The men's basketball schedule was released yesterday and overall it is a very favorable schedule for a team that will be breaking in six freshmen and potentially two new starters. There are few marquee games for Maryland this season. The Terps will likely play two out of the trio of Missouri, Michigan State or UCLA in the CBE Classic tournament. Michigan State or UCLA would be the best out of conference(OOC) match up of the season. As I mentioned yesterday Maryland will face Illinois in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge in a rematch of one of the best games of the series from last season. Illinois figures to be slightly down from last year but will still give Maryland a good challenge at home. There is only one true road game prior to the ACC schedule with Maryland traveling to Charlotte on January 5. Maryland plays neutral site games in Kansas City in the CBE, with a potential "road" game against Missouri possible, and the annual BB&T game against Virginia Commonwealth.
The early schedule is conducive to getting many of the younger players some playing time before the league slate starts. Maryland will probably use its bench much more extensively than last season when only Eric Hayes(23.3 minutes) and Boom Osby(13.3) got significant playing time. Expect to see a fair amount of Braxton Dupree, Jerome Burney, Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker in November and December. Gary Williams has stated he wants to get back to an 8-9 player rotation.
There are some stinkers in the OOC schedule with high Kenpom RPIs in North Florida(333), Morgan State(303), Delaware(306) and Lehigh(240). Still there are some decent mid-major opponents in Tulsa (yes, I know they are in Conference USA), Holy Cross, VCU and Ohio who are all top 120 RPI teams from last season.
I think it is a balanced schedule though I am sure that season ticket holders won't be happy with the home slate. Then again what else is new.
The ACC schedule is also very favorable. There are always surprise teams in the league who do better or worse than expected but on first glance Maryland should coast to at least an 8-8 record. The Terps get 6 games against Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and Boston College. BC and Virginia Tech will both be decimated by graduation. Al Skinner is a fairly good coach but they will struggle to post a winning record this season. The Hokies may end up being the worst team in the ACC this coming year with the loss of three seniors and the back up point guard. Wake Forest finished last year on a higher note but still was second to last in the ACC in front of lowly Miami. Their main post presence in Kyle Visser(leading scorer and rebounder) and senior scrapper Mike Drum are both gone. Three young players, Kevin Swinton, Casey Crawford and Shamaine Dukes all transfered elsewhere in the off season leaving the Deacons bench very thin and inexperienced. There are some good players left starting with point guard Ishmael Smith and some talented freshmen are coming in this year but new coach Dino Gaudio just doesn't have the firepower yet.
Add to that playing only home games against a possibly improved NC State and Clemson and Maryland should be set up nicely for another winning record in the ACC. Maryland should get off to a nice start with four out of the first six games at Comcast Center. The Terps do finish the year with three road games out of the last four but Miami, Wake Forest and Virginia are not exactly murder's row. Last year Maryland started with five of its first eight ACC games on the road and it really knocked the team for a loop that they didn't recover from until that incredible February winning streak. No such schedule quirks this coming year.
It is a thoughtful and strategic schedule. By the time January rolls around Gary Williams will likely have his team primed for the rigors of the ACC.
All of Gary Williams griping may have made a difference since Maryland has only two 9pm starts this season, both at home.
Around the ACC
Bobby Bowden has decided to settle on Drew Weatherford as his starting quarterback. Maybe sometime before kickoff Ralph will do the same.