On Sunday, the Florida State Seminoles basketball team will head into College Park, Maryland to take on the Terrapins. As a part of this week's preview, we had the opportunity to discuss Maryland basketball with Ben Broman from SBNation's outstanding Maryland Blog Testudo Times. He does some outstanding work over there. We exchanged questions about the upcoming game. His answers to our questions are included here and after the jump. Check out their site to see our answers to Ben's questions.
1. Heading in to tonight's game, the casual observer might look at Maryland's 9-4 record and wonder what is going on. Why is Maryland's record not reflective of what this team is really like?
There's a few things to be confident about for Maryland fans when looking at the record. Every team Maryland has lost to has beaten a team that many or most people would consider better than Maryland (Cincy beat UCONN, Wisconsin beat Duke, Villanova is Villanova, and William & Mary beat Wake). The W&M loss might come off bad on paper, but they've handled some good teams (they beat Wake at Wake). There are no real bad losses yet, even though there aren't many impressive wins. Greivis Vasquez's slow start was also a big negative early on that doesn't exist any more.
That said, that casual observer might not be all that wrong. Don’t misunderstand, Maryland had some problems that they don't have now - for instance, Vasquez has recovered from that glacial start - but this isn't the team a lot of people thought they would be.
Continue reading after the jump to read the rest. Once again, thanks to Ben for taking the time to do this. There is some outstanding commentary in here.
2. Maryland received a lot of hype during the off season with the return of Vasquez and great recruiting. In what ways has the team lived up to the hype, exceeded the hype and fallen short of the hype?
Nice segue, I guess. There aren't a lot of ways Maryland has exceeded the hype, although two players do heavily stand out in my mind - Sean Mosley and Jordan Williams. Mosley is a quiet guy that isn't a particularly good shooter nor slasher, but he makes the hustle plays, is great defensively, and just knows how to score. You won't ever really think about him or notice him during the game, but then you'll look up and he'll have 15 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. He's been much better than I expected, and I expected a fringe 3rd team all-ACC player.
Williams doesn't get as much publicity as fellow ACC big man Derrick Favors, but he's a good player in his own right. He's not in ACC shape, so his minutes top out at about 20 a game, but he's Maryland's best big man since Lonny Baxter in 2002. By his senior year, he'll be a force. He actually got a double-double against Antonio Pena and Villanova his 7th game ever, and that doesn't happen by accident.
Past that, I can't really see anywhere they've exceed or even really lived up to the hype. There's no bench production to speak of, and Vasquez's choppy start means that his recent blazing performance only brings him up to par at best. A few people were saying Maryland was a darkhorse contender for the ACC crown, and while that's not technically impossible, it's certainly unlikely.
3. Duke appears to be the best team in the ACC right now. What is your impression of the rest of the ACC? Where do you expect Maryland to finish the year?
This is the second time I've said this in a week, but the ACC seems very weak this year, or at least middle-heavy. Duke is better than usual, but my confidence in their abilities come spring disappeared long ago. Past that, UNC is having a down year and there's no other really good team in the conference. The good news is that there are no bad teams in the conference, either - Virginia is arguably the worst, and they just beat a ranked team themselves.
Maryland's entirely a crapshoot, though so too is most of the ACC below Duke. They haven't been impressive in their big games, but they've had a small sample size. Gary Williams' teams traditionally improve as the season goes along, so I'm going optimistic and saying Maryland will be 6th in the ACC with a late run. Whether that gets them into the NCAA tournament or not is tough to tell.
4. Aside from Vasquez, who should Florida State fans be worried about? As we have mentioned his name a lot, what is your assessment of Vasquez?
We already discussed Williams and Mosley above, and you definitely should be worried about those two. As for another name, I could go a boring route and suggest the streaky yet important Landon Milbourne or the calm deep threat Eric Hayes, but I'm not a blogger to be boring. Instead, I'll say keep your eye on Adrian Bowie.
Bowie is only 6-2 (generously) but he's lightning quick and Maryland's second best player defensively. I'm of the opinion that Maryland should press FSU, and that's where Bowie would come in. He and Mosley have the best court awareness and ball sense on the team, and are often steal machines. They'll hang out at mid-court and pick off ill-aimed passes to produce easy points, which Maryland heavily relies on.
He's the closest thing Maryland has to a sparkplug offensively (not including the horribly inconsistent Cliff Tucker, who has the ability to make 5 three pointers in a row or 5 turnovers in a row) and, if his matchup doesn't cut off the left side heavily, he can get to the basket fairly easily. He's played poorly since tweaking an ankle last season, but he'll be a big part of Maryland's success down the road and was very good the first half of last year. Recently, he's been improving his play.
As for Vasquez, giving him a true assessment is a pretty difficult task. He's so enigmatic that labeling him is nigh-impossible. Nonetheless, I have trouble thinking of a more passionate and, occasionally, dominant college guard than Vasquez not named John Wall. Vasquez will turn in the occasional stinker and has tons of holes in his game, but if you catch him on a good day, there's no stopping him. His court awareness is highly underrated and his passing ability is second to none. When he's on, his shot will fall, he'll get to the rim (and almost always finish), and he'll score at will on runners off picks from the elbow.
Yes, he's inconsistent, and yes, those dominant performances aren't the norm, but he can churn them out far more regularly than most. When he's off, the key is for him not to take Maryland out of the game with him - he's learning to defer and let others make things happen when he can't, and that will serve him and the Terps well toward the end of the season.
Now take a few minutes to check out Testudo Times and comment on our responses to his questions.