart there and from a less analytical point of view. But the heart turns out to have been more right than the head. After getting crushed by UNC 109-75 early in the season, I wrote:
Regarding the team leader, every winner has that guy who pumps up the team and carries it on his back when the game starts to slip. Obviously that player is nonexistent on the current Terps, as evidenced by the 30+ point loss. The game slipped completely away. When does Duke ever lose by 30? Never happens. G John Gilchrist stated a couple weeks ago that Gary challenged him to lead the team, and he accepted the challenge. The result? 11 points, 3 assists. Gilchrist was a non-factor. Maryland's leading scorer had a mere 13 points. And they played selfishly, recording a grand total of 11 assists as a team. […]Never was this more apparent than recently when the season was on the line. Maryland’s efforts in the final weeks (four game losing streak, losers of 7 of 10) to secure a bid to the NCAA’s sometimes seemed as lackadaisical as a pajama-clad Michael Jackson’s efforts to beat his child molestation charges. Case in point, Gilchrist started making bizarre statements about how the post-season didn't matter. In fact, Gilchrist was seen having a great time today losing to Clemson while shooting 1-7 from the field and having zero effect offensively or defensively in 19 minutes. I hope he enjoys playing professionally in Burkina Faso, 'cause the NBA ain't calling, my man.
You heard it hear first, Maryland is a bubble team at best. It's a tough ACC this year, and Maryland does not have the personnel to deliver.
When you really sit down and think about it, this season's final result is not surprising. This is the same Maryland team whose bubble was burst by the end of the last regular season but found itself dancing only because of an improbable run through the ACC Tournament. C Jamar Smith left, but the team didn't add much outside of Sterling Ledbetter and James Gist. Gilchrist continued to confound. Mike Jones remained a non-factor (0-6 in the final loss to Clemson). Travis Garrison disappeared and Ikene Ibekwe and DJ Strawberry suffered key injuries. As much as it pains me to say this, Will Bowers was probably the most improved player on this team.
So now I have to write about the NIT. The thought turns my stomach. But I should have been prepared for this moment, since I predicted it in mid-January:
Three blowouts in five ACC games does not bode well for the Terps' post-season chances. Fans, a Sweet Sixteen appearance this year is a pipe dream. A mere tournament bid would be something of a miracle at this point. But if we are to shift our focus to the lacrosse season at the conclusion of the ACC hoops tournament, I guess I would be satisfied with an upset win against an undefeated Duke squad.I did get the satisfaction of watching Coach K add two more losses to his resume. But falling to Clemson three times? Maryland proved through its play versus the Tigers that despite the hype, the Terps squad was actually the lesser of the two teams all along.
At least Clemson doesn't have a lacrosse team.
See you at the NIT.
Next Game: Sat., March 12 at #9 Towson University.
[For some uplifting words, please read Michael Wilbon's tribute to Gary Williams in the WaPo. Gary's team abandoned him this year, led by malcontent John Gilchrist. Hopefully next season, Coach will have a group of kids ready to learn, and less self-centered than this year's shambles of a team. Wilbon's correct, Gary will right the ship soon enough.]
Mike C. is currently getting it done, somewhere, with a tear in his beer.