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Posted at 11:51 AM ET, 12/15/2010

Troubleshooting the Terps struggles

By Rick Nelligan

It has been an extremely frustrating season thus far for the Terrapins basketball squad. For every blowout of a cupcake team, there has been an equally maddening loss to a quality opponent. Each time the Terps had an opportunity to post a quality win on their résumé, they played just well enough to rip out the hearts of Terrapin Nation. Let's see if we can't troubleshoot the reason behind the Terps struggles early in the 2010-11 campaign.

Are the coaches motivating their players and putting them in the best position to win? With most coaching staffs around the country, this would likely be a legitimate question. However, I'm fairly sure everyone is through with questioning Gary Williams, especially after the venom most fans showed during the 2008-09 season. Gary has proven time and again that he is able to get the most out of every player he puts on the floor. I doubt the answer to our struggles is coaching.

Do the Terps have enough talent and fire power to compete with the top 25 teams in the nation? While I can understand how one would question the talent level of the Terps after the departure of one of the greatest basketball players in Maryland history, I would actually argue this is one of the more purely talented teams that Gary has ever been able to put on the court. It is certainly one of the most athletic. Gary has consistently gone deep into his bench in an attempt to find the right matchups on the floor, with ten players seeing playing time in at least ten of the Terrapins eleven games this season. So if not coaching and talent, what could it be?

I would suggest that it is the lack of a true leader or leaders for the Terps. The three seniors (Adrian Bowie, Dino Gregory and Cliff Tucker) and junior captain (Sean Mosley) on this team have yet to step up, take control, and claim this team to be theirs and refuse to lose. In each of Maryland's four games against quality opponents, there has been a moment where the Terps' upperclassmen could take control and failed to do so. When called upon to take a big shot, they have seemed tentative. When needed to do the dirty work to grab a loose ball, they have looked indifferent. When it has been time to slap the hardwood and tell themselves and their teammates that they will do whatever it takes to get the next defensive stop, they've seemed passive.

I don't like to dwell on the past anymore than the next guy, but there's one common factor I see in all four players. For their entire careers they have played alongside one of the greatest leaders I've seen take the floor for the Terps - Greivis Vasquez. Now that Vasquez has moved on to the NBA, these upperclassmen seem to still be waiting for someone else to show them the way to victory. What they've failed to realize so far is the guy they need to be looking to is themselves.

Until the Terrapins upperclassmen break out of their shells and assume their roles as leaders, the Terps will continue to struggle. Fortunately for Gary Williams, he has a 10-day break in between games followed by three games against teams with losing records to help the Terps realize their full potential. The small break in the season couldn't have come at a better time with a January 9th matchup against top ranked Duke just over the horizon. How much the Terps are able to grow together over the next three weeks will go a long way to determining the outcome of this season.

What have you seen so far from our basketball team Terrapin Nation? Where do we need to improve (other than free throw shooting) and where have we been solid so far? Let me know what you're thinking.

By Rick Nelligan  | December 15, 2010; 11:51 AM ET
Categories:  Rick Nelligan, Terps  | Tags:  Rick Nelligan, Terps  
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I think you pretty much hit the turtle on the head. I would really hate to see the unwarranted Gary-bashing start again. These seniors have to grow up and show some intestinal fortitude.

Posted by: terps78 | December 15, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

agreed. it certainly isn't the underclassmen's fault. Dino has played pretty well, but the other three have stunk up the joint.

having Pitt and B.C. within your grasp only to slip away is terrible. you gotta win those games.

Posted by: marylandmymaryland | December 15, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Good assessment Rick and I agree but Gary always has a point guard and with this team, he doesn't. They're too young right now.

Posted by: DiehardTerp | December 15, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

I agree that we don't have a leader, but I disagree that this is the root of our problem. I think the biggest factor is this: we don't have a lights out shooter from behind the arc, so teams are able to cheat on Williams and clog the lane. I'd also add that Williams could improve on his passing when he draws the double. In short, we're missing Hayes more than Vasquez right now.

Posted by: Matte | December 16, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Leadership should come from the head coach not players. Maryland should have won games against Boston College and Temple possibly Illinois. Gary Williams made some crucial mistakes on in-game plan and adjustments on the court resulting these losses.

Bowie, Gregory and Tucker are just not good players as we thought they were. Don’t blame on players who are only 21 or 22 years old. The head coach has ultimate responsibility on team performance especially he is making 2 million plus a year.

Posted by: terpsfan333 | December 18, 2010 8:57 PM | Report abuse

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