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ACC Basketball Preview: Maryland

Quick Facts

2005-06
Record: 19-13, 8-8 in the ACC
ACC Regular Season Finish: 6th
ACC Tournament Result: Lost in Quarterfinals
NCAA Tournament Result: None. Lost in NIT 1st Round

Players and Coaches

Head Coach: Gary Williams, 17th year at Maryland, 353-191, 28th year overall, 560-319
Key Returnees: F Ekene Ibekwe(11.1 ppg), G Mike Jones(10.5 ppg), G D.J. Strawberry(10.3 ppg), C James Gist(8.4 ppg),
Preseason Rankings
Poll Rankings: None
ACC Preseason Poll: 7th

Outlook

A year ago Maryland endured the loss of Chris McCray to academic suspension and seemed to flounder more times than not down the stretch. This season Gary Williams, who Terps have missed two straight NCAA Tournaments, will rely on a core group of four players in an effort to get Maryland back to the Big Dance. Forward Ekene Ibekwe will be depended on for front court scoring along with center James Gist. D.J. Strawberry who came in last season for the suspended McCray has shown signs of brilliance but was largely inconsistent. Shooting guard Mike Jones was the 21st ranked player in the class of 2003 several spots above the likes of P.J. Tucker and his own teammate Ibekwe. Outside these four players it is anyone's guess who Maryland can utilize on the court. Through two exhibition games Williams used freshman Eric Hayes at the point. Maryland also has another freshman point guard in Grevis Vasquez who might see minutes running the offense. If either of these work out at PG it will enable Strawberry to play the two guard which is more of a natural fit for him.

THF Prediction

What is going on in College Park? It is hard to imagine that Gary Williams, who won a national title in 2002 could be on any kind of hot seat but questions are beginning to come up concerning the direction of the program. One very disturbing trend is the drop off in recruiting real talent from the high school ranks. Prior to the current class the recruiting has been much slimmer which may be due to the loss certain assistants. This season Maryland will need those freshman to step up. Point guard play is extremely important in the ACC as is the back court in general. Last season after McCray was suspended and Strawberry had to step in at point Maryland floundered badly and was overcome by apathy. Williams was frustrated and in most games they did not seem to care that they were in it. In fact the Maryland should have simply turned down the NIT bid instead of showing up and losing in the 1st round because they obviously did not want to be there. This season the hope is that one of the freshman point guard can light a fire under this team and the core returnees can step up their games to a new level.

Prediction: 18-12 overall, 7-9 in the ACC for 8th. NIT