Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Is the Fridge still cool?

Patrick Stevens over at the Washington Times is doing some great work on his "D1scource" blog covering Maryland sports. He has a number of entries worth reading but a recent blog about media coverage of Maryland sports was worth examining. He compared football head coaches at the same BCS program from 2004-2007 and charted their records. It is surprising that Fridge ranks 32nd in winning percentage out of 39 coaches during that period. There were five coaches with better records who got fired by their schools during that time, including Chan Gailey at Georgia Tech. Gailey may have had his weaknesses but he went to four straight bowl games and played in an ACC championship game during those four seasons. That is much better than Friedgen has mustered during that time. To be fair it excludes the first three seasons under Fridge that were among the best in Maryland's history. I think Friedgen is turning things around after the program went off the rails in 2004 and 2005. He is coming off two straight bowl games and it seems likely he will make it to a third this year. Now that Ralph is completely stocked with his own players he is still dogged by questions as to whether he can win with his own recruits. I think he can but has been held back by staff turmoil and the inability to find a reliable quarterback. I don't think Friedgen should be on the "hot seat" because he runs a fairly clean program that, overall, has produced good results. I'm not sure Maryland is going to attract another coach who would do better than the 56-31 record that Ralph Friedgen has posted. I don't mean to damn with faint praise, Fridge also represents the school well and is a concerned alumnus. I do understand those who question his salary in comparison to the recent struggles of the program. On the other hand the school tried to get by on the cheap with Mark Duffner and Ron Vanderlinden and they got what they paid for.

Basketball News
Sean Mosley's status is now certain. He will be on the Maryland basketball roster this fall. He will also be wearing jersey #14, which is the same number Gary Williams wore at Maryland in the 1960's. Fourteen is Mosley's high school jersey number as well. Hopefully that is a sign of some good karma. There have been some positive reports about the summer progress of Adrian Bowie but Maryland needs the rugged and versatile Mosley to contribute right away.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

ACC media picks

I know I should just stop taking notice of the ACC media picks in either football or basketball. They are notoriously inaccurate and slanted towards the southern conference members. In their opinion Maryland is going to finish 5th in the Atlantic Division ahead of only NC State. Clemson is picked to win both the Atlantic and the ACC Championship.

I think the Terps have a chance to make a run at the ACC title game this year with some solid QB play and a modest improvement in the defense. With the ACC still a fairly weak conference any team with solid play at the quarterback position has a huge advantage. Maryland's road slate isn't easy and it may prove too much for a team that lacks confidence. I'll have my ACC picks out next month and hopefully I'll keep the string going from last season when I correctly picked each division winner and Maryland's final record.

Center Edwin Williams was the only All-ACC selection but pre-season selections don't amount to much. With some consistent QB play WR Darrius Heyward-Bey could be an All-American candidate. He'll need to become more of a scoring threat as three touchdowns won't get you much publicity. Other Terrapins who could make a name for themselves this season: G Jamie Thomas, RB Da'Rel Scott, LB Adrian Moten, LB Dave Philistin, and CB Kevin Barnes.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Prestige

ESPN.com created another flawed list that rated basketball programs and their relative prestige. The basis was a very flawed formula that you can see here which awarded the best record in a team's conference and conference tournament championships with equal value regardless of the strength of the team's conference. That results in Murray State getting over half of its points based off of winning the Ohio Valley conference 22 times and Gonzaga earning over 54% of its points based on 21 conference titles in the West Coast Conference. Equating winning the Ohio Valley or West Coast with making it to the Sweet 16 is ridiculous.

Patrick Stevens in the Washington Times indicated that three players: LB Eteyen Edet, DT Cody Blue and DT Zach Kerr will have to go to prep school before making their way College Park. He also cleared up the Drew Gloster mystery reporting that he is academically ineligible for this season and may or may not be on the roster next year. I'm guessing that depends on how he handles his academic commitments this year.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Whitmore departs, NYT mentions Turtlewaxing

Maryland's football roster got closer to the 85 scholarship limit when DE/LB Brian Whitmore and WR Stephen Smalls left the football team and will likely seek to transfer. Whitmore was one of the heralded members of the 2006 recruiting class and was seen as a future starter at the LEO position. In two years Whitmore could not live up to his 4-star recruit status and wasn't in the two deep. The promising 2006 class has been slowly turning to dust as seven players from that class are not on the roster just two years later. There is still some quality players left on the roster including runningbacks Morgan Green and Da'Rel Scott, OT Bruce Campbell, LB Adrian Moten, WR LaQuan Williams and injured Alex Wujciak from that class. Looking back the 2005 and 2006 classes were not successful in bring in the depth a team needs to sustain injuries during the year.

In other news the New York Times rated the Terps No. 55 in the country with a fair assessment of the questions going into this season for Maryland. They also mentioned Turtlewaxing as a Maryland blog and I'm grateful for the link.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Gasp! TV determines basketball schedule

In another indication of how far Maryland basketball has fallen in the eyes of the sports world ESPN announced that the Michigan verses Maryland game in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge will be shown on the backwater, banjo playing younger brother of the ESPN family, ESPNU. The only other game on the "U" is Boston College versus Iowa. Stinkers like Virginia at Minnesota, Florida State at Northwestern and Penn State at Georgia Tech are on ESPN2. I would also suggest that it is no coincidence that the dominant cable TV provider in both Michigan and Maryland is Comcast, which steadfastly refuses to carry ESPNU. ESPN has been trying to force Comcast to add ESPNU to its basic cable lineup while Comcast will only agree to add it to an extra sports tier of programming. As usual where ESPN is involved the fans suffer.

Interesting article on the ACC's website, a rarity I know, on the process of arriving at the conference schedule for every team and the process of doling out the television rights. As if you didn't already know this is a multi-billion dollar business, my friends. Never forget that is first and foremost.

Mike DeCourcy has an article about how former Arizona recruit Brandon Jennings might be making a mistake in going to Italy to play professional basketball instead of going the traditional college route. The essence of the article was how a former college player was stiffed by the Italian club after testing positive for a banned substance (likely a violation of his contract). Boo hoo. As if college players in the good old U. S. of A. are not taken advantage of in much worse ways on a regular basis by greedy head coaches and college programs. At the very least he is entering into a legal contract with this professional club that is accountable as his employer. College players have no such remedy. Jennings route is risky and he is gambling that the lack of exposure playing in Europe and not Arizona will be offset by his reportedly hefty salary this year. Whether he gets to the NBA or not probably depends little on his going to Arizona or Italy. Every NBA team scouts in Europe these days so they will see first hand if Jennings has the skills to play in the league. High school players, for whom the main goal is to play in the NBA, will soon discover that going to Europe first may not be a bad idea. The only thing that has prevented more of this in the past is the people who have a vested interest in the corrupt system of college basketball as it exists and the lack of contacts to make these transatlantic negotiations happen. Coaches and Universities, AAU cockroaches, prep school "handlers", shoe companies, and all the other pigs at the trough stand to lose influence and money if more of these kids take ownership of the value of their skills. The rest of us won't have to be hypocrites and pretend that kids like Jennings belong in college while the vast majority of these prep stars couldn't care less about an education. Instead of getting worthless sociology degrees from places like Duke in exchange for pumping huge amounts of money into the pockets of the NCAA, its member institutions and corporate partners maybe they can get their own share of what their skills are worth on the open market. The kids who honestly want an education won't be effected by this possible trend in the least. For better or worse this system works for golf, tennis and baseball, sports in which the NCAA doesn't have its own racket, and doesn't make an obscene profit coincidentally. There is nothing sinister about what Jennings is doing, if anything there is a refreshing honesty to it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Football class gains Mo

Maryland football gained the oral commitment of Caleb Porzel, a running back from Good Counsel High School in Olney. He isn't a big back but has excellent speed and good vision. Expect him to be a factor as a third down back and returner. You can see a highlight package on the video below. He joins Drew Gloster as another Good Counsel player to attend Maryland. Teammate Jelani Jenkins is one of the most coveted linebackers in the nation.



Maryland had more good news recently as Forestville defensive end Deonte Arnett chose Maryland. Arnett is a 4-star player with great size, 6-4 235 pounds, and may grow into a formidable end. Maryland hasn't had a reliable pass rushing end since Kevin Eli.

The news wasn't so good for the basketball team as 2009 recruit Dante Taylor picked Pitt over Maryland and others. The 5-star power forward was dominating in summer AAU play and is a likely high school All-American at a position the Terps desperately need help. Williams and his staff now need to scramble to find some 2009 frontcourt help.

Basketball schedule shaping up

It appears that the ACC will keep the original three year rotation and though it has not been officially released yet it appears Maryland's ACC schedule will consist of the following:

Home and Home:
Virginia
Duke
North Carolina
Georgia Tech
Miami

Home Only:
Boston College
Wake Forest
Virginia Tech

Road Only:
NC State
Florida State
Clemson

The Raleigh paper called it the most difficult schedule in the ACC since the Terps are the only team that has to play Duke and North Carolina twice. It isn't an "easy" schedule but with Maryland locked in to two games against Duke every year they are not likely to get an easy draw like Virginia Tech or Miami who are guaranteed four games against the dregs of the conference every year. Right now it doesn't appear that the Terps are in great shape this fall but to suggest that Maryland will have to play over its head to finish above 10th in the league is pretty ridiculous. I doubt a Gary Williams coached team will finish below 9th in a very weak ACC.

It is unlikley that Maryland will be able to steal a win from UNC, though they are they only team to beat UNC each of the last two seasons. I think Duke was vastly overrated last season and will only be marginally better this year. If Williams made some different coaching decisions Maryland could have easily won at least one of the games against Duke.

I don't see Miami having much of a chance to improve on their record from last season so assuming they will be a 11 win team is laughable. Maryland hasn't had much luck against them in past seasons, mostly because the frontcourt players for the Terps got bullied, but I don't see that as a sweep for the Hurricanes.

Georgia Tech has talent but always seems to underachieve. In addition Maryland has won five in a row against the Yellow Jackets.

Virginia may be slightly better than last season overall but the void at point guard may spell disaster for the Wahoos.

Maryland gets to host improving Wake, Boston College and Virginia Tech. None of those teams are particularly good road warriors. I wouldn't be surprised if the Terps took two of those three.

The road slate, outside of Clemson, isn't difficult. NC State may still be the worst team in the ACC and Florida State lost a tremendous amount of experience. Clemson is a dark horse. They may still be the third best team in the ACC, and not far off from Duke.

All in all I think a 7-9 or 6-10 record is very feasible with this schedule.

I think Miami actually has the most challenging slate. Getting NC State and FSU twice helps, though they can't seem to win in Tallahassee, but the rest of the schedule is difficult. The home only slate includes tough opponents in Wake, Virginia Tech and Clemson, not that the worst arena and fans in the league give them any advantage at home. The road slate includes a visit to Duke and two road venues in Georgia Tech and Virginia that are more difficult that the talent level of those teams would indicate.

Georgia Tech probably has the most favorable schedule and probably should take at least 5 of their 8 home games.

In other news Maryland will play Vermont again this season along with George Washington, Charlotte, Michigan and an undetermined quality opponent in the Old Spice Classic. It isn't too challenging a non-conference slate, which is exactly what the Terps will need.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Mosley on the way

Sean Mosley is expected to qualify academically and claim the tenth scholarship spot on the roster this fall. You can read about the process on the Baltimore Sun's website. This is a bright spot in what has been a truly dismal off season for Maryland basketball. If you read what Gary Williams told the Sun carefully it seems he expects Mosley to have a much larger role as a freshman than you would think.

It was also suggested that two more players could be added to the 2008 class. Jin Soo Kim is certainly one of the two as he is trying to reclassify from 2009 so he can start at Maryland a year earlier. That is good news because the Terps will need his offensive punch off the bench.

In other news the ACC Now blog at the Raleigh News & Observer website comes out and acknowledges what is already apparent to most serious fans. That John Swofford's legacy, the incompetent and botch expansion of the ACC, has been largely a failure. Swofford bravely insists that despite the fact that few of the expected benefits to expansion have materialized the ACC is still better off where it sits today (and J.P. Giglio has a great "Mission Accomplished" analogy). About the only ACC school that truly benefited from expansion has been Virginia Tech, with the irony being that they were merely an unwanted throw in to make the deal happen. Swofford also didn't rule out the possibility that the ACC could expand again at some point in the future. My guess is that when a fool like Swofford is making predictions then the smart money should head the other way. It is more likely that changes to the football BCS system will make today's mega-conference structure less desirable, not more. Not that anyone in the ACC has the savvy to figure that out ahead of time.