Dec. 4, 8:00 a.m.: On his way to the locker room late last night, moments after Maryland’s victory against Michigan, Gary Williams made a pronouncement:
“We’re in first place in the Big Ten,” said Williams, who had good reason to have some bounce in his step.
Maryland’s two victories over Big Ten teams (Michigan and Michigan State) keep the Terrapins right where they need to be in the second month of the season. Making the NCAA tournament with this Terps team is a significant long shot for Williams, but the Terps remain in position to have a chance to earn one. Maryland looked overmatched against Gonzaga, a Final Four contender, and Georgetown, a strong NCAA tournament team. But the win over Michigan was critical because the Wolverines, who also had one impressive win already this season, could also be fighting for one of the final at-large berths in the tournament.
All Maryland has to do now is avoid a damaging loss over the next month and figure out a way to win eight or nine regular season games in what is probably the nation’s second-best conference. That remains a sizeable challenge, but the Terrapins have shown that they have a chance, which is more than many people thought they had when the season began.
It is easy early in the season to over-hype teams, but it is difficult to overstate how indomitable North Carolina has looked through eight games. The Tar Heels have not won a game by fewer than 15 points. For months, last night’s game against Michigan State was billed as a potential Final Four matchup. North Carolina won by 35 points.
Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo accepted the blame for scheduling the game. The atmosphere at Ford Field was dead and his team looked tired. Izzo said no one saw his real team against UNC. His real team, he said, may have only lost by 20. Jeff Goodman says the Tar Heels will win the national title on the same court a few months from now. The real question is whether this team can go undefeated.
Wake Forest continued to look impressive, although Indiana is not a true measuring stick. The Demon Deacons won't be tested until January. Georgia Tech, which looks like a middle-of-the-pack ACC team, suffered a disheartening home loss to Penn State.
Syracuse played its worst game of the season, but the Orange rallied from a 16-point deficit to beat Cornell. Syracuse shot 75 percent (18 for 24) in the second half, outscored Cornell 27-5 at the free-throw line and collected 15 steals.
Oregon, playing without its leading scorer, lost to a Utah team that opened the season with a loss to Southwest Baptist.
December 4, 2008; 7:20 AM ET
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