Very few teams enter the season knowing with complete confidence who their starting five will be, and even fewer keep that starting five intact throughout the first few months of the season. Coaches like to mix things up, to see which combinations of players work most efficiently, to find that missing component they believe will put their team over the top. And in most cases, the early portion of a team's schedule allows for some mix-and-matching, at least more so than does the conference slate.
Maryland has been no different. In the season opener against Bucknell, Braxton Dupree and Cliff Tucker started and Sean Mosley was the first player off the bench. All three played at least 16 minutes.
Over the next month, Dupree and Tucker were dropped from the starting lineup only to resurface very recently. Mosley briefly garnered a starting nod before seeing his production -- and thus, his playing time -- decrease dramatically. Meanwhile, players such as Dave Neal, Adrian Bowie and Dino Gregory have emerged and now hold significant roles in the rotation.
Last night against American -- the team's 10th game of the season -- Neal and Bowie started and played 26 and 21 minutes, respectively. Gregory, who had an off night compared to recent outings, played 14 minutes and was the first sub off the bench along with Tucker (17 minutes). Mosley played 14 minutes, while Dupree played 10.
While the division of minutes among the top four bench players remains fluid, the team's rotation appears to be coming to form. The starting five -- Neal, Bowie, Greivis Vasquez, Landon Milbourne and Eric Hayes -- has worked well together since that combination was first used Dec. 3 against Michigan. Granted the competition -- aside from the Wolverines -- has not been that stiff, but good chemistry seems to exist among those five, and that might be as important a quality as any other.
As for the reserves, Gregory and Tucker have played the best of late, and the Terps will need Dupree and Mosley to take steps forward in order to provide the team the depth it will need come ACC season. Dupree took a small step last night, but much more will be needed and expected of him in the coming months. Mosley, on the other hand, seems to have stalled in his offensive development, though he remains one of the team's most athletic players.
"At the beginning of the season he was changing the lineup around a little bit, so it was kind of tough to get more confident," Neal said. "Now that we’ve got a steady lineup, a steady rotation, I think that’s going to be a lot better for us."
What do you all think of the rotation as it currently stands? Do you think the starting five of Vasquez, Milbourne, Hayes, Bowie and Neal will suffice? Or are there alterations that you would make?
And what about the top four reserves? How would you divy up the minutes between Gregory, Tucker, Dupree and Mosley?
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