Any honest assessment of Maryland's 2010-11 season has to reach a bottom line that Gary Williams' Terrapins just weren't talented enough, tall enough or experienced enough to reach the NCAA Tournament.
There was some shock around Terrapin Nation, though, when Maryland failed to land one of the 18 at-large bids available in the NIT, where the Terrapins had played in three of the last six seasons. But at 19-14 overall, and 7-9 in a "down" ACC, Maryland won't play anywhere in the postseason for the first time since 1992-93.
"After 19 wins and beating Penn State, Florida State and Clemson, it's disappointing that we're not at least in the NIT," said Williams, whose streak of those 17 consecutive postseason appearances was the longest in the ACC. "We played right with Duke for 35 minutes, and got a win in the ACC tournament. It's kind of surprising we weren't selected."
Well, yes and no. The ACC teams that reached the NIT -- Virginia Tech, Boston College and Miami -- were a combined 5-0 against the Terps this season, and that's just the beginning of Terrapins' troubles against top teams. Maryland was 1-9 against RPI Top 50 teams and 0-7 against squads ranked in the Top 25 polls.
On the other hand, Maryland beat Penn State handily, and it had easy wins over two other NCAA Tournament teams, Florida State and Clemson.
Williams has steadfastly defended this team but as the season wore on. The eclectic mix of three seniors and five freshmen, and a few players in between, played well at times but fell painfully short on many occasions.
With postseason possibilities in play down the stretch, Maryland lost five of seven games and the last three in a row entering the ACC tournament, all by double digits. While the offense started playing better late -- sparked by the emergence of freshman point guard Terrell Stoglin -- the defense, the Terps' trademark, fell off.
Seven of the last nine Maryland regular-season opponents shot 43 percent or better from the field. One of the teams that failed to reach 43 percent, surging North Carolina, didn't need to. The Tar Heels collected 20 offensive rebounds in their 87-76 victory, emphasizing Maryland's inability to hang with the biggest teams on the boards.
The Terrapins temporarily righted the ship in the first round of the ACC tournament, dispatching North Carolina State 75-67. Jordan Williams had 16 points and 13 rebounds, but the key for the Terps was the intensity they found early in the game, jumping to a 12-2 lead and never trailing.
The Pack hit only 12 of 41 shots in the first half as Stoglin helped set a pace to Maryland's liking. Freshman forward Haukur Palsson moved into the starting lineup and scored five of Maryland's first seven points, and defensively he helped shut down sharpshooter Scott Wood, who had torched the Terps for five 3-pointers in the previous meeting. Palsson and Sean Mosley harassed Wood into a 1-of-7 shooting night (0-of-6 on 3-pointers).
But powerful Duke proved too much in the quarterfinals, though again the Terrapins teased with a good effort through much of the contest. Late into the first half, the game was tied at 31-31, but an 11-2 run before the break put Duke up 42-33. As in the recent past, the undersized Terps didn't have an answer for 6-foot-9 small forward Kyle Singler, who scored 29 points. The Terrapins aren't the only team with that problem
"We played pretty well for 35 to 36 minutes tonight," senior Dino Gregory said. "But in order to beat a team like Duke, the fifth-ranked team in the country, you have to play 40 minutes strong, and we weren't able to do that tonight."
Jordan Williams again led the Terps with 16 points and 16 rebounds, his 25th double-double of the season, one shy of Len Elmore's 1973-74 school record. The Terrapins shot just 38 percent in the second half and could never surge back to take the lead.
Consistent offense was a problem through much of the season. Gary Williams never did find a go-to perimeter shooter to compliment Jordan Williams on the low block, and early this season, poor free-throw shooting probably cost the team a game or two. That bugaboo cropped up against Duke, too, the Terrapins hitting just 15 of 28 free throws to make their task even tougher.
The dynamic Stoglin added some punch down the stretch, but he's a volume shooter at this point in his career, rather than the judicious floor leader the Terrapins need in the flex offense. Seniors Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker seemed to be in a constant battle with their self-confidence and were non-factors in too many games and in too many key stretches.
Along with blue-collar forward Gregory, though, they did set a work ethic that served the team well, and that may be difficult to duplicate when the seniors are gone. The real key for the Terrapins in the offseason is making sure Jordan Williams is back for his junior season. Williams averaged 16.9 points and led the ACC with 11.8 rebounds, earning first-team All-Conference honors.
Stoglin is a high-caliber weapon, and freshman backcourt mate Pe'Shon Howard got steadier as the season wore on. Ditto Palsson, who can add some perimeter scoring and much-needed size at small forward. Rising senior swingman Sean Mosley suffered through a season-long slump that Maryland needs him to bust out of, and 6-foot-9 James Padgett needs an epiphany at power forward to replace Gregory's surprisingly steady production.
--Everyone thought Jordan Williams would be better this season, but few forecast the 6-foot-10 sophomore morphing into the ACC's top low-post player. Williams has shed about 40 pounds since he enrolled at Maryland, and he was quicker and had a lot more stamina this year. Despite his size, he regularly beats opponents down the floor, and he has soft hands and quick feet around the basket. He indicated at the ACC tournament that he hadn't thought much about the NBA yet, but he's probably on the pros' radar. He projects as a "tweener" at the next level, not really big enough to be a starting, back-to-the-basket center but not really a forward either with limited perimeter skills. Stay tuned.
--The Terrapins were 19-6 in games in which they shot a higher percentage than opponents, and they finished second in the ACC with 76.8 points per game and led the conference with .471 shooting. Maryland's 4.6 3-pointers made per game, though, were the fewest for any league team except N.C. State (4.5). The Terps' inability to keep pace from 3-point range and their horrid free throw shooting early in the year often put them in a hole.
Three of Maryland's top five scorers graduate this spring. Behind Jordan Williams and Terrell Stoglin, the senior triumvirate of Cliff Tucker (9.6 ppg), Dino Gregory (9.1) and Adrian Bowie (8.8) provided a lot of points, but those stats are somewhat misleading, as Tucker's and Bowie's roles late in the season changed as Stoglin and Howard came on strong to earn more minutes.
FINAL RECORD: 19-14, 7-9, tied for seventh in the ACC
2010-11 SEASON RECAP: Thanks to the high bar Gary Williams has set at his alma mater, no one was happy with Maryland's 15th consecutive season with at least 19 wins. The Terrapins were on the bubble until the last two weeks of the season when three consecutive losses put them in the win-the-ACC-tournament-or-stay-home category.
Maryland shot just 44 percent in conference play this season, a drop-off from their ACC-leading 47 percent overall. Against the overall tougher competition in league play, Maryland's offensive flaws were more readily displayed. When teams could limit Jordan Williams inside, and when Cliff Tucker's jump shot was off, the Terrapins offense struggled. Terrell Stoglin was an offensive upgrade by season's end, but the Terps sacrificed defense when Adrian Bowie was out of the lineup.
In games when the Terrapins didn't play with intensity, they were in real trouble -- witness the 74-60 regular-season-ending loss to Virginia, a team they had beaten by 24 points on the road earlier in the year.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We worked very hard to get where we were with 19 wins this year. We're looking forward to the start of next season." -- Coach Gary Williams, subtly admitting perhaps that the Terrapins' talent wasn't as strong as that on recent Maryland teams.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THE GOOD NEWS: If Jordan Williams is back, the Terrapins are a potential Top 25 team. Terrell Stoglin and Pe'Shon Howard have the potential to be a top-flight backcourt in the ACC, and likewise, Haukur Palsson has an awful lot of good basketball ahead of him. The Terrapins will be bigger if rising junior James Padgett can plug in at power forward, and coach Gary Williams will have a more traditional mix to run his offensive and defensive schemes. Athletic Mychal Parker, considered by many the gem of this year's freshman class, could put it all together and have a big impact to ease some depth concerns.
THE BAD NEWS: Padgett didn't evolve as quickly as expected this year. There was a time last season that he was pushing Jordan Williams for the starting center spot, but he averaged just 8.7 minutes this season and was erratic offensively and inconsistent on defense. Depth is an issue, particularly up front where behind Williams and Padgett, Maryland has only 6-10, rail-thin junior college transfer Berend Weijs and 6-9 Ashton Pankey, who redshirted this season, are available on the current roster. Palsson can play power forward, too, but he would be a better fit on the perimeter with his deft shooting and passing game. Then, of course, there's also the assumption that Stoglin will grow into a more disciplined floor leader and Howard will harness his considerable athleticism to produce bigger numbers, as well.
KEY RETURNEES: If Jordan Williams has a similar jump in his contributions next season as he did this season from his freshman year, he could be ACC Player of the Year. Terrell Stoglin took over as point guard in the final month and gave the team a quick-strike ability it had lacked. He scored in double figures in seven of the last 10 games, including four 20-point performances. He struggled against Duke -- but that's not uncommon, particularly for freshman point guards. His confidence never wavered, and coach Gary Williams spoke often of the freshman's fearlessness. Pe'Shon Howard is bigger and more athletic, a prototype two-guard in Williams' system, and if he can develop more of a jump shot, he'll be a star. The X-factor among returnees is rising senior Sean Mosley, a 6-foot-4 swingman who had a penchant for making plays his first two years. Mosley seemed a step slow and his offense never came around as a junior, putting more pressure on every other Terp on the floor. The Terrapins need him to find his groove again, at both ends. Haukur Palsson has the tools, including toughness, to be a fixture in the lineup. Gary Williams has said Berend Weijs will have an expanded role as a reserve center, and there's a chance that athletic Mychal Parker may be ready to produce on the wings, too.
--C Jordan Williams had 16 points and 16 rebounds in the ACC tournament loss to Duke, his 25th double-double of the season, one shy of Len Elmore's 1973-74 Maryland record. Williams' double-doubles were by far the most in the ACC, and he also became the first Terp since Joe Smith in 1993-94 to lead the conference in rebounding.
--F Dino Gregory, who entered his senior season averaging 2.8 points per game, was third on the team with a 9.1 ppg average this season. Gregory scored in double figures in eight of last 10 games, averaging 11.9 points and 6.2 rebounds over that span.
--G Terrell Stoglin started the final seven games at point guard, and he added some punch to the offense with his ability to speed the ball up the court, his ability to penetrate and his perimeter shooting. He's still learning the finer points of running an offense, and he tests coach Gary Williams' patience, but Williams also knows he can win with Stoglin running the show.
--G Sean Mosley saw his numbers did from 10.2 points and .509 shooting last year to 8.1 points and .413 shooting this year. Mosley did lead the team with 41 steals, 1.2 per game.
--F Haukur Palsson, a 6-foot-6 Icelander, was cool under pressure, Gary Williams inserting him into the starting lineup in the ACC tournament. Palsson's size helped some matchup issues at small forward against N.C. State, and as an added bonus, he scored five points in each tournament game.
--G Cliff Tucker had 12 points in his final game at Maryland (against Duke). It marked his first double-figure scoring effort in seven games. After scoring in double digits in the first six games this season, Tucker had 18 double-figure games total, but just three in the final 13 contests. He shot .429 percent from the field this year and led Maryland with 41 3-pointers made.
--G Adrian Bowie finished his career on a strong defensive surge, much as had been his signature throughout his four years. Bowie had at least one steal in 25 games this season, and in each of the last nine contests. His 126 career thefts rank 17th all-time at Maryland.
--F Mychal Parker vastly improved over the last month of the season, and he saw action in the final two-regular season games. He also seems to have his academic house in order. Parker could be a key figure next season after contributing just 1.3 points and 1.3 rebounds in 13 games.
--Nick Faust and Sterling Gibbs comprised the early signees this winter. Faust is a 6-foot-6 sharpshooter from Baltimore, rated the 12th-best shooting guard in the country by ESPN, and is the answer to some of Maryland's offensive ills. Gibbs is a 6-1 point guard from Scotch Plains, N.J., rated No. 22 nationally at that position by Scout.com. Three-star power forward (as ranked by Rivals.com) Martin Breunig, a 6-9 Delafield, Wis., native, has given the Terps a verbal commitment.
--F Ashton Pankey underwent successful surgery to correct a stress fracture in his left leg over the holiday break. The 6-foot-9 Bronx, N.Y., native missed his entire senior season at St. Anthony High School because of the injury. He only played three minutes in the first game of the season at Maryland.