COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- This week, I exchanged emails again with Terps beat writer Patrick Stevens of The Washington Times, who shared my thoughts on tonight's showdown with his readers over on his blog D1SCOURSE.
1. What on earth has been happening up there the last few weeks? Gary Williams is having a war of words with school officials, the team is struggling, blowing leads. Is this Maryland basketball team on the verge of falling apart? Or, is this just a hiccup?
From a micro perspective, it all depends on how you define "on the verge of falling apart." If you mean enduring blowout after blowout, it's hard to see that coming. Maryland, for all of its talent deficiencies, has played hard. Of its five losses in the last seven games, it was only completely horrible once (a 41-point loss at Duke). This just doesn't seem like a team that will tank in the second half of the league schedule. Now, does it have the talent to get even a .500 league record? That's highly debatable. From a macro perspective, the program suffered some damage this week. Gary Williams has taken heat for his recruiting, and his ability to do so was further compromised with the in-fighting. It's tough to see things getting much better for the Terps until there is some demonstration of stability and unity --- and it sure doesn't look like that will come easy.
2. The Terrapins have lost four straight to Miami, so there is obviously going to be extra motivation for them to win Saturday's game. But did the blown 17-point lead the last time around shake Maryland's confidence to the point where maybe some guys are believing they just can't beat Miami?
3. Maryland did a great job forcing turnovers and pushing the ball up the floor last time against Miami. Any reason to believe there will be a change in philosophy this time? Or, are the Terps just going to try and do the same thing they did last time?
PS: Maryland built that 17-point lead by remaining aggressive, pressing and making sure it collected plenty of points in transition. Then, as coach Gary Williams acknowledged that night, the Terps became tentative and the lead quickly vanished. Miami's absurd 3-point shooting had something to do with that, but until those closing minutes Maryland's defense (especially on the interior) was impressive. Maryland struggled to score in the halfcourt in the final 12 minutes that night, and it's been a common refrain for much of the month. If the Terps can get into transition, they would be wise to do so since points are so hard to come by elsewhere. I'd expect to see Maryland try to push things again Saturday night.