An ugly night for the ACC, as B.C. fell to UMass, 83-80, which is not entirely embarrassing, since UMass is in a decent conference (A-10) and well coached. But Maryland's loss to Ohio? That's just awful. And at home no less. It's the kind of game that could drive you to drink.
Ohio led the entire way, and was up by as much as 17. According to the Baltimore Sun, "Maryland (6-5) was undone by poor shooting, sloppy ball-handling and insufficient rebounding. The Terrapins shot 40 percent, committed 15 turnovers and were out-rebounded 37-27."
And it's not like the Bobcats are a huge danger to anyone. They're out of the MAC, one of our favorite conferences, but so far they've beaten New Mexico State (a good win), Cornell (a good Ivy team, but irrelevant in terms of RPI), a two-point win over Holy Cross, a two point win over Temple, a four point win over St. Francis, and solid wins over St. Bonny and Delaware.
But should all of that suggest a win at Maryland, where the Terps have only lost three non-conference games in the Gary Williams era. They lost to Coppin State in 1989, when they were still recovering from the fallout of Len Bias and the ugly end of Bob Wade's tenure. Florida beat them in 2002, and Manhattan in the NIT in 2006.
Maryland has fallen a long way since their national title. You may remember at that time that members of the media were quite taken with how Gary Williams had mellowed, how he had become a better coach, more relaxed and at ease. Our contention has been that it was easy to relax when you had a pair of absolute killers in the backcourt. Steve Blake and Juan Dixon were devastatingly effective. Of course he was relaxed; they made his job easy.
Since then, however, his job has not been easy, and Williams has not been particularly mellow. Talk of his improvement has largely gone by the wayside. In the last several years, Maryland has been a bubble team at best; if things don't turn around in short order, the Terps may be lucky to make the NIT.
It's not as if this team is bereft of talent. Grievis Vasquez is one of our favorite ACC players, although he's struggling with his role as point guard, and he's not shooting well at all. James Gist has been erratic, and as much as we admire Bambale Osby, he's a role player at best.
In fairness to Maryland, this is a very young team. There's only one four-year senior, Gist, and he's not exactly a model of stable leadership. Osby is a senior, but he was a JUCO transfer and is in his second year in the program. The only junior, Dave Neal, is injured, and from ther eon out, it's sophomores and freshmen. But still. Duke's been there. Carolina's been there. Georgia Tech's been there. They've all managed to succeed with young teams.
With their weak performance in the non-conference games, and with only five of those left and those against teams which won't help their RPI much, Maryland's hopes rest on the ACC regular season. If they don't improve rather significantly, their odds of topping .500 in-conference are not great.
At some point, Williams may decide to flip his guards - to put Eric Hayes at point and Vasquez back at the wing, and that might click. Nothing has so far.
Of course, Maryland isn't the only ACC team struggling.
Over at CBS Sportsline, Gary Parrish projects the tournament field, and has UNC as a one seed and Duke as a two. Beyond that, he sees Clemson, Miami, Boston College, Virginia, Florida State making it and has State as a bubble team. Well, maybe. They have a lot of work to do, too. It's not like there's nothing to work with - there's a lot to work with - but at this point, State is definitely not living up to expectations.
The ECU loss was pretty much a given, when you looked at how poorly they're playing and then Sidney Lowe's defensiveness and obvious nervousness about the game.
No one is vaguely considering Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, or Wake Forest at this point.
Like Gary Williams, B.C.'s Al Skinner is a master at finding underappreciated talents who perfectly fit his system. Jared Dudley, Craig Smith, Tyrese Rice - the list goes on. Latest addition: Cory Raji, who's turning into a pretty good player. Skinner also has Tyrelle Blair doing a reasonable impression of the departed Sean Williams, at least as a shotblocker.
Miami has been a pleasant surprise thus far, but the 'Canes have a tough matchup with Mississippi State in Starksville. They played last year and lost, 70-52.