In what didn't come as much of a surprise to people following the Terps all year, our men's basketball team was knocked out of the ACC Tournament in the first round today, losing 84-72 to the Clemson Tigers. It is unlikely, now, that the Terps will make the NCAA Tournament and will instead go to the NIT. Said coach Gary Williams on the loss, " I am very disappointed in our team. I thought we had opportunities there, we made some shots early, but we missed some opportunities as that first half went along. Clemson did a good job of fighting back and getting into position to make that three at the buzzer. In the second half we got away from running our offense. We shot the ball pretty quickly and defensively we just couldn't stop them. That combination certainly made Clemson a better team in the second half than we were today." Other post-game quotes can be found here.
After talking it over with a few friends, I think I've come upon the real reason that Maryland (which should have been a dominating team this season, if you look solely at who our players are and their longevity on the squad) has been faltering: our players are un-coachable. Looking through the teams that have made it to the NCAA Tournament over the last 11 years, it is evident that Gary Williams was recruiting "decent" players who had promise but weren't the high school superstars. After we won the National Championship in 2002, we started getting a majority of All-American's and High School All-Star's in our recruiting classes. These players, though talented, have been the downfall of the program.
Players like John Gilchrest and Nik Caner-Medley are used to being great--being able to step out onto the court, dominate, and play their own game. Players like Juan Dixon and Steve Blake were good, but not so good to get cocky. The difference between these groups of players is that Gilchrest and Caner-Medley haven't seemed to learn from their mistakes. I'm positive that after every awful shot and game this season, Gary tried to tell them how to make it better. They didn't listen, though, consistently making poor shot selection, and showing a general lack of enthusiasm to move properly on the court; they felt that the opposition wasn't as good as they were. Dixon and Blake, on the other hand, knew they weren't exactly "God's gift to college basketball" and thus listened when Gary made suggestions. It's unfortunate, but I think that until we get a few more of the "average" players to come play, the Terps will be as inconsistent as they were this season.