2007 Maryland Terrapins
Team Personality: Sizzle. Everything about this team is red hot, from its uniforms, to its recent ACC record, to its shooting, to its up-tempo style of play, to its coach (literally—Gary Williams’ apparel is perpetually sweat-laden).
Biggest Game: vs Duke, February 11.
The Terps stood just 3-6 in ACC play, having suffered a devastating home loss to Virginia earlier in the week. Duke was equally desperate, having lost three consecutive games of its own.
Maryland came out with a pride and a passion that they have displayed in every game since, burying the Blue Devils early en route to a 12-point halftime lead. Maryland hasn’t looked back, reeling off five more wins since then including at Clemson and Duke and over North Carolina at the Comcast Center.
Has to Be on the Floor: Greivis Vasquez. The 6’5” freshman point guard is the co-heart-and-soul of this team, along with D.J. Strawberry. But without the Venezuelan on the floor to run things, Maryland’s offense tends to stall in the halfcourt. His size makes him a matchup nightmare as well as a valuable asset on the boards. And Vasquez has a knack for making big plays at the end of games, whether via a backcourt steal or with his ability to penetrate into the lane.
Crunchtime Crutch: Perimeter swing. It’s tough to say that the Terps have a crutch, because they’re such a balanced team. But if Maryland does get in tight situations down the stretch, it’s important that they give Ibekwe a couple of touches down low before taking the outside shot.
Last Shot: Mike Jones. Jones, a 6’5” senior, has made over twice as many three pointers as any other Maryland player, and shoots them at better than 40%. Gary Williams’ last play will probably start with Strawberry or Vasquez, but look for them to penetrate and kick to a wide open Jones with the game on the line.
Straw That Stirs the Drink: D.J. Strawberry. The senior has shown tremendous leadership skills this year, as this Maryland team has terrific chemistry, in stark contrast to the previous two Terrapin editions. He leads the team in steals with over two per game, and leads the Terrapins fast break. Along with Jared Dudley and Tyler Hansbrough, Strawberry would be a unanimous selection to the ACC’s First Team “All-Heart.”
Impact Newcomer: Vasquez (see above). Largely unheralded out of high school, Vasquez and fellow frosh Eric Hayes form a more than serviceable freshman tandem.
Potential Pitfall: Lack of inside depth. 6’9” Ekene Ibekwe and 6’8” James Gist will need to stay out of foul trouble for a deep Terrapin NCAA run. Ibekwe in particular is an excellent shot blocker and interior defender, and both are extremely athletic. But Bambale Osby and Will Bowers are both a bit slow in the post, and against teams like Florida, Stanford, or Kansas, they could struggle to keep pace in the paint.
How to reach the Sweet 16 : Maryland is a team well-built for NCAA success. The ballhandling and floor leadership of Vasquez and Strawberry is impeccable, and the Terrapins can win against virtually any style of play. Penetration into the lane is what sets up Maryland’s offense, and as long as the Terps continue to move off the ball as they have during their recent ACC run, an Elite Eight (at least) is not out of the question.