A closer look at Maryland's men's basketball schedule
Thinking about Maryland’s upcoming basketball season, I can’t help but reflect back to March, when I sat courtside in Spokane, Wash., and watched a three-pointer hang in the air as the buzzer sounded. It’s difficult not to think that, had the shot not fallen, Maryland could have won two more games to set up a national semifinal matchup with Butler. The Terrapins would have had their hands full against Butler’s defense, but Maryland had one of the most impressive players in the field playing his best. Because of how the tournament unfolded, it was not implausible to imagine a Maryland-Duke final. And Maryland had already beaten Duke during the regular season, of course. Aah, there is no point in rehashing it ... let's move on.
On to this year’s team. Sophomore big man Jordan Williams is the cornerstone of the program now and has a chance to be a first-team all-ACC performer this season. Junior Sean Mosley provides the grit and all-around play that should define this year’s team. The real key, in my view, is whether seniors Cliff Tucker, Adrian Bowie and Dino Gregory can show improvement, steady leadership and consistency. That remains to be seen.
Looking at the league, it is very strong at the very top, with Duke in prime position, with the additions of Seth Curry and Kyrie Irving (one of my favorites), to have a chance to repeat as national champions. I don’t buy the hype that North Carolina is the second-best team in the ACC. The second-best team in the league will be Virginia Tech, which returns its top 10 scorers from a team that would have made the NCAA tournament if not for a weak nonconference schedule. North Carolina, Florida State and North Carolina State should follow in the standings. After that, Maryland will compete with the likes of Clemson and Miami in the middle of the pack. I think Maryland will ultimately fall on the good side of the NCAA tournament bubble and make the 68-team field.
I like the nonconference schedule. You have opportunities to possibly earn attention-grabbing victories against Pittsburgh and Villanova (won’t be easy). With four starters back, Pittsburgh is my choice for Big East champ, and Villanova, which still has Corey Fisher, should finish among the top three in the league, along with Syracuse. Maryland plays Pittsburgh at MSG on Nov. 18, and at Villanova on Jan. 15. The key game, in my mind, is the second game of that New York trip, when Maryland faces Texas or Illinois. Both teams underwhelmed last season, and both should be improved. Illinois has some size that Maryland would have to deal with. Texas has a freshman big man, Tristan Thompson, whom I really liked to watch during AAU events.
Temple, a favorite again in the Atlantic 10, offers an intriguing contest, and the Jordan Williams-Lavoy Allen matchup will be one to watch. This is a good game in the BB&T Classic on Dec. 5.
Maryland visits Penn State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Dec. 1. The Nittany Lions don’t offer much of a home-court advantage, but diminutive guard Talor Battle can play. This is an experienced team that should finish in the middle of the pack in the Big 10. A true road victory like this in nonconference play could stand out on Maryland’s resume come March.
There are some dog games against inferior opponents, much like there are on everyone’s schedule. But don’t laugh at the NJIT game just yet. Two years ago, the Highlanders won one game. Last season, they won 10. This season, they return almost everyone. Maryland will win, but it won’t be a replay of the football’s team demolition of Morgan State on Saturday.
The toughest stretch on the schedule comes in mid-January. Maryland plays at Duke on the 9th, then at Wake Forest on the 12th, then at Villanova on the 15th, then home to Virginia Tech on the 20th. A 2-2 split during that stretch would be impressive. I know, Wake Forest could be the worst team in the ACC – and not because of coaching – but it is a road game and those other matchups are brutal lumped together.
The most intriguing game to me is the second game in New York City. What game are you most interested in watching?
September 14, 2010; 9:09 AM ET
Categories: Men's basketball
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