Friday, October 14, 2005

Twilight Madness

I can't help but feeling excited and somewhat giddy that college basketball is starting again this very night. A chance to wash the bitter taste out of Terp fans mouths from last season. The NCAA selection show, which seed the team will earn, how their bracket will set up, there is nothing better in sports.

Maryland will start "Midnight" Madness at 10:15pm after the assorted performaces that no one really cares to see. If you're going to have what amounts to a pep rally at 10 you shouldn't call it Midnight Madness. Maryland's Lefty Driesel started the whole idea of Midnight Madness back in 1970. It just seems silly to hold onto the name when part of the whole point is when you start the celebration.

I think Maryland will be back in a big way this season. I'm certainly not alone. Gary Williams is confident that the team is focused and dedicated to fullfilling their potential. For the Senior class of Chris McCray, Travis Garrison and Nik Caner-Medley this is their last chance to live up to some of the expecations that they brought to campus 3 seasons ago. It seems they may have gotten that message in the offseason.

Travis Garrison:
“We are the seniors, We are the guys everyone looks at. We are the guys who have to go out there and lead for the younger guys. We are the guys, if things go wrong, we are going to be at fault. But as a leader, that’s what you want.”

Nik Caner-Medley:
“Around the basket, being 6-8, 240 pounds, some of the moves I made were terrible, I’ve always had a habit to pump and I don’t even really notice it when I am playing. I’ll watch tape and ask ‘Why did I do that?’ I’ve really focused on that. In order to be a great team, you have to carry yourself a certain way on and off the court. And I think in the first game we play, I think everyone will notice a difference.”

Chris McCray:
“I still haven’t reached my maximum potential. I’m still working hard on the aspects of the game I need to. And I know, Nik and Travis are doing the same thing.”

It certainly sounds like they are determined to change the bad habits that plagued the team last season. Of course John Gilchrist was saying similar things to the media before last season. I think this senior trio truly are different this season. They have learned the value of leadership and team work the hard way. They have had to endure the questions about their responsibility for ending Maryland's 12 year streak of tournament appearances and all the distractions of John Gilchrist's final act with the team. That would get old for anyone and should have been a motivator for improving this season. They also seem to have taken to heart Coach Williams emphasis that hard work in June goes a long way to determining how good you are in Janurary.

Gary Williams indicated that he does not have a starting five set as of now. You can be fairly sure to pencil McCray and Caner-Medley into two of those spots. The frontcourt is a fairly muddled picture right now. Travis Garrison is probably still the starter but is hanging on to his starting job by a thread right now. He won't get Williams usual deference to senior starters. James Gist and Ekene Ibekwe could easily push past him since they are both better suited for PF or C than Garrison. Will Bowers worked on his post game in the off season but I would be surprised if it had improved enough for him to move past the more athletic trio of Gist, Ibekwe and Garrison. He is a favorite of Williams so that may earn him more time, especially against big and physical centers like Sheldon Williams and Eric Williams.

The PG spot is also unclaimed at this point. Sterling Ledbetter seemed to be anointed in the NIT as the starter but his erratic play and rumors that he was in the dog house with the coaching staff didn't help. Parrish Brown is a potentially dynamic guard with the ability to score like Gilchrist, but without the attitude or baggage. McCray and DJ Strawberry will also see some time at the position.

When asked about junior SG Mike Jones coach Williams responded by saying that Jones had some great games last year but had to do it in practice every day. He also had this to say, "Get your McDonald's All-American list out from three years ago and see how many guys are doing well in college right now, It's the most overrated thing I've seen. All those lists are bad.".

That got me thinking so I examined the 2003 McDonalds roster. Out of the 24 players picked to the team only 7 players are still with the teams they committed to that spring.

Mike Jones -Maryland
Shannon Brown -Michigan State
Mustafa Shakur -Arizona
Leon Powe -Cal
Brian Butch -Wisconsin
Ivan Harris -Ohio State
Aaron Brooks -Oregon

Powe can never stay healthy and injures may have derailed his career. Butch averaged 9.7 minutes a game last season and seemed to be best at being Bo Ryan's goon. Harris scored 7.3 ppg for Ohio State.

Two other players David Padgett and J.R. Giddens no longer play for Kansas and have since transferred elsewhere. Neither have shown much in college. So only about 1/3 of the players on the 2003 team are left in college after just two seasons! It is also worth noting that not a single player on that squad ever played on a national title team.

Other notes:
Parrish Brown took number 24 and David Neal took 35.

Could the pictures on Maryland's website be any worse? I didn't post any here because they are so bad. Get a better camera, Debbie.

Duke forward Dave McClure will miss the entire 2005 season with a serious knee injury. This will but more pressure on freshmen Josh McRoberts, Eric Boateng and Jamal Boykin to produce early. McRoberts is ready now but Boateng and Boykin will need to be step up for Duke to improve on its depth. I still think Duke will be vulnerable to foul trouble again this year.

ESPN.com ranked Maryland 17th in its preseason poll. Jay Bilas ranked Maryland 18th. Andy Katz 12th. Joe Lunardi 16th.

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