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In Need Of Some Parts

Gary Williams was asked after the game last night about his thoughts on the Gonzaga squad that had just beaten his Terrapins. His answer, I thought, was telling.

"Well they have all the tools, and it’s not just the first five guys," Williams said. "They came off the bench with really good players. When we won it in 2002, we had an eight-man rotation. We had two big guys to come in, like they do, and we had a very good shooting guard to come off the bench. And anytime you have that combination, you have a chance. And this is November, so who knows, but if you look at Gonzaga, look at their lineup and their bench, I think they can match anybody else just in terms of position by position."

First of all, Williams is right. Gonzaga has a very talented and deep rotation and very well could end up being a team to look out for come March.

In let's apply Williams's rotation formula to his own squad and see how it stacks up ...

As far as having an eight-man rotation goes, Williams might eventually settle on one, but he hasn't done so yet. The most likely three candidates (assuming the starting lineup remains the same, which is no safe bet) are Adrian Bowie (6-foot-2), Sean Mosley (6-foot-4) and Dave Neal (6-foot-7). That, as you can see, is the opposite of Gary's ideal three-man bench squad. As he said, back when the team was earning Final Four bids and a championship banner, the Terps had two big men and one sharpshooter coming off the pine.

Now, obviously, there is no set formula for how to be a successful team, and I have no doubt you can find countless examples of teams with a variety of makeups that have done very well. But the Terps' bench, and Williams's eventual set rotation, could reveal a lot about this team's potential.

Last night seemed like a throw-back to last season, when Greivis Vasquez was asked to shoulder the scoring load while everyone else tried to figure out some way to be useful. That, clearly, will not fly. As I mentioned in a previous post, the Terps need (and I mean NEED) at least two or three players besides Vasquez to score in double digits in order for them to be successful. The guy is good, but not good enough to carry the team by himself.

So far this year, Bowie has been a spark off the bench and Eric Hayes typically has found a way to score at least 10 points. Milbourne, also, typically scores in double digits, though he has been strugglin of late.

As far as the bench goes, it appears likely Williams's formula will not fit this year's squad. Aside from Neal (19.0 minutes per game), Maryland does not seem to have a big man off the bench that Williams feels comfortable relying on for extended periods of time. Dino Gregory has averaged 11 mpg so far. Jerome Burney has averaged 5.8 mpg. Steve Goins has averaged 3.0 mpg. Gregory -- who leads the team in blocks (6) and is tied for the team lead in personal fouls (16) -- would appear to be Williams's second go-to big man off the bench, but that seems more out of necessity than comfort or choice.

Granted, Williams would probably read this post and ridicule me with reminders that it's only (late) November. But I'm not entirely sure I won't be able to write a similar post in late January. The Terps bench -- much like their lineup -- is guard-reliant. I don't see the two guards, one big man bench squad changing as the season progresses. The question is whether the Terps can make that combination work.

What are your thoughts on the makeup and depth of the team's bench? Do you think I'm way off-base? Can Maryland be successful (however you would define that for this team) with an eight-man rotation the way it currently is constructed?

By Steve Yanda  |  November 29, 2008; 12:09 PM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Comments

Burney will start to play a lot more in the coming weeks. The guy was a beast late last year and its surprising he hasn't earned more minutes thus far. We need him this year. He should be in the rotation every night, and at some point (this year even) I expect he'll even crack the starting lineup.

Posted by: Barno1 | November 29, 2008 1:06 PM | Report abuse

I was at the Gonzaga game; size was the overriding issue. The hustle that won us the Michigan State game was not enough against the Zags' size. It was embarrassing how many offensive rebounds they got - even when we we had good defensive position. Secondly, Terps regularly telegraph drives and take shots with 2 or 3 defenders on the shooter! We seem unable to embrace the simple idea of finding the open man with double or triple teams. (C'mon, Gary, don't let your players get away with this!) We must overcome this tendency to have any hope of beating over-sized opponents.

Posted by: gone2fly | November 29, 2008 6:38 PM | Report abuse

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