Rising High

Two years ago we were fortunate to see three schools from Maryland reach the NCAA men’s basketball tournament (had to be the first time in state history that three went, but none from College Park). 

But this season may prove even better. 

First the Terps.  Maryland discovered the right mix of chemistry at the end of last season to rally past a stretch of horrible play and reach the field of 32.  This year, they are better.  All key players return with greater experience, and they add a pair of post players ready for Division one action.  Gary Williams kept saying he had help on the way, and it wasn’t just a defensive reflex to criticism.  He was right.  Jordan Williams and James Padgett make the Terps competitors at least for a 1st round bye in the ACC Tourney, and a top four seed in the NCAA’s. 

In Baltimore, Morgan State jumps out to a 2-0 start, winning a pair of games on the road against America East competition (a conference with a better RPI than the MEAC.)  Todd Bozeman’s insanely fast re-invention of the Morgan program remains one of the best coaching efforts in the country.  He took over a four win program four years ago, and this year goes for a 3rd straight 20 win season. 

Pat Kennedy has struggled at Towson the last couple of years, but his Tigers made a nice run at the CAA Tourney last spring and seem to have grown from that.  Towson opened up the season with a solid victory over Miami, OH.  It’s a victory that looked nice last Friday, but even better by Monday as Miami took 4th ranked Kentucky to wire before losing on a last second shot at Rupp Arena.  Part of my jaw dropping though comes from me having Kentucky number one with my AP ballot.  That will change come Sunday, but I digress.  Kennedy has finally found some depth and shared scoring after long relying on a star player to carry the load.

Loyola is 2-1 including a win at UMBC Monday Night and a great half of basketball in Morgantown.  Jimmy Patsos had his Greyhounds tied at the half against 5th ranked West Virginia before the Mountaineers ran away after the break.  Patsos, like Bozeman has re-invented a program and changed expectations.  Siena is the class of the MAAC, but Loyola could challenge.

Mt. St. Mary’s has the best team in the NEC and looks for a 2nd trip the big dance in three years. 

UMBC has opened with a pair of losses at home, but it’s not a lack of talent doing in the Retrievers.  They have so many new faces including their first new starting point guard in four years.  Chris de la Rosa replaces Jay Greene , but offers similar skills.  Randy Monroe also has a new seven footer with skills.  By mid-January, once the chemistry develops, this team will be har to beat.

Coppin State enjoys a new home in a matter of weeks, opening up the new Coppin Center.  They lost their best player from the last four years in Tywain McKee, but with a new facility it will be easier to replace that kind of talent.

And Navy, well at least it’s a great football season. 

Take some time over the holidays to check out some of the local teams.  That way you’ll know the rosters when these guys get to dance in March.

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