Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cupcakes Can Kill

Maryland Men's basketball is one day away from its official regular season tip-off against Bucknell, and thus one day away from revealing what sort of team Terrapin fans might expect this season. Or at least, that's what I would like to be able to say. In truth, little will be revealed about the young Terps tomorrow, nor the next game, nor the game after. Why? Because Maryland has filled the first month-and-a-half of its season with joke teams to inflate its record. A listing of games, starting with tomorrow's contest:

-Youngstown St.
-**Old Spice Classic**
-George Washington
-Delaware State
-Morgan State

That is what the Terps have to prepare themselves for their start of ACC play. There is not one decent mid-major in that list, and don't even try to tell me that American isn't that bad. The only games that aren't against terrible teams are in the Old Spice Classic (a preseason tournament) and against Michigan (one of the worst teams in a bad major basketball conference). Now why am I all up-in-arms about this? Well, for a few reasons:

1. The identity of this team will remain an absolute mystery until January. This doesn't just go for me as a fan, I believe this goes for the entire coaching staff of Maryland as well. Every time Maryland beats up on a terrible opponent the question will always pop up as to whether it was good offense or bad defense and vice-versa. Maryland, again, will play the game of trying to extract performances against poor teams to anticipate how they will do against top level competition. And, again, it will be impossible to predict.

2. The starting lineup will not be set for weeks. Because all of these games are very easily winnable, Gary will continue to tinker with his starting lineup until the real season starts in January. On one level this sounds fine, because the poor competition allows him to give looks to different arrangements of players on the court. However, the continual shuffling will hurt chemistry (again) at the start of ACC play.

3. This team will not be prepared when Georgia Tech comes to the Comcast Center. This team will be, as in previous years, softened by the weak schedule it had faced. Maryland has set it up such that in December they shouldn't need to break a sweat to beat any of their opponents. Because of this, I believe it would be impossible for the Terps to be truly prepared for the start of tough, physical ACC play. And they will start out slow in the conference, again.

Trust me, through the month of December we will still be drawing conclusions about the team. Hopefully the starting five will even itself out well before Georgia Tech comes on January 10th, and hopefully this team will buck the trends of teams past.

But boy, the schedulers are doing these kids no favors by giving them nothing but cupcakes for the first month and a half. After all, cupcakes can kill.

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