Thursday, March 01, 2007

The University of Maryland's men's basketball team is on a bit of a roll lately, winning six in a row, including a sweep of Duke and a win against North Carolina, and are now 9-6 in the ACC and a lock for the NCAAs.

This is quite a bit of a turnaround, given that just a few weeks ago, Maryland was sitting at 3-6 in the ACC and looking forward to missing the NCAAs for a third straight year.

So what changed?

Let's look at the possibilities:

(1) Maryland has played easier opponents over the past six games than during their first 9 ACC games.

(2) A variation of the above: Maryland's recent opponents weren't necesssarily 'weaker', but were more vulnerable to Maryland's style of play than the teams Maryland played during the earlier stages of the season.

(3) Maryland's players have improved their individual skills, allowing them to win games they couldn't have won earlier in the season.

(4) Maryland's players are playing better as a team than earlier, allowing them to beat teams they couldn't have beaten earlier. A variation of this is that Maryland's recent opponents have regressed, allowingly Maryland to beat them whereas Maryland wouldn't have been able to do so earlier.

My personal take on this is (2) or (4) are probably the ones that best describes what has happened. Maryland has actually played tougher teams lately than they did earlier and I haven't seen any of the Maryland players bring anything to the game that they didn't have in their bag of tricks at the start of the season.

And of those two, I think the real key is that Gary Williams has abandoned his fixation on a particular offensive set and is running the offense differently... he's gotten away from his fixation on having his guards stand outside and pass the ball into the key and is now allowing his guards to take their defenders off the dribble.

Nice to see an old guy like Williams still has the flexibility to try something new when the old stuff just ain't working so good anymore...