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Posted at 1:00 PM ET, 01/25/2011

Shaking things up offensively: part one

By Rick Nelligan

Welcome to part one of a two-part series on my solution for Maryland's offensive struggles. It’s been no secret this year that the Terps have been about as frustrating as it gets against quality opponents. There are as many reasons for Maryland’s struggles on offense as there are excuses for why I forgot my four-month anniversary with my girlfriend (four-month anniversary… really?).

I actually went back and tallied all of the statistics for the players that logged significant minutes against our nine most important opponents (yes, I included Wake Forest. And no I don’t have a great reason why other than the fact that they're an ACC opponent). The stats are about as ugly as it gets, as four of our guards are shooting under 40 percent from the floor and under 30 percent from beyond the arc, and three of them are shooting under 70 percent from the free throw line. Yet I believe that I have come up with a solution offensively as well as a retooled lineup to shake things up.

Before I get to my solutions, I’d like to make something very clear. Regardless of lineups or how much Gary Williams shakes things up on offense, things will continue to digress unless Maryland’s mentality changes in two ways. First of all, there has to be more movement on offense. All too often the Terps seem too content to pass the ball and watch and expect their teammates to do something with it on their own. There need to be more screens, more cuts and more movement in general. Isn’t that what the flex offense is built upon?

Secondly, and I’ve preached about it time and again, Maryland must shoot the open shots when they are available. I will take an open jumper over a contested layup every single time. It will help open things up and make the defense defend the entire floor. Virginia Tech only seemed to guard from the free throw line in and it crushed us. That game legitimately gave me nightmares.

Related: Gary Williams mum on starting lineup vs. Virginia

With that out of the way, let’s move on to my offensive shakeups. These are far from expert evaluations, but I do aspire to be a basketball or football coach someday, so I can assure you that this is something that I have studied. First I’d like to lay out my new offensive game plan.

The biggest change I’d like to see is an obvious one on the surface, but in a different way than most may be thinking. I’d love to see the half court offense run through Jordan Williams on virtually every possession that he is in the game -- not just throwing it to him on the low block either, because opponents have been extremely effective at denying entry passes into the post as of late. Sure, if you can get it to him there that’s great. Although when you can’t, I think we need to flash him up to the free throw line more often and allow him to dictate the offense from a pseudo point-forward position.

Williams is the only player that opponents fear on offense, and rightfully so. Therefore, he’s the only one that can truly open up the floor for our slumping guards. If opponents only single cover him, he’s shown the ability to shoot a mid-range jumper or he can back them down.

But if they double-team him, which is very likely, he’s in a better position to find the open man for an open three-pointer or find someone cutting to the basket for the easy layup. He’s tall enough, intelligent enough, and has good enough hands to be a very good passer. I compare it to the way Phil Jackson uses Pau Gasol in the triangle offense or the way Gregg Popovich uses Tim Duncan in San Antonio.

The naysayers will mention that it will take away from the Terps’ offensive rebounding opportunities, but I will gladly sacrifice a few offensive rebounds in order to improve our offensive efficiency. Clearly, the shooting guards masquerading as point guards on this team haven’t been able to, so why not give the big man a shot? It should allow the guards to shoot set jumpers and make better decisions rather than having to create for themselves.

Having Jordan change his role slightly offensively is a risky proposition for sure, and an unusual one. Evidently, the usual isn’t working right now though, so why not try something new? This leads me to part two of my post, which will be up tomorrow and will include my proposal for changing up the lineups. As with my game plan, it will be different. However, I would argue that not changing things up would be more insane than keeping things the way they’ve been all season. In fact, doing something over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, isn’t it?

By Rick Nelligan  | January 25, 2011; 1:00 PM ET
Categories:  Rick Nelligan, Terps  | Tags:  Rick Nelligan, Terps  
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Next: What to make of Nick Young


Give the ball to Maryland's best player. This is the hard hitting and intelligent analysis I have come to expect from the Wash Post Sports section. Not even the crazy (atrocious) writing style of Steve Yanda could save this shallow piece of "journalism."

Posted by: snydercash4clunkers | January 26, 2011 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Haha, I never said it was ground breaking. But you can't say that it's been happening like it should. Jordan is the only one that is feared on our team, and is completly under utilized. We have to find more ways to get him the ball other than just attempting to pass it to him in the post. So ground breaking? Absolutely not. Does it need to happen and is hardly anyone talking about it? Check.

Posted by: gnelligan1 | January 27, 2011 6:18 PM | Report abuse

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