So it’s come to this.
Maryland’s game today against N.C. State is compelling not for anything that might happen in the game, but rather what will happen before the opening tip-off.
Because this evening, Greivis Vasquez, the second-leading scorer and assist man in school history, will have his number 21 raised to the rafters of Comcast Center. If that’s not enough of an occasion for you, they’re also going to honor the Terps’ 2001 Final Four team.
Come for the ceremony, stay for the basketball game.
Maryland may not be tourney-bound, but there’s still pride on the line, and a chance for Gary Williams to continue to test out potential permutations for next season.
On the other side of the line, let’s check out some of the State players the Terps will face. Rankings excerpts courtesy of ESPN and DraftExpress (two sources useful in this instance for their clear lack of bias):
C.J. Leslie, power forward:
Ranked No. 11 overall in ESPN's 2010 recruiting class. “Leslie is one of the most athletic players in the country…excels as Amare Stoudemire-type player that is a great finisher and offensive rebounder.”
Lorenzo Brown, shooting guard:
“Unstoppable coming off high ball screens, turning the corner and either finishing at the rim or getting to the free-throw line…while Brown must learn to play hard on every possession and become a more consistent perimeter shooter, he promises to be an impact player at N.C. State.”
Tracy Smith, power forward:
DraftExpress has him 42nd among college seniors. “While he isn’t the most powerful or explosive player, he is a good athlete overall, possessing very good quickness and reactiveness along with high levels of coordination and mobility…he should get opportunities in summer league and should be a productive overseas player regardless.”
And that’s to say nothing of Ryan Harrow or Javier Gonzalez. So at a minimum, N.C. State has three players who will probably get looks from the NBA, and one potential lottery pick in Leslie. Their reward for all this top-notch recruiting? A record of 14-11, good for an eighth-place tie in the ACC.
Wolfpack fans have heaped this disappointment at the feet of head coach Sidney Lowe. And I say, heap away. I believe strongly in giving credit where it's due, but never forget that that coin has two sides. Lowe is considered a poor teacher who is a bit too involved during the game (basically to make up for the knowledge gap he wasn’t able to close during practices). He’s also a serial lineup shuffler.
Looks like he's got a touch of point guard Micromanager Syndrome. Or, as it's more widely known, Avery Johnson's Disease.
Decades ago, they used to say of Bear Bryant that “he could take his’n and beat your’n, then take your’n and beat his’n.” For those not fluent in Middle Hillbilly, that means he was such a good coach that the players didn’t matter; he knew how to get a winning effort out of any group. Take that phrase, flip it on its ear, and then it applies to Sidney Lowe.
That’s what Maryland fans will have the pleasure of watching—and, hopefully, watching Gary Williams and the Terps use to their advantage—this evening. At least, if they stay tuned after Greivis Vasquez has received his well-deserved honor.