Friday, October 29, 2004
Terps Ranked #16 in the Preseason ESPN/USA Today Poll
These rankings are meaningless, but it's good to know where we stand.
Monday, October 25, 2004
Why the NBA really sucks
Unfortunately, with the NBA you know exactly what you will get. Let’s take a look at the three major professional sports (Hockey doesn’t count anymore). Since 1980, Major League baseball has had 16 different World Series Champions and if Boston wins this year, 17. The NFL has had 13 different Super Bowl Champions during the same period. As we all have heard, parity is the key to a successful professional sport. Fans need to feel that every season their team has a chance at the beginning of the season. Even with all of the dynasties in both the NFL (San Fran, Dallas, and Joe Gibbs’ Redskins), and MLB (Yankees, nearly half of the teams have won a championship. That’s pretty encouraging for fans, right? Alright, so what’s my point?
Since 1980, the NBA has had only seven different champions. I couldn’t believe that stat when I saw it. Besides the 76ers in 1983, the other six teams have won multiple championships during this period. That means that nearly 80% of the franchises in the league haven’t won in 25 years. Now I’m a Bullets/Wizards fan, and we all know what a pathetic franchise that it has been. I don’t remember the title in 1978, but the Wizards have had more recent success than 21 other NBA teams! Here’s my point, this is the most top heavy and predictable league in all of professional sports. The same teams are in it every year, and the rest of the franchises are hopelessly mismanaged and out of luck. In DC, we complain about Abe Pollin and Wes Unseld, but how do you think people in Golden State feel? Milwaukee? Atlanta?
Of all the professional sports, the NBA should have the most parity. With only five players on the court at one time, teams should be able to turn around quickly through draft picks. But it doesn’t happen. Why? Can it be that these other 23 teams have horrendous management? Is it that the rules tend to allow coaches to isolate superstars, while other players stand and watch? Is it that NBA superstars only want to play in certain cities for certain coaches? Perhaps the most significant factor is that with 82 games, there is no such thing as a big regular season game. In college ball, every game means something. I think the NBA sucks due to a combination of all these factors.
I don’t what the NBA can do to fix itself, but I would start by shortening the season to 50 games. As it stands, 30 games into the season, 10 teams are already out of it and the fans, players, and media know it. Secondly, I would be looking to eliminate some teams or at the very least, relocate them. Why are the Clippers in Los Angeles? Why does Golden State play in Oakland and not in San Jose or San Fran? Why does Memphis have a team? New Orleans? Teams should be located in urban centers. I think moving the Nets to Brooklyn will eventually be copied by other franchises. Either way, and for all of its faults, I’m so glad that there is College Basketball.
Thursday, October 21, 2004
The Year of the Bridesmaid
Bridesmaids no longer. Their year has arrived.
In the wake of Boston's miraculous comeback victory against the Yankees last night, I think it's time to point out a trend in sports that has been brewing all year long. Teams that have historically been bridesmaids/also rans have been defeating their historic arch-rivals. The examples are growing.
Let's begin with my beloved Terps. This past March, the Terps performed a feat similar to the Red Sox recent performance. In a span of three days, the Terps beat Wake, NC State, and arch-nemesis Duke on the way to the ACC Championship. In the Duke game, Maryland came back from an 11 point deficit in the final three minutes. Sounds similar to coming back from being down three games to zero to me. I do not have to tell you that the Blue Devils have by and large been getting the best of the Terps for last 10+ years. The Terps were bridesmaids no longer.
Let's stay with Basketball. In the NBA, the Lakers had been running roughshod over the rest of the NBA since 2000. The Lakers were everyone else's collective "daddy". Cue the Pistons. A collection of former Bullets/Wizards that many pundits expected to get swept by the exceedingly more-talented Lakers. As we all know, it was the Pistons that swept thus erasing the Lakers status as the Yankees of the NBA.
So what are the implications for the rest of the year? With the NFL in full swing, I think we should start to look for any potential de-throneings on the horizon. It's clear that the rest of the NFL has been having their way with New York Jets since 1969. Not only that, but one of the J-E-T-S' biggest rivals, the New England (read: Boston) Patriots, have experienced an unprecedented level of success. I think I see some similarities. New York v. Boston; Have v. Have Not; Historic Loser rises to defeat historic more successful rival? It may not happen next week (The Jets go to Foxboro on Sunday), but I am predicting a Jets victory in the AFC Championship Game. The Year of the Bridesmaid will continue.
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
The Shaming of Reggie Love
Now I thought Coach K and Duke only had players of the highest caliber. Dickie V always gushes about how they run their program the right way and everyone should admire them. I guess Coach Krybaby throws that out the window when his team lacks the talent to compete in the conference this year.
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
And playing for the pink team...
Some of our operatives lost their lives in obtaining this photo
What kind of coach allows/encourages this to happen? Was Coach Roy (or maybe it was Seigfried)trying to make his players a laughingstock? There are so many things I can say here...I will leave it up to my readers to come with a more appropriate photo caption, Maxim style.
Couple more observations:
1. This photo needs to be blown up and published in the Diamondback and put on every kiosk on campus. Any volunteers?
2. This should not be forgotten when the Tarheels travel to the Comcast Center.
And how about this gem from Rashad McCants in an article for Sports Illustrated online:
Rashad McCants, the enigmatic guard who led North Carolina in scoring last season, compared playing for the Tar Heels to being in prison.
In an interview with WRAL-TV that aired Friday night, he also said being a part of the team was like a 9-to-5 job.
"You're not allowed to do certain things," he said. "You're not allowed to say certain things, but once you get out of jail, you're free. [I'm] in my sentence and I'm doing my time."
I wonder if Dickie V is ready to revise his preseason rankings?
Monday, October 18, 2004
2004-05 ACC Conference Preview
Who's gonna win the ACC this year?
Your guess is as good as mine John
The job is difficult, and no one ever gets it right, but I am going to throw my hat into an already overcrowded ring. My season predictions have a slight twist though. I have broken the ACC into three divisions. Each division is named after a former Terp small forward. The reason is that Maryland small forwards over the years seem to have been cut from the same cloth. Exree Hipp begat Laron Profit who begat Terence Morris. Each version is slightly better than the previous incarnation, but still with many faults (much like my predictions). So without further adieu:
Exree Hipp Division
11. Virginia Tech (Prediction: 3-13)
Frankly, it’s an embarrassment that this team is in the ACC. I’m filing it under things that never happened. I think if we all close our eyes and think really hard, we can convince ourselves that they are not in the ACC. This year Maryland has two games against this “team”. Hopefully, with the rotating schedule, the Terps will only be playing them once a year. Just think of it as a non-conference game. Trust me it will make you feel better. I am not even going to break down their roster because frankly, I don’t know any of them and they are all pretty bad.
10. University of Miami (Prediction 3-13)
Miami was 4-12 in the Big East last year. Now the Big East is a quality conference, so that record doesn’t mean they are garbage, but if it wasn’t for the Hokies, they might not win a game this year. I’m giving them three wins just because some teams may spend too much time clubbing in Miami Beach before a game and not show up. Here’s an interesting fact: Miami doesn’t have one player on their team from the state of Florida. I know they all play football down there, but come on. How on Earth can you build a program when you can’t even recruit in your own state? This season will be ugly.
9. Clemson (Prediction 4-12)
The 8-9 play-in game in the ACC Tournament has officially been renamed the Larry Schyatt Memorial game. This is one sorry program. They haven’t had a good team since Elden Campbell and Dale Davis suited up for the Tigers. Well, the hits just keep on coming. Clemson will suit up six freshman this year. Does anyone remember when Gary started all of those freshman in ‘92-93? We finished 2-14 that year. Have fun Tiger fans, you really have a program to be proud of.
Laron Profit Division
8. Virginia (Prediction 6-10)
Virginia returns their top two scorers from last year’s squad, Elton Brown and Devin Smith. I guess this means they should be improved from last year. I wouldn’t bet on it. They are probably a pretty good team, but this league is just too tough and the Cavaliers just don’t have enough horses. Cavaliers. No horses. Get it? Hey people, I’m working over here.
7. Florida State (Prediction 7-9)
Tim Pickett is gone. That guy was a beast. I didn’t watch the NBA draft, but I assume he went somewhere. Anyone know? Let’s break it down:
Backcourt: Von Wafer showed some flashes last year. He is the team leader. Florida State has three freshman coming in and they are all under 6’3”.
Frontcourt: Alexander Johnson is big and long and can block some shots, and he will make teams work down low to get open. His offensive is limited.
Intangibles: This team has no history of winning in this conference (save for the Sam Cassell years). This year will be no different. The team just did not improve enough in the offseason. Without Pickett, I can’t see them finishing .500 in this conference.
6. NC State (Prediction 9-7)
Frontcourt: The Wolfpack will really miss Marcus Melvin. He was the team’s most reliable three point threat and he could draw away the opposing team’s best interior defender away from the post, so Julius Hodge could go to the rack. They will not be able to replace Melvin’s shooting. Hodge can’t hit the three and it could become their Achilles heal.
Backcourt: Scooter Sherrill ran this team last year and they sputtered when he was out. They will really miss him especially since the upper-division is loaded with point guards. Hodge is the best player returning to the conference, and I think he will keep the Pack competitive.
Intangibles: This team just has away of falling apart in a horrible way during close games. They are like the Terps from the mid 90’s. They have talent, but they just don’t know how to win the big games. I’m also not convinced that Sendek is a good coach.
Terence Morris Division- The upper division of the ACC is ridiculously tough. Any of these teams (except Duke) could win the National Championship. Other than Duke finishing fifth, I have ranked these teams in no particular order. Frankly, I’m just guessing.
5. Duke (Prediction 10-6)
Backcourt: J.J. Redick is the best shooter in the NCAA. He probably would have led the USA Basketball team to the gold medal if he had been on the team. He is an absolute force and I hate him. Daniel Ewing is a natural shooting guard who plays small forward because of Redick. Now, lets take a look at the point guard position. Going into last season, Coach KryBaby had Shaun Livingston penciled in to replace Chris Duhon. Since Livingston left for the NBA, Coach K is forced to turn to Sean Dockery to lead the team. The two newcomers are both under 6’6”, (DaMarcus Nelson and David McClure) but neither can play the point. If you look at the rest of this conference, Duke will have some serious deficiencies at PG. I don’t think you can win in this conference without that. That being said, they are the Blue Devils and unfortunately, you can’t rule out Coach KryBaby.
Frontcourt: Shelden Williams can block some shots, but I think he has limited offensive skills. Shavlik Randolph isn’t scaring anyone. The Blue Devils will really miss Luol Deng.
Intangibles: If this team were any other team in the conference, people would not be picking them to finish in the upper half of the division. They have no bench at all, unless these freshman turn out to be good, but you can’t bet against KryBaby. He will have them ready. The only difference is that this year, they won’t have the best talent on the floor in nearly half their conference games.
4. North Carolina (Prediction 11-5)
Frontcourt: May is a question mark until he can prove that he can remain healthy for an entire season. If he can remain healthy, then watch out. He is a load down low and it will be a challenge for teams to keep him off the boards. Jawad Williams and Jackie Manuel are both overrated. Manuel in particular may be the worst starter in the ACC. What does he bring to the table other than an occasional steal? The big addition is Marvin Williams, the 6-9 forward was predicted to be a first rounder in the NBA draft, but he went to Chapel Hill instead. On a team as crowded as this, I wonder if he will regret that decision.
Backcourt: In a guard heavy conference, the Tarheels have two of the best, but I’m not convinced that these guys have the heart to take it to the next level. I think Felton often got outplayed in conference games last year, and McCants makes Vince Carter look tough. Bump this guy once when he is driving to the basket and he settles for threes the rest of the way.
Intangibles: OK, here’s my thing with Roy Williams. Name me one occasion in all of his years at Kansas when he did not have the most talent or second most talent in the Big 12? Don’t get me wrong; the Tarheels have tons of talent. It’s just that there are five other schools in the ACC with as much talent as Carolina. This means that the Tarheels will have to rely on the coaching of Roy Williams. I can’t recall Coach Roy ever out-coaching his opponent. I think last year confirmed that without talent head and shoulders above the competition, he is an average coach. If Williams can’t provide necessary leadership, than they are in deep trouble because it certainly won’t come from any of the players. Let’s talk about team leaders. Carolina must rely on the leadership of….Rashad McCants? The guy has tons of talent, but I just don’t see him setting an example for the rest of the team. I wouldn’t switch him for Gilchrist, that’s for sure.
3. Maryland (Prediction 11-5) Gary did a great job with the schedule this year. Just when the ACC becomes the toughest it’s been in 10 years, Gary has his easiest non-conference schedule in a decade. Could be luck, but when in doubt, I’m siding with the old Coach. If you want my full Terrapin preview, Check out my previous two postings below.
2. Georgia Tech (Prediction 12-4)
Backcourt: Jarret Jack and BJ Elder are as good as any tandem in the country. Will Bynum is a solid backup PG.
Frontcourt: Tech lost two starters off of last year’s squad to graduation: Marvin Lewis and Clarence Moore. Those forwards will be replaced by the electrifying Isma’il Muhammad and most likely freshman Ra’Sean Dickey. Luke Schenscher has the potential to be dominant at times. I know that sounds crazy but the guy is tough to match up against.
Intangibles: Tech made it to the Final Four last year and with most of the nucleus returning, it’s hard to pick against them this year. Schenscher, Elder, and Jack are special players. I don’t really have much else to say about the Yellowjackets, they are just good and Paul Hewitt can coach.
1. Wake Forest (Prediction 12-4)
Backcourt: The Demon Deacons didn’t lose anyone last year. Chris Paul might be the best point guard in the country. Justin Gray is a sharpshooter. The guards are a little undersized but a seasoned group. These two will not get outplayed all season.
Frontcourt: Jamal Levy can block shots and score in the paint, but he is thin. Guys like Sean May at UNC should be able to push him around a little. Vytas Danelius might be Darius Songalia, except that he whines like a little bitch. I think they are the same person otherwise. Seriously.
Intangibles: Wake Forest did not lose one significant player from last year’s team. This is the best Wake Forest team since Tim Duncan and Randolph Childress won the ACC Tournament. They could make it to the Final Four this year, but then again, so could four other teams in this conference. If Maryland can’t win it all this year, I’d rather it be the Deacs or Tech than Duke or Carolina.
It is not out of the question that the ACC will send four teams to the Final Four. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it is plausible. Kentucky, Kansas, Connecticut, and Michigan State will challenge for National Championship as well. Besides that the ACC will rule the roost.
Thursday, October 07, 2004
Terps Season Preview Part II
John Gilchrist: Besides Juan Dixon, I cannot recall a Maryland guard that completely took over games like Gilchrist did last year. As Bill Simmons like to say, Gilchrist made “the leap” during last year’s ACC Tournament. His performance was something that Terp fans have never witnessed before. He single-handedly led the team back against NC State and Duke and made himself a front-runner for ACC Player of the Year this season. However questions remain about his consistency. Can Gilchrist sustain that level of performance for the whole season? If the Gilchrist from the ACC Tournament shows up this season, we are going to the Final Four. End of story.
Chris McCray: The key for McCray this year will be to develop consistency with his jump shot(there's the "C" word again). He might be the team’s best defender. He showed flashes last year of being able to hit the big shot, but then there were stretches (4 or 5 games) where he couldn’t hit a three if his life depended on it. Which McCray will we see this year? If he doesn’t step up his game and demonstrate a consistent jump shot, there are people who will be ready to step in.
Mike Jones: Terps fans could not get enough of Mike Jones last year. Every time he came out onto to floor, Terps fans went nuts. We all drank the Kool-Aid on this guy. He represents the most consistent and reliable shooter the Terps have. Gary was careful in the way he employed the athletic sharpshooter last year. It was clear that Jones had difficulty adjusting to college early on and didn’t play enough defense to get on Gary’s good side. Jones has the athletic ability to be a great defender and I think he will demonstrate that this year. He can create his own shot and has no problem going to the hole. Jones seems poised to have a break out year and I think that he will be a difference maker out there for the Terps. Look for Jones to challenge Chris McCray all season long for the starting position. Gary is loyal to his veterans and McCray is clearly the starter at the 2 spot. My view is that Jones is just too talented for Gary to keep off the court. The challenge will be for Gary to find minutes for all of these talented players. My advice would be to go with the hot hand and whoever displays the ability to consistently hit the three and score form the charity stripe.
By the way, is anyone else still smarting from the last play of the Syracuse game in the NCAA tournament last year? I can still see Mike Jones standing wide open at or near the top of the key as Straw launches that horrendous baseline shot. Pass the ball, DJ, Pass the ball!! (I am going to have convulsions if I don’t stop).
DJ Strawberry: Does anyone try harder out there than this guy? Gary loves his tenacity and it’s clear that he will be matched up against the opponents top backcourt scorer. He provided a spark off the bench and he’s good for at least one momentum swinging play per game. That being said, he has no outside shot and he can’t score from the free throw line. How do you play shooting guard in the ACC with no outside shot? I look for Gary to move DJ between the 2 and 3 positions. With Jones and McCray firmly entrenched at the 2 spot, and Ledbetter penciled in as Gilchrist’s backup. Where will DJ find minutes? I think he is too small to play small forward in the ACC, but I’m guessing that Gary will use a small lineup during periods of games this year.
Sterling Ledbetter: Before this guy even puts on a uniform, he already is in the starting lineup of the Terps all-time name team, or as I like to call it: The Herman Veal Group. The Herman Veal team looks like this:
1. Herman Veal (chairman and founder)
2. Sterling Ledbetter
3. Jerrod Mustaf
4. Xree Hipp
5. Teyon McCoy
Note: African names like Obinna Ekezie don't count since that is probably a normal name in Nigeria.
The bottom-line is that I don’t know much about this guy, but I do know that the Terps were a disaster when Gilchrist was out of the game last year. If Ledbetter is a natural point guard (which is what I’ve heard) and can take care of the rock and distribute it, then we will be a better team; especially if Gilchrist gets into foul trouble. Ledbetter doesn’t even need to shoot the ball.
Being a coach is tough. Sometimes you don’t have enough good players and sometimes you have too many. The Terps will have to find minutes for five players that play only two positions. Gilchrist, McCray, Jones, Straw, and Ledbetter will be fighting for minutes all year. I don’t see how Gary can keep all of these guys happy throughout the season. I would not be surprised if one of these guys looks to transfer if he doesn’t see his minutes increase. Given that Gary loves Straw, is loyal to veterans (McCray), and desperately needs a backup point guard (Ledbetter); I am afraid that Jones may be the odd man out. He is the most gifted of all of these players, yet somehow he could be left out. Personally, I don’t think this team is going anywhere without Jones in the lineup, but he could be in for a roller coaster ride this year. I just hope he hangs on and doesn’t jump ship and pull an Andre Collins on us.
It’s hard to handicap the season in college ball. You never know how new players will blend in to existing units and change the chemistry. That being said, the Terps should have a good year. The non-conference schedule is not as tough as in year’s past. The tough games are a neutral site contest against Memphis and a road game at Wisconsin. Wisconsin will not be as strong because their best player from last season is now in the NBA. Look for the Terps to prevail in their non-conference games this year.
The ACC is always tough and you can never count on road wins. Look for losses at NC State, at Wake, at Duke, at Carolina and at GaTech. I think that a 22-5 regular season record is attainable and with the ACC Tournament at the MCI Center this year, does anyone smell back-to-back ACC Titles?
Look for my next posting in couple of days. I will be discussing the other schools in the ACC including the new additions, Miami and Va Tech.
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
Terps Season Preview Part I
As Midnight Madness approaches, it's time to take a look at the 2004-05 Terrapin Men's Basketball Team. This year could be one of the most difficult seasons in recent memory to handicap. Will we see the team that had the miracle run in last year's ACC Tourney, or will we see the team that limped through February?
There are some big changes in the ACC this season. The league has added two perrennial doormats (VaTech and Miami) that will boost every team's record. How will this effect the conference's power rankings? Only time will tell.
Four Teams have found themselves ranked in the Top 10 to begin the season. It is clear that there are haves and have nots in the ACC this year and most likely for the forseeable future. Here are some thing to look for this year:
1. Home and home with UNC and Duke this year. This will be the last time we will see both of them at home in the same season for a while, so enjoy it!
2. Five guaranteed wins against Miami, VaTech, and Clemson. Can these teams ever compete in this league? These schools are strictly in this conference for football. By the way, who could have predicted this five years ago, but Maryland may prove to be the only school that is consistently competitive in both basketball and football. Thank God for the Fridge. If not for him, we would be subject to a Mark Duffner clone trying to reinstall the Run and Shoot.
3. The school will continue to shove women's basketball down our throats. News Flash: We are not Connecticut. We have other sports options in the Balt/DC area! I don't care that the women's team is ranked in the Top 15.
Now on to my season preview:
The team will actually miss Jamar Smith. For everything he did NOT bring to the table last year; including atrocious foul shooting and leading the NCAA in mental mistakes (He was the dumbest player to suit up since Mario Lucas). Replacing him at the pivot is the team's biggest obstacle this year. I am deeply concerned about where the Terps will go for inside scoring. Gilchrist will need to have a guy to dish off to when he drives to the hole. Look at the Terps' inside options going into this season:
- Hassan Fofana: He should be able to pick up the slack in the rebounding department, but does anyone see this guy making moves in the post? Fofana or as I like to call him, Manos de Piedra (hands of of stone) has some serious defiencies. He can't shoot free throws and everytime he touches the ball, there is a 50/50 chance he will travel.
- Will Bowers: He had a 'deer in the headlights' look all last season. I don't see him becoming a reliable inside threat until his senior year, if ever.
- James Gist: The freshman is frail at 215 pounds and I don't think the Terps will be cutting down the nets if he is our best option down low.
- Travis Garrison: I like him, but the guy is soft. He displayed some toughness at the end of the year, but his game is drawing interior defenders out of the paint and using his jump shot to shoot over the zone. He is crucial to the team's success this year, but he is not going to be reliable in the paint.
- Nik Caner-Medley: If I see him lower his head and drive to the basket and commit a charging foul one more time....
- Ekene Ibekwe: He is our best option. He has the length and athleticism to create his own shot down low. I haven't seen him since last season, but hopefully he added 15 pounds or so. We need him at 235, not 220. His development will be the key to entire season! Whether or not the Terps go to the Final Four will depend on this lanky sophomore. Please read that sentence again. By the way, am I the only one who thinks of Donald Igwebwekwe, the old Tampa Bay Bucs kicker, every time I here Ekene's name? We need to give him a nickname. Any suggestions? The Terps have enough bad memories with former Coke dealers that I don't need another reminder.
My gut tells me that Ekene will emerge as the man this year. That being said, his free throw shooting will probably cost us at least two games this year.
Look for PART 2 in the next couple of days, which will include my backcourt preview and season predictions.