Sunday, November 29, 2009

The ACC-CAA Challenge (unofficial)

This afternoon, the Terps ended the long holiday weekend with a match-up against Drexel University, the pre-season favorite to win the CAA title this year. Playing their most complete game of the young season, Maryland came away with a decisive win, 82-65.

The Dragons brought an experienced roster into Comcast, so Coach B countered by starting a couple of Maryland veterans, Kim Rodgers and Anjale Barrett. The strategy was obviously successful as the maturity and excellent play of both Kim and Anjale were critical in helping the young Terps keep their focus today.

Lori Bjork, though a Maryland newbie, is herself an experienced player, and that experience was likewise crucial today, as Lori not only led all scorers with 19, but also hit a huge three-pointer (one of her four treys) late in the game when Drexel closed the gap to single digits. Lori's basket gave the Terps a double-digit lead that they never relinquished. And while Diandra T may be a freshman -- technically speaking -- her international experience shines through, as she continues to play with confidence and skill beyond her years, once again scoring in double figures (18).

Of course, today's big question as we arrived at Comcast was whether Lynetta Kizer, who sprained her ankle in Friday's game against Howard, would be well enough to play, and it was truly heartening to see Netta warming up with the team. Although Netta did not start, she did play 18 solid minutes, during which she put up 13 points, including a perfect 5 of 5 from the free throw line. And, speaking of the charity stripe, the Terps as a team hit an impressive 25 of 31 from the line today.

No real lapses (playing the full 40 minutes), offensive and defensive intensity, veteran leadership, excellent free throw shooting . . . it all added up to an important early season win. And make no mistake: Drexel was not part of the parade of cupakes. Today's game was against a solid mid-major team that was expected to give the Terps a tough contest, and, being candid, a 17-point margin of victory is more than we were expecting. Watching their performance, we thought the young Terps showed signs of real growth this afternoon. Let's hope they can continue to grow, because the road ahead will get tougher as the season wears on.

As for tough opponents . . . Next up for the Terps is the ACC-Big 10 Challenge on Thursday evening against the Golden Gophers of Minnesota. Like Drexel, Minny should really test the young Terrapins, and Maryland will need to play with the same focus and intensity that they showed today if they are to keep their home win streak alive.

With Thursday's game part of an inter-conference challenge, and, in particular, against Minnesota, the Terps will need plenty of fan support that night. The BasketCases have heard that a very large (and most likely vocal) contingent of Gopher fans is traveling here with their team for the game. We suspect that some may still have hurt feelings from Coach B's decision to leave Minnesota for Maryland. So, a large -- and loud -- turnout of Terps fans will be critical to helping keep the visiting fans at bay!

Terps fans -- see you Thursday. Protect this House!

Friday, November 27, 2009

For the first quarter or so of tonight's game against Howard University, the Terps looked as though they'd had a bit too much stuffing with their Thanksgiving dinner. They looked sluggish and flat, and spent a good portion of the initial 15 minutes tied with, behind, or just barely ahead of the Bison. In fact, for a while there, we actually worried a little that we just might be seeing the end of the home win streak . . . way sooner than expected.

Fortunately, that didn't happen. Late in the first half, the Terps shook off their post-holiday lethargy, reeled off several unanswered baskets, and headed to the locker room with an 11-point lead. In the second half, the game turned into the one we were expecting from the outset . . . an easy Terps win, 79-51.

That was the good news. The bad news is that, shortly before the 1st half ended, Maryland's team leader and only veteran starter, Lynetta Kizer, suffered a left ankle sprain. She had to be helped from the court and was still in the locker room when the 2nd half got underway. However, when Netta emerged from the locker room walking with one crutch and her left leg in a boot, she did appear to be putting some weight on her bad ankle, and didn't seem to be in obvious pain. So we hope (fingers crossed) that the injury isn't too serious and that Netta will be able to return to the lineup again soon.

Every Maryland player saw action tonight, and everyone scored. Rookie Tianna Hawkins led the team with 17 points, and also grabbed 11 rebounds for a yet another double-double. The BasketCases are really impressed with the athleticism and skill we've seen from this young player so far this season. On the other end of the age spectrum, senior Lori Bjork was also impressive. Newbie Lori finished with 16 points (including 4 of 7 threes), while Diandra T and Anjale Barrett rounded out the double digit scoring (14 and 11 points, respectively).

Next up, the Terps host Drexel on Sunday at 2 PM. The Dragons could be one of the toughest opponents on the out-of-conference schedule for Coach B's youngsters. Drexel boasts 8 returning players from a roster that earned a bid to last year's NCAA tournament. Drexel is also the preseason favorite to win the CAA (Colonial Athletic Association) and return to the NCAA tourney this year. So Sunday's match-up will pit youth against experience. With or without Netta, this game is likely to test the Terps more than they've been tested by the last couple of opponents.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving from the BasketCases

"Happy Thanksgiving? For YOU maybe!"

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Maryland's Thanksgiving Parade

This evening the Terps played host to the Samford University Bulldogs from Birmingham, Alabama.

If we had to sum up the Samford team in a single word, it would be "overmatched." The young Terps, who themselves were overmatched last weekend in Mississippi, hit the Bulldogs early and often, mostly with a barrage of 3-pointers (7 of 10 in the first half), and then kinda coasted the rest of the way. Final score: Terps 76, Bulldogs 49.

We hope that the Samford team doesn't let tonight's loss ruin their Thanksgiving trip to our nation's capital. Washington, DC is a beautiful city full of wonderful things to see and do. Samford played hard. They didn't give up. Though the result was never in doubt, the Bulldogs earned the right to have some fun and enjoy themselves.

The Terps were led by "veteran" Lynetta Kizer, who not only shot a perfect 8 of 8 from the field, but also hit the second 3-pointer of her Maryland career, and the very first at Comcast! 'Netta finished with a game-high 20 points. Tianna, Lori and Dara also had a double-digit scoring night (14, 11, and 11 points, respectively). And Dara and Anjale each dished out 7 assists.

Not a particularly exciting or interesting game, but it was a win, so for that we're thankful. And speaking of thanks, the Basketcases would like to wish all our loyal readers a very Happy Thanksgiving.

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On a sad note . . . Abe Pollin, original owner of the Washington Mystics, died today at the age of 85. Back when the WNBA was launched, all the teams were owned by owners of NBA franchises. Many NBA owners had absolutely no interest whatsoever in a women's team . . . so there were no WNBA teams in their cities (and still aren't in most of them).

Abe Pollin was not among those owners. He very definitely wanted a women's team here, and with the completion of the MCI (now Verizon) Center, he launched his WNBA team, the Mystics, during the league's second season.

And while the Mystics never achieved the on-court success under Pollin's stewardship that he hoped for, it always seemed to the BasketCases that his heart was in the right place. We can still remember Abe and his wife, Irene, sitting in the owner's box, sometimes all by themselves, just two fans, watching Mystics games. We think it's pretty safe to say that without Abe Pollin, the WNBA might never have come to Washington. Without Abe Pollin, there might never have been a Mystics team these last 12 summers.

Thanks, Abe. May you rest in peace.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Travel Nightmare

For the first time this season, the young Terps took their show on the road and the experience can be characterized in a few words: a Mississippi State rout.

In losing to the #25-ranked Bulldogs, the Terps managed to score only 55 points. So it appears that Maryland's offense wasn't exactly firing on all cylinders.

Meanwhile, the Terps gave up 84 points . . . including 43 points (a career high) to MSU Senior Guard Alexis Rack. (Now that's what we call racking up points!) So it would seem that Maryland's defense needs a little work.

Not a single Terps player scored in double figures, which means that the position of Maryland go-to player is still open and applications are still being accepted.

Perhaps it was a good thing that the promised audio broadcast from Starkville did not materialize. When your favorite team ends up losing 84-55, it's painful enough just following periodic score updates on line. Listening to the play-by-play of such carnage might have been more than we could bear.

But in other news, the BasketCases' oldest nephew got married yesterday up in Yonkers, New York. So we had fun traveling this weekend even if the Terps did not.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sacramento Monarchs Fold!

In news that came as a shocking surprise today to just about everyone, including the team's GM/Coach, John Whisenant, the WNBA's Sacramento Monarchs -- former WNBA Champions -- announced that they have folded, effective this morning. While there is some possibility that the team could be picked up by an owner in the Bay Area, it's just that -- a possibility. The one thing that seems certain is that former Terp Laura Harper, DC-area natives Kara Lawson and Becky Brunson, and the rest of their teammates won't be playing ball next summer in California's capital.

This is very sad news. Another team in the league is kaput. A team the BCs loved. More players might be out of jobs. Very, very sad. Let's hope the Bay Area move comes through!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Vagaries of Youth

There were times during the Terps' 84-67 win over Old Dominion tonight when the young Maryland players looked as though they had been playing together for years, most notably early in the second half, when Maryland used a series of exciting, well-executed plays to open up a 26-point lead on the visiting Monarchs. But, alas, there were also times when it looked as if they had just met . . . and never played together before. That would be the 5 minutes or so following the Terps' big run, during which they allowed ODU to narrow that lead to single digits. Ahh, youth!

The Monarchs came into Comcast hoping to reverse course after last week's loss to #2 ranked Stanford by knocking off the untested Terps. As expected, ODU turned out to be the toughest opponent the Terps have faced so far this season. But while this was the closest thing to a competitive "game" we've seen, the young Maryland team played well enough -- in stretches -- to deny the visitors their first win of the season.

For the second game in a row, Diandra T led all Maryland scorers, tonight putting up 22 points. "Frenchie," as she's called by her teammates (the lamest nickname we've heard in a long time!), may be a Freshman, but she plays with a confidence and maturity beyond her years. Lynetta Kizer, again exhibiting some really strong moves inside (and some nice 15-foot jumpers as well), was close behind with 19 points, not to mention 10 boards for a double-double. Tianna Hawkins and Anjale Barrett also scored in double figures (11 and 10 points, respectively).

So the Terps' home win streak lives to see another day, and won't be tested again until Tuesday, when they play Stanford Samford. In the meantime, Maryland will be taking one of their few road trips of the pre-ACC season when they travel to Dixie on Sunday for a 3 PM ET game against #25 ranked Mississippi State of the SEC. A ranked team, on the road . . . this could be the Terps' toughest match-up of the out-of-conference schedule. (Unfortunately this game isn't televised, but you can follow the action via audio broadcast on

If you've been at Comcast this season, it probably hasn't escaped your attention that attendance is down somewhat. For those who may be staying home because the "stars" have graduated (shame on you!), we'd like you to know that you're really missing a lot of fun. Every fan we've spoken to says the same thing: These young Terps are playing their hearts out, and they are fun to watch and fun to see grow! So get off your butts and come on out to Comcast. Bring your family, your friends, your co-workers, your barristas . . . we guarantee y'all will have a good time! So mark your calendars and come on out for a little pre-Turkey fun next Tuesday at 7 PM.

Meanwhile . . . Go Terps, Beat the MSU Bulldogs!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Growing on Us

We think it was sometime during those last 9-plus minutes of the first half when Maryland couldn't buy, beg, borrow or steal a basket -- going something like O-fer a zillion from the field -- that we really started to feel it . . . we were falling for this team. Screaming "D-fense" . . . yelling "Let's GOooooo Maryland" until our throats were getting hoarse. We were growing emotionally invested.

Those two exhibitions and the easy home opener were kinda like first dates. Everybody on their best behavior, but nobody really knowing the other party very well. Tonight was different. Tonight the relationship moved to a new level. We began to see the young Maryland team and its individual players for better or for worse. Warts and all. They thrilled us with some "wows" and they made us cringe with plenty of "aarghhs." But we left Comcast really caring about this team, really caring about these kids. We admit it, we left feeling hooked by this youth movement. We know we may be in for a roller coaster ride this season but we're prepared to tighten our seatbelts and enjoy whatever thrills and spills may lie ahead.

This evening at Comcast, the Terps knocked off their second opponent of the regular season, the University of New Hampshire, 63-43. We're hard pressed to remember the last time a Terps team scored only 63 points and won! But thanks to a defensive effort that kept Maryland in the game during that seemingly interminable first half offensive drought, the Terps took a small lead into the locker room and pulled away in the second half. It wasn't pretty. However, aided by a 58-rebound night and forcing 21 turnovers, Maryland overcame 19% FG shooting in the first half to keep the program's home win streak alive.

Three Terps posted double figures, with Diandra finishing with a game-high 17 points. Lynetta had 11 and Dara 10. Tianna led the way in the rebounding department, grabbing a game-high 15 boards.

The Terps' next opponent, Old Dominion University, is coming to town on Thursday (7 PM) and should provide the first real test of the new-look Terps, who will need a better and more consistent performance if they want to beat Coach Wendy Larry's perennial NCAA tournament team. So it should be an important and exciting game. Don't miss it.

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By the way, if (like the BCs) you did already miss the 2nd episode of Under the Shell, it's being rebroadcast on Comcast SportsNet tomorrow (Tuesday) at 7 PM.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Home Openers, like Homecomings, are supposed to be feel good games for the team and its fans. And that's what the re-tooled Terps delivered tonight. Hosting North Carolina Central (a D-I, but hardly formidable, opponent), Maryland raced out to an early lead and left no doubt as to the ultimate outcome. The Terps recorded their first regular season win, 88-39.

What the fans got tonight -- besides witnessing a lopsided victory -- were some glimpses of what we might see as this young team develops. We saw that in addition to dominating in the paint, Lynetta Kizer has added to her game, extending her range to include 15-foot jumpers. In only 21 minutes, Lynetta finished with a game high (and career high) 23 points (plus 8 boards). We also saw the amazing speed and passing ability of Freshman reserve PG Dara Taylor. We saw the shot-blocking potential of another Freshman reserve, 6'7" Essence Townsend. We saw another solid, athletic, double-figure performance from a local Freshman, Tianna Hawkins, who finished with 15 pts & 8 boards. And we saw the quiet, mature play of Freshman starter Diandra T, who also had a double-figure night with 11. We saw a good solid team effort.

So the regular season is finally underway. The Terps are 1-0, and the home win streak -- extending back two seasons -- remains intact. Next up, New Hampshire at Comcast on Monday night.

Photo Credit: DC BasketCases

Friday, November 13, 2009

The BasketCases don't normally make a habit of writing blog posts about press releases, but the one that Maryland issued yesterday rates a "Wow!" Here's the Link. And be sure you scroll down to see it all!

However, while we enjoyed taking a peek at the future, currently we're even more excited about the now. Tomorrow (Saturday) is the season-opener for the new young Terps. This year's team has some pretty exciting players of its own that next year's recruits will only help make stronger. All-American Dara Taylor, All-Met Tianna Hawkins, French National Team star Diandra T, and, of course, 2009 ACC Rookie-of-the-Year Lynetta Kizer; plus, Kim, Anjale and all the rest.

The Terps may be unranked now, but the BCs aren't convinced they'll stay that way. What this year's team doesn't have starting out is much experience or much time playing together. But make no mistake . . . this team has TALENT! Add great coaching to that talent and anything is possible. See for yourself as the season evolves. Start by heading on over to Comcast tomorrow at 7 PM (we'll be there), when the Terps host North Carolina Central. The regular season begins! Go Terps!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sorry We Missed It!

One of the BCs was a bit under the weather today, so we didn't make it to the Terps' second -- and final -- exhibition game, a 101-43 nail-biter win over the Catholic University "Cardinals." (Hmm, maybe next time CU should send the Pontiffs!)

This was another game in which every Maryland player got plenty of minutes (18 or more to be exact); in which every Maryland player scored (at least twice); in which 6 Maryland players finished in double figures; and in which two Maryland players notched double-doubles. RS Freshman Jackie Nared "doubled up" with 12 pts & 15 rbs, and Freshman Tianna Hawkins -- now 2 games into her college career -- posted her second double-double with 12 pts & 11 rbs.

Thus ends the exhibition season. Next up, a real D-I opponent, which should test the team a bit more, we would expect, than tonight's D-III frolic.

But while we wait for Saturday's 7 PM home opener against North Carolina Central, we can still get a little Terps fix on TV this week. Staying home this evening (spending quality time with the tissue box) allowed the BCs to check out the listings on Comcast SportsNet and confirm that Under the Shell, our favorite TV show (well, maybe tied for favorite with The Big Bang Theory), will be premiering this Thursday at 9:30 PM on CSN. (A helpful reader already posted this information in a comment to our previous post; and indeed Ms/Mr Anonymous is correct. Thank you!) So tune in or set your DVR (or both) . . . you wouldn't want to miss this season's first episode.

To recap: TV on Thursday. Live regular-season action on Saturday. In other words, lots of excitement on tap later this week!

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Wednesday morning update: The Washington Post's Camille Powell takes a look at the new and "unproven" Terps in an interesting season preview here.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Tonight, we got our first close-up look at the new, young 2009-10 Terps in a game situation -- an exhibition against Bowie State -- and the BasketCases came away with one overriding question . . . Could the names on the players' uniforms have been any smaller?

Everybody knows that the State of Maryland is in the midst of a huge financial crisis . . . but really! How much would a little more red thread have cost? We bet, if asked, the Rebounders would've passed the hat and contributed enough loose change to pay for a few more spools! The BCs would've been willing to help. Take it from us, all those new faces, no roster sheets and microscopic fonts Do Not Mix!

Of course, one of our section-mates suggested the problem was that the team had to select a font small enough for all 12 letters of Diandra's last name to fit on her jersey. But here's the BC's solution . . . she's from France, right? She's new to the USA, right? She knows the NCAA has all sorts of rules, right? So just tell Diandra that under NCAA regulations, uniform names can't exceed 8 letters! T-c-h-a-t-c-h-o-u-a-n-g. Let her pick her favorite 8 letters and those will be the ones stitched on her uniform. Problem solved! Name shortening . . . hey, it's the American way! If it was good enough for the BC's ancestors arriving at Ellis Island, it's good enough for the Terps, right? Just a thought. But we digress.

Returning to the game . . . we have to confess that when the new Terps ran out to warm up, it seemed a little strange. We were looking at a team (and a program) undergoing its first major overhaul in quite a few years. It just felt odd. But not odd bad; more like odd interesting, exciting and fun.

Exciting to see Lori Bjork and Jackie Nared finally out there on the court, after a year on the sidelines. Exciting to see the returning veterans like Lynetta, Kim, Anjale and Yemi. Interesting to see all the newbies like Dara Taylor, Tianna Hawkins, Diandra T(+7) and Essence Townsend. Fun to see Kim nailing three-pointers like she did last March in Greensboro . . . especially that one off the glass (the BCs think she deserves to be credited with an assist and the score on that one!). Interesting and exciting to wonder what all these new players and this new season will bring.

Tonight's game was fun to watch in that not particularly competitive exhibition game sorta way. The Terps easily defeated neighboring Bowie State, 90-48. Every player on the Terps roster saw plenty of playing time and everyone scored. Freshman Tianna Hawkins led all scorers with 20 points and notched her first collegiate double-double by adding 10 boards. Pretty good debut!

It was an exhibition game against a D-II school, so it's a little early to take too much away from tonight's result. But for such a new -- and young-- team, it was a chance for the players to get their feet wet against a real opponent, with real refs, with real fans in the stands, and with real score being kept. A successful outing, no doubt, from that standpoint. Exhibition or not, congratulations to the Terps on their first "W" of the season!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

"What the heck happened to the BasketCases?"

If that's what you, our loyal readers, have been thinking, well, we're not surprised. It's been over two weeks since our last post . . . a record!

And while we're not really supposed to tell you where we've been during that time, here's a little hint: Let's just say that during most of the last two weeks we've been "Racing" all over the place and it's been simply "Amazing!"

Anyway, in case you're interested, here's a recap of some of the places we've been and the people we've seen since we last checked in with you:

The picture on the left probably looks familiar. Yes, that's BWI Airport, the starting point for the first leg of the BCs' Amazing adventure.

Once we assembled with rest of the "tourists" at BWI, our "tour organizer" told us to travel by plane to Tel Aviv where we were instructed (again by our "tour organizer") to find a group of young female army recruits (easy enough to spot) and then provide their platoon leader the answer to the following question: "Name a famous basketball player from Ramat HaSharon who won an American National championship." While other teams, we mean tourists, ran off to find a computer to research this, we said, "Shay Doron, of course!" and the platoon leader handed us our next clue, we mean itinerary.

The instructions told us to travel by bus to Hertzeliya and find the gymnasium where the Raanana Hertzeliya team plays. Then we were to look for a young woman named Kristi sitting on the team bench. We were instructed to say to her, "Toliber, Holy Cow!" and she would hand us our next clue. Frankly, we almost didn't need a clue (except for the "Toliber" part) on this one. As soon as we walked into the gym, we turned to each other and said, "That's Kristi Toliver over there . . . Holy Cow!" But we did as instructed (giving Kristi a big "Hi" and a hug) and received our clue/instruction which turned out to be a Roadblock. (A Roadblock is a task that only one member of a team may perform.) In this Roadblock, one of us had to beat Kristi in a game of H-O-R-S-E. Oh, like that's gonna happen! Ha! Luckily the instructions also said that once you lose 5 consecutive games, Kristi will give you the next clue anyway. And even more lucky for the BCs, Kristi (recognizing the BCs from all those Rebounder socials and knowing we are Terps fans), took pity on us and took all her shots against BC Eileen backwards! Well, that shortened the game considerably (though she still made several shots!). After that, the clue she handed over sent us to the only high-rise hotel in Hertzeliya which was the pit-stop for the first leg of the race, we mean tour.

The next day we received instructions to return to Tel Aviv and fly by plane (no balloon girls are we!) to Bucharest, Romania. So we caught a flight on Czech Airlines, connecting through Prague, and arrived about 10 hours later. We found the clue box at the gate. The clue said to travel by bus to Targoviste and find the gymnasium for the city's women's professional basketball team.

Once there, the instructions said we were to find the 2005 Basketball MVP of the Maccabi Games, and she would give us the next clue. Now that might require a little homework for some teams, we mean tourists. But the BCs knew exactly who we'd be seeing and we couldn't be more excited! The bus trip from Bucharest to Targoviste took about an hour, but once there, thanks to directions from one of our fellow passengers, we found the gym very easily. As for finding the player . . . that took maybe 3 seconds! We immediately spotted Shay practicing at the free throw line, gave her a big hug, and she handed us the next clue. The clue said we were to travel by donkey (waiting for us outside the gym) to Chindra Tower, a famous structure built by Count Dracula. When we arrived we had to don black capes and fake fangs, then we had to climb the dark narrow winding staircase with only a single candle between us to light our way. When we reached the top and exited onto the roof, we then had to rappell down the side of the tower, donkey back to town, and find the hotel that served as the next pit stop. Simple!

The next morning, we repeated the bus trip back to Bucharest, and from there we flew on Alitalia to Venice, Italy. What a beautiful city! Unfortunately, we had little time for sightseeing. We immediately had to travel by water taxi to the canal landing closest to the Rialto Bridge. There, in an open air cafe, we were to find one of the 3 young ladies (among about 2 dozen patrons) who were members of Umana Reya Venezia, a professional women's basketball team in the city. Well, that was easy! They may have outfitted her with dark glasses and a floppy hat, but that didn't fool the BCs! There in the back supposedly incognito (Ha!) was Harp! After a shriek, a hug and a clue from Laura, the BCs (following instructions) dove off the landing, swam across the canal and proceeded on foot (and wet!) to the bus station where we caught the first bus to the small city of Schio, about 100 kilometers north-west of Venice.

Once in Schio, we had to find our way on foot to the gymnasium that serves as the home court of Familia Wuber Schio, a professional women's basketball team. There we were to find the player named Marissa icing her ankle on the bench while reading a copy of the Terrapin Times (international edition). Each team had to correctly answer a trivia question in order for her to give us the next clue. The question was "How many members of the starting line-up of the 2006 NCAA Women's D-I Basketball Champions had their numbers honored and have banners hanging in their University arena?" The clue said that if you gave an incorrect answer, your penalty was that you had to make 3 consecutive free throws before you could try again. Talk about E-Z! The BCs didn't have to attempt a single free throw. We simply opened one hand, flashing Riss 5 fingers. We got a big smile, a hug and our next clue. While other teams were busy at the charity stripe, the BCs were busy traveling by taxi to the famous (at least in Schio) Little Church of St. Mary, which was the pit stop for this leg of the race, uhh, tour.

The following morning we chose one of the Fiats provided by the tour organizer who instructed us to drive ourselves to Milan,about 170km away. Fortunately BC Eileen can drive a stick shift. Unfortunately, Italy is full of crazy drivers! What an adventure that turned out to be. But as adventures go, it was nothing compared to the culinary adventure that we found in the next clue upon our arrival in Milan. It was another Roadblock. This one required one of us (BC Judith) to consume a full plate of a classic Italian holiday dish, Zampone. It's a very "tasty" recipe that features lentils topped by a large pig's foot and is stuffed with ground pig snout and other delicacies thrown in for added flavor. Yummy!

After "lunch,"we were again headed to the airport, this time, to catch a flight to Madrid. Once there, we had to travel by taxi to the Metropolis Building where we'd find our next clue. From there, we were instructed to find the basketball court used by Rivas Ecopolis, a professional women's team in the city. The clue was very specific: we needed to be in the stands when the game tipped off at 8:00 that evening. It said that during the game we had to keep track of the points and rebounds of one Rivas Ecopolis player, Crystal Langhorne. Then, at the conclusion of the game, we were to give our total to the official scorekeeper. If correct, we received our next clue. This task wasn't easy. It was hard for the BCs to avoid getting caught up in the excitement of the game and just keep track of Lang's numbers! But we did it and got the clue, took a moment to say hello to Crystal, and then headed off in search of our tour's final pit stop elsewhere in Madrid.

This amazing adventure was nearing its conclusion, but before heading back to the good old USA, we had to face one final test. First, we had to fly to Paris. (It's a dirty job but someone has to do it!) Then we had to travel by bus or train to the suburb of La Courneuve, the home of a young member of the French National Basketball team, Diandra Tchatchouang. We had to find the school she attended, locate her former coach who had to teach us to say "Fear the Turtle" in French. Now this may not seem like a difficult task unless you are aware that BC Eileen suffers from FLD (foreign language dyslexia). It's a brain disorder that renders her virtually mute in non-English speaking countries. So this task took a while. But somehow, someway she pushed through and the team finally earned a pronunciation thumbs up. And then it was back to Charles DeGaulle airport to book a flight home.

We shouldn't tell you this, but we have a really hard time keeping secrets from our loyal readers, so what the heck: By time we boarded Air France for Dulles, there were only 3 teams left "touring." One, of course, was the BCs; one was a lady named Joanne P and her husband, a professor; and the third was a pair from Tennessee, Pat S and her son, Tyler.

We're not allowed to tell you which couple arrived back first. But we guess there's no harm in sharing with you that one of the 3 teams got delayed by Homeland Security upon entering the U.S. because one member of the team had an unfortunate "airport incident" on his record and was selected for additional screening; meanwhile another of the 3 teams was delayed entering the country by the Dept of Agriculture because of a not that long ago "close encounter" with a possibly rabid raccoon. This, of course, allowed one of the 3 teams to zip through Customs and on to their final destination -- the end of an amazing race, we mean whirlwind tour -- without interference. We're sorry we can't tell you which team made it to the mat first (you'll just have to wait until the show airs) . . . but Sharma, if you're reading this, the BCs may just want to up their Rebounder membership level to MVP next season. (We've recently come into a little money.)

So, loyal readers, while we've been lax in posting, it wasn't because we were ignoring you. As you can tell from our travelogue, we were pretty darn busy. But the good news is, we're baaaack! And the even better news is: so are the Terps! Their first exhibition game is tomorrow night, Wednesday, at 7 PM at Comcast against Bowie State. See ya there!