Before I begin the evaluation, just a few quick points.
1. Marissa will be wearing #4 next year for the Mystics.
2. KT is looking for a new number to wear for the Sky.
The 2008-09 season is hard to sum up with one word. In a sense, we all expected a little bit of a down year as we lost four seniors, each of which had prominent roles on the team and were being replaced by players that hadn't played college ball. Our fears were shown in the opening game with a loss to TCU on the road. Then we won seven straight before Pittsburgh crushed us, but that could be attributed to the wacky road trip that I believe had us busing from Purdue to Pittsburgh or something along those lines. Then there was the Marah drama and an up and down start to the ACC season, loss to Duke, beat UNC, lose to UVA, beat FSU.
That FSU win was the turning point in the season. KT misses that shot and the Terps are 4-3 in the ACC and look like they are going to struggle the rest of the way as all 3 ACC losses would have been on the road. The Shot II though propelled the team the rest of the way as the Terps would win 14 straight including the ACC Regular Season and Tournament Championship. And with that there was talk that Maryland had a shot to knock off UConn.
Then the NCAA Tournament started and things didn't look as promising. The Dartmouth game, while not a struggle, took a lot more effort than I would I have liked. Ditto for Utah. Than there was the Vandy game where Marissa took over the last few minutes and the Dores had no answer. Right there was where I knew beating UConn was going to be tough. We needed a monster game to beat a team with no size. Finally, there was the Louisville game, which to be honest, scared me more than playing UConn. Walz knew the players and the players knew Walz. The stories even said that Walz still talked to some of the players from time to time. In the end, it was too emotional of a game and the 1-2 punch of KT and MC wasn't there. And with that the season was over and another Final Four was missed.
So what went wrong?
1. In all five losses here are the combined point totals for Marissa and Kristi.
TCU - 26 (KT - 11, MC - 15)
PITT - 20 (KT - 12, MC - 8)
DUKE - 26 (KT - 12, MC - 14)
UVA - 36 (KT - 17, MC - 19)
LOU - 32 (KT - 14, MC - 18)
Aside from the UVA game, where we played no defense in the second half, you can see we struggled when the Big Two didn't score. We never had a consistent third scorer and as a result if teams could hold the two in check they had a chance to win. Note that our 14-game win streak came when Marissa said enough was enough and tried to will the team to victory.
2. Adjustments Never happened. Brenda relied on MC and KT to do their things and outscore the opponent and rarely were adjustments made. Note that Sylvia Hatchell has attempted to do the same thing for years and it hasn't worked. If KT was struggling, a play was called to let KT get a good look at a 3. We rarely pounded it inside to get some points (something that happened in 2008 as well) and were strictly a three-point shooting team.
The Louisville game was a great example. The Cards decided the only way to win was to slow the tempo resulting in the clock being drained to 20-25 seconds each possession. It wasn't until 7 minutes left and down by 15 that we decided to try and pick up the pace. At that point it was too late. Did the coaching staff think that with a 15 point lead, Walz was going to play fast? Why weren't we hounding Byrd and forcing her to give up the ball? When Byrd was backing down KT, why wasn't someone sliding over to steal the ball? Why did we settle for jumpers instead of attacking the paint repeatedly? Louisville is a foul prone team yet we let them get their way defensively.
Also, we had this uncanny ability to let the other coach dictate the play. You want to go small? Sure, we will go small. I never understood why one team would play basically 4 guards and we would have to go 4 guards (if Marissa counts as a guard). Liles may be a forward by position but she's not big and slow, she has the ability to contain guards.
3. Kids were never developed throughout the year.
Kizer is 6'4 and shoots lay ups as if she's 5'4. She tried to finesse almost all her shots instead of using the glass. How many times did Lang not use the glass in 4 years?
Strickland's one job was to run to the corner of the floor and wait to shoot a 3. She rarely attacked the rim and if she did, she missed it. If she missed a 3, we were down to 4 on offense (3 if Kizer missed her first few shoots).
It took Kim Rodgers nearly 20+ games to finally show what she can do. Why did it take so long? Were we afraid Marah would leave?
Mingo sat on the bench for two years and now is leaving. She was a McDonalds and WBCA AA and yet wasn't good enough to see time over a lady that was a dancer 18 months ago? Either she was overhyped or no one took the time to work with her. Also, the fact that last year during blow outs she couldn't get playing time was awful. What were Lang, Harp, and Jade gaining by being in a 20-point game with 5 minutes to go?
KT's game regressed in the last two years. She was getting better at being a PG but as the hype got bigger and bigger she went back to being more of a scorer. Her decision making at times this year was suspect.
Watching the Championship game from 2006 last week, I would see Brenda get in player's faces. This year it was claps and smiles. KT and Marissa said they were both motivated by themselves to make the Final Four. What happened to tough love?
The one topic that every fan knew about the last four years, but wouldn't talk about. We don't play any D. I understand because of lack of depth we can't press all the time, but why can't we play defense? How often would we be beaten off the dribble? Why did we go under screens instead of over them? Why did our post players never try to block shots and would instead stand there with their hands straight up? Why did we give players 3 feet of shooting space? Our best defense was our rebounding and intimidation. We hoped that the other team would be scared to play us and jack up shots quick and miss so we could get the rebound and start the break. We would show flashes of it when we needed it, but never for longer than a half. our scoring defense of 67.8 was the highest in the Frese era.
In reality, the last four years ended with disappointment. After a National Title in 2006, all fans thought we would win another in the next three years. We were all defending Brenda against people calling her a one-year wonder. Three years later and we twice fell short in the Elite 8, both times because we didn't play defense and were outcoached. With three 2000 point scorers on the roster and probably 4 of the best players to play for Maryland we underachieved. If you think otherwise, your glasses are redder than mine.
And now we head into 2009-10 with a ton of questionmarks and concerns.
1. As of today, the roster is down to 7 active players:
Jackie Nared - project but needs to be kept happy because of sister
Yemi Oyefuwa - project but needed for depth in the paint
Anjale Barrett - starting PG but slow afoot and hampered by injuries
Kim Rodgers - starting SG but hampered by injuries and possibly lack of confidence.
Lynetta Kizer - starting C who needs to be more aggressive on both ends of the floor
Dee Liles - starting F. Athletic player who needs to harness that energy and become a go to scorer.
Lori Bjork - starting G. I am assuming this because to give a fifth year player a scholarship you better hope she starts or does a great job bridging the gap. great outside shooter.
Mingo is gone and Strickland left today. that's two AAs
2. We bring in 3 recruits.
Dara Taylor - McD's AA. Reading this evaluation, she sounds like KT. At the McD's game, it sounded like her defense really stood out as her offensive game was non-existent. May push for a spot right away. Matt Bracken let's you meet Dara Taylor
Tianna Hawkins - 6'3 post player, ranked the #28 center in the country. reports say she has a nice shot, but I am not impressed with what other schools looked at her.
Essence Townsend - 6'6 post player. sounds like another project but if she can develop an offensive game she will be good.
3. Recruiting. 4 years after a national title and we are missing out on top-notch kid after top-notch kid. I don't expect to get everyone of them, but Taylor is our highest rated kid but 2010 sounds promising with the kid from PA, Alyssa Thomas.
4. Kids Leaving the program. With the departure of Mingo and Strickland, which someone brought up the releases were written two different ways, and the possibly of possibly Kizer or someone else I think I count close to 10 leaving during Brenda's time:
Alli Spence - personal issues with team.
Chrissy Fisher - more playing time
Kalika France - injuries/personal issues
Kat Lyons - personal issues
Christie Marrone - injuries
Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood - personal issues
Marah Strickland - no idea, but possibly personal issues
Drey Mingo - more playing time.
That's not good for the program nor for recruiting as other coaches will use that against us. Now the argument will be that only Marah was a huge loss because the others weren't playing that big of a role. It's still 9 maybe 10 kids.
5. Will this summer be spent working on defense?
6. What is the status of EDD or Elena Delle Donne? Yes, she has quit volleyball at Delaware and begun to work out with her high school basketball team, but is she a player we want? She's already shown she's a headcase and what's going to happen when the pressure of a game gets to her.
7. The Walz/Frese dynamic. I have no idea if they don't talk, I remember an article last year that hinted that they weren't best of friends. Also, for Walz to make that comment at the end of the game shows there has to be some bad blood.
8. Is it time for some coaching changes? Coach Park was supposed to be almost on par with Coach Walz as he was a rising star in the coaching world. Yet last year he seemed more focused on crushing teams, because he could and this year the defense has suffered and the offense revolved around KT. Any article about KT, mentioned Daron, but I don't recall many about Marissa and Daron. Coach Floyd is the recruiter, heck she couldn't even go to the regular season-finale because she was recruiting. I have also heard that Coach Park would rather watch game film than watch high school kids.
9. Is Walz going to take our kids? Mingo and Marah won't go to the ACC because there's a two-year rule. And I am not sure about Walz as Brenda has to approve the schools they can go to. She could easily block them. Walz did recruit them so it wouldn't be a shock.
10. Ed in Tampa and Andrea. Gail wasn't getting support from Duke and Texas threw money at her. That's why she left.
11. Under the Shell, I have no idea what happened to the first three seasons of the show and why they were removed.
12. How much longer will Brenda stay? Negative Press is growing, kids are leaving and recruits are going elsewhere. Slowly the shine is fading from her star. Will Brenda look to rebuild another program, possibly in Southern California this year or will she wait until 2010 to see how recruiting plays out?
Final Thoughts: I see 2009-2010 as a struggle year for the Terps especially if Kizer leaves. Liles and Kizer are like peas in a pod and who knows what affect it will have on her. Plus we would have 3 post players with very little polish around the rim. On the perimeter we have three slow guards and a speedy one in Taylor. Taylor is also 5'5 so she will need even more space to get her shot off. If we do focus on defense, it's going to be hard to ingrain in kids who never had to worry about it to suddenly start playing it. Also, will we make adjustments during the game? From my POV, we were outcoached in every round but the first and made it to the Elite 8 on talent. I see us making the tournament, but getting to the Sweet 16 will be an accomplishment.
Agree/Disagree let me know.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Before I begin the evaluation, just a few quick points.
Posted by Joey Nations at 11:04 AM