Terps must limit turnovers
Maryland can win the NCAA title if: Kristi Toliver and Shay Doron take care of the ball
Fresh off a regular season in which they set a school record for wins and all but signed a lease on real estate in the top five of the polls, the Maryland Terrapins are as balanced a team as there is in the bracket. No team in the country might have a quintet with as much total talent but as little variance in that talent as Crystal Langhorne, Shay Doron, Marissa Coleman, Kristi Toliver and Laura Harper.
|MORE TEAM BREAKDOWNS|
|Taking a closer look at the favorites to win the 2006 NCAA Tournament, ESPN.com's Graham Hays identifies the biggest X factors facing each team:
• UConn's fate rests in Houston's hands
There might not be a more gifted player with the ball in her hands than Charde Houston. But can she break loose in the Big Dance?
• Time for Currie to come up big for Duke
Duke personifies the team concept. But Monique Currie must be able to put her teammates on her back when needed.
• Tiger duo could be best in bracket
Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles will determine how far LSU advances. But if they come up big, it's a 1-2 punch that could knock out the field.
• Terps must limit turnovers
The Terps are good enough to beat any team in the country -- as long as their guards take care of the ball.
• Larkins must be Robin to Latta's Batman
When (and if) star Ivory Latta should falter this NCAA Tournament, Erlana Larkins must be the one to step up for UNC.
• Packer can't let OSU foes pack in paint
Marscilla Packer must keep hitting shots from outside to open up the paint for OSU and Jessica Davenport.
• OU's role players can't disappear
Courtney Paris will come up big. But for OU to win, it needs every part firing on all cylinders to get it done against top competition.
• Two sides to Rutgers' aggression
Rutgers could go far on its relentless and downright annoying defense -- as long as opponents don't match or find a way to exploit that aggressiveness.
• Will fatigue be a factor for Tennessee?
Tennessee's success rests solely on its starters, who are more familiar with each other than Buddhist monks in monasteries.
The problem is the Terrapins sometimes take that "share the wealth" philosophy a little too far.
One season after Langhorne and Doron did everything but wash the uniforms for a team without much depth, the Terps now boast five players averaging double-figure points. But they also have six players averaging at least two turnovers a game, paced by Doron at better than three foibles per game. And as a team, Maryland has more total turnovers than its opponents. In case your socks are still firmly secured to your feet after reading that last bit, consider that both Duke and North Carolina have forced at least 100 more turnovers than they have committed. Even Georgia Tech, which won just two games in ACC play, has a better turnover margin than Maryland.
So why pick on Doron and Toliver, especially considering the latter had essentially the same respectable number of turnovers as Duke's Lindsey Harding? Because life isn't fair. In theory, Coleman, Langhorne, Harper and Ashleigh Newman all need to take better care of the basketball in the postseason. But as inexperienced guards who don't know better (Coleman and Newman) and post players with less than delicate hands (Langhorne and Harper), that's about as likely to happen as passing a chem final after not cracking a book all semester.
But Doron is a veteran in her third year and Toliver is a point guard. In the only three games Maryland lost in the regular season (twice against Duke and once against a Tennessee team with a full backcourt), Doron and Toliver combined for 21 turnovers. Maryland must take better care of the ball (and put more pressure on opposing ballhandlers to create turnovers) to survive in the NCAA Tournament, and it has to start with the player who runs the offense all game and the player who the offense runs through in crucial moments.
Maryland has outside shooting, post play, free-throw shooting, rebounding and depth. The Terps are good enough to beat any team in the country, as they proved with a win against North Carolina in Chapel Hill. But they can't win six games in a row, including two against the toughest of competition in Boston, if they're putting points on the board for the opposition.
Graham Hays is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage. E-mail him at Graham.Hays@espn3.com.
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