Although the proof is always on the court, if you go by the crowd at the RBC Sunday night, State is back. The last time we went to a State game, the crowd was pathetic.Â The lower bowl was only partly full and no one was seriously focused on the game.
We didn't go to this one, we watched it from home, but even from TV you could tell the difference.Â We had a friend, a State grad, who told us years ago that the difference between Duke fans and State fans was that while Duke fans yelled in unison, State fans just screamed their heads off.
Then he said the saddest thing: "that was then, of course, not now."
It was a wry generalization with some real truth to it: State fans,when they're not demoralized, are a blast (the occasional outbursts of violence aside). They're way more passionate than Carolina fans, saner than Maryland fans, raunchier than Wake fans and more fun than anywhere else other than Cameron. We're glad they're back.
Their team appears to be mostly back too.Â They still have to deal with Duke, UNC and whoever else emerges, but Maryland has been a bugaboo for State for a long time.Â Â It must have felt great to control that game.
And control it they did, mostly anyway.
Maryland has some interesting pieces.Â Terrell Stoglin is their most effective player.Â Alex Len will be good but needs some bulk.Â State had little trouble shoving him around.
Late in the second half, the camera caught first year Maryland coach Mark Turgeon and he looked just...he had no idea what to do, how to push any buttons.Â ESPN reported that he told his players during a timeout that he couldn't make them care as much as he did, that only they could do that.
Not that Turgeon is likely to read this site, but if he did, we'd say one thing to him: dude, body language.
You can't convince your guys when they can see anxiety and fear on your face.
Yet in spite of State being in control for much of the game, in spite of Turgeon's despair, Maryland mounted a pretty effective comeback at the end.
Maryland was down eight with 44 seconds left and managed to cut the lead to just three with five seconds left and fouled with two on the clock.
You have to depend on luck to an extent at that point, but if CJ Williams had missed his free throws, who knows?
The main takeaway here is that both teams showed heart and pride.
Even though Maryland has struggled somewhat over the last few years, they generally have shown both.
State has not.Â All too often they've rolled over and accepted losing.Â We could still be wrong about this, but it appears those days are over.
State has a relatively easy road ahead for the next couple of weeks.Â They face Georgia Tech, Wake BC and Miami before a trip to UNC.Â Wake and Miami are on the road, but regardless: they have an excellent chance at arriving in Chapel Hill at 16-4 and with a chance to completely redefine their program.Â Obviously they won't have any guarantees - UNC has more size and talent and, well, just about everything - but stranger things have happened.
Maryland's biggest problem in this game is that State just outmuscled them inside and ran harder than they did. Len needs to bulk up some.Â State's frontcourt is strong but not the most powerful he'll face.
On the other hand, good news for Terp fans.Â Check out this great Len quote (as relayed by Pe'Shon Howard) from the B-Sun: "I love college. I'm not going anywhere. I'm just going to eatÂ Boston Market every day."
They'll get better as the season goes on, we're sure.Â It would help, though, if Turgeon weren't visibly nervous.
This is just speculation, but is it possible that the Maryland players, used to Gary Williams and his somewhat manic (but definitely demanding) style, are finding that Turgeon's approach is not asÂ rigorous?
In a nutshell, is it possible that they, for lack of a better word, feared Gary Williams in a way they don't yet fear Turgeon?
Fear's not the right word; neither is respect. It's somewhere in between. Maybe it's just getting used to each other.
Barry Jacobs has an article up over at ACCSports.com about Saturday's UNC-BC matchup.Â Here's a great comment on what BC is doing:
"Meanwhile there is loose talk Boston College could be among the worst ACC teams ever. Donât count on it...Compare BC for a moment to a squad that amply deserved that appellation. The Eagles already are more cohesive, coordinated, and disciplined than Wake Forest was at almost any point last year. The 2011 Demon Deacons, Jeff Bzdelikâs first unit, finished 8-24, most losses in ACC history. Wake had a single conference win, and often played without passion or purpose."
We were impressed.Â We seriously thought that the Eagles could have lost by 50. They're improving too.
If you want to find weaknesses on UNC's team, as Jacobs suggested in his article, intensity might be a place to start. Stephen Schramm of the Fayetteville paper thinks it might be as well.
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