Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Déjà Vu All Over Again? For the Terps, their first game of the ACC Tournament this Friday is looking like it may be a re-match of the game they began the tourney with last year. On Thursday in round one, number six-seed Georgia Tech (9-5) plays number eleven Miami (2-12) in a game that the Yellow Jackets are very likely to win. If they do, they will face Maryland on Friday night, just as they did last year, when they nearly sent the Terps packing! In fact, with just a few minutes left in that game, Maryland looked to be going down to defeat when Coach Frese literally got up in Marissa Coleman's face, nose to nose like a drill sergeant, and in no uncertain (and really loud) terms reminded Marissa that she could play far better than she'd been playing. Thankfully, Marissa and her teammates rallied . . . and those of us who had made the trip to Greensboro would get to see the Terps play another day (and another) -- and defeat Duke!

Georgia Tech clearly gained some confidence from last season's near-upset, and this season actually succeeded in knocking off the Terps in their only regular season match-up. So, in order to finally win that elusive ACC Tourney crown, the Terps have some serious work cut out for themselves --- in back to back to back games, they will need to beat not one, not two, but all three teams they lost to during the regular season! Hey, as Yogi said, "If the world were perfect, it wouldn't be." But, as Terps fans know, Maryland is capable of beating any team on any day . . . with a little focus and a little luck. The Terps know exactly what they need to do this weekend and they know exactly what it will take to do it . . . which is a good thing, because as Yogi also said, "If you don't know where you're going, chances are you will end up somewhere else."

Sunday, February 25, 2007

"The Whole Thing Was Really Fun!" That's a direct quote from the BasketCases' 10-year-old niece, who got to watch Maryland defeat Boston College today, 76-60, from the first row behind the Terps' bench. That's not only a great view, it's a far better view than we had. Indeed, it seems we were destined not to see much of this game at all, despite the fact that it was being shown on TV.

Although Fox College Sports Atlantic (FCSA) was broadcasting the game from the very start at 3 PM, and indeed FCSA was showing this game in Maryland, for those of us who live in Virginia, FCSA instead gave us USC v. Stanford. This made the BasketCases wonder whether anyone at Fox Sports has looked at a map recently. See, California is nowhere near Virginia, or the Atlantic Ocean for that matter, while Virginia is pretty darn close to Maryland, and moreover is an ACC state that even borders on the Atlantic Ocean!

So without the FCSA broadcast, we had to wait until the Caps game that was being shown on Comcast Sports Net (CSN) finished up at 3:30. CSN then joined the Maryland game in progress (a game that was just too darn close at that point for our liking). However, pretty soon thereafter CSN starting losing its video . . . and then its audio . . . and then all we had was a silent black screen! So then we had to switch to ESPN, which was showing UNC at Duke, and watch the ticker at the bottom of the screen for the Maryland score. At least we got to see a pretty darn good game (and congrats to Duke for being the only team in ACC history to finish the regular season undefeated).

Back to the Maryland game . . . By winning today, the Terps finish third in the ACC, as they did last season, and secure a first round bye in the ACC Tournament, as they did last season. What happens next weekend in Greensboro . . . well, here's hoping that like last season, there's another upset in the works.

* * * *
Note: while we were drafting this blog, one of our loyal readers put up a comment on the post below noting that she'd had the same problems watching the game that we'd had, except that, as it turns out, FCSA didn't even show the Maryland game in Maryland as had previously been announced. This makes us really wonder what that "A"in FCSA stands for after all!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Bye, Bye, Birdies. The Terps play the Boston College Eagles on Sunday in a game that Maryland must win in order to secure a first round bye in the ACC Tournament. The top four teams in the ACC get to take next Thursday off. Duke and UNC have already locked up the top two spots. Right now, Maryland and Florida State are both 9-4 in the ACC, while NC State, which defeated Miami today, has finished the ACC regular season 10-4. FSU plays Wake Forest on Sunday in a game that FSU should win, which would also give it a 10-4 record. So if the Noles win and if Maryland were to fall to the birdies Eagles, it's bye bye to the bye. (In fact, if the Terps lose, they will fall out of the top four in the ACC regardless of what FSU does, because of the loss to Georgia Tech, which has finished ACC play 9-5.) Maryland can control its own destiny on Sunday with a win. The last time the Terps played in Boston, they came home with some fancy bling-bling, so here's hoping they can close out the ACC regular season with another victory in the Bay State.

The BasketCases are not traveling for tomorrow's game, but we are sending a personal correspondent . . . our ten-year-old niece who lives in Massachusetts. She is quite excited and has spent the last few days making sure that her National Championship tee shirt is just right. We hope to bring you an eyewitness report from her tomorrow.

The game, which starts at 3 PM, will be broadcast on Comcast Sports Net but joined in progress (CSN says at 3:30) after the conclusion of a Caps game. The BasketCases confess that they will be at the Smith Center watching GW play Temple in a 2PM game that will decide the A10 regular season title (while our DVR is humming away at home). It should be quite a match.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Pinwheels, Papas, and Politicians

The students show up for arch rival Duke

Shay's proud father, Yuda Doron

Maryland's senior Senator, dressed for the occasion

Senior Night for the Doron Family

No, Gail, even if you win tonight, you can't have the Natty

Photo Credits: DC BasketCases

Au Revoir and Lech L'Shalom

Tonight is Senior Night at the Comcast Center, the last regular season home game for Aurelie Noirez and Shay Doron, the two Terps who have traveled the farthest, literally, to play at Maryland. And how fitting that the members of Brenda Frese's first recruiting class --- the winningest senior class in Maryland history (and the only one with a Natty) --- will say their goodbyes in front of a sold-out crowd of nearly 18,000 fans that will tie the ACC attendance record set by the Terps themselves just a few weeks ago.

Aurelie, who grew up in France, just wanted to come to the U.S. for an education, and playing basketball was a way to make that happen. When she signed on (alongside Shay and Kalika France) as one of Brenda's first recruits, she really had very little idea that she was joining a program that was about to break back onto the national scene. For most of her Maryland career, she's played a back-up role; and she's performed that role with grace, unselfishness, determination and good humor. How very fortunate that Coach B had a player of Aurelie's character and maturity to blend with her young 'uns into last season's Natty-winning mix!

Never having seen her play in the U.S., Aurelie's family really didn't have a good sense of the enormity of what Aurelie and her teammates had accomplished in winning a National Championship --- at least until the reporters began calling their home and the requests for her autograph began to pour in! Fortunately, last summer's European Victory Tour provided Aurelie the opportunity to introduce her home to her coaches and teammates, and introduce her teammates and coaches to her family and friends.

Au Revior, Aurelie . . . we will miss you. Bon Chance!

Unlike Aurelie, Shay knew exactly why she was coming to Maryland: to help Brenda Frese win a National Championship. Shay was Coach Frese's first top-tier recruit, and her decision to attend Maryland gave the program enormous credibility, paving the way for the other stars who have followed. As Kathy Orton writes in today's Washington Post, Shay was "the first player to take a chance on the energetic, young coach, to share her vision, and together they revitalized a program that had faded into obscurity." Originally from Israel, Shay and her family moved to New York so that Shay could keep playing basketball and, if all went well, one day play in the WNBA.

What can we say about Shay that hasn't already been said? She's been the heart and soul of the Maryland team since she first stepped onto the court at Comcast. To think that we'll never again see her walk onto that floor as a player is enough to make you cry. Go back and look at the tape of the championship final . . . it was Shay who triggered the comeback that led to the victory. Sometimes, with all the focus on Kristi's final second heroics, we forget that without Shay, Maryland wouldn't have been close enough for KT to make The Shot. More recently, against Carolina, when the Terps were down 20, once again Shay demanded to guard Latta and led the charge that closed the game to a single point. We lost that game, but the Terps left the floor with their pride intact.

That's classic Shay . . . the Terps' heart and soul. She can never be replaced. Her departure will leave a void, one that no one player will fill. But she's leaving the program unbelievably better than when she joined it, and those who remain and those who will be coming onboard together will find a way to fill it, because anything less would be letting Shay down.

Though this evening will be Shay's last visit to Comcast as a player, the BasketCases hope (and expect) to see her back on the court next season as her jersey is retired and a banner with her name on it is raised to the rafters. It's only fitting. It's right. And we'll be there. And here's hoping that 18,000 fans show up that night as well, to give Shay her due.

Lech L'Shalom, Shay!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Some Things Are Just WRONG . . .

Yow-ie!!!! The BasketCases send a Major Shout-Out to Wolfpack Coach Kay Yow (sister of Terps AD Debbie) and her entire team and coaching staff for their gutsy upset win last night over in-state rival UNC!

On Senior Night --- and the very night when NC State named its court in her honor --- Coach Yow prepared, motivated and coached her players to one of their all-time best performances against the #2 ranked Tarheels. And, as we all know, the Heels weren't the only opponent Coach Yow was facing last night --- Cancer and Chemo never take a day off --- but yesterday, at least, she didn't allow them to stop her. Congratulations, Coach Yow . . . and congratulations to the Wolfpack team! That was one heck of a game!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Great Expectations. Maryland didn't win the National Championship last season by dominating ACC opponents in conference play. They eked out four overtime wins --- 3 against lower ranked teams --- during the regular season and almost lost to Georgia Tech in their first game of last year's ACC tournament.

But winning the Big One and returning all starters has created expectations for the Terrapin team that didn't exist a year ago. So when Maryland struggles as it did tonight in the first half against an NCAA-bound Seminole team in Tallahassee, we have the tendency to wonder, "what's wrong?" Maybe all that's wrong is that the players put too much pressure on themselves to live up to the hype and the fans expect dominating performances night in and night out.

To hear Nancy Lieberman and (our own) Pam Ward wax poetic about the Terps in the early part of tonight's ESPN2 broadcast, you would think that Maryland's players could leap tall buildings in a single bound. Instead, their game (particularly in the first half when they went into the locker room down by a point) was very much down-to-earth. Half Number 2 showed increased form and increased intensity, but was hardly "dominating." However, when it counted, Maryland did what good teams do --- they put the game away in the final minutes, winning 74-60. Lang and Harp each had double-doubles, while the three other starters were all in double figures. Once again, Shay's senior leadership showed through, as she added five assists to her 12 points (while turning the ball over only once).

After seeing the Terps at UVA last Sunday, and watching the game tonight, the BasketCases think it may be time for the team and its fans to take a deep breath . . . lower expectations just a bit --- embrace the role of underdog facing the number one team in the nation --- have some fun, make some noise and treat the Blue Devils to Hell-in-a-Shell on Sunday at Comcast.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Can You Hear Me Now? Our loyal blog readers know that the BasketCases' favorite TV show is "Under the Shell," a weekly all-access look at the Terps that airs Wednesdays at 11 PM on Comcast Sports Net. And by now you also know that the BasketCases have trouble staying up that late on school nights. So we generally record the shows and watch them later. (We may be old, but we are not technologically challenged!) Well, life being what is it, we got a little behind. But now that we've caught up (ice storms do have at least one redeeming feature!), we simply must share with those of you not in the viewing area one of the most fun facts about the Terps that we've just learned from the show. Are you ready?

Every night when the Terps are on the road, Director of Basketball Operations Mark Pearson goes from room to room at their hotel at the appointed curfew hour, collecting their cell phones!! Yes, that's right: no texting, no chatting, no calling for pizza. But Mark, what the BasketCases wonder is this: how do you know that the players don't have spares? And Mark, did you happen to notice that all the players have the exact same Tickle Me Elmo phone? (We know the team is close, but isn't that just a wee bit surprising?) Oh, and Mark, when you return the phones to the players, don't you find it somewhat peculiar that when you ask them "Which one is yours?" the answer invariably is "It doesn't matter"? Hmmm . . .

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Passing Grade. Seventy-five percent is usually good enough to pass most exams, and that's exactly the score the BasketCases give the Terps for their performance this afternoon against the Cavs. The Terps played very well for the first thirty minutes of the game. They built an insurmountable lead of 28 points with about 14 minutes left, and then pretty much disappeared for the last 10 minutes or so, allowing the lead to trickle down to single digits by the closing buzzer, winning 83-74.

Before Maryland took its unscheduled vacation, both Crystal Langhorne and Marissa Coleman had already put up double-doubles -- in fact, they each hit that mark before halftime. Three other Terps -- Kristi, Shay, and Jade -- also finished the game in double figures.

Today's game at the new John Paul Jones Arena (not named for the naval hero but for the father of a Virginia alum with a very big checkbook) attracted a season-high crowd, including a sizable contingent of Maryland fans. A busload of Rebounders made the trek, as did many others who arrived on their own, including fans from Kristi Toliver's hometown of Harrisonburg, Virginia. The Arena itself is gorgeous, with terrific sight lines and the best Jumbotron screen we've ever seen. However, the BasketCases found the Arena a bit less than state-of-the art when it came to some basic amenities, like restrooms (hello, women need more than four stalls for an entire section!) and food concessions (not enough!).

Speaking of food, if you're ever in Charlottesville and are looking for a really exceptional meal, the BasketCases highly recommend the Ivy Inn. Our dinner last night was so wonderful, we can't wait to go again when the Terps play the Cavs next season.

Heidi Hoos! When the BasketCases bought their tickets for Maryland's game at UVA today, little did we know that we were also going to be treated to a Mystics flashback. But we learned this morning from reading the Daily Progress, Charlottesville's newspaper of record, that UVA will celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day at John Paul Jones Arena this afternoon by honoring ten sets of female siblings who have played for the Cavs, including the Mystics' very own Heidi Burge and her identical twin, Heather. The Burge twins starred for UVA in the '90s. They were also the subject of the very entertaining (if it's late at night and you're channel surfing and can't find anything else to watch) Disney movie Double Teamed. Heidi played for the Mystics during their inaugural season, in which the team went an unforgettable 3-27. Heather, meanwhile, played for the Sacramento Monarchs.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

If you think that the Civil War ended when Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, well, then, you would be WRONG. Most likely, you had the same education the rest of us did, one that conveniently picked that event and declared it to be the end of the War Between the States. Well, it wasn't.

Taking a break this morning from sampling the fruit of the vine, the BasketCases drove from Charlottesville to Appomattox Court House. It was a beautiful drive through rolling countryside, though once we were south of the sophisticated university town, we picked up some small clues of a cultural shift. For example, Confederate battle flags flying in front yards and lawn sculptures that bore a striking resemblance to rusting automobiles, and movie theatres that were still playing "Deliverance." (Okay, we lied about that last one.)

But Appomattox Court House National Historical Park was well worth the trip. Whenever visiting historical sites, we always learn something new, but we did not expect to learn something as basic as the fact that the Civil War did not formally end at Appomattox. In fact, what we learned from Ranger Chris was that Lee's surrender was not the surrender of the Confederacy, but only of his Army of Northern Virginia; the war continued to be fought by other Confederate armies for more than a month. This was such a shock to us that we immediately headed for some more tasting rooms!

While we did not run into any Maryland players at any wineries, we did run into several coaches and players at the hotel. The BasketCases are happy to report that the team arrived safely, they've practiced, and are planning an early night in preparation for their 12:30 PM tip-off tomorrow. If you're coming on the bus tomorrow with the Rebounders, we'll see you then!! If not, catch all the action on RSN.

Friday, February 09, 2007

In Vino Veritas Basketas. Charlottesville, Virginia is a lovely place to spend a winter's day. It's nestled in the beautiful foothills of the Blue Ridge, and it's not only home to UVa, but it's also surrounded by farms and vineyards. And where there are vineyards, well, there are wineries! And where there are wineries, there are wine tastings! So yes, the BasketCases, who have been known on occasion to sample the fruit of the vine, spent a basketball-less afternoon enjoying some of the local offerings.

In our experience, Virginia wine is usually not very good, or overpriced, or both. However, we were pleasantly surprised today by a few unexpected finds. In particular, we'd like to give a BasketCases shout out to First Colony Winery, a small, unpretentious winery down a gravel road past some "manufactured housing" (what people used to call trailers), where we concluded the day's tour and tasted several enjoyable offerings, including a claret, which when paired with dark chocolate, rated a wow!

The Terps will be arriving in Charlottesville tomorrow, but we're pretty certain that they won't be sampling the local wines.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Check back soon with the BasketCases for some on-the-scene blogging from Charlottesville, Virginia. The Terps play the Cavs on Sunday at 12:30 PM. Be there with the BasketCases, or watch the game on RSN.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Bouncing Back. The Terps returned to their winning ways this afternoon following their two recent defeats, dominating Boston College at Comcast, 71-39. Every Terp scored, and three (Harper, Coleman, and Doron) were in double figures (while not one Eagle scored more than 8 points).

Shay in particular seemed to be everywhere this afternoon, hustling on both ends of the floor, adding great defense to her game-high 15 points. Marissa, who had 11 points, just barely missed a double-double, pulling down 9 rebounds (to go along with 5 assists). And even though the game was butting up against the Super Bowl, there were more than 10,000 fans in attendance, most of whom stayed to the end at about 6PM. It's great to see the Terps drawing these crowds, and it was great to see them post another win. Now, back to the Super Bowl . . .

Speaking of Football . . . OK, we weren't, but it is Super Bowl Sunday, so let's.

The Indianapolis Colts began the NFL season as one of the favorites to make it to Super Bowl XLI (that's 41 for those of you who didn't study Latin under the tutelage of Mrs. Krum). And this evening the Colts, indeed, are one of the two teams (the other being the Chicago Bears) who will compete for the NFL title.

While 14 of ESPN's 21 experts are picking Indianapolis to win it all, had you asked those same experts after week 16 of the NFL season, their answers might have been a little different.

In week 13, the Colts lost to the Tennessee Titans 17-20.
In week 14, the Colts were crushed, 17-44, by the Jacksonville Jaguars. In week 16, the Colts lost again (3 times in 4 weeks!) to the less than stellar (we're being kind) Houston Texans, 24-27.

Nevertheless, this evening (tipoff scheduled for 6:25 PM) the Colts are playing on the biggest stage for the biggest prize in professional football. We guess you could conclude that, following those losses, they figured out a way to regroup and play their best when it counted the most.

The BasketCases wish to thank the NFL for their consideration in scheduling tonight's big game late enough so that Maryland fans can enjoy every minute of the Terps' game vs Boston College at Comcast Center (4 PM, televised on CSN) and still make it to a big screen TV in time for the football game.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

STUNG. The BasketCases were going to take the night off from blogging, but we don't run and we don't hide when the Terps lose. And since Maryland was beaten tonight by the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, well, we just had to come on line to report that. Georgia Tech nearly bounced the Terps out of the ACC Tourney last March, and tonight, in Atlanta, they actually knocked off the champs, 77-72. Both Marissa Coleman and Ashleigh Newman fouled out, a very unusual occurrence for Maryland. We are nothing if not homers, however, and so we are confident that the team will regroup for Sunday's contest against Boston College. Indeed, after the game, Coach Frese said that tonight's loss will help the Terps in the long run. We hope so!