It would be perfectly fair have low expectations for Seattle University going into their 2K Classic game against the Maryland Terrapins in College Park.
They don't have a clear individual answer to 6-foot-10, 260 pound post Jordan Williams and this isn't a sub-.500 Pac-10 team we're talking about - they're an ACC opponent led by one of the best coaches currently in the game.
So although this is the first major test for the Redhawks, it might be unfair to say that it's a barometer for their entire season - they don't match up terribly well with Maryland and have only one exhibition game without Charles Garcia under their belt as a unit. A win would certainly be a monumental upset, but a loss at this stage in the program's development wouldn't be a devastating blow either as it would be expected.
A "moral victory" - as detestable as that notion is to some people - is certainly within the realm of possibility here. But what might it take to pull off an upset?
1. Should they speed up the game or slow it down?
Seattle U played some of the fastest pace basketball in the nation and it's no secret that they intend to continue that this season. However, as Ben Broman of Testudo Times has said, trying to run with the Terrapins might lead to the Redhawks being run right out of the building - even though star point guard Vasquez has graduated, Maryland is still built to run.
Back to Basketball: Looking at Seattle, Maryland's First Opponent of the Season - Testudo Times
Only VMI had a faster tempo last year and Seattle was substantially faster than run-happy Maryland. Dollar plans on going as far as ten-deep despite the youth and general lack of depth; in short, playing deep is crucial to the up-tempo type of game the Redhawks like to play. They'll run as much as possible and likely make liberal use of substitutions, even it means not having their proven guys in the game.
Of course, Maryland has the same plan, and they have the athletes to run the floor. If Dollar thinks that speeding up the game will work against the Terrapins, I'm not sure it will; Maryland already wants to run, and trying to consistently beat Sean Mosley and Dino Gregory down the court probably isn't going to work.
On the one hand, if there is a size advantage, waiting for Maryland to get set in their defense is not necessarily wise. On the other hand, if you struggle to get defensive rebounds it's difficult to run at all.
2. Shoot well from the perimeter
So there's really no way around this - if the Terps have the size advantage in the paint, then the Redhawks pretty much have to knock down outside shots in order to spread the defense and take advantage of the half court possessions they get. If they can't get anything going outside, it would be rather easy for the Terps to clog the paint and force long jumpers all night. Long jumpers are not a winning tactic.
3. Pressure the ball handlers
As described by Broman, with Vasquez and Eric Hayes having departed the Terps lost their most productive ball handlers from last season. And Broman isn't yet confident in this year's starter Adrian Bowie.
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Can AB run the show? Maybe. He can get to the basket and score, he knows the offense, he's a tough defender, and he's a senior. But his overall inconsistency, particularly the inconsistency of his jump shot and decision making, scares the crap out of me. (Ed's note: That jumper is fugly, but it started to drop at the end of last season). The other option, having a freshman run the point, isn't too settling either.
One strength Seattle U does have is that they're relatively deep around the perimeter and their top ball handlers are a bit more experienced. In the optimal situation, Seattle might be able to push the tempo by forcing turnovers and scoring in transition.
Playing with nothing to lose?
OK, it's a reach to suggest that the Redhawks will win this one.
So ultimately, as cheesy as it sounds, Seattle has nothing to lose in this situation: they're on the road, they would be expected to lose no matter where this game occurred, they are clearly disadvantaged in this match up, and the bottom line is a lot would have to go well for them to win.
But also obvious is that outcome of an athletic competition is never predetermined -- if Seattle U plays well and Maryland plays down to their level, this could at the very least be a closer game than expected if Seattle U can defend and find a way to at least get after clearly 50/50 balls.
So...anything is possible?