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Men's Basketball Season Gets Underway

Finally, the time has come for the Maryland men's basketball season to get underway. It's been a long wait since last March. Too long, if you ask me. But nonetheless, the wait is over. On Thursday afternoon, the Terrapins will gather at Comcast Center for the team's media day, and Friday night is Maryland Madness.

While the lone exhibition game isn't for another 20 days (not that anyone's counting) and the first regular season game isn't for another 30 days, here are a few story lines that likely will be addressed by Coach Gary Williams and the players at today's media gathering and certainly are worth paying attention to over the next month:

Health Status

Senior guard Eric Hayes has been out for much of the past two months because of a turf toe injury. Hayes got out of a walking boot two weeks ago, and given that this sort of injury tends to linger, his recovery will be closely monitored. Hayes played a critical role off the bench for the Terrapins during their stretch run to the NCAA tournament last season. His experience and scoring ability will be highly valuable to the team this year, regardless of whether he serves as a starter or comes off the bench.

In other injury news, sophomore forward Steve Goins had surgery on the back of his knee near the end of last spring the summer and returned to the court for pickup games for the first time on Oct. 5. Goins did not play a significant role for Maryland last season, but he looked to take on more responsibility this season, given the offseason transfer of Braxton Dupree, the gradution of Dave Neal and the career-ending injury of Jerome Burney. The Terrapins have two freshman big men stepping in this season (we'll get to them momentarily), but Goins has a big frame (listed at 6 feet 10, 245 pounds) and a season's worth of experience. At the very least, he could provide the team with some of the front-court depth it lacked last year.

The Newbees

As was previously mentioned, front-court depth was not the team's strong suit last season. Dave Neal and Landon Milbourne admirably manned the post, but both played out of position all year long. It is not a situation that the Terrapins would prefer to deal with again during their upcoming campaign. Enter freshmen forwards Jordan Williams and James Padgett. Both offer some size (Williams is listed at 6-10, 260 pounds, and Padgett is listed at 6-8, 225 pounds), as well as particular potential strengths.

Williams has strong hands and did not have any problem finishing around the basket in high school. He has the tools to develop into a reliable low-post scoring option and, consequently, has the best chance of the two freshmen to crack the starting lineup sooner rather than later.

Padgett, meantime, doesn't project as much of a scorer right away, but he'll be someone who can monitor the boards. His size (he's more like 6-7) might initially prohibit him from guarding opponents effectively in the post, but he could grow into a cable and efficient defender as he gains experience.

Milbourne's Role

One could make a strong argument that no other Maryland player made more of a sacrifice for his team on the court throughout the entire season last year than Landon Milbourne. Listed at 6-7, 205 pounds, Milbourne spent his junior season playing the power forward position against players who often were much bigger and taller than him. Though it took him much of the first two months of the season to adjust, he never complained and he rarely was outworked.

This year, Milbourne, a senior, should find a little bit of relief in the form of Williams, Padgett, Goins (if healthy) and possibly even an improved Dino Gregory. That said, it's unlikely that Milbourne will get to fully return to the role of slasher/wing player that he might prefer. Milbourne will still be counted on in the post to some extent, but he'll be better prepared for it this time around. His performance will be critical to the team's success this season.

Mosley's Development

By the end of his freshman season, Sean Mosley had established himself as one of the better perimeter defenders on a team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Mosley's physical defensive presence made up for his streaky offensive performance, and it will be on the offensive side of the court that the Terrapins look for the most improvement from the sophomore guard. He shot 37 percent from the field and 23.8 percent from three-point range last season.

In August, Mosley and 14 other players from around the country competed on the Global Sports Academy Team USA all-star squad, which traveled to four different European countries (Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands) during a nine-day stretch in which it played seven games. Mosley teamed up with players such as Villanova's Corey Stokes and Antonio Pena, Purdue's Ryne Smith and Loyola-Maryland's J'hared Hall. The squad went 6-1.

How much will that experience help Mosley? It certainly can't hurt. If Mosley can display an offensive efficiency to match his defensive prowess this year, he'll not only keep the spot in the starting lineup he grabbed hold of during the second half of last season, he'll emerge as one of the team's key contributors.

Greivis Vasquez

You didn't really think I'd make it through an entire post previewing the upcoming season without mentioning Maryland's best player, did you? Vasquez is worth paying attention to for countless reasons. To name a few: He is Maryland's most dynamic offensive threat, he is the team's most intriquing/charismatic/excitable/controversial/entertaining personality, he is the program's next best hope of producing an NBA player, he is the central figure in determining how far Maryland will go this season.

Vasquez entertained the notion of entering the NBA draft over the summer and during a two-month process was evaluated by NBA personnel. He was afforded many compliments, but he also was given a list of aspects of his game that needed some work. Can he develop a consistent shot, specifically from long range? Can he become a more effective, more agile defender? If the answers are yes, that bodes well both for Vasquez's draft prospects next summer and for Maryland's prospects come March.

How do you all feel about the team as the season gets under way? What other topics do you think will be pertinent to follow in the month leading up to the first regular season game? Feel free to share in the comments section below or e-mail me at yandas@washpost.com.

By Steve Yanda  |  October 14, 2009; 11:12 PM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Comments

How do I feel?

NCAA Championship or bust.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | October 15, 2009 2:35 AM | Report abuse

The development of Mosleys and Williams are the keys to this team. If Mosleys has improved his offense and keeps up his defense...and Williams provides any kind of low post presence then Vasquez and Milbourne will have much more freedom to play a style and positions to carry this team.

Posted by: fushezzi | October 15, 2009 8:14 AM | Report abuse

Not sure why there are extra S's on my Mosleys

Posted by: fushezzi | October 15, 2009 8:16 AM | Report abuse

I was in school when they stopped having Midnight Madness at midnight. Still raises my hackles.

Can't wait for the season to start. The terps football team and Redskins aren't going anywhere. I hope to see these guys go deep in the tournament, finally.

Posted by: pipkin42 | October 15, 2009 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Poop,
Your post confirms the fact that you are a moron.

Posted by: aviscardo | October 15, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

We got to make at least the second weekend of the tournament for the year to be a success. Anything beyond that is gravy.

What I really hope gets eliminated are the awful home losses that have plagued the program in the past few years. I don't want to hear about Morgan State as a tournament team either, there is no way they should win IN Comcast. Eliminate the bad losses, then we won't be stressing come the first week of February, we will only be worried about where the committee is sending us.

Posted by: jpfterps | October 15, 2009 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Read-"last week of February"

Posted by: jpfterps | October 15, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

I think this is a tricky team to evaluate. This team willed itself into the NCAA tournament last season, and it will take a similar amount of determination to meet or exceed those expectations this year. This team is definitely more talented and balanced this season, but they're definitely being a bit overrated right now in comparison with other teams around the country primarily because of Vasquez and Gary's ability to get the most out of his teams.

I worry a bit about this team turning into a group of Greivis watchers as Vasquez takes full control. Last season, he was tethered by Neal, but this year he's the big dog. He needs to prove that he can still be a team player and still put up CONSISTANT numbers (no triple doubles followed by 4 point 3 reb 1 ast efforts). I think the X-factor this year is Bowie. His versatility and ball-handling ability could make him a viable 2nd scoring option in the backcourt. I'm not sure why he's not mentioned in this preview, but he could be the most important player to the success of this team, especially if Gary gives him full time point guard responsibilities.

Also, I don't remember reading that Burney's injury was career-ending. Could someone confirm that he will not be available for the Terps this season. I also thought Goins was transfering, and was going to be the extra scholarship needed to sign Stephenson. Obviously Lance signed with Cincy, but I seem to recall that Goins was a gonner. I expect him to contribute about as much as he did last season---NONE (see Hasan Fofana).

The freshmen are the real unknown here, but I think people are expecting way too much from a pair of freshmen frontcourt players that are going to be relied upon to log 20+ minutes per game. Very few freshmen forwards have made significant impacts in the ACC, and I don't expect that to change. What Terp fans can hope for is that they can do a good enough job to keep Milbourne at the 3 for most of the season so he can actually create mismatches instead of being a victim of mismatches.

Posted by: Russtinator | October 15, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

confirmed that Burney is no longer on the team - according to a post last week, he has an injury and will not be available to play this year; however he is on track to graduate in spring.

The difference b/w Goins and Fofana is that we've never really sen him play. Fofana was actually starting in front of Mardesich for a while but his hands were terrible. could not hold onto a pass and was not a great passer - but he could rebound. He transferred after falling behind Will Bowers on the depth chart.

Williams has the size and highlight films tobe a legit ACC center.

In terms of success - certain NCAA pick regardless of ACC tourney performance. getting rid of the stupid losses should make this happen. Win the ACC tournament or come close. Elite 8 at least at the dance.

Regards -

-hgr

Posted by: HughGRection | October 15, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Well, I wouldn't say NCAA Championship or Bust, but I am hopeful that we don't see losses this year to the teams we should beat (e.g. Morgan State). Maryland has a solid team and I think they can go at least to the Sweet 16.

On another positive note, Maryland's 2010 recruiting class is currently ranked #7 on ESPN and #10 on Rivals. Hopefully, we can nail down T. Harris, which would probably bump the class up to the top 5. Winning the "must-win" games would certainly help our chances with this guy.

Posted by: SirPelleas | October 15, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

GO DUKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: cromag23 | October 15, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

HGR, Mardesich used up his elgibility while Fofana was still in High School. Maybe you're thinking of Ekezie.

This team isn't going to bring home any meaningful hardware. That's reality. Making the second weekend of the tourney would be fantastic. Beating the schnozz out of Nowhere Tech and Directionally-Challenged State at home is what we are SUPPOSED to do. Then again, actually playing some meaningful competition every once in a while sure would be nice...

Avenge the embarrassing blow-out to the unmentionables and it almost doesn't matter what else they do.

Posted by: mabkhar | October 15, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Hayes's turf toe is definitely worrisome. He will be key this year for secondary offensive scoring and relieving pressure for Grevis.

Posted by: lavar609 | October 15, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

That Hayes turf toe could be a real problem. Otherwise, I would expect this club to be better than last year - a definite NCAA tournament team.

Posted by: shanks1 | October 15, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Makbar -

Correct on <ardesich - he was on the FF team that lost to Duke so would have been before Fofana. I thought Ekezie was before that - with LaRon Profit and co.

Either way - Fofana lost his position to Bowers who subsequentally lost it to Ibekwe I believe - permanently during the ACC Tourney championship. Oh wait, maybe you were getting Ibekwe mixed up with Ekezie.

I had a conversation with Ibekwe once at College park and he was the nicest, most thoughtful young man imaginable. He was interested in real estate investment and mentioned that Obinna Ekezie was doing so and was coming back to CP to work out with the team in the off-season. I believe Ekezie left with Steve Francis b/c both were drafted by the Grizzlies - it seemed like the Griz were hoping that Ekezie would keep Francis from getting homesick.

Regards -

hgr

Posted by: HughGRection | October 15, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

On another positive note, Maryland's 2010 recruiting class is currently ranked #7 on ESPN and #10 on Rivals. Hopefully, we can nail down T. Harris, which would probably bump the class up to the top 5. Winning the "must-win" games would certainly help our chances with this guy.

Posted by: SirPelleas | October 15, 2009 11:26 AM

But Gary can't recruit! At least that's what I've gathered from reading the Post in the past year.

EP, if Gary "struggles with recruiting" as much as you say he does, how did he land a top 5 class next year? Luck?

Just curious as to what your explanation is.

Posted by: Barno1 | October 15, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Should say "potentially" top 5 (if we sign Harris)

Posted by: Barno1 | October 15, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

That Hayes turf toe could be a real problem. Otherwise, I would expect this club to be better than last year - a definite NCAA tournament team.

Posted by: shanks1 | October 15, 2009 12:41 PM

He is fine. Has been practicing regularly. And I would expect this year to be by far his best in a MD uniform. By far.

Posted by: Barno1 | October 15, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

i want to see something special out of hayes this year...

Posted by: deadskin | October 15, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

I want to know how a basketball player gets turf toe...other than that, i'm excited to see Maryland getting back on the court. The Redskins ruined my Fall so far..

Posted by: scottmando | October 15, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

One word will define the team this year, as it has in many years past: consistency. A team that can beat Duke, beat North Carolina, beat any number of Big Ten teams - and then lose to AU or Morgan St., needs to work on one thing, consistency. Go Terps!

Posted by: csh1 | October 15, 2009 8:13 PM | Report abuse

we never lost to morgan st or AU in the same season we beat duke.

Posted by: Barno1 | October 15, 2009 8:40 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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