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Starting Spots, Deserved and Otherwise

The starting lineup, Gary Williams said yesterday, will look much the same tomorrow night against Michigan State as it did against Vermont, Youngstown State and Bucknell. And really, by making that claim he was addressing the job security of one player in particular -- forward Braxton Dupree.

Eric Hayes, Greivis Vasquez and Cliff Tucker have played well enough to keep their roles secure. Landon Milbourne is, according to Williams and teammates, pressing a little too hard right now as he adjusts to playing more in the post, but Williams said Milbourne is giving enough effort to warrant a little more slack.

Dupree, on the other hand, has been disappointing both in effort and execution, which made it all the more intriguing that he'll be making another appearance in the starting lineup against the Spartans. He played only eight minutes Friday night against Vermont, starting both halves before quickly being subbed out of the game. Afterward, Williams joked that 6-foot-2 guard Adrian Bowie was the team's new-found answer at the center position. The comment was good for a few chuckles, but it may also have been a subtle comment on the performance of Dupree in the Terps first three games of the season.

Williams did note yesterday that Dupree pulled down six rebounds, despite his limited action against Vermont. He also pointed out that Dupree's primary match-up Friday night -- 6-foot-4 Marqus Blakely -- was smaller and quicker than those opponents with whom Dupree is used to dealing. Against Michigan State, Dupree primarily will face 6-foot-10, 245-lb. Goran Suton, who might be a lot bigger than Blakely, but is pretty mobile in his own right. Suton rebounds very well and has great awareness on the court. Dupree (6-foot-8, 260 lbs.) might be more comparable to Suton size-wise than he was to Blakely, but that doesn't necessarily mean he'll fare any better Thursday night.

One post player who may have garnered more time on the court with his recent performances is Dino Gregory, who is more athletic but not as bulky as Dupree. Williams said he was suprised to learn after Friday's game that Gregory recorded only two rebounds, because it seemed to him like Gregory had been all over the court. But Gregory, at least so far, has not done enough in Williams's eyes to supplant Dupree for a starting role.

When asked whether Gregory had earned more playing time with his recent performances, Williams gave an interesting response.

"Probably given the way he played against Vermont; that’s what I have to go with right now," Williams said. "It’s funny, I’ve always believed in practice, the guys that really do well get the opportunities to play in the games, but then you have to get it done in the games. You can’t just be a practice player, you have to be able to do the same things in the games. Some guys are gamers and some guys aren’t, so you have to find that out on your team."

Williams then was asked whether Bowie, whom the coach has been quick and frequent to praise this season, might start at center, a reference to the joke Williams had cracked postgame on Friday night.

"I tell you what, he’s earned it," Williams said. "I don’t know if he’ll start, but he’s earned it. How’d you like to see (Michigan State Coach Tom) Izzo if Adrian came out to jump at the start?"

Indeed, Izzo likely would be quite puzzled, but Williams's comment speaks to the crux of what would seem to be a critical problem Maryland currently faces -- Williams has more guards that deserve to start than he knows what to do with.

While it's always a good thing to have a plethora of talent, you typically would like for that talent to be spread around. Most Terps observers knew heading into this season that the team's depth at guard would be its strength, but did anyone really expect it to be this lopsided?

In recent weeks, Williams has mentioned Bowie and freshman Sean Mosley as players he wouldn't be suprised to see enter the starting lineup at some point this season. But at some point, there's only so much room for guards on the court, right? Wouldn't a team need some semblence of size balance? Or do you all think a five-guard attack would be a worthwhile venture?

Having little to no post presence against a team like Michigan State -- and many of the other teams the Terps might face this weekend -- likely is going to hurt significantly Maryland's chances for victory. But if Willliams has other players who he believes have played well enough to earn a starting role, wouldn't it be better to roll the dice, mix things up and see what works at this time of the season?

Better to do it now than to venture into ACC play with parts of a starting lineup you're not completely confident can do the job and execute the game plan.

By Steve Yanda  |  November 26, 2008; 10:37 AM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Next: Scouting Michigan State


So is there no Lonnie Baxter hiding on the bench who can be thrust into the spotlight and turn into a star?

Posted by: GoNatsTerps | November 26, 2008 11:42 AM | Report abuse

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