Team of the 2000s: Wrap-Up and Honorable Mention

Posted by rtmsf on August 23rd, 2009


Direct Links to the Top Ten.

1.  UNC
2.  Kansas
3.  Florida
4.  Duke
5.  Michigan St.
6.  UConn
7.  UCLA
8.  Memphis
9.  Syracuse
10.  Maryland

Intro.  Welcome back.  We wanted to use this post to wrap up the loose ends with an endeavor such as this one.  Let’s talk about our methodology, the teams who were easiest/most difficult to place, the Memphis quandary, and the teams who were on the outside of the top ten looking in.   As always, feel free to disagree in the comments.

Defending Our Methodology.  One of the more interesting things about releasing these rankings has been the reaction from various fan bases. Some have been very measured in their response and criticism (such as the people in Lawrence, Kansas) while others have been a little more vitriolic (fans of another program in the center of the country). Most of the criticism has been directed at our methodology. There seemed to be quite a bit of confusion on this, so let’s clear it up immediately.  Some people have misinterpreted our table (below) as if the listed criteria were all considered totally and equally in how we ranked teams. Nothing could be further from the truth – rather, the table  was intended to be used as a tool showing the universe of relevant statistics that our panel might find useful when making their decisions.  There was no formula that a panelist was obliged to follow – instead, each panelist had complete discretion to consider or ignore any statistic he deemed important (or irrelevant).  Once each panelist submitted his list, we then took a holistic view of the world when determining where to rank certain teams.  Obviously we all considered winning percentage, NCAA Tournament success, conference achievements, etc., but in varying degrees.  That’s what makes these debates work – while one panelist may think that the NCAA Tournament is all that really matters and wants to weight teams almost exclusively on that metric, another panelist may want to give more substantial weight to the regular season.  Here’s the thing, though – reasonable minds always differ, and both conclusions are completely ok.  We believe that this sort of subjective analysis – review the available stats, pre-rank a list, reconvene to discuss, finalize the rankings – gives such a ranking system more credibility than simply weighting and re-weighting a formula until everything “feels” right.  For those of you who wanted a completely “objective” ranking system… well, here’s an example we did last spring that shows how the BCS formula would have applied to the NCAA Tournament.   Hint: F4 participants Villanova and UConn wouldn’t have even been invited to the Ball. In sum, we think that our methodology resulted in a solid, defensible list of the top ten programs of the 2000s.  Not everyone can be happy, but we’re comfortable with the results.

team2000s final list

Hardest Teams to Peg.  There were three teams that the panel had the hardest time nailing down – #4 Duke, #5 Michigan St., and #8 Memphis.  Both Duke and MSU received a #1 vote in our initial analyses, although to be fair, those were outliers among the panel.  Memphis was equally contentious, with half of the panel initially placing the Tigers in the top seven, while the other half didn’t even have them ranked at all.  It probably makes sense that we’ve received the most criticism based on these difficult-to-peg teams.

Easiest Teams to Peg.  On the other hand, the top three teams – #1 UNC, #2 Kansas, #3 Florida – were unanimous in order (although not in ranking).  Every panelist rated those three in the same order relative to one another, and the lowest any of the four teams were rated was fourth.  Interestingly, criticism died down on the placement of these teams.  Perhaps our panel was representative of what Average College Basketball Fan would choose as well?

What About Memphis? After the news that the NCAA vacated Memphis’ 38 wins and title appearance from the 2008 season, there was some buzz about what we should do with our list.  By our estimation, Memphis was rated as the #8 program of the 2000s, but if we removed that year, they most undoubtedly would have dropped out of the top ten.    After some internal discussion, we’re unwilling to go there.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  First and foremost, we don’t want to.  We watched Memphis play its way into the national finals, we saw Derrick Rose clang his first FT with nine seconds left, and we remember the shocked look on Calipari’s face in the interview room afterwards.  We also remember Michael Redd’s shooting in 99, Marcus Camby blocking everything in sight in 96, C-Webb calling timeout in 93, and several other vacated performances over the years.  Those games and moments happened.  They’re seared into our memory.  The NCAA can vacate whatever it wants, but we’re not going to join forces with them in their legal fiction.  Which brings us to our second point on this topic.  The NCAA’s application of these penalties is so wantonly inconsistent that if we gave credence to this one while ignoring such wholesale violations known to the general public – Sam Gilbert at UCLA and Reggie Bush at USC should immediately come to mind – that we’d be doing our readers a disservice.  We recognize that cheating at some level happens nearly everywhere, but our stance is that if the NCAA doesn’t catch it and punish the school prior to the games affected, then we’re not going to join them in their after-the-fact erasures.  Sorry.  Memphis stays at #8.

The Celebrated RTC Panel
The Celebrated RTC Panel

Honorable Mention (in no particular order).

  • Pittsburgh.  Pitt was an oddity when it came to evaluating them for our countdown.  There was considerable variance among the voters as to where the Pitt program landed, and because of that they were one of the first teams to whom we awarded this “honorable mention” status.  Still, after the votes had been submitted, in the ensuing discussion it wasn’t that hard to move Pittsburgh out of the Top 10.  Make no mistake, it’s been an excellent ten years for the Pitt program, but in order to make a decade’s-end Top 10 list there are certain things you simply HAVE to get done.  Of their eight trips to the NCAA tournament, six of those saw Pittsburgh with at least a 4-seed (five of them were #3 or better).  The result?  Zero trips to the Final Four and only one Elite Eight.  It’s not like the Panthers didn’t have their chances.  True, it’s not easy to lose a coach like Ben Howland (who took Pitt to the Dance in 2002 and 2003) and the program deserves credit for a hire like Jamie Dixon, who didn’t miss a beat. And it’s not easy to lose to a Howland-coached UCLA team in 2007 in a #2-vs-#3 seed Sweet 16 game when you’re playing them in San Jose.  But if you want to be considered among the elite, you HAVE to beat 10th-seeded Kent State in the Sweet 16 when you’re a #3 (2002).  You HAVE to beat Pacific in the first round of 2005, even if you are on the low side of an #8-vs-#9 game.  You CANNOT LOSE to 13th-seeded Bradley in the second round when you’re a 5-seed (2006).  And perhaps the most painful — when you’ve earned a 1-seed after an incredible 28-4 season playing in the Big East, when you’re playing in your first Elite Eight in 35 years, you MUST beat the 3-seed, even if it is an in-state rival in the form of a very tough-nosed Villanova squad.  Dixon faces a bit of a rebuilding task in the upcoming season, but they ended the 2000s strong.  It’s because of that strong finish, that trend of improvement, that people – especially Pittsburgh fans – may be surprised to not see the Panthers in the Top 10 for the last decade.  As we start the new decade with the upcoming season, Dixon has the Pittsburgh program poised to move into that elite category.  As far as the last decade, though, they came up just short.
  • Illinois. On three of our personal Team of the 2000s rankings, Illinois barely missed the cut, meaning if the Bruce Weber-led 2005 squad managed to topple North Carolina for a national championship, they’d likely be included in the top ten. Illinois has also flamed out a bit at the tail end of the decade, finishing with a losing record in 2007-08 (16-19) before rebounding to a 24-10 mark in 2008-09 and eventually falling victim to a 12-5 upset by Western Kentucky. Bill Self and Bruce Weber have built a phenomenal program throughout the decade, though. The 2004-05 team featuring Deron Williams, Luther Head, Dee Brown and James Augustine was one of the top teams of the 2000s, flirting with an undefeated mark until Ohio State knocked them off in Columbus, then pulling off one of the most sensational comebacks in NCAA Tournament history in the Elite 8 against Arizona. Illinois has tied or won the Big Ten three times in the 2000s and finished as high as second three more times. What holds Illinois back from garnering a spot on the list? They haven’t reached the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament or won a conference title since that special 2004-05 campaign. Borderline teams have experienced more success in March, both in the Big Dance and in conference tournament play, than Illinois. For example, Maryland has two Final Fours, a national title and never finished with a losing record in the decade. Illinois hasn’t won the Big Ten Tournament since 2004-05. With packed recruiting classes ahead and a top-notch leader in Weber, Illinois will look to turn around a program that hasn’t been nearly as feared since watching Carolina cut down the nets on that fateful April night four years ago.
  • Gonzaga. The Zags undoubtedly were the most successful mid-major of the decade (moreso than Xavier and Butler), but their overall profile simply didn’t have enough juice to vault Gonzaga into the top ten. They dominated the WCC, winning the league eight times en route to an average of 26+ wins per year, an outstanding 80% winning percentage, and ten straight NCAA appearances.  But when it came to the NCAAs, Mark Few’s squads were only able to make it to the Sweet Sixteen four times.  And how many times in the decade were they able to advance past the third round?  Um, try zero.    Nevertheless, we believe that Gonzaga rates a tick higher than other such notable programs as Louisville, Wisconsin, Arizona and Oklahoma (all of whom made one F4) because they were so consistently good despite their scheduling limitations.  The worst Zag team (2006-07) still had 23 wins, and as a result of the weaker schedule of the WCC, their average NCAA seed was easily one of the lowest on our list.  Yet, as we all know, Gonzaga has tried to load up on high-impact RPI games during the nonconference slate, and we give them credit for that.  Fans of the other programs may quibble with this selection, but we can live with including at least one mid-major for consideration as the Team of the 2000s, and Gonzaga is our choice.
  • Arizona.  The obvious question here for Wildcat fans is how can a team that made the NCAA tournament every year for the past decade (and 25 straight if you don’t take away their vacated 1999 appearance) not be considered one of the top ten programs of the 2000s behind four teams that failed to make the tournament twice, two teams that failed to make the tournament three times, and another team that failed to make the tournament four times?  While the answer probably won’t satisfy Wildcat fans, it comes down to a few key things for us:
  1. Barely having a winning percentage at 70% despite playing in the Pac-10. Save the whining, West Coast people. The Pac-10 has only been one of the best conferences in the nation once in the past decade (2008 comes immediately to mind).
  2. Averaging 1.7 wins per NCAA Tournament appearance, which is lower than any other team in the top 10. The only team that they are close to is Syracuse and the Orange have a national title (wouldn’t be in the top 10 without it).
  3. Mediocre performance in the Pac-10. The Wildcats had 2.5 regular season conference titles (one being a split title) and 1 postseason conference title (since it was started in 2002). Like we said before, the Pac-10 might have the most attractive co-eds in the nation (although the SEC has a strong case), but the Pac-10 pales in comparison to the ACC, Big East, Big 12, SEC, and the Big 10 over the past decade in terms of the quality of their basketball teams.
  4. You could argue that the Wildcats got lucky with many of those NCAA tournament bids, most notably two years ago when they got in ahead of an Arizona State team that had a very strong case for being in above their rival.
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Team of the 2000s: #7 – UCLA

Posted by rtmsf on August 12th, 2009


Ed. Note: check the category team of the 2000s for our other entries in this feature.

As we were going through the list of candidates for the top programs of the 2000s, we found that teams tended to fall into similar statistical cohorts.  Among the top twelve programs, we found three such delineations where teams within each group were largely indistinguishable, and our discussions over rankings got more intense as a result.  The group involving #8-#12 was one such cohort, and as we’ve noted in the comments, the rankings within that group came down to slicing hairs.  The next group where teams were very similar begins today with our seventh choice, and continues through to the fifth selection early next week.

#7 – UCLA


Overview.  The nation’s program with the most all-time championships failed to win one during the 2000s, but under the wise direction of Ben Howland, integrity and pride was restored in Westwood during this period.  Whereas Maryland, for example, started off the decade with a bang and ended on a whimper, UCLA took the opposite track.  The decade for the Bruins began better than you probably remember under Steve Lavin, with disappointing regular seasons followed by runs to the Sweet Sixteen (as a #8 and #6 seed in two of those years), but then the bottom fell out – the Jason Kapono-led team of 2002-03 wilted during a nine-game midseason losing stretch to end up with the first sub-.500 season in Westwood in over fifty years.  Out with much-maligned Lavin and in with the studious Ben Howland from Pittsburgh.  After one year gaining traction (11-17) under the new regime, things have been on the uptick ever since, as UCLA has been to five straight NCAAs with three consecutive trips to the final weekend sandwiched in the middle.  In two of those years, the Bruins ran into the buzzsaw Florida teams that went back-to-back: we often wonder whether UCLA would have cut down the nets had they avoided the Gators in either of those years.  In terms of UCLA’s placement on our Team of the 2000s list, it’s clear that the dominance they showed in the NCAA Tournament from 2006-08 has had an effect on people to the extent that the two losing seasons were largely forgiven.  Six trips to the second weekend and three trips to the final one, while doing so with a generally weaker seed than its contemporaries on the list, is enough for us.  UCLA was the seventh best program of the 2000s.

Pinnacle.  Since UCLA has yet to win the brass ring under Howland, we’re going to go with a well-known incident in the 2006 NCAA Tournament that announced to everyone in college basketball that UCLA was “back” and would have to be dealt with.  You’ll remember it well.  UCLA was down nine points with 3:26 to go against America’s mid-major darling, Gonzaga, and their NPOY candidate Adam Morrison.  Gonzaga had been the dominant team for the entire game, but UCLA’s pressure defense was just getting started.  When it was all said and done, UCLA had finished the game on an 11-0 run, Morrison was left crying on the floor of the Oakland Coliseum and pangs of long-dormant hatred were welling up across America for the celebrating team in white and gold.  UCLA would go on to the NCAA finals where Florida cleaned their clock (Act 1), but Ben Howland had established UCLA as a national powerhouse once again and recruits started lining up at the gates.  Let’s reminisce with Gus Johnson’s call, shall we?

Tailspin.   A UCLA fan would reply with “the Steve Lavin era,” but that’s a little unfair from an objective viewpoint.  In Lavin’s seven years at the helm, he took UCLA to four Sweet Sixteens and one Elite Eight in six NCAA appearances.  Yet there was always a sense that his teams underachieved given the NBA talent they had on the floor (the fact that Lavin suffered ten losses of 25+ points supports this view).  Still, the writing was on the wall during the 2002-03 season when UCLA started out 4-14 before rallying late to win eleven games (including a Pac-10 Tourney victory over #1 seed Arizona) – UCLA was on the ropes.  Frankly, given the number of coaches that the Bruin program has gone through since the Wizard retired in 1975 (seven prior to Howland), it was no guarantee that their next hire would be a good one.  Dan Guerrero made a shrewd choice in going with the rough-and-tumble style of Ben Howland – the rest of the Pac-10 wasn’t ready for Big East basketball on the west coast.

howland with wooden

Outlook for 2010s:  Grade: A+.   It’s simply a matter of time before Howland hangs #12 up in Westwood.  There’s an unbelievable amount of talent in Southern California, and now with USC and Arizona out of the way (for a while, at least), the Bruins should even further dominate the market.  According to Scout’s team rankings, Ben Howland has brought in a top 25 class in each of his last five years at the school, and the last three years were all in the top twelve.  And with six first-round NBA draft picks in the last four seasons, Howland has established a clear prep-to-pro pipeline that keeps young players interested in playing near the beach.  Furthermore, Howland, at age 52, has no designs on another position.   He’s stated numerous times that he’s currently coaching at his dream job, and unlike other coaches who shall remain nameless, we actually believe this guy.  His next ten years should be the apex of his career, and UCLA should feel especially lucky to have gotten him.

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Team of the 2000s: #9 – Syracuse

Posted by rtmsf on August 10th, 2009


Ed. Note: check the category team of the 2000s for our other entries in this feature.

And we’re back with the second installment of our Team of the 2000s feature.  Just to refresh the schedule we anticipate, we’ll be putting up #10-#6 this week, and #5-#1 next week.  Yesterday we picked Maryland as our tenth selection (over Gonzaga, Pitt, and several others) and we’re declaring today that the ninth best program of the 2000s is none other than the Syracuse Orange…  let the flames begin.

#9 – Syracuse


Overview.  This selection will be one of our more controversial top 10 selections. How can a team miss the NCAA tournament 3 of the 10 years of the decade and still manage to sneak into the top 10 when perennial Sweet 16 teams get left on the outside looking in?  Simple. Win a national title. Ok. It’s a little more complex than that, but in my eyes to be an elite program you have to win a national title (or at least come agonizingly close as a subsequent team on this list has done). Are we overvaluing that “One Shining Moment?” Perhaps, but to even the most hardcore college basketball fans like ourselves the eras are defined by the champions not the near-misses (with potential exceptions like the Jameer Nelson St. Joseph’s team). In this case, the Carmelo Anthony/Hakim Warrick/Gerry McNamara team outweighs the 3 NIT bids – two of those years were controversial snubs and the other was a late-season nosedive the year before Carmelo showed up in upstate New York. Beyond that the Orangemen have made two Sweet 16 appearances to go along with two Big East Conference tournament titles (in years they flamed out in the 1st round of the NCAA tournament). Despite missing the NCAA tournament two of the last three years, the Orangemen have shown signs of a resurgence with last year’s Sweet 16 appearance that followed their epic 6-OT win against UConn in the Big East Tournament and the addition of what appears to be a strong recruiting class.

8360118  Syracuse v Memphis

Pinnacle.  As I noted before, the 2003 national title is the clear-cut choice here. Before Kevin Durant and Kevin Beasley, there was Carmelo Anthony. While Anthony may not have put up as spectacular numbers as the other two in his freshman season (and consequently didn’t win any national POYs from any major media sources – RTC didn’t exist at the time or he would have at least one award), he does have the one thing that neither of those two freshman picked up in their layovers in college: a national title. The 2003 Orangemen team will never be mentioned among the all-time great teams, but they rebounded from an opening-game loss to Memphis to finish a very respectable 30-5. Jim Boeheim started the same 5 for all 35 games: two freshmen (Anthony and McNamara), two sophomores (Warrick and Craig Forth), and one senior (Kueth Duany). Despite how history will remember this as “Melo’s team”, the Orangemen did feature three other double-digit scorers. In the NCAA tournament, Syracuse was only seriously challenged twice: once against a Marquis Daniels-led Auburn team staging a furious comeback in the Sweet 16 (a game I attended) and the championship game where Warrick blocked a potential game-tying 3 by Michael Lee in the waning seconds to give Boeheim his first and only national title to date.

Tailspin.  2008. After following up the 2003 title with a Sweet 16 trip (minus Melo), the Orangemen were upset in the 1st round in back-to-back years  (2004 and 2005) including infamously to the Taylor Coppenrath-led Vermont Catamounts. Things couldn’t possibly get any worse for the Orangemen, right? Wrong. Try back-to-back Selection Sundays in 2007 and 2008 where Jim Boeheim’s crew was the proverbial “last team left out”. Following that 2008 season, there were several vocal critics in the upstate New York area who were calling for Boeheim’s head.

Outlook for 2010s:  Grade: B+. It’s amazing how quickly things have turned around for Boeheim. While the Orangemen lose a lot in the backcourt (Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf) along with Paul Harris and Kristof Ongenaut, they are absolutely loaded on the inside where they boast returnees Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson along with 4-star recruit DaShonte Riley and Iowa State transfer (and Big 12 All-Rookie selection) Wesley Johnson. That alone should be enough for the Orangemen to compete in a relative down year in the Big East with DeJuan Blair and Hasheem Thabeet no longer roaming the paint. Syracuse won’t contend for a national title next year, but their fans aren’t thinking about the 2010 Final Four. They are thinking about cutting down the nets in 2011 when they will be bringing a loaded freshman class to the NCAA tournament with Fab Melo, Dion Waiters, and C.J. Fair. While this class can’t match the one that John Calipari stole brought with him to Kentucky, it’s an impressive haul for Boeheim. The question is whether Boeheim can continue this kind of recruiting success after they start reading the weather forecast for Syracuse in the middle of winter (actually, that’s never hurt him before, his players can’t read… we kid, we kid)…

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Team of the 2000s: #10 – Maryland

Posted by rtmsf on August 9th, 2009


Ed. Note: check the category team of the 2000s for our other entries in this feature.

We are now seriously in the dog days of summer.  The July recruiting period is over, coaches are on vacation, and the college basketball news feeds have dried up like Hillary Clinton in Kenya.  Even Congress has taken the month off, meaning that RTC has been left thinking up new ways to entertain ourselves while we wait for the cool autumn breezes to arrive.  One idea we’ve been sitting on since the end of the 2009 NCAA Tournament has been to evaluate the top ten programs of the 2000s, culminating in a coronation of the Team of the 2000s.  Remember, next season – 2009-10 – actually falls into the 2010s, so when Kansas or Kentucky or Michigan St. or Butler wins that title, they’ll stake an early claim on the Team of the Next Decade, not the current one.

We used a hybrid analysis in constituting our top ten programs of the 2000s.  The numbers are extremely important – how many titles, F4s, Sweet Sixteens, NCAA Appearances, did you have?  How did you perform in your conference?  What about wins and losses?  NBA Draft picks?  Consistency?  But there’s also a qualitative component that we used – which programs ‘felt’ like they performed in the 2000s?  How do you handle programs who were consistently good vs. those who had a couple of really good years?  What if that team had a losing season, or multiple losing seasons?  All of these factors and more were considered in our analysis.  Hopefully we’ve come up with a fair representation of the top programs of the last decade, but as always, we encourage you to tell us where we’re wrong.

#10 – Maryland

#10 v3 - Maryland 2000s

Overview.  Had we reviewed the first half of the 2000s separately, Gary Williams’ program would have been right there with Duke and Michigan St. as the top program, with five NCAA appearances, two F4s and a title in 2002 to its credit.  However, the Terrapin program has fallen off considerably in the second half of the decade, with the Terps failing to make the NCAAs in three of the last five seasons and only winning a total of two NCAA games in the other two appearances (cf. with 14 wins from 2000-04).  Of the twenty-three programs we considered, Maryland had the worst overall W/L record, yet it’s a testament to their early-decade postseason success that they still managed to sneak into our top ten of the 2000s.  One positive for the program throughout the decade has been its relative consistency.  Although the Terps haven’t been a mainstay in the NCAA Tournament in recent years, they’re always in the conversation.  The program hasn’t endured a losing season since 1993, and even in their ‘bad’ years, Gary Williams still manages to coax a 19-13 type of year out of his players (resulting in NIT appearances).  The Maryland program is still a program to be feared (“fear the turtle”), but there are legitimate questions as to whether this program can again achieve the success that it did at the beginning of the decade under its current leadership.

02 maryland t-shirt

Pinnacle.  Clearly the 2002 national title team featuring Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter and Chris Wilcox.  This team exorcised several years of obsesssive frustration on the part of Terp fans with respect to its most hated rival, Duke, and in so doing gave Maryland its long-awaited first national championship.  But it wasn’t easy: in fact, conventional wisdom at the time said that UM would never get there with that particular group.  When Maryland blew not one, not two, but THREE, games to Duke in utterly confounding collapses in 2001, there was a prevailing sentiment that the Terp program simply could not get over the mental hurdle necessary to beat the Devils and (by proxy) win a national title.  After an early-season shellacking in Cameron in 2002, though, the Terps finally put it all together and reeled off thirteen ACC wins in a row (including a convincing win over Duke in College Park) to win the regular season and secure a #1 NCAA seed.  Then, with the fortuitous news that the Devils were knocked out in the Sweet Sixteen by Indiana and Jared Jeffries, the Terps cruised through the field without worry about facing their longtime nemesis, and behind the scintillating shooting of Juan Dixon (26 ppg on 54% shooting), they cut down the nets for their first and only national championship.

Tailspin.   Other than the gut-punch moments in 2001 mentioned above, we’d have to say that Terp fans must be extremely frustrated by recent vintage Maryland teams consistently tanking down the stretch of the regular season.  In 2005, Maryland was a promising 15-7 coming off a win vs. Duke – they lost five of their next six games (incl. 0-1 in the ACC Tourney).  In 2006, the Terps were 14-4 only to finish 5-8 (1-1 ACCT) and settle for another NIT bid.  In 2008, they sat at 16-8 prior to a 2-6 finish (0-1 ACCT) that again led to the NIT.  Even last year, the Terps finished 1-3 prior to making a nice run in the ACC Tourney, and the one season they actually finished strong (7-0 down the streetch in 2007), they were one-and-done in the ACC.  These disappointing finishes have led some observers to ask questions regarding the leadership capabilities of their longtime coach – has he gotten complacent after winning his national title?

duke signs for maryland

Outlook for 2010s:  Grade: B+. As long as the irascible Gary Williams is heading the ship at Maryland, there’s no reason to believe that the Terps will fall off sharply:  Maryland will remain competitive both in the ACC and nationally.  The question is whether he has the fire and drive to once again get Maryland to the top of the food chain, and we don’t think he does.  In order to prove us wrong, he’ll have to step up his recruiting in the fertile DC/Baltimore area.  Consider that in the last seven years since the 2002 championship, all-world players such as Kevin Durant, Ty Lawson and Carmelo Anthony went to schools outside of the area – two of them won titles, the other was a NPOY.  Would Maryland’s fortunes change substantially if they were once again keeping players like that close to home?  Of course they would.  The flip side of this is what might happen should Williams decide to retire in the next few years – where would the Maryland program go from there?  Williams has already had public battles with Maryland officials over recruiting and his graduation rate is abominable, and it wouldn’t shock us if he hung up the whistle (or had it hung up for him) before the end of his contract in 2012.   Some people question whether the Maryland program would flourish without Williams, remembering the dark days of the 80s under Bob Wade, but we disagree.  The recruiting bounty in the area alone is enough to attract a top-flight coach, and Maryland has historically supported its basketball program to the max.  Some new blood on the sidelines could once again move this program up from the top 20s (where it is now) to a top 10 program, but the key question to answer is how much longer will the state of flux with Williams last?

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