Follow the sequence from this weekend – Duke crushes FSU in Tallahassee, NC State stomps Maryland in College Park, Florida State beats State in Raleigh and then Maryland beats Duke at Duke. It doesn’t make much sense, does it? Games seem like they are completely random – a roll of the dice.
It seems that way, but it’s really not so random. Sure, FSU, Maryland and NC State are among the most bipolar teams in the country, but if you consider where they were expected to be, last night’s results don’t seem so crazy. Maryland was picked as a tournament lock, at least the fifth best conference team. NC State was just below that, but a near certain tournament team, while FSU was picked as a strong bubble team. The fact that each team has struggled to live up to those predictions notwithstanding, what we saw last night wasn’t that shocking. Frustrating to fans of those teams, sure, but not really shocking.
In that Duke-Maryland game, we finally saw a team pull off what everyone was waiting for against Duke. Maryland put pressure on Ewing, who doesn’t have the true point guard skills to handle severe pressure. They also chased J.J. Redick (duh) and challenged Sheldon Williams enough to force Duke to use its thin bench. Under pressure the whole game, Duke got tired. Also, since the Blue Devils rely on those three stars for so much of their offense, a bad game by two of the three (Ewing and Redick) doomed them. It’ll happen again, but as Shavlik Randolph gets back in shape, they’ll be a bit more resilient.
For Maryland, the hope is that this game springboards them to better play throughout the season. We’ll see. One game is not a trend. They have the players and they have the coach. It’s time to find out if they have a team.
Aside: I rip on Gary quite a bit here, largely because he’s such an easy target. The thing is though, the guy completely baffles me. He does so many things the “wrong” way. We are taught that winners don’t complain. Winners don’t make excuses. Leaders don’t panic under pressure. Leaders don’t lash out at others when things don’t go well. Gary Williams does all of those things, yet he wins. It’s amazing. Just goes to show that there lots of ways to be successful.
One side effect of State’s implosion last night which greatly crippled their tournament hopes (they aren’t dead yet at all, but they are going to need some more upsets) is that it brought out some good humor. Check this thread about their meltdown over at Pack Pride. It started at 7:36 last night and already has 14 pages.
Even better was the post at StateFansNation.com explaining NC State’s offense. The best bit:
Should, however, the defense reject our playbook and choose to play zone, then our offense switches into the patented “Standing Around the Perimeter” (SAP) offense. It is similar in concept to Dean Smith’s famous “Four Corners” offense in that it allows several minutes to elapse without scoring a basket. The only difference between SAP and the Four Corners is that SAP allows the other team numerous possessions.
That’s great. JPS is a funny dude.