ACC Basketball Tournament 2011: How Secure Is Maryland's Gary Williams?

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst IMarch 8, 2011

CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 27:  Head coach Gary Williams of the Maryland Terrapins reacts to a call against the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game at the Dean E. Smith Center on February 27, 2011 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Nobody paints Gary Williams into a corner.

The Maryland basketball coach has made a career with late season charges.  It seems like that every time the Terrapin bubble seems burst, the legendary coach finds a way to re-inflate it.

However, if history is going to repeat itself this time around, Maryland will not just need an upset or two.  They would have to win the whole darn thing.

Now, it might be reasonable to point out that the only ACC tournament crown Williams has won with the Terrapins came when they were a six seed and held a pedestrian 7-9 conference record. 

This year they are the seven seed and hold the exact same 7-9 mark.

Before you go and claim deja vu Maryland fans, remember how the Terrapins fell to this point.  Three straight double-digit losses for Maryland, including two inexplicable duds against Miami and at home against the Virginia Cavaliers.

The same Maryland team that humbled Virginia earlier this season could not stop turning the ball over in the regular season finale.  Jordan Williams still has some major holes in his offensive game and Maryland fans cannot help but worry if he declares early who would fill his rather large shoes.

The disappointing season has increased the murmuring across the Maryland/DC area that coach Williams may actually be on the hot seat.

That is exactly where he likes to be.

Say what you want about Gary Williams and his recruiting, but no one could have maximized the talent on the squad year after year like their famous alumnus.

"The Volcano" has won the only national championship in school history, he has brought ACC fans some of the best players in the conference over the past two decades.

Most importantly, who do Maryland fans think would be a realistic hire that could get them to this mysterious "next level"?

Terrapin fans should be careful what they wish for.  After all, if they need a cautionary tale, look at their first round opponent this Thursday.

North Carolina State's constant consternation with coach Herb Sendek and his inability to be on level pegging with Duke and North Carolina finally took its toll.  Sendek jumped ship for Arizona State and the Wolfpack were left trying to fill a void that many had wanted.

Their replacement has taken them to a different level.

We call it the cellar.

In five years, the North Carolina State alum Sidney Lowe is 25-55 in the ACC.  He has never won more than six conference games in the regular season.

He needs two wins in the ACC tournament just to have a winning record this season.

No matter how you slice it, the big man in the red coat is not the answer. 

Now the Wolfpack certainly have some talent. The all-ACC rookie team could be their entire roster.

However, for a program that always seems to be rebuilding, how much more patient can fans be?

We all know Lowe was not their first choice. Now is the time to rectify that error.

The question now becomes, which program will stand up at the end of the year and defend their embattled coach with a good performance?

My bet is that Maryland could actually surprise some people. 

Their talent and experience surpasses the Wolfpack.  They won their first game against North Carolina State.

Most importantly, they see one of their hated rivals, Duke, just lying in wait on Friday.  The Blue Devils look more than a little vulnerable down the stretch, Maryland must be salivating at the opportunity.

Oh yes, coach Williams knows how to rally the troops for a late charge.  At least we were warned this time.

Prediction: Maryland 70 N.C. State 60