Terps Hoops Preview Part 1: The Ugly

10/11/2007 10:45:30 PM Welcome to the fourth year of Turtle Soup's coverage of Maryland Basketball. It's good to have you all back for what should be a thrilling season.

Next to March Madness, there is no time as exciting as Midnight Madness. So much hope, so much possibility! The 2007-08 edition of the Maryland Terrapins will be no different. Gary Williams will go into the season with five freshman and three sophomores among his top 10 players. We will be young and we will be fun, and of course, they will aggravate the crap out of me. The over/under for the number of times that my wife questions why she married me is seven. Let the good times roll.

Nevertheless, when the games do start, I expect Gary Williams to trot out the following five when we begin play against North Florida: wait, North Florida? I have heard of South Florida U. I have heard of Central Florida, Florida Atlantic, and Florida International, but from under what rock did North Florida crawl? I have no idea what conference claims North Florida (or is it Northern Florida), but it better be a D-1 school. Anyway, the starting five:

C- Braxton Dupree

PF- Bambale Osby

SF- James Gist

SG- Greivis Vasquez

PG- Eric Hayes

It is not the best starting five during Gary's tenure, but it is exceedingly talented and filled with many question marks. Considering my tendency to start with the negative, let us begin by addressing those question marks.

1. Backcourt defense. Vasquez and Hayes lack the lateral quickness needed to stay with most ACC guards. This is probably the most gaping hole going into the season. I can visualize Singletary and Lawson slicing through these two as they get to the lane at will. We simply don't have a defensive stopper like DJ Strawberry to put a clamp on the quick guards. Don't get me wrong, I expect Vasquez to build on his success from last year. He could well emerge as a lottery pick or late first rounder if he can make the leap to another level; but before NBA scouts can take him seriously, his defense needs to dramatically improve.

Did you happen to see what Kobe Bryant did to Vaz at the World Basketball Championships this summer? If you missed the first five minutes of the USA vs. Venezuela game, then you missed two Kobe steals and some vicious in-your-face drives. Kobe took Greivis out of the game from the start. And it was because of his quickness (see above).

2. Braxton Dupree. Before even playing a game, he has been inducted into the all-time name team at Maryland. (His locker is next Exree Hipp's and adjacent to Herman Veal's for those keeping score.) All kidding aside, Dupree's inexperience at the five spot is of major concern. He is the wildcard. If he can get us 10 ppg and 8 rpg, then we will be good to go up front. If we can’t rely on him or if he is prone to foul trouble, then watch out. It could be a long year.

(Note: If Dupree proves effective early in the season, coaches will start going at him in the first half. A key stat will be how many times Dupree picks up his second foul with 10 minutes or more to go in the first half. If he sits more than he plays in the first half, the Terps will be too thin up front. Of course, this is all moot, if the kid can't play as advertised.)

3. James Gist. Mr. Gist simply can’t have off-nights. He needs to be assertive and demand the ball in the half court. He is our best half court scorer and number 1 option. In the past, he has displayed that odious tendency to disappear in games. James Gist will need to take 10-15 shots per game in order for Maryland to be effective. With two guys (Hayes and Vasquez) who can get in the lane and create, he should get some nice looks.

4. The bench. No one on the Terp bench has played significant minutes at the college level. Consider the fact that David Neal is by far the most experienced guy. We have four freshman and Landon Milbourne. These guys could give us 25-30 points per game, or they could give us 5 points. I honesly have no idea. This terrifies me.

Some have wondered (including a mysterious "Chris" on Heather "I'm not sure why I got this job" Dinich's blog on the Baltimore Sun site) whether or not Milbourne will start over Bambale Osby. To those I say this: have you been following Gary Williams for the last 18 years? Bambale is a senior and he has experience. Not only that, but Gist is a natural small forward who happens to be deadly accurate from three. Gist needs to concentrate on scoring and Osby will take some defensive pressure off Gist. I love Osby’s hustle and defense. He definitely proved to me that he can guard big guys in the ACC. He is a beast and a great glue guy. Let's see if Milbourne can score a point or two before we anoint him as the starter.

Those are my concerns. What are yours? In the next post, I will look towards the upcoming season and try to make some predictions. I recommend that you wear your rose-colored glasses while reading.

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