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ACC Preview # 2 - Maryland

35 Lonny Baxter F/C 6-8 250 Jr.
25 Steve Blake G 6-3 175 So.
21 LaRon Cephas F 6-7 223 Sr.
3 Juan Dixon G 6-3 152 Jr.
45 Tahj Holden F 6-1 235 So.
33 Mike Mardesich C 7-0 255 Jr.
11 Calvin McCall G/F 6-3 189 So.
15 Danny Miller G/F 6-8 205 Jr.
44 Terence Morris F 6-9 205 Sr.
31 Byron Mouton G/F 6-6 215 R-Jr
12 Drew Nicholas G 6-3 165 So.
40 Matt Slaninka C 7-4 240 Fr.
54 Chris Wilcox F/C 6-9 220 Fr.


What is it with Maryland? They are frequently loaded through the years, and 
given their geography, should be a Top 10 power year in and year out,
and yet they usually seem to come up short of that.  It's sort of a
Charlie-Brown-kicking-the-football mentality.  So are we going to expect
big things from them this season? Well......yes. 

A Maryland fan wrote us recently and talked of the sense of inferiority they
had  regarding Duke and UNC.  On one level we understand, but of the
ACC schools, only Maryland and Tech are in major metro areas, and only Maryland
coaches can catch DeMatha and Dunbar and still get home in time to tuck the kids
in.  It's a huge advantage, and one they aren't taking advantage of as much
as they should be though they are starting to again - five of their players are
from the area. It would have been six if they had retained Tamir Goodman.  A
great recruiter would never have to fly if he didn't want to.

Gary Williams deserves a lot of praise from Maryland fans, and gratitude from
all ACC fans, for rebuilding Maryland.  There was a time when Georgetown
was dominant in the D.C. market, and that wasn't good for anyone in the ACC.

And yet there is a sense that while they have definitely turned one corner they haven't
turned the next one.  Hard as it is to believe, Maryland has never been any
farther in the NCAAs than Clemson. UVa, Duke, State, UNC, Wake, and Tech all
have Final Four banners. Even FSU made it in 1972.  Only Clemson, long
considered hapless in hoops, and the Terps, have come up short.

Our traditional feeling about Maryland is that the coaching continually
sabotages the team.  Lefty got some great talent together, but somehow they
never managed to get very far, though in 1974 they might have made the Final Four,
but only one team per conference went back in the dark ages.  But that was
a brilliant team.

Certainly Bob Wade sabotaged the team, by accident and supposedly by design,
when his angry departure made recruiting in Baltimore profoundly difficult for
Gary Williams.

If Gary Williams has anything at all to brag about, it is the
willingness to run his head through a brick wall until by sheer will he gets to
the other side.  Our favorite Garyland teams were the ones which were
grossly under talented, because they always played on sheer heart.  His psyche seems better tuned to that sort of a
group than to, say,  the very talented Steve Francis bunch. Stubbornness suits Williams
well.  The pressure of expected success, however, is another story, and he
does not seem to handle that well.  Never what you could call a relaxed
presence, last season at times he did seem to calm down a bit, and this season
the trend might continue. 

Why? Two primary reasons: Steve Blake and Juan Dixon.  Blake is a much better
player than we thought. He's not a great athlete, but he's good enough and he
probably plays about like Williams himself did.  Juan Dixon, on the other hand, is
a pure warrior, an assassin's assassin.  The backcourt has good chemistry,
and moreover, unlike many Maryland backcourts, they are smart, tough, and fearless, and
they know exactly what it takes to get the job done. It might be too much to say
that they overcome their coaching, but it is fair to say they are Prozac Players
for Coach Stress.  Last season, for the first time in our memory, Maryland
played the half-court game well.  Dean used to crush Lefty at the end of
games because his team always executed better.  Gary loses his share in the
last five minutes,
too.  But last year they did very well.

On top of the superb backcourt (and let's give Williams credit for spotting
his kind of talent. No one saw Dixon coming), he has Lonny Baxter, Danny Miller,
and Terrence Morris returning upfront.  Miller is reportedly not well liked
by players around the league, but he understands his role and never goes outside
of it.  Terrence Morris is a huge talent, but one very content to be second
banana. He has shown no desire to be a dominant player yet.  Will that
change this year, with big NBA bucks on the line? Perhaps. Baxter is one of our
favorite ACC players. A bit stubby at 6-8 and 250, he takes limited natural
ability and bangs and bangs and bangs. Against taller and more athletic opponents his
weaknesses show up (just think back to the UCLA debacle last March), but he's a gutsy
kid and most of the time he's more than adequate. If Brendan Haywood had
his heart, he'd be unstoppable (he may be this  year anyway).

Non-conference games
Maui Classic
Stony Brook
Norfolk State
Chicago State
Md Eastern Shore

Beyond returning the starting 5, the Terps also have Tahj Holden, Mike
Mardesich, Drew Nicholas, Chris Wilcox, and transfer Byron Mouton - a very solid
second 5.  They may be the deepest team in the league.

What's not to like? Well one, Gary Williams' high-stress nature may make it
difficult to manage sky-high expectations, as we said. And almost any of the
second string could make an argument to start, with the exception of Mardesich. 
Holden had his moments last year, as did Nicholas.  Wilcox is a real
talent, as is Mouton.  Keeping everyone happy could be tough.  

But these problems are problems of success, and a lot nicer than the problems
Williams faced early in his career at College Park. The frontcourt might require
some adjustment as the season goes on - perhaps Mouton taking time from Danny
Miller, and if Morris remains reticent, Holden or Wilcox taking some minutes.

But barring a Gary meltdown, the Terps are in great shape. Deep, tough, and
tested, if they don't make it past the Sweet 16 this year, their fans are
perfectly entitled to ask why. And this wouldn't be an inferiority complex, this
would be entirely appropriate.  This team should be successful.