Dunn Is Done With Free Agency

Adam Dunn signed a two year $20M deal with the Nationals. Initially this article was going to be Dunn done with Nationals, but it appeared Dunn was tired of waiting on Manny to sign with a team. If Manny had signed with the Dodgers that would have limited the options for Adam Dunn and pushed the Nationals offer to the top of the list. If Manny had signed elsewhere, it would have allowed Dunn to possibly fill the void in LA and absorb some of the dollars slotted for Manny. With Bobby Abreu reaching a one year deal with the Angels, the dominos began to fall into place for corner outfielders.

Dunn had been sitting on an offer from the Nats for some time. In a down economy and a depressed free agent market the Nationals decided to go bargain shopping and let the price drop on remaining free agents. Maybe a little dumb luck from the Capitals front office decisions rubbed off on the Nationals. Luckily for Nationals fans, the rest of the league played right into Washington's hands.

Bowden's connection from the Reds organization did help sign Dunn. The Nationals almost lost Dunn if not for the stars to align properly in free agency. They don't seem to understand the perceived "stink" on this club. As the line goes in "Who Shot Liberty Valance", "when the legend becomes fact...print the legend." When the perceived stench on a team is real or imaginary then it exists and the team should understand that formulating a free agent spending strategy like a contending organization with plenty of cash is flawed. Contenders can dictate to the market, while bottom feeders need to pay above market prices to sign players.

The Nationals haven't adapted from the Teixeira episode. Washington made a very fair offer to Teixeira, but in the end the prize of free agency chose a comparable deal on a contender (Yankees). When a team is so bad and in such dire need of top talent it must over spend slightly in the initial phase of the rebuilding process. One top player will in turn help sign another player as eventually losing turns into winning making it easier to sign players.

The two year deal signed by Dunn benefits him more than the Nationals. Adam Dunn received the top dollar offer in a bad market. The short term deal also allows him to plunge into a better market two years from now while still in his prime and maybe land on a better team.

The Nationals farm system fell back into the bottom third of MLB as rated by Baseball America. It takes time to develop players. It took so long to sign Dunn and a lot of luck in the market too. It seems like a very short window for the Nationals to sign many marquee players and develop enough young talent of their own for Dunn to re-sign two years from now. In the interim, it appears the Nationals have their first marquee player since Soriano and someone for the fans to watch...for at least two years. Neither the Nationals nor Dunn probably received everything they were looking for this free agent period, but both have made the best of the situation and appear to be satisfied.

Garyland's Terps Top Tar Heels

North Carolina may have NBA talent, but Maryland has a head coach as the Terps upset the (third ranked) Tar Heels 88-85 in OT Saturday afternoon at Comcast Center. Greivis Vasquez return to the point guard position yielded Maryland's third triple double in team history with 35 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. He also scored the Terps first sixteen points.

In the second half, the Terps found themselves down by as much as 16 points. They battled back and stayed close with some smooth scoring by Tucker whose 22 points gave Maryland a second scoring option.

The officiating was somewhat uneven with numerous over the back (pushing) and traveling calls not called. The smaller Terps front court tried to coral the taller and quicker Tar Heels and by games end Milbourne, Gregory, and Neal had all fouled out of the game. Burney's playing time increased and played a significant defensive role as both he and Gregory blocked several shots at critical junctures of the game.

After nailing a three pointer with 1:15 left in OT, Vasquez helped seal the win by hitting two free throws to put the Terps up by three points with seconds left in the game. The only thing missing in the stunning upset win as fans stormed the court would have been a number one ranking by UNC. Another point critics appear to forget when discussing Gary Williams as head coach is the number of times the Terps have defeated a #1 Ranked team under Gary (6).

The win helps push the Terps back into the NCAA picture for now. With a home game on Wednesday vs. Duke followed by a game at NC State, home vs. Wakeforest, and the season finale at Virginia, Maryland's fate is in their own hands. A win in three of their last four games should be enough to get back to the big dance. A split in their final two of four games and they may need at least one win in the conference tournament to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament. A win over third ranked UNC not only felt good for Terps fans over a turbulant season, but also quelled the critics of Gary Williams.

Gets Ready for this interesting game

The Deceiving Statistic:

Throughout the season of the media Losenoidoomock has focused its attention on the excellent free throw shooting of the Terps, but has failed to state it's a result of a lack of front court players. Most poor shooting teams have front court players that have a bad free throw percentage. The Terps are a guard laden team that should and does shoot free throws at a high percentage. The issue is the number of attempts. An aggressive team won't just shoot from a good percentage but will have a high number of attempts usually resulting in attacking the basket and not settling for long range jump shots that are sometimes contested. Maryland must attack the basket more with dribble penetration and gain more attempts from the line.

The Rotation:

As the Terrapins have burst back onto the NCAA Tournament scene, the rotation has formed. Besides Vasquez, Hayes, Bowie, Milbourne, & Neal, the Terps also have found a substitution pattern involving Gregory, Burney, Mosely, and Tucker. Neal's size and girth was a strength against North Carolina, but its Gregory and Burney agility and shot blocking ability that will be needed to scrap for loose balls and limit the Blue Devils possessions.

Milbourne has had a difficult task on this undersized team all season. He has the physique to assist a small team by going into the land of giants for rebounds and fouls that could place him at the line to shoot free throws but doesn't as often as he should. It may not be fair, but when smaller players have played bigger and done it before, it's what is needed and been missing in Milbourne's game. He'll need a big game against Duke to help the Terps win.

The Aura of Duke:

These aren't the Duke teams that had Hill and Laettner or Williams or Brand or Reddick or Langdon. No it's a spread offense without a dominating low post player or pure shooter with the ability of a Reddick or boast the intense defensive prowess of a Battier. Like most teams living off of a reputation based on previous seasons it's not how Duke gives a punch but how they take one. Do they respond with another knockout blow or fall back? Last game Duke knocked out the smaller squad from Maryland from the start. This game the Terps look to fight back.

 

Terps Lose Close Game to Duke

Update: 11:30 AM. So I found Youtube video of Dave Neal's screen on Nolan Smith. It's a bit grainy, but well worth the watch. It's embedded in the story on the second page. Enjoy!

So the final score was not exactly close. The Terps lost to Duke 78-67 in an effort to upset another ACC leader just days after knocking down North Carolina. But the game was much closer than that until the last few minutes. As usual for MD-Duke, the arena was packed. The game started with old tradition as Maryland students read the Diamondback during Duke player introductions. But for this battle, the Comcast Center was filled with newspapers so everyone got to participate. Maryland continued to wear the yellow jerseys that have brought them good vibes this season.

Maryland hung tough, holding off Duke the entire first half. A few times, Duke came close and finally tied it in the last minute of the half. The Sports Freak noted that Maryland couldn't break that 4 point lead barrier. But still, this was not the same Maryland team that was blown out a month ago at Cameron Indoor.

It was a physical match that had uneven officiating. Many a time, Duke players would hand check, charge, or manhandle Terps with no calls. Fans sitting behind us noted Coach K's defensive instructions. "Place your left hand on the opposing player's hip and then switch to the right hand". Possibly the worst call was Brian Zoubek in the paint shoving senior Dave Neal to the floor and using the open space to score easily. On the Terps, most handchecks and charges were called, sending many Terps to the bench, including Grevis Vasquez.

The second half started with Duke taking the lead. That was short lived as the score bounced back and forth the rest of the game until about 3 minutes left, when Vasquez fouled out.

The physical play continued. Sean Mosley was knocked down by Duke and injured his knee or ankle. He later returned to the game with the slight limp. Later, Neal returned the favor by setting a screen up on Nolan Smith. Smith didn't see the "Little Yellow Bus" coming because he was laid out flat on the ground. It was so good, one of the fans in front of us asked "Did you get that?!", noting the camera the Sports Freak was holding. We were too stunned and watched the rest of the play as MD passed the ball around until Neal could make his way back up the court to drain a three. You never wish injury on a player, but it is satisfying to see Smith out cold on the court for a few minutes. He did recover and come back in the game briefly later on.

Unfortunately, all the efforts were not enough. Although the game was kept close with Vasquez on the bench with 4 fouls, it was unraveled after he fouled out. Still this game met the goal of keeping the Terps dance card open. On to Senior Day next Tuesday against Wake Forest.

The game in January

With the clock ticking down to enter brackets, here are some quick tips along with my final four and champion. I usually hedge and create multiple brackets. Doesn't everyone?

1. Most everyone has heard of the 5-12 upset. As I stated last year the 6-11 is the new 5-12. George Mason was an eleven seed when they went to the Final Four. Upsets were more common when schools from the mid majors were given an opportunity to defeat a school from a power conference. The selection committee began pitting mid majors against each other and this year barely selected any for an at large bid. With weaker power conference schools getting into the big dance and facing stronger schools this may be another year that's close to chalk.

2. The Big Ten is overrated this year, while the ACC and Big East carry seven teams into the tournament. Of all the ACC schools North Carolina and Florida State look like they could make a strong run. The Big East has more teams that could go farther into the tournament then some of the ACC schools.

3. Several schools have lost someone for the season and others are still battling injuries like UConn, MSU, & UNC. How deep these teams can make it depends on the match ups. There isn't a clear favorite.

4. Now for some possible upsets.
A. Cleveland St. over Wake Forest. For a tall frontcourt, Wake plays smaller by playing from the outside.
B. BC over Michigan St. Tom Izzo is a great coach, but the injury bug may finally prove too much to overcome.

Not going completely chalk I selected two ACC and two Big East schools: North Carolina, Florida State, Louisville, and UConn with UNC the Champion. The Seminoles could be a risky pick due to Hamilton getting out coached at times. He has strong guard play from Douglas and a productive front court for a good inside outside game. The teams that go the farthest usually have good play at the guard position.

Pitt and Nova could go far and so could Syr. if they have anything left in the tank after the Big East Tournament. Gonzaga could be a sleeper this year and give UNC a run for their money.

The East & South could disintegrate after the sweet sixteen while the Midwest Region has potential to implode the most from upsets from Wake Forest and MSU to OSU. Don't be surprised if an upset occurs in Duke's path as somehow things always find away to help the Blue Devils. Over the past few years, Duke's region has usually been in the eye of the storm.

Good Luck! The clock is ticking to enter your brackets with friends.