Saturday, November 27, 2004


Note: This column also appears at Turtle Soup on the Most Valuable Network

Maryland 84, Memphis 61

I still can’t believe that score. Memphis is a good team who played terrible last night. Most of that was due to the most impressive defensive performance I have ever seen from a Gary Williams’ team.

Throughout the second half, Memphis found it nearly impossible to get into its half court offense. The guard play for Maryland forced so many turnovers, and when they didn’t, the frontcourt was there to clean the glass.

This is how basketball is supposed to be played. The Terps didn’t hit a three-pointer until Gar-baaage time, but it didn’t matter. Who needs to take threes when you are dunking the ball every time down the court? Maryland was so dominant in this game, that they made Memphis look like Jackson State.

Don’t misunderstand, Memphis is a good team. They played a close game with no. 4 Syracuse last week until the Orangemen pulled away at the end.

I spent the first hour after the game last night trying to remember the last time Maryland beat a Top 25 team so soundly. I’m not sure if the Terps ever have.

If last night’s game is any indication, Maryland is better than advertised. Winning at a neutral site, was something the Terps were not able to do until the ACC tournament last year. (That is, if you count Greensboro, NC as a neutral site).

Let’s take a look at some of the Terps individual performances last night:

John Gilchrist: Simply put, he is the man. This team will go as far as Gilchrist can take them. He almost finished with a triple-double (he needed three more assists). Most importantly, Gilchrist only had one turnover. Look out Chris Paul, Jarrett Jack and Raymond Felton. Grade A+

Nik Caner-Medley: I’ve always been critical on NCM over the last two seasons. I thought he played the best game of his career last night. He displayed tenacity on both ends which something I have rarely seen in his career. He also displayed keen shot selection and he crashed the boards too. Grade: A

Travis Garrison: He sort of disappeared last night. If Travis doesn’t hit an early 15 footer, it seems like it is difficult for him to get going. I’m not too concerned however. He has a great jumper, and he will get his chance to use it. Grade: C

Ekene Ibekwe: His defensive effort was an A+. He dominated the interior with his shot blocking and rebounding. His offensive effort was an F-. He looked lost and he couldn’t hit a two-footer. Fortunately, with the offensive players around him, he won’t need to score much. Grade: C

Chris McCray: Except for his three-point shot, McCray is hitting on all cylinders. He ran the floor exceptionally well, made some beautiful passes that led to easy buckets, and he is automatic from the charity stripe. Grade: B

The Bench: I think the Terps might have the best bench in the nation. James Gist, DJ Strawberry, and Mike Jones would probably start on just about any other team in the country. DJ is so good defensively that I think that Gilchrist looks at games as a break from having to go against DJ in practice. Jones is simply the best three-point shooter on the team and Gist jumps higher than anyone in Terp uniform this side of Exree Hipp. Grade: A+

Maryland has its first road test next week in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Wisconsin is one of those teams that lulls you to sleep with its methodical offense and plays zone defense. The Badgers like final scores in the 60’s. If Maryland is able to take Wisconsin out of their game and emerge from Madison unscathed, then Terps fans should be in store for a wonderful season.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Maryland 93, Mercer 67

Maryland won by 27 points last night and they stunk. They were terrible. Keep in mind that the score in these early season cupcake games are meaningless. Teams like Maryland will beat teams like Mercer. In most cases, the Mercer’s of the world can hang on for about 10 minutes. After that, the top teams usually take over thanks to huge advantages in size and bench depth.

Given these facts, it is instructive to look at some other statistics besides the final score to determine how well Maryland played last night. Let’s take a look at some:

Turnovers: 22

With 17 assists last night, Maryland had an assist/turnover ratio under 1. Translation: they played careless. To make matters worse, in two combined games, the Terps have 43 turnovers! That is absolutely unacceptable for a team of Maryland’s caliber playing against the likes of Jackson State and Mercer. Gilchrist had five turnovers himself. He needs to play better against Memphis if Maryland is going to win.

Big Man Play:

Ekene Ibekwe: 1-9 FG, 2-6 FT! We played Mercer! These numbers are atrocious against anyone, let alone Mercer. Will Bowers came in and looked completely lost. I am giving up hope on him ever becoming a player. He is a poor man’s Mike Mardesich. Now that is saying something.


Mercer shot 43% from 3PT range (9-21). The perimeter defense is terrible. At times, Maryland looked as if they have never played defense together. Mercer consistently found open shots and the guards will able to get penetration into the paint. This needs to improve as the schedule gets tougher.

Some Positives:

James Gist played well, but I haven’t seen anything but dunks from the guy. Hopefully, he has a medium range game of some kind.

Maryland plays Memphis on Friday at a neutral site. The Terps are experienced enough to beat this team, but if they don’t improve turnovers, big man play, and the defensive intensity, they will lose badly.

I have faith. Gary will get the team ready to play. Go Terps.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Herman Veal Chops is now on the MVN

To my loyal readers (all 2 of you),

I will be writing a regular blog on the Most Valuable Network. I will have two columns:

Turtle Soup
Les Bullez

Yes, that's right, I am writing a Wizards column too. It's not that big of a leap, I mean they are the Terps of the NBA (see: Dixon and Blake). Please check out the site. It's cool and I am excited to have the gig.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Memo to the mainstream media

Stop treating the North Carolina Tarheels like they are anything but a mediocre college basketball team. The over-hyped Tarheels gagged against the Steve Nash-less Santa Clara Broncs last night.

Carolina's slip into mediocrity is one of the greatest thing to happen to any Maryland fan. It mystifies me that the media still adorns them as a top 10 team every preseason. When I saw the Tarheels ranked no.4 in the polls last week, I laughed. This team is led by Rashad McCants. This is a team that lost eight ACC games last year. It doesn't matter that they are returning so many players because so is the rest of the ACC. It's not like they exhibited improvement throughout the 2003-04 season like Maryland; they got worse.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Housekeeping and Tonight's Tipoff

Loyal adherents to Herman Veal Chops:

Sorry for the long lag between postings but I have been busy building the Herman Veal Chops Empire.

Now you will have two sources for my musings. I will be writing two weekly postings on the Most Valuable Network. Check out their some of their post season baseball awards here.

I be covering the plucky Washington Wizards on a blog called "Les Bullez" and the Terps on a blog called "Turtle Soup". As soon as the sites are up, I will link to them here. OK now onto my post. The season gets underway tonight, so hear are some things to look for:

The Terps tip off the 2004-05 season on tonight (Friday is a terrible day to open the season)against Jackson State and its senior-laden squad. The experience of the Jackson State squad will not matter. There is a reason why Gary Williams scheduled Jackson State for the first game of the season. Look for Maryland to run away from Jackson State in the second half. I keep writing "Jackson State" because I couldn't even find their school nickname on ESPN. Some program.

Since the game won’t be competitive, the contest will offer an opportunity to see if the Terrapins have improved on some of their “trouble spots” from last season. In descending order, here are the top 5 things to look for:

5. Free Throw Shooting
Last season, free throw shooting cost the Terps at least three games, maybe more. Aside from McCray, Jones, and Gilchrist; it was a crapshoot every time a Terp toed the line last season. Given their increased roles, DJ Strawberry and Ekene Ibekewe will need to be consistent from the line. These two need to get off to a good start and it begins with Jackson State.
4. Which Gilchrist will we see?
All indications have been that Gilchrist stunk it up in Italy over the summer and he has struggled during the preseason as well. I do not think it is time to push any panic buttons as of yet, but Gilchrist is the straw that stirs the team. Success this season rests in Gilchrist’s hands and his continued progression has been taken as a given by almost all Maryland fans. If he regresses and pulls a Terence Morris on us…..well if I think about it, I may throw up. Let’s hope that he starts off the season the way he is capable of playing. This team is going absolutely nowhere without him.
3. What happens when Gilchrist is out?
Sterling Ledbetter will not play against Jackson State. However, Ledbetter was recruited to backup John Gilchrist, and thereby filling a huge hole in last year’s squad. The Terps sputtered with DJ guiding the offense last year. When Gilchrist got in foul trouble or fouled out, you could fugedaboutit. With a squad this deep, Ledbetter will not be in there to score points, he will be in there to run the offense. Look for Ledbetter’s ability to get Maryland into its set offense quickly and his ability to run the transition. If he is able to those two things effectively, then Maryland will not be as susceptible to those scoring droughts that led to big runs that opposing teams had last year
2. Gary’s rotation
This is perhaps the most interesting subplot of the season. Gary has five guys who could start in the backcourt of just about any team in America. Where will Gary find minutes for the most talented and electrifying Terrapin since Steve Francis, Mike Jones? With Gilchrist and McCray penciled in to start and Ledbetter ensconced at backup PG how will Gary divide the minutes between DJ Strawberry and Mike Jones? Strawberry defensive tenacity has made him one of Gary’s favorite players. Will Jones get left out? If so, will he transfer? If Gary is unable to find minutes for Jones, it would be one of the most shocking developments in Terp history. Never has a player with his ability rode the bench at Maryland. My prediction? Look for Nik Caner-Medley to see diminished minutes in crunch time this year. Jones is the team’s best shooter, and I expect Gary to play a three guard set at the end of games this season.
1. Consistency
Which Terps team will we see this season? Will it be the team that stormed through the ACC Tournament in historic fashion, or will it be the team that stunk up February? Anyone who follows college basketball knows how loaded the ACC is this year. Maryland cannot afford any letdowns this season. A couple bad games and the Terps could be out of the upper-division. Whichever ACC squad can maintain consistency is going to wind up with the No. 1 seed in the East. If Maryland plays to its potential, they have as good a chance as any of the “sexy” picks like Tech, UNC, and Wake to walk away with a title.

It all begins on tonight. Let’s hope the Terps get off on the right foot.

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