Sunday, November 30, 2003

Hofstra Runs Afoul of Maryland

Originally posted on "TerpTown" on the network and syndicated to Yahoo

If your team makes less field goals than free throws in a game, they had better take a LOT of free throws if they hope to win. That's exactly what the Maryland Terrapins did tonight in their 87-72 win over the Hofstra Pride at the Comcast Center.

The Terps attempted 55 foul shots (3rd highest single game total in school history) and made 31, while making 26 of their 58 shots from the floor. Conversely, Hofstra went to the line only
14 times, converting 13 of the attempts. Six of the Pride's players ultimately fouled out.

The evening started poorly for Maryland as they quickly fell behind 11-2. The Terps did not take their first lead until Jamar Smith made two free throws to put them ahead 17-16 at the 12:16 mark of the first half. This was part of a 10-point run for Maryland, and they would never trail again.

Two more first half bursts of eight and seven unanswered points respectively helped Maryland build a 49-36 halftime lead. These runs were due primarily to the Maryland transition game, with steals or blocks leading to layups or free throws. At this point, the Terps had attempted 32 free throws and five Hofstra players were saddled with three fouls. Maryland totaled eight steals and four blocked shots in the half. Nik Caner-Medley was the main beneficiary, totaling 14 points at the break.

The Terps stretched their lead to 21 points only 3:21 into the second half, capped with a four-point play by Chris McCray. Maryland's lead hovered around 20 points until the Pride mustered a 12-2 run to draw within 71-61 with 7:06 remaining in the game. It was at this point that Hofstra players began fouling out, however, and the Terps' lead never fell into single digits.
Caner-Medley led all scorers with 19 points, John Gilchrist added 18, and Jamar Smith put up his third straight double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

The Terrapins took care of the ball, committing only 12 turnovers, and totaled 14 steals and 10 blocked shots for the game.

These numbers mask some genuine concerns for Maryland Coach Gary Williams. His biggest concern was rebounding, where Hofstra held a 44-36 edge, but that was not the extent of his displeasure.

Williams told reporters after the game, "Defensively, we weren't that good tonight. The ball got entered into the post too many times...I thought we did a poor job of getting out of our pressure back to our half-court defense. The fact that we got outrebounded is really bad.” Sean May of North Carolina will be among the big men licking their chops when they see the tape of how many easy shots Hofstra's center Wendell Gibson had tonight.

Williams was happy about the steady procession his players made to the foul line, "One of the things we tired to do that last couple days in practice was figure out how to get to the free throw line. Obviously, we need to shoot better than that (only 56%) but (the free throws) were a positive thing."

Williams apparently felt this was a bump in the road toward steady growth he wants his young team to make "I can't spend a lot of time on mistakes right now, yet we made enough tonight to spend a week on."

His players agreed. Caner-Medley said, "The number one thing we need to improve on right now is putting together 40 minutes. We need to play better." Chris McCray added, "We have a lot of things to work on."

Tuesday night would be a good time to put together a 40-minute game. The #24 Terps host #15 ranked Wisconsin at 9:30 as part of the ACC-Big 10 Challenge at the Comcast Center. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

Notes from Under the Shell
Maryland is now 3-0 vs. Hofstra. This is the second ACC team the Pride has played already this season. They lost at Georgia Tech 75-56 in the second round of the Preseason NIT, which Tech eventually won.

How much did the foul problems hurt Hofstra? Their starters shot 20-40 (50%) while their bench, called into extra duty tonight, shot 6-22 (27%). Yeah, it hurt a lot.

Through Saturday night's games, no team in the ACC had lost yet this season.

The attendance tonight was announced as a sellout but, no doubt due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the end where the students sit was only about one-third full.

John Gilchrist picked up where he left off Tuesday night, playing aggressively at both ends of the court. He led the Terps with six assists and five steals. Andre Collins, however, is struggling to run the half-court offense when he fills in for Gilchrist at point guard.

Most of Nik Caner-Medley's points are coming when he is on the move, either driving to the hoop or receiving a pass while cutting. He is using his athleticism well to get open and take good shots.

D. J. Strawberry is reminding me a lot of Laron Profit on defense. He had a couple of plays tonight where he embarrassed a Hofstra ballhandler by picking his pocket and racing down the court for a layup or dunk. Opponents need to know where he is on defense at all times.

Although Smith did post a double-double, he had difficulty establishing offensive position against the Pride's big front line and shot only 3-11 for the game with four turnovers.

I saw another entry in the “Dumb Promotion” category tonight. A local pizza company sponsored a contest that saw two students race to put on various pieces of pizza-making gear (apron, hat, etc.) and then run back down the court and make a layup. The crowd became restless during this promotion. I'm not condoning this, but the contest would have draw a lot more attention if the participants had been subtracting rather than adding articles of clothing.

ACC-Big 10 Challenge Preview

Originally posted on "TerpTown" on the network and syndicated to Yahoo

Hear ye, hear ye! Court is back in session, and it's time to rule on the upcoming ACC-Big 10 Challenge, that annual Clash of the Titans to claim possession of the cherished Commissioners' Trophy. Okay, it's actually a made-for-TV event to generate ratings for ESPN and line everybody's pockets (unfortunately, not mine) with more money. Either way, it's still a lot of fun to see these teams compete. Here is my game-by-game analysis.

Northwestern (2-2) at Florida State (Monday, 7 PM, ESPN2)
Tempo will be the key to this game. Northwestern Coach Bill Carmody brought his “Princeton offense” with him to Evanston when he left the Ivy League school and will want his team to set a very methodical pace. Florida State Coach Leonard Hamilton, on the other hand, will want his defense to force a faster tempo. This would take advantage of the Seminoles' huge edges in athleticism and depth and allow star Tim Pickett to work his magic in the open court. The Wildcats will need a big game from wing Jitim Young, and point guard T. J. Parker will need to be very efficient running the half-court offense.

This game appears to have been set up as the preliminary game of the Challenge between two perennial doormats of their respective conferences. Unfortunately for Northwestern, Florida State is rising off the mat this season and should control this contest. PICK: Florida State.

Indiana (2-1) at Wake Forest (2-0) (Tuesday, 7 PM, ESPN)
Indiana brings the Bracey Wright show into Winston-Salem to face the Deacons' ensemble production. So far, the Hoosiers have been primarily a perimeter shooting team that has received little contribution from it's inside players. Wright is the only Indiana player scoring in double figures. Wake has four players averaging over 12 points per game, and Eric Wiliams and Vytas Danelius are waiting to pound the Hoosiers inside.

Wake Forest is averaging over twice as many assists as Indiana, and this balanced attack along with likely domination of the boards should lead the Deacons to victory, possibly a big one. PICK: Wake Forest.

N.C. State (3-0) at Michigan (2-0) (Tuesday, 7:30 PM, ESPN2)
This should be a very competitive game, matching NC State's experience (two senior and two junior starters) vs. Michigan's youth (one freshman and three sophomore starters) and home crowd. Julius Hodge does it all for State, leading the team in scoring, rebounding, and assists. Scooter Sherrill has helped shoulder the scoring load for the Wolfpack. Sophomores Lester Abram and Daniel Horton have led the Wolverines' attack, which features four scorers averaging double figures. They also have big man J. C. Mathis, a transfer from Virginia, coming off the bench along with freshman Dion Harris to provide a spark.

The game will probably be decided by how well NC State handles Michigan's defensive pressure. This will be a good test for the Wolfpack, since they are likely to see that defensive strategy often this season. If State can get past it and set up their offense, they are in good shape. However, I think the Wolverines will be able to disrupt their offensive flow and withstand the Wolfpack's own pressure well enough to pull out a win at home. PICK: Michigan.

Illinois (3-0) vs. North Carolina (3-0) at Greensboro (Tuesday, 9 PM, ESPN)
This game features the best individual matchup of the Challenge; sophomore point guards Dee Brown of Illinois and Raymond Felton of North Carolina squaring off. Both players have explosive wings to dish the ball to; Deron Williams for Illinois and Rashad McCants for North Carolina. Each team also has a strong presence inside; James Augustine for Illinois and Sean May for North Carolina. Both teams also have new coaches; Bruce Webber at Illinois and Roy Williams at North Carolina.

So, how do I separate these teams? Illinois has a deeper bench, but it is Carolina that will look to force the tempo. Also, as gifted as the Fighting Illini stars are, I give the Tar Heels slight advantages at all three key positions. That, plus playing in front of a partisan crowd, should enable Carolina to win a close one. PICK: North Carolina.

Wisconsin (3-0) at Maryland (3-0) (Tuesday, 9:30 PM ESPN)
These teams have split two meetings in the last three seasons, but neither team will resemble the ones that played in those contests. The Badgers have transformed from a half-court team to an athletic group that can play end-to-end, while the Terps no longer have the low post presence that was the focus of their offense. Wisconsin, led by senior Freddie Owens and junior Devin Harris, have a huge advantage in experience over Maryland, which starts four sophomores and a senior.

The key to this game will be the Terps' ability to force turnovers and score in transition. So far this season, Maryland's offense has been fueled by its defense because the half-court game is still a work in progress. Wisconsin, however, was second in the nation in fewest turnovers committed last season (10.4), and is on an even better pace this year. I see the Badgers' veterans taking care of the ball and picking up a nice road victory. PICK: Wisconsin.

Georgia Tech (5-0) at Ohio State (2-2) (Wednesday, 7 PM, ESPN)
A week ago, I looked at this game a lot differently than I do now. Georgia Tech has exploded onto the national scene with it's dominating wins over #1 Connecticut and Texas Tech en route to winning the Preseason NIT Championship. The Jackets, led by B. J. Elder and Isma'il Muhammad, have been relentless at both ends of the court. They have not relied on three-point shooting to score, aggressively challenging defenses by driving the lane and attacking the hoop.

Transfers Tony Stockman (from Clemson) and J. J. Sullinger lead the Buckeye's perimeter based attack, and Terence Dials (6' 9”, 260 pounds) gives Ohio State the inside presence Tech lacks. The Buckeyes, unlike the Jackets, have staggered out of the gate. I see Tech's momentum and aggressiveness carrying them to a win. PICK: Georgia Tech.

Clemson (3-0) at Purdue (3-1) (Wednesday, 7:30 PM, ESPN2)
Purdue is a classic example of the old saying that “they do grow ‘em big in the Midwest.” Nine players on the Boilermaker roster stand over 6' 7”, and six of them weigh over 230 pounds. Clemson is a big team, but Purdue is BIG. On top of that, the Boilermakers showed in their upset of Duke in Alaska that their backcourt of Kenneth Lowe and David Teague must be reckoned with. Those two badly outplayed Duke's much more heralded duo of Chris Duhon and J. J. Redick.

Clemson is off to a nice start, but they struggled in wins over High Point and Wofford. The Tigers are receiving good contributions from their front line of Sherrod Ford, Chris Hobbs, and Olu Babalola, but they don't have the firepower or strength to match up with Purdue, especially on the road. PICK: Purdue

Duke (3-1) at Michigan State (3-1) (Wednesday 9 PM, ESPN)
Michigan State has not always looked like a Top-Five team in the early going this season, but Duke has played far below its consensus #2 ranking. The Spartans lost a tough game at Kansas and have received solid play from big man Paul Davis and guard Chris Hill and Maurice Ager. Tom Izzo has also been able to go deep into his bench, with nine players averaging at least ten minutes per game.

Duke's offense has functioned like a car in need of a tune up; you know how it performs but you just need to clean some gunk out of it. The Blue Devils' backcourt has been particularly gunked up, with sharpshooter J. J. Redick and point guard Chris Duhon both making less than 40% of their shots. Fortunately for Coach K, freshman Luol Deng has lived up to his pre-season billing and Shelden Williams has been very strong down low. Duke will eventually be fine, but the Breslin Center is not the place to take a misfiring squad. PICK: Michigan State

Minnesota (2-1) at Virginia (Wednesday, 9:30 PM, ESPN2)
Minnesota freshman Kris Humphries, who signed with the Golden Gophers after being released from his original Letter of Intent with Duke, has been spectacular so far. Adam Boone, a transfer from North Carolina, has played a solid floor game as Minnesota's starting point guard. Other than a 32-point explosion from guard Ben Johnson, contributions from the rest of Coach Don Monson's roster have been minimal. The Gophers have struggled in beating lesser opponents for their two wins this season.

Virginia has their own emerging freshman star in Gary Forbes and continue to receive steady play from senior guard Todd Billet. The Cavaliers have not been overwhelming against lower tier opponents themselves, but they have played better offensively than Minnesota and have the home court advantage here. PICK: Virginia

There you have it! In summary, I predict the ACC will win the Commissioners' Trophy by 5-4 over the Big 10. The ACC has won five games in all four of the previous events. Does it mean anything? No, not really. The competition has been too close to call the ACC clearly superior to the Big 10. Are my picks reliably accurate? No, not really, but hopefully you've enjoyed reading them and learned something about the teams.

Please post your feedback on the message board or send me e-mail at . I'll be back later this week to look at what happened and why.

Until then, court is adjourned.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Terps Down George Mason

Originally posted on "TerpTown" on the network and syndicated to Yahoo

Tonight, the basketball season truly began for the Maryland Terrapins. They faced an opponent who forced them to find out just how well the team was ready to play. Coach Gary Williams was pleased with the result as his Terrapins defeated George Mason 79-64 before an announced crowd of 17,950 at the Comcast Center Tuesday night.

The first 14 minutes of the game was played at a furious pace, one that clearly favored the more athletic Terrapins. Maryland took advantage of the quick tempo to move out to a 34-22 lead with 6:00 to play in the first half.

George Mason coach Jim Larranaga had seen enough of that and ordered his team to drop back into a zone defense. Coach Williams said, "The zone bothered us, we didn't do a good job against it." Indeed, the Terps scored only seven points during the remainder of the half and allowed the Patriots to draw within 41-38 at halftime.

To begin he second half, Williams said his team "Just flew around out there, and we were fine." George Mason actually move out to a short lived 47-43 lead to begin the half, but Maryland quickly returned the tempo of the game to a blistering pace. The Terps blew out to a 23-7 run over 7:52 to take a commanding 66-54 lead. The Patriots could come no closer than nine points the rest of the game.

Jamar Smith enjoyed his first career double-double so much Saturday night that he did it again tonight, scoring 19 points and pulling down 13 rebounds. Working much of the evening against George Mason's 6'7", 275 pound sophomore Jai Lewis, Smith (giving up 35 pounds), used his quickness and aggressiveness to play him to a draw statistically. More importantly, Smith repeatedly beat Lewis down the court to help fuel the Terps explosive transition game.

Nik Caner-Medley scored a team and career high 23 points, 15 in the first half. Caner-Medley, who made 10 of 16 shots, scored most of his points from close range. He has developed a move when he has the ball on the wing, pump fakes his defender and drives the baseline for a layup or short jumper. He used that move effectively several times time evening.

John Gilchrist, who did not start the game do to an unspecified violation of team rules, did play 12 minutes in the first half but went into the locker room at halftime without a point or assist. Gilchrist turned his and the Terps' game around in the second half, scoring 11 points, dishing our 4 assists, and coming up with 2 steals. Any time Maryland came up with a rebound or loose ball in the second half, which was often, they quickly put it in Gilchrist's hands and it was off to the races for the Terps. When Gilchrist came out of the game in the last minute, Williams shook his hand and told him "You were the best player the last 10 minutes of the game."

Gilchrist's key running mates were D. J. Strawberry and Chris McCray. These two guards may be the best Maryland has had running the fast break since Greg Manning from 1977-81. Both of them have great speed and the knack for knowing when to get out and run, and Gilchrist has the ability to get them the ball. McCray says in fast break situations "Coach tells everybody to just go." In the second half tonight, they followed that direction very well.

Strawberry also drew Coach Williams' praise for his defense, "D. J. Strawberry really ignited our defense in the second half." Strawberry's motor never stops running on either end of the court, although he said, "In the first half, I wasn't playing with much energy. Coach got on me some and told me I needed to play with energy every time I get on the floor. In the second half, I just had to bring everything I had."

Williams liked the fact that his team was tested, and felt they passed the test very well, "We had to dig down, and we did a great job. I was really impressed with our players."

Caner-Medley agreed, "I think one of the biggest steps we took forward today was having to grind out a win. I think this team showed a lot of heart tonight."

The growth of a young Maryland basketball team took another important step tonight. They were challenged for the first time and did not blink. More difficult challenges lay ahead.

Notes from Under the Shell
George Mason is now 0-6 vs. Maryland. Their most recent game before tonight was a 83-80 Terrapin win in the first round of the 2001 NCAA Tournament. How might Maryland basketball history have been different if the Patriots had pulled that game out, which they very nearly did.

George Mason has still never defeated an ACC team. They are 0-2 vs. Duke and 0-6 vs. Virginia.

Patriot Coach Jim Larranaga is stuck at 299 career victories.

Travis Garrison continues to play well defensively, but has not been aggressive enough on offense. Travis, they legalized the dunk a long time ago. When you get the ball down low, may I respectfully suggest you take it to the rack and throw it down! If you don't get the dunk, at least draw some fouls, which won't happen with the fade-away shots or soft layups you have been attempting so far this season.

Maryland only attempted eight free throws tonight, and has only attempted 20 for the season (making 11). Despite the lack of trips to the foul line, the Terps still outscored the Patriots 58-36 on points in the paint and outrebounded them 49-36. Nineteen of Maryland's rebounds came off the offensive boards. That's a good thing, because the Terps' 3-15 performance from outside the three-point line leaves their percentage from beyond and arc at 24.2% after two games.

Coach Williams shortened his bench tonight with a tight game. Strawberry, Gilchrist (usually Collins) and Ibekwe are in the eight-man rotation Williams used tonight along with starters Caner-Medley, Garrison, Smith, McCray, and Collins (usually Gilchrist). Mike Jones, Will Bowers, and Hassan Fofana are not, seeing only four minutes of action between them.

Strawberry did have an embarrassing moment tonight, airballing a free throw in the second half. The sheepish look on his face afterward was priceless.

Maryland's next game is Saturday night at the Comcast Center vs. Hofstra. Game time is 8:00 PM, and the game will be broadcast locally on channels 20 and 54 by the Raycom/Jefferson Pilot network.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

The Coutmaster's ACC First Looks

Originally posted on "TerpTown" on the network and syndicated to Yahoo

Hear ye, hear ye! Court is back in session, and it's time to rule on the opening week of basketball in the ACC. Here is my team-by-team look at what we've already learned. There's not much bad news here because, through Sunday's games, no conference team had yet lost.

North Carolina began the Roy Williams era with a 90-64 win over Old Dominion. Carolina had a 22-6 run in the first half to gain control of the game and an 18-0 run in the second half to turn it into a blowout. The Tar Heels were very efficient on offense, shooting 61% and totaling 23 assists.

Rashad McCants led all scorers with 18 points but, more significantly, dished out a career-high 8 assists. Sean May scored 17 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. Carolina worked the ball around very well for high quality shots. In a radical departure from last year's team that launched three-pointers with regularity, the Heels attempted only 7 against the Monarchs.

The other new coach in the ACC, Oliver Purnell, saw his Clemson team post an easy 86-55 victory over Gardner-Webb. Any success Purnell's team enjoys in his first season as coach of the Tigers will be determined by how well they can play defense. They got off to a good start by dominating the Bulldogs. Clemson put the game away early with a 21-2 run and never let Gardner-Webb into the game.

Olu Babalola and Chris Hobbs played well up front, and Shawan Robinson and Akin Akingbala gave the Tigers a spark off the bench. Robinson, with 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists gave notice to Vernon Hamilton not to get too comfortable as the starting point guard. It remains to be seen how Babalola and Hobbs will fare against an ACC-sized front line, but it was a good sign to see them get off to a strong start.

Georgia Tech is off to a fast start, posting easy wins over Louisiana-Lafayette, Hofstra, and Cornell. Not exactly Murders' Row, but the wins do count. Those of us who thought Coach Paul Hewitt's Yellow Jackets could dominate on the perimeter have not been disappointed. Marvin Lewis, B. J. Elder, and Jarrett Jack are all averaging between 14.7 and 16.3 points per game. More importantly, Jack is dishing out 10 assists per game. Elder is not shooting particularly well, but he still finds ways to score and play defense. That's the good news.

The bad news is that Elder and Jack are also Tech's leading rebounders. Luke Schenscher showed some signs of life against Cornell, but is still averaging a puny 4 rebounds per game. He also has a total of 2 blocked shots in 3 games. This just won't get it done against opponents with any size, like, say, #1 ranked Connecticut, the Yellow Jackets' next opponent in the NIT Semifinals Wednesday night. It is hard to imagine anything but total domination by the Huskie's Emeka Okafor, the best big man in the nation.

Nothing was easy about Duke's opener, a 67-56 win over Detroit. The scrappy Titans scored the first 12 points of the game and clung to the lead until midway through the second half. On a night when Duke shot 7-24 in the first half (3-13 from three-point range), the Blue Devils' defense made the difference, forcing 13 turnovers from Detroit's starting backcourt.

One aspect of this game followed the typical Duke blueprint for victory—getting to the foul line. The Devils attempted 36 free throws (making 29) while the Titans were sent to the line only 10 times. On nights when the shots aren't falling (Duke made only 29% of their field goals in the first half), conventional wisdom usually leads a team to work the ball inside, but the Blue Devils did not go this route. Although big man Shelden Williams shot 10 free throws, he only was credited with one field goal attempt in 25 minutes.

The Duke bench was also a non-factor, totaling more fouls (7) than points (6). By the way, it is NOW appropriate to crank up the hype machine for Luol Deng. He led all scorers in the game with 21 points and grabbed 8 rebounds.

Duke's opening win was atypical of what we should expect this season, but Florida State's played out according to the script. Coach Leonard Hamilton's teams are known for their tough defense, and it was very much in evidence during their 69-49 win over Maine. The Seminoles held the Black Bears to 32% shooting and forced 21 turnovers.

Florida State's offensive output, however, was still lacking. Tim Pickett was the leading scorer with 18 points, but made on 6 of 17 shots. Anthony Richardson was the only other Seminole in double figures with 16 points. Freshman sensation Von Wafer missed this game with an ankle injury, but it is not believed to be serious. Coach Hamilton will need more punch out of the offense to not make me look stupid in picking them 5 th in the ACC.

NC State also relied on their defense in a 71-46 romp over UNC-Asheville. The Wolfpack shot 40% for the game and made only 5 of 22 three-pointers. State held the Bulldogs to 23% shooting in the first half on their way to a 38-11 lead at the break, so they had some margin for error.

Julius Hodge got off to a great start, scoring 24 points and pulling down 11 rebounds. An encouraging sign for the Pack was the play of big man Levi Watkins, who scored 12 points and grabbed 7 rebounds in only 21 minutes of play coming off the bench. Ilian Evtimov was only 0-4 shooting, but played a good floor game as he works his way back from missing last season.

Maryland came out with an amazing defensive performance in the first half of their opener with American University on their way to a 79-48 win. The Terps held the Eagles without a point for 14:37, breaking open a 2-2 game with 27 unanswered points. Maryland led 35-8 at halftime, and expanded that to 47-8 with a quick 12-point run to open the second half.

The Terps looked very raw on the offensive end, struggling when thry had to run their sets in a half-court offense. Jamar Smith led all scorers with 14 points and pulled down a career-high 12 rebounds, and Maryland freshmen Mike Jones, Ekene Ibekwe, and D. J. Strawberry all had strong games off the bench.

Virginia opened their season with a distressingly hard-fought 80-71 win over Mount St. Mary's. The Cavaliers were short-handed missing Devin Smith, who was nursing a back injury, and Jason Clark, who is suspended indefinitely. Regardless, Virginia should never have allowed the Mounties to trail only 47-44 with 16:44 remaining in the game.

The encouraging part here for Coach Pete Gillen was how the game was eventually put away. The Cavaliers went on a 19-8 run early in the second half to give them a working margin for the rest of the game, and all 19 points were scored by freshmen. Gary Forbes and Donte Minter each had nine points during this rally. Forbes led all scorers with 21 points. Virginia did shoot 52%, but were outrebounded 41-36. Nothing happened here to make me think this season will be anything but a struggle for the Cavaliers.

Question for the Jury:
Is there a player you think will have a positive impact for their team this season that is being overlooked? Let me know who you think the sleepers are by e-mail at

In response to my last question, fans fingered Willie Dersch of Virginia as the most overrated McDonald's All-American to play in the ACC. There was strong support for the Cavaliers Bryant Stith as the most underrated player.

CourtMaster Briefs
Oliver Purnell posted the largest margin of victory of any coach in his first game at Clemson since Country Morris beat the College of Charleston 65-17 during the 1916-1917 season.

Wake Forest moved to 2-0 on the season with a 97-55 blowout of Elon College. The Deacons removed any doubt about the outcome quickly, jumping to a 16-2 lead while Elon missed 10 of their first 11 shots and committed 10 turnovers. Wake easily controlled the tempo of the game, providing a rude homecoming for Elon head coach Ernie Nestor, a long-time Deacon assistant, and Elon assistant coaches Tim Fuller and Jim Fitzpatrick, former Deacon players.

Eric Williams established himself inside and scored 16 points, although I'm sure Coach Skip Prosser could have lived without his 6 turnovers. There was an announced crowd of only 8,644 at Lawrence-Joel Coliseum for Wake's home opener. Come on Deacon fans, this is a very good team and deserves better support!

Virginia Tech continues to be decimated by injuries. Freshman forward Coleman Collins broke a bone in his left foot during the last exhibition game and could be out as long as eight weeks. He joins senior guard Carlos Dixon (left foot), sophomore forward Fabian Davis (left foot), and sophomore guard Shawn Harris (right foot, just to be different). There's a podiatrist in Blacksburg that's having a big year. Despite the casualties, the Hokies won their opener over New Hampshire 79-49.

Miami won their opening game, posting a 78-60 victory over Louisiana-Monroe (no relation to Marilyn).

Georgia Tech's Jarrett Jack was named ACC player of the week, and Virginia's Gary Forbes was ACC rookie of the week.

That's what I think. Let me know what you think on the message board or by e-mail at .

I'll break for the holiday and be back next Monday with a preview of the ACC-Big 10 Challenge. Until then, court is adjourned.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Terps Flatten American 78-49

Originally posted on "TerpTown" on the network and syndicated to Yahoo

Practice for Gary Williams' young Terrapin team has been very much like a classroom so far, and Saturday's opener against American University was their first scheduled exam. It turned into little more than a short quiz as Maryland coasted to a 78-49 win.

The score was tied 2-2 after 1:29 of play, and then the number froze on one side of the scoreboard. Another 14:37 elapsed before American scored their next points on a jumper by guard Andres Rodriguez. Unfortunately for the Ealges, Maryland piled up 27 unanswered points during that stretch to remove any doubt about the game's outcome.

Nik Caner-Medley helped get the run started with seven early points, and Jamar Smith sustained it with 12 points and 5 offensive rebounds. Travis Garrison pulled down 8 rebounds to lead the Terps' effort off the boards in the first half. At times this 27-0 run was more like a stroll. Maryland wasn't exactly lighting it up on offense, and the score was stuck at 9-2 for 4:38.
Maryland played outstanding defense, effectively clogging the passing lanes and harassing ball handlers and shooters, but it wasn't THAT good. American looked like they were shooting at one of those trick hoops they have at carnivals, the ones that are about a centimeter wider than the circumference of a basketball. They missed short, they missed long, and the missed everything in between, 19 in a row to be exact. The Eagles' 4-27 first half shooting (0-10 from 3-point range) led to an insurmountable 35-8 halftime deficit.

This was a historic defensive effort by Maryland. The last time they held an opponent to so few points in a half was the famous slowdown game against South Carolina on January 9, 1971, when the Terps led the Gamecocks 4-3 at halftime. That game brought about the five-second closely guarded rule the following season, but I don't expect any rule changes to come from tonight's game, except perhaps to require both teams to shoot with their eyes open.

Any thought AU had about making a game of it quickly evaporated in the second half. Maryland came out with a 12-0 run to open the half and push their lead to 47-8 with 17:55 to play. Chris McCray scored 8 points during this burst, knocking down 2 three-pointers and throwing down a breakaway dunk after a steal.

The balance of the game was merely a good workout for the Terps and a chance for the fans to see everyone play. Even walk-on Darien Henry got some minutes, checking into the game with 4:42 left to the cheers of his fellow students. Ten players saw at least 10 minutes of court time tonight. AU did connect on 8 of 14 three-pointers in the second half to avoid a blowout of biblical proportions.

Smith had his first career double-double, scoring 14 points and pulling down a career-high 12 rebounds. McCray and Mike Jones each added 10 points. Garrison and Caner-Medley led the Terps with 8 rebounds each .

Andre Ingram led American with 16 points (4-8 three-pointers) and Rodriguez added 13 but committed 7 turnovers.

Maryland looked quire raw on the offensive end. They scored the bulk of their points on transition (34 points off of 23 Eagle turnovers) and follow-ups after their 22 offensive rebounds. The Terps shot only 41% for the game, and made only 6-22 three-pointers.

John Gilchrist did not have a good stat line (1-8 shots, 2 points, 4 assists) and, when asked what he still needs to work on, said, "Everything." It wasn't that bad, but there is plenty of room for improvement. Coach Williams said afterward, “Our offense isn't good enough yet, but hopefully it will be."

Freshmen Mike Jones, Ekene Ibekwe, and D. J. Strawberry played well coming off the bench in their first official college games. Jones found the range in the second half, knocking down two three pointers. Ibekwe had 3 blocks and made 4 of 6 shots, including a couple of soft mid-range jumpers. Strawberry added 7 points and 5 rebounds. All three youngsters were very aggressive at both ends of the court.

Coach Williams was pleased with the evenings' events, "I thought our effort was what we needed coming out of the locker room.”

Williams was not satisfied with the rebounding, particularly the 19 offensive rebounds American pulled down. Caner Medley agreed, “We forced a lot of tough shots and they got a lot of second shots. I think the score would have been a little more lopsided if we rebounded a little better.

Williams praised his team's defense, “The reason it was so lopsided was because of our defense. We're capable of being a good defensive team. We can fly around and we have depth.”

American coach Jeff Jones was less impressed, “You can't come away from this game and say that Maryland is a great defensive team, because we stunk.” Sounds like someone needs a nap.

Overall, the Terps received good grades on this quiz. They still have a lot of homework ahead of them, however, because the questions will get a lot tougher later on.

Notes From Under the Shell
Travis Garrison scored the first points of the season with a short bank-shot at the 18:54 mark of the first half.

Maryland outscored the Eagles 50-14 in the paint, 34-7 in points off turnovers, and 23-8 in second-chance points.

American started three international players, and had seven on their roster. I wonder how many languages they swore in while shooting 27% for the game.

Coach Jeff Jones is now 1-2 vs. ACC teams at American University. He lost to Maryland and beat Florida State during the 2001-02 season. Jones had plenty of previous experience against the ACC both as a player and coach at Virginia.

Gilchrist sported a new look, coming out tonight with a shiny shaved head. Maryland is now 1-0 in games played where Gilchrist has no hair on his head.

Gary Williams is now 8-0 at Maryland vs. the school where he began his collegiate head-coaching career. The 31-point margin of victory ties the largest ever between the two schools, last occurring in a 98-66 Terrapin win on December 10, 1992.

The last time American University beat Maryland was during the 1926-27 season. The Eagles won a 21-16 contest and no, I was not in attendance. I had to work that night.

Maryland's next game is Tuesday night at the Comcast Center vs. George Mason. Tip-off is at 8:00 PM, and the game will be broadcast on Comcast Sports Net and Fox Sports South.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Terps Fall In Final Exhibition Game

Originally posted on "TerpTown" on the network and syndicated to Yahoo

I guess size does matter after all. So do age and experience. It is also helpful when a team’s shots fall. Once the Roanoke Dazzle found the range in the second half, they took over Tuesday’s game at Comcast Center and handed the Maryland Terrapins an 81-72 loss in the Terps’ final pre-season tune-up.

The plot line was fairly clear for this match up. Gary Williams wanted to see his young team tested by the older, bigger, more experienced players of Roanoke’s NBDL team. The Dazzle, one of six members of the NBA’s development league, had three players suit up that had been out of college playing in various professional leagues for at least five seasons.

Roanoke also had size like no other team Maryland will play this season. Four players on their roster measured 6’ 10” or taller, led by the 7’ 2” 300 pound Chris Christoffersen (the fans really enjoyed his Johnny Cash tribute at halftime) and 6’ 11’ Mikki Moore.

Apparently no one bothered to read the script.

The Dazzle, who opened camp on November 8, began the game as if they had just met. At the 11:32 mark of the first half, Roanoke had made only 2 of 11 shots and committed 10 turnovers, at least half of them unforced. Maryland took advantage of this ineptness to lead 25-10, and built their advantage to 35-17 with 4:00 left in the half. In a scene similar to the Terps’ first exhibition game, Maryland allowed their opponent to muster a spurt just before halftime. A 10-0 run by the Dazzle helped cut the Terps’ halftime margin to 38-30.

Hopefully parents with aspiring young basketball players led their offspring away from the television set during an ugly, ugly first half. The teams combined for 29 turnovers and combined to make only 21 of 66 shots (31.8%). Did I mention it was ugly?

John Gilchrist was the only consistent scoring threat on the floor, totaling 11 points on a combination of strong drives and floating jump shots in the lane. He demonstrated his quickness with the ball a couple of times by nearly breaking the ankles of his defender on crossover moves that led to open shots.

It was obvious Coach Gary Williams suggested to his players at halftime that it would behoove them to work the ball inside. Jamar Smith in particular took that to heart, scoring 7 quick points on a dunk, two short jumpers, and a free throw. Chris McCray and Gilchrist also added layups that extended the Terps’ lead to 51-42 with 14:25 to play.

Then the Dazzle’s shots started falling. Someone must have left a window open because Curtis Staples started raining threes. Yes, THAT Curtis Staples who was the long-range bomber for Virginia in the late ‘90’s. Staples knocked down 4 of 6 threes and scored 14 points in the second half to lead Roanoke’s comeback. He led all scorers for the game with 20 points.

The Dazzle outscored Maryland 34-12 over a frustrating 11:55 stretch to build an insurmountable 76-63 lead with 2:29 to play. Roanoke’s players demonstrated their experience by not panicking after their horrendous first half. At the offensive end, they found the open man who often made the shot (59% in the second half). On defense, they controlled the lane and gave Maryland’s guards no open lanes through which to pass the ball.

The Terps were slow rotating over to cover the open three-point shooters and, when they tried to overplay the perimeter players, the middle was wide open for Christofferersen and Moore to throw down dunks or make short jump shots.

The most surprising statistic was the rebounding total, 45-44 in favor of Maryland. The Terps pulled down 21 on the offensive boards against a much bigger team. Travis Garrison led Maryland with a strong 12-rebound effort.

Jamar Smith led the Terps in scoring with 19 points, but made only 7 of 17 shots. Gilchrist added 16 points, and no other Terrapin was in double figures.

Maryland made only 35% of their shots for the game and, even more disturbing, committed 18 turnovers while handing out only 10 assists. Gilchrist was frustrated by this after the game, saying “There were times I was unprepared for things to happen, and they capitalized on it.”

No player had a more drastic turnaround from the Terps’ first exhibition outing than Nik Caner-Medley. After being the best player on the court in the opener, Caner-Medley committed six turnovers and scored only eight points against Roanoke. He summed up the feelings of his teammates in a quiet locker room after the game by saying, “It’s all a learning experience.”

Coach Williams was not happy with the execution of the Terps’ half-court offense. He said after the game “We have to get the ball inside and then score when we do. We weren’t really willing to work to get the ball inside. We thought we could win with jump shots. We made a couple early and probably thought it would stay that way.”

Williams was also quick to put this loss in perspective, “There’s nobody upset or worried. It’s an exhibition game. You couldn’t do better than this game to learn some things. It was good for us. It pointed out some things for us to work on.”

Williams reminded everyone that, “This is a work in progress. We’re trying to get some things down that were automatic two years ago.”

Putting that another way, patience is a virtue that Maryland fans may need during the early portion of the 2003-03 season.

Notes from Under the Shell:
There were other familiar faces on the Roanoke roster; Adam Hall, who completed his eligibility at Virginia in 2002, and Mike King, who played at George Washington through 2001. Hall scored eight points and King added seven.

Johnny Holliday will provide the play-by-play for Maryland football games at NC State and Wake Forest the next two Saturday afternoons, so Chick Hernandez of Comcast Sports Net will join Chris Knoche on the basketball radio broadcasts.

Coach Williams opened his post-game remarks by saying “Should have scheduled an AAU team and given them $25,000 like some other schools I know.” This appeared to be a thinly veiled reference to Connecticut’s game with the AAU Baltimore Ballers, a game the Huskies won 102-44. This was Rudy Gay’s AAU team, and the fact that Connecticut made such a beneficial deal with the Ballers at the same time they were successfully recruiting Gay reeks of impropriety. Kudos to Williams for not selling out his and the program’s integrity in such a manner.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

The CourtMaster: Right On Schedule

Originally posted on "TerpTown" on the network and syndicated to Yahoo

Hear ye, hear ye! Court is back in session, and I’m here to rule on ACC teams’ out of conference schedules.

There are three basic approaches to putting together a schedule: 1) Mix a small sampling of difficult games in with ones your team can count on winning; 2) Play as many east games as you can, building up the team’s won-lost record and, hopefully, its confidence; and 3) Fill it with challenging games to help a team’s RPI and have the players well tested entering the conference slate. Here is a look at which ACC schools fall into which category.

The majority of teams in the conference chose approach #1 this season. Maryland is the best example of this, sandwiching matchups with Gonzaga, Wisconsin, and Florida between patches of less challenging games. This will give Gary Williams time to shake out his new players, see how they fare against tough opponents, and then make adjustments before the conference competition begins.

The Terps had a very similar schedule last season, with three tough games in early December. They lost all three of them, and could do so again this year, but those contests helped Williams and his team learn a lot about aspects of their play that needed improving without severely damaging their confidence.

Roy Williams will also see his Tar Heels tested early with games vs. Illinois and Kentucky and an early January visit from #1 Connecticut. These outings should be a good way for Williams to gauge where his team is and, if things don’t go well, get the players attention. Coach K has also lined up formidable opponents scattered throughout the cupcakes. The Blue Devils play Michigan State and Texas in December in what could be two of the best early season games in the nation.

Florida State will also be tested by games against Florida and possibly Pittsburgh (in a tournament), as will Georgia Tech when they face Ohio State, Tennessee, and possibly Connecticut (NIT semi-final).

Wake Forest has a fairly easy early schedule after the Memphis game, but will play both Texas and Cincinnati in the midst of ACC competition. We’ll see if that unusual degree of late-season difficulty comes back to bite Skip Prosser’s Demon Deacons.

Oliver Purnell at Clemson put one of the tougher out-of-conference lineups together. The Tigers travel to South Carolina, Georgia, and Cincinnati while hosting Purdue and Boston College. This is not a killer schedule, but one that could be problematic for Clemson. The benefits of scheduling difficult opponents are mostly negated if your team loses most of those games. The Tigers could find themselves in that situation, and entering the conference portion of the season with a record barely over .500 would probably ensure an early end to any postseason aspirations they may have.

The Twinkie award this year, usually reserved for Clemson or NC State, goes to Virginia. It’s obvious that Pete Gillen chose approach #2 when putting together the Cavaliers’ schedule. The toughest opponent they will face before January is Providence, a team with an outstanding player in Ryan Gomes but still one projected no higher than the middle of the Big East. Other matchups against Minnesota, Virginia Tech, and Iowa State should also be checked off in the win column for Virginia.

NC State did not miss this designation by much. Games with Michigan and BYU, however, could prove more challenging than most of the Wolfpack’s early season contests in recent years.

This approach can backfire, however, if a team loses a couple of those “automatic” wins. Just ask Larry Shyatt how if felt when Clemson lost to Wofford a few years ago, or ask Matt Doherty what the losses to Hampton and Davidson did to North Carolina’s season two years ago. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that neither coach is still employed at those schools.

I don’t see any team that took approach #3, which means any school on the NCAA Tournament bubble in March will need the RPI of their ACC opponents to be fairly high or face relegation to the NIT.

Question for the Jury
What are some out-of-conference games you would like to see ACC schools schedule. Duke, for example, is reported to be negotiating with Kentucky. Let me know at
Response to my last question, regarding Pete Gillen’s handling of the Majestic Mapp situation, was evenly split, reinforcing my view that Gillen was in a no-win situation here.

CourtMaster Briefs
Wake Forest opened their season last Thursday night with a solid 85-76 win over Memphis in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Madison Square Garden. How about Taron Downey! Only eight days after an emergency appendectomy, he came off the bench to score a career-high 20 points. The Deacons needed his accuracy (7 of 11) since the rest of the team shot only a combined 35% from the floor.

Downey also grabbed 5 rebounds and dished out 5 assists and set a great example for his team with his toughness and determination to play. There won’t be a repeat performance, however, since a person has only one appendix and they usually don’t grow back.

Coach Prosser had to be concerned about the foul trouble his big men encountered. Eric Williams was effective, but could only play 20 minutes. Vytas Danelius was not as effective and fouled out after only 23 minutes. Danelius has been limited with tendonitis in his knees, a situation that bears close scrutiny in the coming weeks.

Freshman sensation Chris Paul had a decent first game on the big stage. He only made 1 of 7 shots and had 1 assist, but he only had 1 turnover in 37 minutes. Not a bad starting point for a first year point guard.

The ACC had an outstanding early-signing period, placing six teams in the Top 25 of the Insiders’ national recruiting rankings. Those schools were North Carolina at #4, Duke #6, NC State #13, Georgia Tech #17, Florida State #20, and Clemson #25. Looking ahead, Boston College and Virginia Tech rated honorable mention. The most encouraging thing here for conference fans is the success of teams rated in the middle or lower end of the current pecking order, promising to make the league even tougher from top to bottom down the road.

Has everyone seen the picture of Duke freshman Luol Deng in the ESPN The Magazine’s college basketball preview issue? Deng is named Dick Vitale’s top Diaper Dandy (freshman for those who don’t speak Viatlese) and is pictured laying in a stroller, arms and legs dangling nearly to the ground. Personally, I hope he gets the hard time for this he richly deserves from opposing fans.

While we’re at it, can we slow down the Deng hype machine for crying out loud? I have no reason to think he will be anything but an excellent player, and his story is a very good one. I would just like to wait until he ACTUALLY PLAYS A GAME to anoint him the next superstar, okay?

Joe Lunardi, ESPN’s resident (notice I did not say expert) Bracketologist has come out with his first cut at the NCAA brackets for next March. I’ll give him credit for having enough nerve to do this before anyone has actually played, and he says his record is fairly accurate. In case you are interested, he has five ACC teams making the big dance, Duke (#1 seed), North Carolina (#2 seed), Wake Forest (#4 seed), NC State (#6 seed), and Maryland, (#8 seed).

Georgia Tech becomes the second ACC team to officially open its season when they host Louisiana-Lafayette on Tuesday night at 7 PM. ESPN will be broadcasting the game with announcers Mark Jones and Brad Daugherty. Should the Yellow Jackets win, they will face the winner of Hofstra-Marist game on Thursday night.

Until next time, court is adjourned!

Friday, November 14, 2003

ACC Hoops: Pure Passion

Originally posted on "TerpTown" on the network and syndicated to Yahoo

Hear ye, hear ye! Court is back in session, and the new ACC season is upon us. I passionately believe that the Atlantic Coast Conference is the best one in the land, and I am sure I will feel that way even after the addition of Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College. Here are some reasons why.

As I reflected on why I love ACC basketball more than any other athletic competition, some wonderful memories of seasons past flooded through my mind:

David Thompson soaring above everyone to tip in the winning basket in NC State’s win over Maryland at Cole Field House in 1973. This was the first national broadcast of a regular season ACC game and the first one played on Super Bowl Sunday.

Phil Ford running Dean Smith’s four-corner offense like a conductor leading an orchestra. When opponents saw Dean put up four fingers, they knew the game was essentially over.

The amazing point guards that played for Bobby Cremmins at Georgia Tech; Mark Price, Kenny Anderson, and Stephon Marbury.

North Carolina’s comeback from an eight-point deficit in the last 17 seconds vs. Duke in 1974 BEFORE the three-point shot was part of the game.

Wake Forest’s amazing Muggsy Bogues, small in stature but huge in his ability to disrupt an opponents’ game

Tree Rollins of Clemson throwing himself to the floor after missing a potentially game-winning shot against North Carolina in the ACC Tournament semi-finals in 1975.

Wake Forest’s Randolph Childress dominating the 1995 ACC Tournament, the best individual performance in the 50 years of that event.

Virginia, led by Wally Walker, winning the 1976 ACC Tournament after finishing last in the regular season, the only team ever to accomplish that rare double.

The great coaches that used to prowl the sidelines; Dean Smith, Jim Valvano, Lefty Driesell, Bobby Cremmins, Terry Holland, Frank McGuire and Norm Sloan (in those hideous plaid jackets).

Watching players like Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, and David Thompson learn their craft in college before emerging as NBA superstars.

Enjoying the atmosphere in grand old facilities like Carmichael Auditorium, Cameron Indoor Stadium, Cole Field House, and Reynolds Coliseum.

The days when the ACC Tournament was sudden death, with only the winner advancing to the NCAA Tournament. This was never more so than in 1974, when NC State defeated Maryland 103-100 in overtime in the greatest college basketball game ever played.

There are hundreds more memories that I could relate, but these were among the best that made the deepest impression on me.

I’m also passionate about the ACC’s future because:

New facilities at Maryland and North Carolina State, with one on the way in Virginia, will enable more fans to watch games in greater comfort.

There will continue to be inexplicable upsets every season, like Florida State beating Duke the last two seasons and Clemson’s win over #1 North Carolina in 2001.

Rivalries may be diluted, but they won’t all go away. Maryland-Duke has recently bubbled up as a bitter, intense rivalry like NC State-Maryland was in the early 1970’s. Maryland-Virginia games are also hotly contested, as are any games between any of the four North Carolina schools. Of course, North Carolina-Duke (or Duke-North Carolina, if you please) will continue to be the most intense rivalry in American sports.

As veteran coaches move on or retire, new ones looking to make their own marks on the game replace them. The recent additions of Skip Prosser at Wake Forest and Oliver Purnell at Clemson along with veterans Leonard Hamilton at Florida State and Roy Williams at North Carolina continues to give the ACC a lineup of coaches the equal of any conference in the nation.

The foundations Coach K and Gary Williams laid at Duke and Maryland respectively should sustain those programs long after their departure, even if there is a brief break in the cycle (see North Carolina).

The commitment of “football schools” Florida State and Clemson to become competitive basketball programs. Both schools have recently invested millions in improving their facilities and chosen wisely in hiring head coaches.

I share the concern of many ACC fans regarding the impact of league expansion, but my faith in the continuity of basketball at the highest level is unshaken.

Here’s a sticky issue. Virginia’s Pete Gillen is expected to land highly touted high school point guard Sean Singletary, but at the cost of Majestic Mapp. Gillen informed Mapp that the school would not petition for an additional year of eligibility for him, which would likely have been granted.

Apparently part of the reason Singletary chose Virginia was the opportunity to start from day one. This meant the end for Mapp, who has already earned his bachelors’ degree and is closing in on his masters. Gilled told the Richmond Times-Dispatch “I told (Mapp) eyeball to eyeball. He wasn’t crazy about it, but he understood. I felt badly doing it, but there was no question it was in best for the University of Virginia basketball program.”

I’m not crazy about it, but I do understand where Gillen is coming from. Many of the same Virgina fans that are howling about his actions would be screaming bloody murder if he lost the opportunity to sign Singletary.

If the main purpose of college is to prepare a student for life in the outside world, then Mapp has learned a graduate-level lesson—when you are no longer perceived as useful to an organization, it’s time to pack up and move on.

Question for the Jury
What do think about Gillen’s actions in this case? Was it a necessary evil or should Gillen have allowed Mapp to try for another season, even at the risk of losing a prize recruit. Let me know at

My last question, regarding my league predictions, saw support for the underdogs. I heard from Clemson fans in particular that felt I sold their team short. I also received some support for Georgia Tech being rated higher.

CourtMaster Briefs
Reports have surfaced again that Notre Dame has made overtures to the ACC to join the conference as a full member. NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! Notre Dame, if you want to play football in a conference, join the Big Ten. You already play half the schools every year anyway. And John Swofford, don’t even think about it! I might have seen some logic of Notre Dame becoming the twelfth ACC school. After all, their national appeal (read: money) is undeniable. But making them the 13th member is unconscionable! Surely you’re not trying to totally destroy the very fabric of the ACC, are you?

Swofford’s comment “our schools are not pursuing any institution for membership at this time” certainly left the door open for any school to court the ACC, which he admitted has happened. It’s actually very simple; if the dollars are there to support it, the ACC, like any other major conference, will continue to grow. Here’s hoping the money is NOT there this time.

Virginia Tech sophomore guard Shawn Harris has suffered a medial tear to the plantar fascia of the right foot (translation, it hurts a lot). He is expected to miss 6-8 weeks of action.

Do you like three-point shots? If not, I would suggest staying away from NC State games this year. The Wolfpack launched 36 three-point attempts and connected on 11 (30.6%) in their 74-66 win over Global Sports. State only turned the ball over nine times but was outrebounded 44-39. This game could be a blueprint for their season, folks.

Georgia Tech romped to an easy 112-75 win over the Southeast All-Stars, led by Luke Schenscher’s 20 points, 12 rebound, and 6 blocked shots.

Virginia knocked off Big Apple Basketball 104-80, shooting 60% from the floor and connecting on 11-23 three-pointers. Derrick Byers topped all scorers with 25 points, making 10 of his 11 shots.

Craig Smith scored 37 points on his 20th birthday while leading Boston College to a 101-64 win over Inland’s Finest (I’d hate to see Inland’s Worst).

Duke easily dispatched Nike Elite 105-69. J. J. Redick led the Blue Devils with 23 points. Shavlik Randolph added 18 points in only 20 minutes of action, and Shelden Williams blocked 6 shots.
Like Duke, it was sophomores who led Maryland to an exhibition victory; 84-70 over the EA Sports All-Stars. Nik Caner-Medley was dazzling with 20 points, knocking down 8 of his nine shots. John Gilchrist handed out 8 assists to go along with his 16 points.

Miami blew past Team Georgia (finally, a team that’s not Elite or All-Stars or Finest) 93-67. Darius Rice paved the way with 26 points.

That's what I think. Let me know what you think on the message board or by e-mail at teams will be focusing on their out of conference schedules over the next few weeks. Who took on a challenging slate, and who scheduled the creampuffs? I’ll look at that and reasons why next time. Until then, court is adjourned.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Maryland over EA Sports

Originally posted on "TerpTown" on the network and syndicated on Yahoo

The Maryland Terrapins defeated the EA Sports All-Stars 84-70 in their first dress rehearsal for the 2003-04 season. For players moving from understudies to leading men, it was a time to deal with opening night jitters and embrace their new roles.

On this night, Nik Caner-Medley was the leading man. In his first game since suffering a horrific ankle injury in the NCAA Tournament last March, Caner-Medley's all-around excellence demanded the spotlight. He made 8 of his 9 shots and led the team with 20 points. Caner-Medley also pulled down 7 rebounds, dished out 4 assists, and blocked 4 shots. Coach Gary Williams thought, "Nik had a great game."

Caner-Medley's superb passing was one of the more pleasant surprises of the night for the Terrapins. He credits the improvement in this phase of his game to "feeling so much more comfortable in the offense. This year, I know where people are going to be and I can get the ball to them." Coach Williams concurs, saying, "Nik knows what he's doing out there. You don't have to tell him a lot."

John Gilchrist had the type of game that was expected of him, handing out 8 assists, grabbing 7 rebounds, and scoring 16 points on 7 of 8 shooting. Coach Williams thought, "John Gilchrist was really tough."

Gilchrist showed he was ready to assume some of the mantle of leadership for his team with how he approached the preparation for this game. He said "Us sophomores, we've got to play the role of seniors last year. We fell like we've got something to prove." His predecessor as Maryland point guard, Steve Blake, was in attendance and received a standing ovation when shown on the scoreboard television screen.

Jamar Smith had an interesting game. He had a solid stat line with 14 points and 7 rebounds, but still did not establish any consistent low post presence on offense. He was mostly content to shoot jumpers and occasionally flashed across the lane to receive a pass. Missing 6 of 8 free throws was also not a positive start for the Terps only senior.

Travis Garrison was the teams leading rebounder with 11 off the boards, but was ineffective on the offensive end. He missed 6 of his 7 shots, most of them fade away jump shots. He did not seem aggressive and, after being chastised by Coach Williams for allowing a passto go off his hands, said something back to him. Not surprisingly, he landed on the bench for a quick moment of counseling from assistant coach Jimmy Patsos before returning to the court.

The outcome of the game was never really in doubt, although Maryland did allow a 40-24 lead shrink to 42-39 at halftime. The Terps came out with a 10-2 run at the beginning of the second half to reestablish a working margin that stayed between 5-10 points most of the balance of the game.

Nine players saw at least 10 minutes of action. Surprisingly, one of them was Wil Bowers and one was not Mike Jones. Bowers was the first big man off the bench and was very active underneath, picking up several floor burns in his 13 minutes. Jones played only nine minutes and still did not appear to get into the flow of the game.

After the game, Coach Williams commented "We're a long way away from being a good basketball team, but we're at the point where we can work on some things."

There is work to be done, that's for sure, but there are ten days until the curtain officially rises on the new season. As Gilchrist said, "we've got to fine tune everything" before act one.

Notes from under the shell
Defense is still a major concern for Coach Williams, and a lack of such triggered his first official outburst of the season early in the second half. It was good to see that Williams was already in game shape.

The starting lineup was Jamar Smith at center, Travis Garrison and Nik Caner-Medley at forwards, and Chris McCray and John Gilchrist at guard. Look for that group to stay intact until further notice.

Williams said, “I was pleased with our young guys, our freshmen” although none of them made much of an impression in the box score. The five first-year players, none of who were in the starting lineup, combined for only 14 points and fourrebounds in a total of 52 minutes played.

EA Sports has now dropped all four games they played against the ACC. They lost in previous stops at Wake Forest, Duke, and NC State. A late addition to the roster was former Washington, DC prep star and Syracuse standout Lawrence Moten. Coach Williams gave Moten a warm embrace before the game, remembering one of the first prize recruits he landed at Maryland. Moten was denied admission to the school in April of 1991, however. He scored only 7 points tonight, connecting on 2 of 7 shots.

Maryland recruit James Gist officially signed his letter of intent on Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period. The 6'8" forward from Good Counsel High School in Wheaton, Maryland is ranked in the top 40 nationally by some recruiting services. Coach Williams said, "James has the potential to become a great player for us." The Terps still have one open scholarship available for next season.

There were several thousand fans that came dressed as empty seats tonight (the official attendance was 17,146), but the acoustics of the Comcast Center makes it difficult to tell. Even a moderately sized and interested crowd makes a lot of noise in that building.

During one of the timeouts, there was a contest pitting students against fans in a sponsored contest to see who could assemble the most pizza boxes in a given time. I can hardly wait for the next game, where I'm sure a paint company will sponsor a contest to have people watch paint dry.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

The CourtMaster's ACC Predictions

Originally posted on "TerpTown" on the network and syndicated on Yahoo

Hear ye, hear ye! Court is back in session, and it’s time to rule on the upcoming ACC season. First, my predictions for the ACC standings, with conference records in parenthesis:

9-Clemson (2-14): The Tigers have a decent core of veteran players to build around--Chris Hobbs, Chey Christie, Olu Babalola, and Sharrod Ford. Unfortunately for new Coach Oliver Purnell, every team in the ACC can match or exceed that group in talent. To make matters worse, most teams in the conference also have deeper benches.

Purnell has a tough road ahead as he tries to awaken his program, which he has called “a sleeping giant in basketball.” He’ll have his team playing intensely and intelligently, and that alone will help them steal a couple of wins at Littlejohn Colliseum this season.

7(tie)-Georgia Tech (6-10): I think the Yellow Jackets’ lack of an inside presence will be too much of a disadvantage for them to be competitive in the ACC. They have an outstanding array of perimeter players--B.J. Elder, Marvin Lewis, Jarrett Jack, and Will Bynum (eligible after the first semester following his transfer from Arizona). The athletic Isma’il Muhammad will also be a key player for Coach Paul Hewitt’s squad.

This is a team that will be able to run the court and rain down three’s on any given night, but the team that lives by the three also dies by it. On nights the shots are not dropping, the Jackets’ will get killed inside. Tech will be an exciting team to watch, but not one that will win a lot of games.

7(tie)-Virginia (6-10): The Cavaliers are a tough team to figure out. Coach Pete Gillen has had to do a virtual makeover of his squad after last season’s disappointing 16-16 record. Elton Brown could be ready to emerge as an inside force after finally getting himself in shape, and should get some help down low from Devin Smith. Todd Billet will again be a threat from the outside. Coach Gillen is hoping for improved production from point guard Majestic Mapp.

Ultimately, Virginia’s success this season will rely on how much incoming freshmen T.J. Bannister, Gary Forbes, and J. R. Reynolds can contribute. If at least one of them comes up big, the Cavaliers could be a pleasant surprise. If not, they will be fighting for an NIT bid. Either way, there is reason for hope in Charlottesville.

5(tie)-NC State (8-8): State has some outstanding players, including the best all-around performer in the conference, Julius Hodge. Marcus Melvin and Scooter Sherrill help provide a strong veteran presence, and Ilian Evtimov’s return from a serious knee injury will give the Wolfpack a boost. The only problem is, none of them are natural point guards or low-post players. Melvin is tall enough to play down low, but prefers to emulate Sam Perkins and hang around the three-point arc. Hodge will again pick up much of the ball handling duties, while Evtimov’s passing will help Coach Herb Sendek’s “Princeton offense” run smoothly.

No team lacking both a pass-first point guard and a big man that can be relied upon to demand defensive attention and pull in rebounds can seriously think about competing for the upper echelon of the ACC. A perimeter oriented team like State could beat Duke one night and lose to Clemson the next, depending on if the three-pointers are falling. That is no way to win

5(tie)-Florida State (8-8): Yes, the Seminoles are my pick for the surprise team of the season (you will be surprised when they finish this high, not me). Last season, Coach Leonard Hamilton taught his team how to play defense. This year, he has added offensive weapons Von Wafer and JUCO transfer Antonio Griffin on the wing and Alexander Johnson down low. This will take some of the load away from Tim Pickett, one of the more underrated players in the nation.

Pickett, Todd Galloway, and Nate Johnson form a solid backcourt, and Hamilton will have depth that was unavailable to him last season. Florida State will still have trouble winning on the road, but their home court will become a place that ACC teams fear to tread.

4-Maryland (9-7): Terrapin Coach Gary Williams has harvested bumper crops of recruits the last two years. Now he has to teach them how to play together and win in the ACC. Returning sophomores John Gilchrist and Nik Caner-Medley were solid contributors last season and give Williams two anchors to build around. Look for freshmen Mike Jones and Hassan Fofana to make their presence felt before the season is over, along with sophomores Chris McCray and Travis Garrison.

This could, in time, develop into Williams’ most talented team ever, but they will have their share of rough spots to work through this season, particularly establishing a low-post presence on offense. This team will go as far as point guard Gilchrist can lead it this season, and that could be further than many people think.

3-Wake Forest (10-6): I think a lot of the Demon Deacons. They are a tough, experienced squad well coached by Skip Prosser. They have one of the most versatile big men in the conference in Vytas Danelius, an even more versatile wing in Jamaal Levy, and a gutsy guard in Justin Gray. Add a more experienced and disciplined center Eric Williams and blue chip freshman point guard Chris Paul to the mix, and you have a team than can find a lot of different ways to win.

I thought long and hard about ranking Wake higher, but ultimately did not because they don’t have a clear cut go-to-guy like Josh Howard was last season. The two teams ahead of them both have one this season. If Prosser finds that player in this mix, Wake has a chance of repeating as ACC regular season champions and having a successful post-season.

2-North Carolina (11-5): When Roy Williams was deciding if he wanted to return to Chapel Hill and coach the Tar Heels last April, he looked at their roster and saw three players who could be the best at their positions in the ACC; point guard Raymond Felton, wing Rashad McCants, and center Sean May. I’m sure that fact helped him make his choice. Williams also inherits a solid all-around player in Jawad Williams, a defensive stopper in guard Jackie Manuel, and a strong role player in David Noel.

Williams’ toughest job will be to teach this team how to win, an amazing but accurate statement to make about a group of North Carolina players. His second hardest task will be to figure out how to play at the breakneck pace he wants without his players, particularly Felton, keeling over due to a thin bench. With Williams’ proven coaching ability and some exceptional talent, the Tar Heels will be back in the mix this season.

1-Duke (12-4): Coach K has assembled the best balance of talent, depth, and experience in the ACC this season. He has a go-to-guy in J. J. Redick, an inside presence in Shelden Williams, a veteran (although overrated) point guard in Chris Duhon, and perhaps the nation’s most talented freshman in Luol Deng. Daniel Ewing, Shavlik Randolph, and Sean Dockery should be important players off the bench for the Blue Devils.

As I pointed out in an earlier column, there are too many question marks about this team to rank them at the top in preseason polls. There are, however, a lot of potentially positive answers to those questions that could lead to a sixth-straight ACC Tournament title and a long run in the NCAA Tournament.

Julius Hodge, NC State
Raymond Felton, North Carolina
Rashad McCants, North Carolina
Vytas Danelius, Wake Forest
Tim Pickett, Florida State

2nd Team All-ACC:
B. J. Elder, Georgia Tech
John Gilchrist, Maryland
Sean May, North Carolina
J. J. Redick, Duke
Shelden Williams, Duke

Note: I don’t rate freshmen because I have not seen them play.

Player of the Year: Julius Hodge, NC State

Coach of the Year: Leonard Hamilton, Florida State

Question for the Jury: Tell me what you think of my predictions. Which player or team did I rate too high or too low? Let me know at Everyone I heard from regarding my last question about the Enormous East and the ACC felt that the ACC would NOT be overshadowed and continue to be one of the best conferences in the nation.

CourtMaster Briefs:
ACC teams continued their pre-season exhibition contests last week with a varying level of success.

The biggest surprise was Wake Forest’s 77-75 loss to Athletes in Action. Freshman Chris Paul put the Deacons ahead 75-74 on a three-point play with two seconds left, but AIA’s Donte Quinine hit a 30-foot shot at the buzzer. I guess you could say he threw up a prayer and it was answered. For the game, AIA made 17 of 29 three-point attempts, led by former Penn State star Joe Crispin, who knocked down 8 of his 12 threes and finished with 28 points. Justin Gray led the Deacons with 15 points.

Virginia Tech fell to the EA Sports team 86-82. The Hokies were done in by Ricky Price, the former Duke player, who led EA Sports with 27 points. Freshman Coleman Collins paced Tech with 21 points, and Bryant Matthews contributed 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Nike Elite dropped two games to ACC opponents, 100-89 at Georgia Tech and 85-68 at Clemson. The Yellow Jackets were led by Isma’il Muhammad with 21 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. B. J. Elder also scored 21 for Tech, which shot 56% for the game. Clemson was paced by an outstanding all-around effort from Olu Babolola, who totaled 11 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists and no turnovers. Chey Christie and Chris Hobbs led the Tigers with 15 points each.
Clemson held a staggering 58-26 advantage in rebounds, pulling 26 down on the offensive glass.

Florida State got past Global Sports 83-68 on the strength of a defensive effort that held Global to 35% shooting. Anthony Richardson led the Seminoles with 19 points while Nate Johnson connected on all five of his three-point attempts on his way to 17 points.

North Carolina breezed by North Carolina Central 97-59. Rashad McCants returned to the court for the Tar Heels, scoring 26 points and making 5 steals. Raymond Felton dished out 12 assists, came up with 4 steals, and did not commit a turnover. Sean May added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Heels, who were outrebounded 22-10 on the offensive glass.

Exhibition play continues this week, and Wake Forest opens the season for real with a game against Memphis in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Madison Square Garden Thursday at 7 PM on ESPN2.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Toughest Places to Play in the ACC

Originally posted on "TerpTown" on the network and syndicated on Yahoo

Hear ye, hear ye! Court is back in session, and we have a full docket today. First, I will rule on the toughest home courts in the ACC. I define this as the atmosphere that gives the home team the largest advantage and causes the most problems for the visitors. Here are my rulings, from bottom to top (I like the suspense to build). Bailiff, drum roll if you please.

9-Florida State (Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center, 12,200 capacity): Empty seats generally don’t intimidate anyone, and you won’t find more anywhere in the ACC than a Seminoles’ home game. Florida State never had the strongest fan base in the conference, but the drought of victories in recent years has dried up much of what it used to be. The Civic Center will never be one of the tougher places to play, but a winning team could generate enough excitement to at least make it feel like everyone is not attending a wake.

8-Virginia (University Hall, 8.864 capacity): Cavalier fans can hold their own with most of their ACC counterparts, but the size of the building (second smallest in the conference) and the design work against U-Hall being a disruptive environment. The arena was built with a circular design that puts mid-court seats the furthest away from the playing surface. This is a flaw that will be corrected when the new John Paul Jones arena opens in 2006 with nearly twice the current capacity.

7-Clemson (Littlejohn Coliseum, 10,980 capacity): Even in down years, the Tigers have a solid core of 7,000 fans that come out to support them and make a lot of noise. Their average attendance is usually only higher than Florida State, however, and size does matter when it comes to crowds and the affect they have on opponents.

6-Georgia Tech (Alexander Memorial Coliseum, 9,191 capacity): The “Thrillerdome” was a very tough place to play when Mark Price or “Lethal Weapon 3” wore the Yellow Jackets’ home jerseys. It’s still not easy and the fans do get cranked up for big games, but it is not currently one of the tougher arenas in the conference.

5-Wake Forest (Lawrence Joel Coliseum, 14,407 capacity): This building often features more empty seats than any ACC building outside of Tallahassee. Winston-Salem has never embraced Wake Forest sports as closely as Raleigh and Chapel Hill, making the Deacon’s fan base softer than most in the conference. This has been changing recently, however, with the new energy Skip Prosser has brought to Deacons’ basketball. Both the numbers and enthusiasm have risen sharply since Prosser came to town, and should continue to do so.

4-North Carolina (Dean E. Smith Center, capacity 21,750): If this were based strictly on crowd enthusiasm, Carolina would be ranked lower. The entire experience of coming to one of the largest basketball arenas in the nation with all the banners hanging from the roof adds to the intimidation level opponents have to deal with playing there. Ever since the snow game against Maryland in 2000, students have been a more vocal part of the Dean Dome crowd. This year, with Roy Williams return, we will certainly see a continued increase in the fans’ vocal support of the Heels.

3-NC State (RBC Center, 19.700 capacity): This beautiful arena lacks the intimacy of old Reynolds Coliseum, but mostly makes up for it with the size of the crowd (7,000 more seats) and proximity of the students to the court. State made a very wise move by insuring students would circle the court, giving opponents no safe haven where someone is not screaming at them. This is a very, very loud arena.

2-Maryland (Comcast Center, 17,950 capacity): Though not quite up to the “pit” standards of Cole Field House in its inaugural season last year, this building did not miss by much. Just ask Duke players after the Terps whipped them last season. Comcast feels much more intimate than it’s capacity would lead you to believe and, like NC State, Maryland located student seats circling the court. Unlike the RBC Center, there is one end of the court at a higher than normal incline that is packed with students who love to make life miserable for opposing free throw shooters.

1-Duke (Cameron Indoor Stadium, 9,314 capacity): There are those, including Coach K himself, who feel that the Cameron Crazies have lost some punch in recent years. It is still the best environment for basketball in the ACC and one of best in the nation. The layout of the building puts nearly everyone close to the court and the students, although not always spontaneous, still know how to rattle visiting players more effectively and creatively than any others in the conference.

Question for the jury: What is the toughest place for your favorite team to play? Let me know at Most of the responses I received on my “Mystery Men” column agreed with my choices. Remember, folks, it is quite acceptable to contact me when you think I’m right.

First Looks: Here are some brief summaries of scrimmages and exhibitions around the ACC in the last week.

Shavlik Randolph posted impressive and very encouraging numbers in Duke’s Blue/White scrimmage. Randolph scored 23 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Lee Melchionni added 21 points, Shelden Williams scored 16 and pulled down 13 rebounds, and Chris Duhon complimented his 10 assists with 12 points.

Levi Watkins was the leading scorer at NC State’s Red/White scrimmage with 15 points. Freshmen Mike O’Donnell and Engin Astur drew some of the loudest cheers from the crowd by knocking down two three-pointers apiece.

Fans at North Carolina’s Blue/White scrimmage held their breath when Sean May limped off the court with a leg injury. It appears to be a calf injury that, fortunately, was not serious. Before that, May had dominated with 13 points and 10 rebounds in only 17 minutes. Raymond Felton led scorers with 20 points and dished out 9 assists. Afterwards, Roy Williams told the Raleigh News & Observer that his team is still “a lot further behind than I’d like to be.”

Jamar Smith was the high scorer at Maryland’s Red/Black scrimmage with 24 points and also pulled down 8 rebounds. Chris McCray and DJ Strawberry worked as a backcourt tandem to control play for much of the scrimmage. Both were very active defensively and aggressive on the offensive end. John Gilchrist looked comfortable running the first team offense from his point guard position.

Majestic Mapp looked strong in Virginia’s Orange/Blue game, raising hopes that he could be a
major contributor at point guard for the Cavaliers this season. Elton Brown showed off his new trimmed-down physique with new height to his jumping but the same old fade-away jumpers.

Miami lost their first exhibition game to Nike Elite 88-86. Get used to this phrase; Darius Rice led the Hurricanes with (fill in the blank). In this game, he scored 34 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Rice, a senior, is one player ACC coaches will be glad they won’t have to contend with next season. Miami’s sophomore guard Robert Hite added 17 points and 6 rebounds.

Virginia Tech also lost their exhibition opener, dropping a 86-82 decision to EA Sports. The Hokies were done in by former Duke player Ricky Price, who led all scorers with 27 points.

Bryant Matthews, a senior power forward, is another player ACC teams won’t have to deal with next year. He led Tech with 20 points and 10 rebounds. The Hokies only turned the ball over 11 times but allowed EA Sports to shoot 58% for the game.

CourtMaster Briefs
As you just saw, I will be adding coverage of the future ACC members into my columns when appropriate to help us all get familiar with the programs at Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College.

Unfortunately, there is more injury news from around the conference to report:

Sophomore Rashad McCants did not participate in North Carolina’s scrimmage, nursing an injured right quadriceps that caused him to miss several days of practice. The injury is not believed to be serious. Tar Heel sophomore center Damon Grant, still recovering from off-season knee surgery, had the knee flare up on him during practice and could be out several weeks.

Injuries have a way of striking a team’s thinnest position, and that’s exactly what happened to Georgia Tech when sophomore forward Theodis Tarver dislocated his kneecap during practice. The Yellow Jackets, already short on big men, will be without Tarver’s services for at least a month.

Mike Matthews, a senior big man at Florida State, has been held out of contact drills nursing a sore shoulder.

Julian Betko, a sophomore forward for Clemson, had his knee scoped and will be out until later this month.

NC State finally had some good news on the injury front after sophomore forward Ilian Evtimov took a hard spill during the Red/White scrimmage. Evtimov, to the relief of everyone present, bounced right up and continued playing, showing no indication of favoring his surgically repaired knee.

The exhibition schedule gets into full swing this week, with the start of the regular season only a few days away.

Let me know what you think at My preview series will conclude with two more installments. Later this week, I’ll present my wish list of events/trends I would like to see in the ACC this season. Early next week, I’ll follow by making my predictions for the season. Expect surprises.

Until then, court is adjourned!