When Jordan Williams’ 13-game streak of consecutive double-doubles was snapped at Virginia on Jan. 27, Maryland basketball Coach Gary Williams said, in effect, that it was simply time for the sophomore center to start working on his next streak.
In effect, the coach took his own advice in the wake of the NIT’s snub of Maryland when bids to the 32-team post-season tournament were issued Sunday night, snapping the Terps’ 17-year streak of post-season appearances under Williams.
“I would have liked to have gone [to the NIT] this year because we had some young players, and any playing time in that situation is good,” Williams said on his radio show, broadcast on WTEM-ESPN 980, Monday night. “But at the same time, we’re a program that wants to go to the NCAAs. When it’s all said and done, it’s about making sure we get back to the NCAA [Tournament]. So you go forward and do whatever you can to get to NCAA.”
In his weekly chat with veteran broadcaster Johnny Holliday, Williams expressed empathy for his three seniors, Adrian Bowie, Dino Gregory and Cliff Tucker, who didn’t realize they were playing their last game for the Terps when they fell to Duke in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament, a defeat that scuttled not only the team’s slim remaining hope of an NCAA berth but also its NIT prospects.
With 18 at-large bids to award in the 32-team tournament, NIT officials granted three to ACC schools shut out of the Big Dance: Virginia Tech, Boston College and Miami, who between them had a 5-0 record against Maryland. Still, the Terps fully expected to receive an NIT bid given that the beat three NCAA-bound teams (Penn State, Clemson and Florida State) en route to their 15th consecutive season with at least 19 wins.
“They had a tough deal,” Williams said of his seniors, who inherited the task of replacing an outgoing class that combined for more than 40 percent of the team’s scoring the previous year. “They did well at times. They just couldn’t get really consistent. All three are graduating this spring in four years, so that’s a testimony to them doing a lot of things right.”
Williams met with his players Monday afternoon and said that “there was a lot of disappointment” in the room.
He noted that powerhouses such as North Carolina, Connecticut and UCLA missed the NCAA Tournament last season. And with promising players returning next season, and a talented incoming class, Williams said that Maryland had the parts in place to regroup and return strong next season.
“You can’t get complacent,” Williams said. “I think that goes for the league, too.”
Williams said that Maryland needs to come out stronger to start its 2011-12 campaign, paying more attention to details and results in early-season games that served as learning experiences in the past.
Maryland lost back-to-back games to ranked opponents Pittsburgh and Illinois in a high profile tournament at New York’s Madison Square Garden in mid-November. While the young Terps showed promise, they were amateurish from the free-throw line, which arguably cost them both victories. In many respect, that image stuck with them all season.
“Nowadays you’re in a little bit of trouble if you lose a game early unless you come back and really play great the last couple months,” Williams said. “We have to do a better job with our early season schedule next year.”
Williams reiterated his belief that the ACC must do a better job, as well, promoting itself in the increasingly competitive landscape of college basketball. The fact that the ACC got just four teams in the NCAA Tournament while the Big Ten got seven was evidence enough, in Williams’ mind, that’s something is amiss. The omission of Virginia Tech and Boston College from the 68-team tournament field particularly bothered the coach.
“They both deserve it,” said Williams, whose team was swept by both. “They won their way in, and they’d be really good representatives in the tournament. If the ACC has four, there’s no way the Big Ten should have seven.
“We have to figure out as a league how to get more teams in the tournament. There been a lot of lobbying that goes on that wasn’t there before. As a league, you have to do that, too, to keep up with the Jones. We have to go after it a lot harder in the ACC than we did 10 years ago.”