- Close wasn't quite good enough for Terrell Stoglin and Maryland at Cameron Indoor Stadium last night. (Photo: Associated Press)
Maryland dropped to 0-2 in ACC play Sunday night after losing 71-64 to the defending national champion and consensus Number One team in America, the Duke Blue Devils. The loss of an eminently winnable game was no doubt frustrating for Maryland players and fans alike, but what else can we take from Sunday night's performance?
I'll tell you after the jump.
1. Cliff Tucker is the key to Maryland's season.
This point relates to something I wrote after Maryland's loss to Temple last month in the BB&T Classic. The main thrust was this: sophomore stud Jordan Williams needs help if Maryland are to do anything in the ACC Tournament next season.
Well, credit Cliff Tucker for stepping up last night, as he gave Maryland 14 points and 7 rebounds on 6-for-13 shooting in 29 minutes off the bench. That, coupled with Williams's habitual double-double (23 points, 13 rebounds) made an upset possible last night.
2. Adrian Bowie has not earned his starting spot.
Here's Bowie's line from last night's game: 32 minutes, 0-for-4 shooting, 1 point, 5 rebounds, 4 assists. Now, I ask you, what's the point of giving someone so long to put up those kinds of numbers? Bowie played three more minutes than Tucker, but didn't have half the impact on the game. Even somebody like Pe'Shon Howard, who only played 10 minutes of the game due to foul trouble, was more prominent than the senior Bowie. I understand Gary Williams's tendency to be loyal to his upperclassmen, and that's fine and admirable. But, sooner or later, something will have to give. Either Bowie will improve or one of Tucker or Howard will take his spot.
3. 0-2 does not mean it's time to panic.
Look, the ACC is really not good this year. And yeah, Maryland's loss to Boston College on December 12 to open the conference season was a really bad one. But, given the talent on this team and the improvement there's been over the last month (and when a perfectionist and taskmaster extraordinaire like Gary Williams notices some improvement, you can bet it's actually there), it's very hard to see this team falling flat on its face in conference season.
In that regard, the most crucial games of Maryland's season won't be against Duke and North Carolina, but against the likes of Miami, Georgia Tech, and the two Virginia schools. The road back starts Wednesday with a road game against the 7-9 Wake Forest Deamon Deacons. That's a game that must be won.
4. Duke is not the best team in America.
I'm going to cop out on this one slightly, since there's no obvious candidate at the moment to replace them. For example, the resume of the Number 2 team in the nation, Ohio State, isn't much more compelling than the Blue Devils', which features wins over overvauled Kansas State and Michigan State teams. Nor is the resume of Kansas, Syracuse, or any other top team in America.
Let me put it this way, when the Final Four goes off in Houston is April, I will be very surprised if Duke is among them. They can't score inside (Kyle Singler excepted), and given how much Maryland harassed Nolan Smith, it would have been a very different game if not for the timely intervention of Seth Curry, who scored 12 points off the bench.