Fear the turtle

As a lifelong Maryland Terrapin fan, proud owner of a "Fear the Turtle" t-shirt, and ardent believer that the day Len Bias died was the most tragic in sports history, a brief consideration of what the Gophers will face on Tuesday night.

Maryland got off to one of the worst starts in school history. They lost to a string of anemic teams prior to the ACC season: American, Ohio (University, not State), Virginia Commonwealth. Then they suddenly got their shit together and won six of seven in the ACC, highlighted by an away victory over top-ranked North Carolina. Just five weeks ago the terps looked to be a tournament lock and potentially a highly dangerous team in the post-season.

But then came a total meltdown. The terps lost five of their final six games, lowlighted by somehow blowing a 20 point lead in the second half against Clemson. It was the most brutal Maryland loss since 2001 when they squandered a 10-point-lead against Duke in the final minute. The upshot: this is one mentally screwed up, but pretty talented team.

The lynchpin of the squad is Venezeulan sophomore point guard Greivis Vasquez, who led the team in points (17.3 pg), assists (6.9 pg), and steals (46). Vasquez is a dynamic passer, a menace driving to the hoop, and presents matchup problems for most teams with his size (6' 6"). But he's also a suspect jumpshooter, hitting barely thirty percent of his threes, and can be more than a bit erratic, averaging more than five turnovers per game.

The other players to watch are the senior big men Bambale Osby (11.2 ppg) and James Gist (15.8 ppg). The former is a menacing post player who can dominate the boards. But he has a tendency to disappear for long stretches and to draw stupid fouls. He also sports a massive, bad-ass afro. Gist is the more refined player, with a mid-range jumpshot that can be automatic when he's on his game.

The X factor for Maryland this year has been Eric Hayes. The sophomore guard is the best outside shooter on the team (40 percent from beyond the arc), but tends to have trouble finding open looks. When he starts knocking down threes, the Terps can resemble a potent offensive team.

My guess is that we'll see a deflated Maryland team put in a suspect effort against a Gopher squad that's just happy to be playing in any post-season tournament.

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