Late in Maryland's 85-61 loss to Florida State, with the Seminoles at the line, a Terps comeback out of the question and his tank of in-game blowout filler running on empty, ESPN analyst Jay Williams made a U-turn off the Jameis Winston Reverence Expressway for a quick detour through Disapproval Drive.
"Carter," Williams said, addressing play-by-play announcer Carter Blackburn stiltedly, "I'm going to go ahead and say something here."
"You going to project Florida State to win this game?" Blackburn quipped, not sounding like he knew what was coming next.
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"No, it doesn't have anything to do with Florida State," Williams began. "I think it has more so to do with Maryland, because we got a chance to call a ton of Maryland games last year, and I think a lot of Maryland players, they seem a little bit tight, OK? And an example we had last year — I forget what game we were doing, it was on [ESPN2] — we saw Nick Faust make three 3-point shots straight. And the fourth one he took, it wasn't a good shot, it was a bad shot, it was a little bit forced. But in the player world, we call that a 'heat check,' OK? And he took a bad shot, and as soon as he took a bad shot, Mark Turgeon pulled him out of the game.
"Now look, everybody has different philosophies defensively or, you know, taking good shots or some things — you know, running it through a player and executing — but it seems like some players for Maryland play a little bit tight on the offensive end. And I don't know if that is them just being afraid to get outside of themselves or the coach just demands them to execute more, but if Maryland was a little bit looser offensively and played to their strength, right — which is driving and shooting 3s; being confident; Jake Layman driving down the lane, dunking on people and shooting 3s — I thought this team, if they played a little bit looser, they would be a better basketball team."
CB: "That game you were referencing, Maryland won. They beat Clemson."
CB: "But point being that obviously they [were] overmatched tonight."
Uhh ... not exactly. Point being that Williams -- whose awkward preamble gave away just how uncomfortable he felt questioning Turgeon's coaching -- had seen enough of the Terps, good and bad, to earnestly question the team's handling. It's not uncommon for analysts like Williams to challenge a coach's substitution patterns or end-of-game thinking or wardrobe. That's what they're charged with: Dissect a game and its component parts, good and bad.
This 90-second spiel, though, felt different. ESPN analyst Bill Walton's takedown of former UCLA coach Ben Howland last month was more biting, and the implication as clear as Walton is tall, but even he did Howland the courtesy of not dissing him by name. Williams, deciding he would work through the Terps' problems rather than talk around them, named Turgeon explicitly.
Was this all the weary rambling of a former Duke star who, seeing a strained and struggling Maryland, couldn't resist adding insult to injury? Possibly. But for the game's first 36 minutes, Williams generally had been complimentary of Maryland, recalling with real fondness the program's peaks under, among others, current Terps staff member Juan Dixon. The same way a Ravens win in Pittsburgh doesn't feel the same without Ben Roethlisberger playing, Williams sounded almost rueful that Turgeon's Maryland teams have not come to resemble their predecessors from his own college playing days.
Monday night's criticism could be the worst Turgeon will have to endure this season from on-air talent. Other talking heads nationally, after all, might not care as much about Maryland as does Williams. But if more blowouts are to come, and if more announcers struggle to fill dead air with vapid cliches and contrived tangents, what analysts like Williams say about Turgeon in those unvarnished moments of real judgment could prove more interesting than the Terps themselves.