Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Mike Jones, WHO?! Mike Jones

Yeah, the whole Mike Jones joke is probably played out, but it's still funny (or I'm just really lame - which is entirely possible, we might need Ian to make a ruling on this). Anyways, in case you've been under a rock for the past day and missed the big ACC news, Maryland's Chris McCray was ruled ineligible for the rest of the season for academic reasons and in his place as the likely starter for the Terps is former McDonald's All-American Mike Jones, who has had an up and down couple of years in College Park. McCray is a big loss for the turtles, as he was their leading scorer, best perimeter defender and a terrific free throw shooter who iced a number of games down the stretch for them. Jones is an explosive athlete with a ton of range on his jumper and a world of talent, but so far he hasn't been able to put it together into actually being a good basketball player, we'll see what he can do now.

Looking at Wednesday's matchups, it's easy to forget that Maryland has really struggled on the road in the past couple of seasons, winning only 5 league road games in the past 3 years and 2 of those were against horrible UVa teams. Maryland has won only 1 of the last 5 in Atlanta, and that was in their 2002 national championship season. With that in mind, Maryland is a more talented and "better" team than GT this year - but there are some interesting individual matchups.

Point Guard - Zam Fredrick II vs. D.J Strawberry

Straw isn't a true PG, and he isn't a "great" player by any stretch of the imagination, but he's better right now than Zam is. Zam is really struggling with his ballhandling, and his offensive game in general is in the dumps, with his shooting percentage down to 38% overall and only 28% from 3. Strawberry is a tenacious defender and has a long reach combined with solid athleticism, a sure combination for creating turnovers in this GT backcourt. Don't expect either of these players to be the "star" of the game, but if Zam can play Strawberry to a draw that will have a huge positive impact for the Jackets.

Shooting Guard - Anthony Morrow vs. Mike Jones

Jones is some kind of streaky, and hopefully it's the bad streaky on Wednesday night (which seems to be the more common version). Morrow has been a model of consistency for Tech this year, averaging 17.5 ppg in conference contests and keeping up his torrid 3 point shooting. Right now, he's a better player than Mike Jones has ever been - but there's no telling which night the 8-11 (4-5 from 3) version of Jones shows up like he did against Wake. Morrow is long and a decent defender, he'll have to make sure he stays out on Jones and doesn't let him get hot from 5' behind the arc like he's been known to do in his career. On the other side, without McCray to bother Morrow, I fully expect him to chip in his 17-20 points as normal, he's just too good for Maryland to shut down.

Small Forward - D'Andre Bell vs. Nik Caner-Medley

This is probably the most intruiging matchup on the floor, partly because the players are similar in style but world's apart in experience. Bell has a nice little midrange offensive game, handles the ball a fair amount in the halfcourt and is more of a defensive specialist, while Caner-Medley has the same midrange game with a bit better stroke from deep and more of a scorer's mentality. It will be interesting to see how well Bell does defensively on him, and how much Caner-Medley tries to force things with McCray out. Caner-Medley has been plagued by consistency problems throughout his career, and has really struggled a bit so far in his senior campaign - but if anyone from UM has to really step up now, he's the one.

Power Forward - Jeremis Smith vs. Ekene Ibekwe

Smith continued his assault on the ACC rebounding lead with 12 more rebounds against Clemson, raising his average to 9.0 per game and keeping him at #2 in the conference on the glass. Combined with 14.5 points per game in conference play and a motor that never stops, he's been Tech's best player so far this year and one of the best power forwards in the entire conference. Ibekwe is a long, limber forward with great shotblocking skills and will be interesting to watch him and Jeremis go at it all night long. Smith has the size and strength advantage, Ibekwe is longer and probably a bit more athletic - Smith should be able to seal Ibekwe on the blocks and score, but Ibekwe's weak side help and shotblocking will be something everyone on the Tech offense will have to deal with.

Center - Ra'Sean Dickey vs. James Gist

If you look at Dickey's stat line for the season (10.5ppg, 6.5rpg, 57.5% FG%) you'd think he was having a pretty nice season for a sophmore center just getting his legs under him - and that's probably the truth. The problem has been that he could be so much more, the talent is obviously there, but the effort is questionable at times and the defensive intensity is almost non-existent. Gist is in a similar position, a sophmore just growing into his starting role. Dickey has a large size advantage, is a much better rebounder and really is a "better" player when he puts full effort into it, but Gist is certainly the better defender and is an excellent shot blocker to compliment Ibekwe. When both are on the court, Tech is going to have to be aware of their presence at all times on the offensive end.

Bench - Lewis Clinch, Alade Aminu, Mario West and Theodis Tarver vs. Travis Garrison, Sterling Ledbetter and Will Bowers

Clinch looked like he was really rounding into form before the Clemson game, where he was basically non-existent. Ugh, freshman. Maryland's bench is pretty thin, but Garrison is a very good player and started 30 games last year for the Terps. He's one of the best offensive post options that Gary Williams has, and expect him to see a large number of minutes Wednesday. Ledbetter and Powers are both role players, Ledbetter being a solid ball handler at the guard spots and Bowers a banger under the basket, but neither should have a huge impact on the game. The "X-Factor", if you will, in the bench matchup is Mario West's health and how much time he'll see. If West plays 20 minutes or more and is mostly recovered, then that's a huge boost for Tech as he's by far the best on-the-ball defender on the roster and a solid ball handler as well.

Maryland comes into this game ranked in the top 25, but with turmoil on the roster with McCray's suspension and a history of recent struggles in Alexander Memorial. Tech is riding a 3 game losing streak, including some truly horrific play in the first half against Wake and then the second half against Clemson, you know Hewitt will have the young guys as fired up as he can for a chance to break the streak at home and get back to .500 in conference play. Maryland has the edge in experience, especially in the backcourt, but that is severely dulled with McCray's absense. GT probably has the edge in the starting frontcourt as long as Dickey applies himself, and in overall depth now that West has returned to action. I'm a bit torn on this game, simply because Maryland is a poor defensive team, hasn't played well on the road in a couple of seasons and Tech is bound to put two good halves sooner or later after yo-yo'ing around the past 3 games. I think GT pulls the mild upset at home, but this could easily be a game that Maryland pulls out if they rally around the "fallen comrade" situation and execute well.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

how big is the guy guarding caner medley?

if he is under 6'7" then md wins this position easily (unless you are accurate that he is a really good defender) - unless your guy decides to jack up a bunch of open 3s (and makes them)

11:50 AM  
Blogger Nathan said...

Bell is 6'5 200lbs, basically Is'mail Muhammed Jr.

Caner-Medley will probably get his, but Bell will make him work for them. He's a tough on the ball defender and he'll push Caner-Medley around a bit. I would certainly consider that an advantage for MD though, if for nothing else than the fact it's a freshman against a senior.

1:59 PM  

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