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Baltimore is blessed with a bunch of talented sports bloggers who bring their unique perspective to the conversation. I often link up to these local writers in my morning Coffee Companion posts, but instead of just exchanging anti-social links with them, I have decided to be slightly less anti-social by exchanging emails with them in a somewhat regular Q&A feature called Blogger on Blogger.

Today's blogger is Ben Broman of the outstanding Maryland football and hoops blog Testudo Times. It's basketball season -- and I have a lot of catching up to do now that the Ravens are done -- so we focused on Gary Williams and the gang. Thanks to Ben for answering my questions.

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MV: Are you encouraged by the Maryland men's ability to hang with Duke and Villanova, two top-10 teams, or are you discouraged by their inability to deliver down the stretch?

BB: It's a little of both. It's impossible to look at these games, see how Maryland played, and not feel pretty good about the team going forward. Not only was it two top-10 teams, it was two top-10 teams on the road, which is a big step for a Maryland team still light on experience. They weren't supposed to win either, but they had second-half leads in both. That's pretty impressive.

The problem is that this isn't the first (or second) time Maryland's done this. It happened against Pitt, Illinois, Temple, and even Boston College. Maryland has imploded against every good team they've faced this season. That's a pattern, not a one-time, easily-fixable mistake. Moving forward, these implosions are just as disconcerting as the leads were impressive.

MV: What is Jordan Williams' ceiling, and do you think he'll remain in College Park long enough to be considered one of the program's all-time greats?

BB: When we talk about his ceiling, are we assuming he stays four years? If he does that, I'd say it's just as high as, if not higher than, Greivis Vasquez. No Terrapin since Joe Smith has been this dominant as a sophomore; Williams is a legitimate first-team All-American candidate and possibly the best player in the ACC right now. His mix of talent, strength, and surprising athleticism hasn't been seen here in a post player in quite some time.

The thing is, I don't think he'll stay long enough to realize the ceiling. The smart money is on him leaving after his junior season, but I wouldn't even be shocked if he jumped this year. There's no help for him in the post at Maryland and he's starting to get national chatter. Unless there's a lockout, which is a strong possibility, I expect him to seriously consider jumping. If he comes back for his junior year, his supporting cast will improve, but not substantially. So much of his legacy will be tied to how Maryland performs with him that, unless he stays until his senior year or Maryland makes an unexpected run in the next season and a half, I don't think he'll reach Greivis-level.

MV: Williams isn't one of those guys riding around campus on scooters, is he?

BB: To the best of my knowledge, no. I think I heard Cliff Tucker was last year, though, and he might still have his. Those were two really sad incidents. Hopefully the lessons have been learned and those days are in the past.

MV: How will the rest of the season play out? Give me both an optimist's and a pessimist's view.

BB: The optimist sees the good performances against Pitt, Illinois, Duke, and Villanova. He thinks Maryland will run through ACC play against clearly inferior competition, finish 12-4 or 11-5 in the conference, and make a deep run in the ACC tournament. Maryland will be a 7 seed or so in the NCAA tournament and hold a great chance of upsetting their two seed, likely a team similar to Villanova or Pitt. If Maryland can pull it together from the free-throw stripe and if Terrell Stoglin emerges as a consistent point guard, this is actually fairly possible.

The pessimist sees those collapses and the surprising loss to Boston College. He thinks Maryland will run into a few more unexpected buzz saws (ala BC), and those losses will overshadow the occasional impressive win. The Terrapins finish 9-7 in the conference, only win one game in the ACC tournament, and find themselves in the NIT. Oh, and Jordan Williams goes pro at the end of the year, too.

MV: How is this team different without Greivis Vasquez, and do you see the Terps going further in the tournament -- maybe not this year, but next -- with this group of players than they did with Vasquez running the show?

BB: Vasquez left a lot of holes. Maryland doesn't have a point guard, perimeter scoring threat, or experienced leader. Those holes lend Maryland to depressing offensive lapses, like the one we saw a week or so ago against Villanova. Terrell Stoglin is supposed to fill the first two, and he's done so with mixed results. No one knows who the third is supposed to be, if there is one.

It's possible for this year's Terrapins to go farther than last season's. They've already shown that they're capable of knocking off good teams: they're a few missed free throws away from having wins over Pitt, Temple, Duke, and Villanova and being considered a Final Four darkhorse. There's nothing stopping them from making a postseason run, be it this season or next, if they can iron out a few of their fixable flaws.

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That doesn't mean that they're a better team than last year's Vasquez-led squad, mind you. And keep in mind that the above scenario is assuming that they learn how to play with a lead and hit free throws. Until they do those consistently, the jury's still out on whether or not they can make the tournament, let alone make a run in it.

MV: Sean Mosley's numbers have dipped across the board. Is that directly related to Vasquez's graduation?

BB: I don't really know, but I would lean toward no. Or, rather, not entirely. Everybody thought that Mosley was going to explode after Vasquez was gone, that he was deferring to Vaz in the past and was ready to take on the scoring mantle. Really, everyone thought Vasquez was holding him back.

Clearly, that's not the case. Vasquez could get him open looks consistently, plus less defensive attention. But Vasquez's absence has hurt everyone, not just Mosley. It doesn't explain his complete disappearance from the offense at times or his inability to either take or hit open shots, depending on the day. For the most part, it appears that what you see is what you get with Mosley. He'll play great defense and give you eight points a game, but he's no one to build an offense around.

MV: What are your impressions of the five freshman, especially Terrell Stoglin and Pe'Shon Howard?

BB: It's too early to figure out Stoglin and Howard, but at this point I'm pretty impressed by both. Neither is quite as far along as I would've hoped coming into the season -- Stoglin is in a scoring drought, Howard is slightly turnover-prone, and both are quiet -- but the potential there is obvious. Stoglin in particular seems promising: he can be a playmaker when he needs to be, but once he gets used to ACC play, he'll also have the ability to score in bunches, like he did in OOC play. His progression will be key for Maryland next season.

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I like what I see out Haukur Palsson, too. He's really the only other guy receiving substantial playing time. Mychal Parker was the highest-rated recruit coming in, but he's raw and Gary has unsurprisingly decided to sit him. Ashton Pankey, a 6-9 forward from the Bronx, has a leg injury and is being redshirted.

It's a solid group, especially for its size, that might include four eventual starters. It doesn't appear as though there's a Jordan Williams or Greivis Vasquez lurking in there, but there doesn't really need to be one in each class.

MV: Who's the better European import: Haukur Palsson or Berend Weijs?

BB: Not to hate on Weijs (or, as his nickname has become, the Red Berend), but it's Palsson with ease. Aside from having an extra two years of development and a highly-visible tattoo, he's a quintessential Gary player. He works hard, plays bigger than he is, and is surprisingly competent offensively. I wouldn't be surprised if we see him in a quasi-Dave Neal role playing the 4 next year. He's undersized like Dave was, but it won't be as heinous because, well, he won't be the center and he still has a solid three inches on Neal.

Weijs is a nice project, but unfortunately there's not enough time to mold him properly. He's a rail-thin shotblocker, and that's probably the most he'll ever be at Maryland. You could get a lot worse out of a JuCo transfer (and Maryland has in the past), but he isn't Boom Osby or anything.

MV: We recently saw long-time football coach Ralph Friedgen pushed out by new AD Kevin Anderson. Do you have a sense of how stable Gary Williams' footing is right now?

BB: Right now, 99% stable. Unless Maryland implodes down the stretch this year, Jordan Williams goes pro, and the Terrapins go to three straight NITs, Gary will go out on his own terms.

Gary and Kevin have a nice relationship based on what's been reported, but even past that, the football situation was just so different. There were a lot of nuances in that, mostly based in contractual details and the [head coach in waiting] deal with Franklin, and it's too involved to explain here. But that wasn't a straight firing, which Gary's would have to be. I have trouble believing there's any situation in which Anderson would fire Williams, give up the Friends of Gary boosters, and bring a spotlight to himself by firing the most successful coach in Maryland history. The situation would have to reach new depths for that to happen, and if things got that bad, Gary would likely call it quits himself.

That said, you never really know in college athletics. A lot of crazy things have happened.

MV: Halfway though the season, who are your favorites for the Final Four? (Don't say Duke.)

BB: First four teams that came to my mind: Ohio State, UConn, Syracuse, and Missouri. Mizzou is a bit of a darkhorse that I can't explain, but I suppose the 40 Minutes of Hell system would do well to upset a slow-paced 1 seed like, oh, Pitt. Plus, there's always one team in the Final Four that doesn't deserve to be there. And you have to respect the Baltimore connection with Kim English. Also, I'm picking OSU over UConn in the title game. For the record, no, UConn isn't that good, but only a fool bets against Kemba Walker at this point. Unless, of course, he's betting on Jared Sullinger, in which case bet away.

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