Woo, woo, woo. In the midst of a football season that has turned into something resembling a terminal wasting disease it is a relief that college basketball season kicks off tonight with the annual Midnight Madness celebrations across the country. I have to confess that in some of the recent seasons I felt a mixture of anxiety and excitement at the start of the season because the Maryland basketball teams of the recent past have never been a sure thing in regards to the only post season play that matters, the NCAA Tournament. This year, however, optimism abounds with the return of senior Grievis Vasquez and the arrival of two players who look, and play, like legitimate low post players. As head coach Gary Williams indicated in his press conference nothing is guaranteed to this group but with a weakened ACC and a team deep and experienced at the most important positions they are poised to do some damage in the league. By Thanksgiving they will likely have more wins than the football team.
As for the football team the weather forecast for Saturday's game is supposed to match the outlook for this season, cold, rainy and bleak. With Virginia's do-everything running back Mikell Simpson doubtful with a neck injury it isn't clear who has an advantage if they play on a soaked and muddy quagmire. Neither team has been a good running offense with Virginia averaging 2.9 yards per carry and Maryland coming in at 2.7 but Virginia is more committed to the run averaging 120 yards per game compared to Maryland's 96 yards per game. Neither offensive line can protect the quarterback as Virginia is 117th in the NCAA with 3.8 sacks allowed per game and the Terps at 115th with 3.7 sacks allowed per game. This is the kind of sloppy weather game that turns on some defensive back slipping and falling on a deep touchdown pass, a muffed punt or the quarterback fumbling the ball at a critical moment. I only give Maryland a slight edge because they are at home but in terms of confidence the Cavaliers are flying high after rolling over Indiana last week. Thank goodness basketball season is here.