Terrapins Going In Their Shells

Maryland seems unmotivated by its trip to the NIT, and the Gophers may be able to take advantage of a team that has to travel and hasn't experienced much success lately.

Over the past four seasons, Maryland has made it to the NCAA Tournament only once. That skid certainly isn't ending this year. The Terps' return trip to the NIT was sealed with a frustrating loss to Boston College in the first round of the ACC tournament.

Now Maryland must travel to Minnesota to face a fast-improving Gophers team that is feeling pretty good after winning a couple of games in the Big Ten tournament, including one over Indiana.

Under first-year coach Tubby Smith, the Gophers would seem to be more enthused than the Terrapins. Then again, it would be difficult for a team to be less motivated than Maryland appears to be.

"I'm not really excited about it," Greivis Vasquez said, "but it's playing basketball and that's what I love to do."

For Maryland, the only thing worse than three trips to the NIT in four years would be another first-round exit. But the Terrapins' maddening inconsistency this year, with turnovers and erratic play from James Gist and Vasquez, has left coach Gary Williams with few explanations as to what has gone wrong or how to fix it.

Williams is 63 now. His program has clearly fallen over the last few years, since that 2002 national championship. Whether or not he is the man to revive it remains to be seen. Clearly, though, Maryland fans won't tolerate many more trips to the NIT.

"We've got six freshmen," Williams said. "I want to see some more things that we can do."


SCOUTING REPORT: Maryland has yet to figure out how to hold onto a big lead this year, a flaw that can be directly linked to the Terps' ability to turn the ball over in bunches. To this point, Maryland players haven't shown the desire needed to make a deep run in any tournament.

IN FOCUS: With little offensive firepower, Tubby Smith instilled a defensive-minded approach in his first year with the Gophers. The results were astonishing. Minnesota went 20-13 (10-11) in the Big Ten, more than double the win total from last season. Seniors Lawrence McKenzie and Dan Coleman thrived in Smith's new system, with each setting career highs in scoring — 12.2 points for McKenzie and 11.9 for Coleman to rank 1-2 on the team. At this point, the Gophers seem to be playing with more drive and passion than Maryland.

  • In their last appearance in the NIT, Maryland lost to South Carolina in the 2005 semifinals at Madison Square Garden. Two years ago, Maryland lost to Boston College in the ACC tournament, then came back and lost to Manhattan at home in the first round of the NIT.

  • Maryland enters the NIT having lost five of its last six games. In three of those losses, the Terrapins have blown double digit leads in the second half.

  • Greivis Vasquez and James Gist were each named to the All-ACC second team last week. Maryland did not have a representative on the first team.

    COACH: Gary Williams, 19 years at school, 15 NCAA appearances, four NIT appearances.

    LAST POSTSEASON APPEARANCE: Second round, 2007 NCAA tournament, lost to Butler, 62-59.

    THEY'LL ADVANCE IF: James Gist stays in the blocks and off the perimeter and the offense learns how to keep from turning the ball over. So far, they have yet to figure it out.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm not really excited about it." — Greivis Vasquez on playing in the NIT.


    Boston College 71, Maryland 68 (ACC tournament first round)


    vs. Minnesota, Tuesday, March 18, NIT, first round

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