Terps to start season with lingering questions

Maryland Men's Basketball

November 14, 2008|By Don Markus | Don Markus,don.markus@baltsun.com

COLLEGE PARK - The preseason predictions can be put away like a pair of worn-out sneakers. They are not the only things that Maryland wants to bury when the Terrapins open the 2008-2009 season tonight against Bucknell at Comcast Center.

"We don't want to make the same mistakes we made last year with teams that are not in our conference," junior forward Landon Milbourne said. "We've got to come out and play hard every single day."

In a 19-15 season that ended with a second-round loss in the National Invitation Tournament, Maryland had several letdowns, including back-to-back home defeats in December to Ohio and American.

Though it's not certain that those losses played into the Terps missing the NCAA tournament for the third time in four years, they didn't help, forcing Maryland to play catch-up with its Rating Percentage Index the rest of the season.

Not that a win over the Bison will catapult the Terps into the Top 25, but a less-than-inspiring performance might shake the confidence of a team that seems to be feeling good about itself regardless of the low expectations that others have.

"I've liked the way we've gone since Oct. 17; there haven't been many bad days," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who will begin his 20th season at his alma mater. "Now the excitement is there, the season is starting, we'll find out pretty quick how good we are."

Williams will also find out whether he will have a regular starting lineup or a rotating one, depending on who's playing well in games and practices. Williams named three of the five starters yesterday before practice.

"Eric Hayes, Greivis Vasquez and Landon Milbourne," Williams said of his three returning juniors, all of whom started most of the games last season. "And whoever practices well today."

Since freshman Sean Mosley (St. Frances) had missed a week of practice, as well as last week's exhibition game, either of two sophomores, Adrian Bowie or Cliff Tucker, could start. Both have shown tremendous improvement from last season.

"I'm pleased with the competitiveness in our perimeter positions," Williams said. "We have quite a few players who deserve playing time. When you have five or six guys who play the three perimeter positions, it allows you to do a lot of things."

How Williams will use his inside players remains a mystery, since sophomore centers Braxton Dupree (Calvert Hall) and Jerome Burney, as well as freshman Steve Goins, have not distinguished themselves much so far. Sophomore Dino Gregory (Mount St. Joseph's) is also in the mix.

"We still don't know until we get into the games where we are with the bigger players," Williams said. "That's going to be interesting to start to see who really steps up and takes over or doesn't. Until someone does, you'll see different people in there."

The other question mark tonight is the opponent, considering that Dave Paulsen is in his first season at Bucknell. A three-point shooting team led by senior guard Justin Castleberry (Archbishop Spalding), the Bison could have one advantage over the Terps.

"A team that has nothing to lose can really come in loose and just fire away, and if they're making shots, it can be a tough game," Williams said.

NOTES: : Maryland announced the signing of Jordan Williams, a 6-foot-10, 245-pound center from Torrington, Conn. "At 6-10, Jordan is one of those rare players who can run the court very well while being a traditional inside player," Gary Williams said.

BUCKNELL @MARYLAND

Tonight, 8

Radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM

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