Terrapins picked to finish 5th in ACC

Media voting leaves UM in worst spot since 1993

College Basketball

October 27, 2003|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

GREENSBORO, N.C. - University of Maryland men's basketball coach Gary Williams got what he expected yesterday at the Atlantic Coast Conference Operation Basketball preseason event.

Williams figured the Terps, who feature five newcomers and 11 players with no more than one year of experience, would be pegged by the league's media members to end up in the middle of the ACC pack. Maryland got 271 votes, good for a projected fifth-place finish, marking the lowest spot since 1993, when the Terps were picked to finish eighth.

He thought perennial power Duke, defending regular-season conference champion Wake Forest and North Carolina, a talented-laden squad now under the direction of coach Roy Williams, would garner the most attention.

Duke, led by sophomore guard J.J. Redick and winners of the past five ACC tournaments, was picked as a runaway choice to win the league once again. The Blue Devils got 493 votes, including 53 of 55 first-place votes.

Carolina, led by guards Raymond Felton and Rashad McCants, got the second-place nod with 422 votes and one first-place vote. Wake Forest, featuring junior forward Vytas Danelius and freshman point guard sensation Chris Paul, received 382 votes, including a first-place vote. Felton was tabbed as the preseason Player of the Year.

"That's OK. We had a lot of good players the last two or three years, and we were supposed to be good. We've got a lot of good players now, and people are wondering how good we'll be," said Gary Williams, who is 18 months removed from his first national championship and his second trip to the Final Four.

"Compared to last year, our offense was light years ahead of where we are, but I like our intensity level [in practice] and I like our athletic ability," he added. "We really get up and down the floor. We play hard."

Senior center/forward Jamar Smith, a second-year Division I player, sophomore guard John Gilchrist and sophomore forward Nik Caner-Medley form the heart of Maryland's most experienced core. Smith, who, along with Caner-Medley, averaged a team-high 5.9 points among the Terps' returnees, said the first week of practice has yielded some hints about Maryland's style of play.

"This team is going to get up and down the floor," Smith said. " ... We're going to press a lot. We've got a lot of talent, but everybody has to get more experience with the ball. Our two exhibition games [on Nov. 12 and 18] are going to be big."

As the ACC enters its last season as a nine-team league and awaits the addition of Virginia Tech and Miami next year - with Boston College set to join as late as 2006 - questions surround a conference that should be fairly balanced.

Will Duke, with preseason Rookie of the Year pick Luol Deng adding to its arsenal, rule the league once again? Will N.C. State, led by junior guard/forward Julius Hodge and picked to finish fourth by the media with 300 votes, make a serious move into title contention?

Judging by the throngs of reporters who surrounded Roy Williams, the longtime Carolina assistant who left Kansas to rejoin his alma mater, the biggest questions are focused on the Tar Heels. They are two years removed from a school-worst 8-20 season and faded badly last season before finishing in a sixth-place tie in the ACC.

"It's not like there's nothing in the cupboard [at Carolina]. There's a lot of shelves with some good things on them," said Williams, who won 418 games and went to four Final Fours at Kansas without winning an NCAA crown.

During one phase of yesterday's event, Gary Williams, with 502 victories behind him, joked with a few reporters as he looked across the room at the crowd pressing in on Roy Williams.

"I'm not the other Williams," the Maryland coach said. "Check my record. I've won a national championship."

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