Maryland Terrapins Basketball Season Preview (Part 3 of 3)
Maryland Head Coach Gary Williams and the Men's Basketball Squad kick off their 2008-2009 season on Saturday, November 8, 2008 with a game against Northwood University at the Comcast Center in College Park MD at 7pm. Christopher Blunck/DC Sports Box
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- With tipoff in Comcast less than a week away we turn to the third and final installment of the 2008-2009 Maryland Men's Basketball Season Preview.
 
 
North Carolina
North Carolina finished the 2007-2008 season with a 36-3 overall record, including a 14-2 record in conference play. UNC won both the ACC conference regular season title and ACC tournament title. The Tarheels advanced to the NCAA Tournament as a #1 seed. Their run for the NCAA Championship title was upset in the Final Four by the #1 seeded Kansas Jayhawks (66-84).

This season, UNC is once again predicted to lead the ACC. They were unanimously voted as #1 in the media’s preseason ACC poll. The Tar Heels return all five starters from the 2007-2008 Final Four along with a couple of highly touted recruits. Senior Tyler Hansbrough, who is once again the unanimous preseason pick for ACC Player of the Year, is expected to be better than ever this season. He’ll return to the hardwood along with junior forward Deon Thompson, junior guard Ty Lawson, junior guard Wayne Ellington and senior guard/forward Marcus Ginyard.

Hansbrough averaged 22.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game in the 2007-2008 season. Ellington scored 16.6 points per game and Lawson averaged 12.7. Ginyard, who averaged 6.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, will be out for eight weeks following corrective surgery to a stress fracture in his right foot.

Seniors Danny Green and Bobby Frasor will also rejoin the Tarheels. Green averaged 11.5 points per game. Frasor, a backup for Lawson, played in only twelve games last after tearing his left ACL in December. Frasor averaged 3.2 points per game last season.

Incoming freshman Ed Davis, Tyler Zeller, Larry Drew II and Justin Watts, will round out the UNC squad. Davis, a six-foot-ten forward from Richmond, and Zeller, a 7-foot forward from Indiana, will provide rebounding and shot-blocking relief for Hansbrough and Thompson. Drew will provide back up point-guard capabilities for Lawson and Frasor, while Watts can provide support for Ellington or Green.

In their last contest, the Terps stunned the #1 ranked Tarheels 82-80 in Chapel Hill. Maryland will play North Carolina twice this year. The first game will take place on Tuesday, February 3rd at 8:00 pm in the Dean Dome.

Virginia Tech   
Virginia Tech finished the 2007-2008 season with a 21-14 overall record, including a 9-7 record in conference play. The Hokies finished fourth last season in the ACC and played postseason in the NIT where they ultimately lost to Ole Miss in the quarterfinals (81-72).

The only true loss from last year is graduating senior Deron Washington who averaged 13.1 points and 6.5 rebounds. The Hokies will return 81.1 percent of their scoring and 81.8 percent of their rebounding from last season’s team. Included in the offensive firepower is leading scorer A.D. Vassallo who averaged 16.9 points per game. Vassallo played for the Puerto Rican national team in August, which won the 2008 Centrobasket Tournament Championship.

Last season, Malcome Delaney managed 106 assists and scored 9.6 points per game on average. He will be utilized this season in both the point and shooting guard positions. Delaney may share the point guard position with sophomore Hank Thorns who averaged 4.6 points and 3.2 assists last season. Sophomore Jeff Allen, the 6-foot-7, 260 pound, power forward who averaged 11.8 points per game and pulled down 7.6 rebounds will also return this season.

A few other players round out the Hokies’ roster including junior forward Lewis Witcher, senior center Cheick Diakite, sophomore forward J.T. Thompson and sophomore forward Terrell Bell. Now in their sophomore seasons, both Thompson and Bell are expected to shine in break-through seasons.

Two freshmen, Victor Davila and Gene Swindle, will also join the Hokies roster this season. Davila, a highly anticipated 6-foot-8 power forward from Puerto Rico, turned down Clemson and Wake Forest to play for Virginia Tech. Davilla may join the starting line up early in the season as a force in the post. Swindle, a 6-foot-11, 260-pound freshman may redshirt this season. Swindle is eventually expected to share the center position.

In their last contest Virginia Tech beat Maryland 69-65 in Comcast Center. This season Maryland will play Virginia Tech only once in College Park on Saturday, February 14th at 4:00 pm.
 
Sean Mosley joined the Terrapins this season and talked things over with reporters during Media Day in the Comcast Center on Thursday October 16 , 2008. David Lovell/DC Sports Box
Clemson
Clemson finished the 2007-2008 season with a 24-10 overall record, including a 10-6 record in conference play.  The Tigers finished third in the ACC. They reached the NCAA tournament for the first time in a decade and the ACC Conference tournament finals for the second time in school history. The #5 seeded Tiger’s ended their season with a first round loss in the NCAA tournament to #12 Villanova (69-75).

As last season ended Clemson said goodbye to senior forwards James Mays and Sam Perry and senior guard Cliff Hammonds. The loss may open up large holes in the Tiger’s defense. Clemson was ranked in the top 12 in the nation in steals per game in each of the last four years including a fourth place finish in 2008.

Despite the loss, the Tigers aren’t without talent. Three starters will return from last year’s team, including K.C. Rivers, Demontez Stitt and Trevor Booker. Rivers opted to return for his senior season after briefly considering the NBA draft. Rivers was the top scorer with 14.7 points per game. He also shot 40.2% from three-point range, scoring 212 career three-point goals in his first three seasons. As a freshman, Stitt averaged 8.8 points and 3.0 assists. Booker averaged 11.0 points per game and pulled down 7.3 rebounds.

Terrance Oglesby, David Potter and Raymond Sykes will also return. Oglesby ranked fourth in scoring with 10.5 points per game and led the team in three-point goals and three-point shooting. Potter averaged 4.8 points and 2.1 rebounds as a sophomore. Sykes averaged 4.4 points and 2.4 rebounds. He started in six games last season when Mays was out with injuries.

Four freshmen, Tanner Smith, Andre Young, Catalin Baciu and Bryan Narcisse, will also join the Tiger roster this season. Smith won the three-point shooting contest in the Capital Classic last year. Smith averaged 25 points as a junior and was named MVP of the state championship as a senior. At 7-foot-2 Baciu is the tallest signee in Clemson history. He averaged 7.1 points and 7.1 rebounds as the youngest member of the Romanian National team in 2007.

Head coach Oliver Purnell, who has won 49 games in the last two seasons, was offered a two-year contract extension that will keep him with the Tigers through 2014. He is now in the top-third in pay among ACC coaches.
 
In their last contest Clemson beat Maryland 73-70, after Terrance Oglesby hit a three-point shot with only 2.3 seconds left in the game. Maryland will play Clemson only once this season on February 17th 2009 at 7:30 pm in Clemson, SC.
 
North Carolina State   
NC State ended the 2007-2008 season with a 15-16 overall record, including a 4-12 record in conference play. The Wolfpack began last season with high hopes and huge aspirations. After challenging North Carolina in the 2007 ACC Tournament and making a run in the NIT, NC State was ranked third in the 2007-2008 ACC preseason media poll. So what went wrong? Head coach Sidney Lowe blames the horrible season record on the team’s lack of chemistry.

This season the Wolfpack will need all the teamwork they can gather because J.J. Hickson, the Wolfpack’s top scorer, will not be returning. After averaging 14.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game Hickson opted for the NBA. The Wolfpack will also play without the assistance of Gavin Grant who averaged 13.1 points and pulled down 4.5 rebounds in his senior year. Hickson and Grant are not only two of the top scorers but also two of the top three rebounders. Their absence will leave a large hole for the rest of the squad to overcome.

The Wolfpack will certainly look to Courtney Fells to fill the scoring gap. Fells averaged 10.6 points per game and shot 38.6% from beyond the arc. If Senior Ben McCauley and junior Brandon Costner can return to their former glory they can also provide much needed firepower. Two years ago McCauley and Costner averaged 31.2 points and 14.2 rebounds combined, but last season both players watched their numbers slide. McCauley averaged 14.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per game as a sophomore, but as a junior his numbers fell to 6.1 and 3.7 respectively. Costner, a former McDonald’s All-American, watched his numbers fall from 16.8 points and 7.3 rebounds to 8.5 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.

Some believe NC State’s collapse hinged on the loss of injured point guard Fenald Degand who played in only ten games before tearing his ACL in December.  Freshman Javier Gonzalez was forced to step in to the point guard position after Degand’s injury, but Gonzalez was plagued by turnovers. Back in better health, Degand will most likely return to the starting point guard position.

The Wolfpack will also be joined by a number of freshman, including C.J. Williams and Julius Mays. Both players made a steady showing in the two-game exhibition in Toronto.

In their last contest the Terrapins beat the Wolfpack 84-70 in College Park. Maryland will play NC State only once this year on Sunday, March 1 at 7:30 pm in Raleigh, NC.

Braxton Dupree returns as one of the big men inside to play for the 2008-2009 squad. Christopher Blunck/DC Sports Box
Wake Forest
Wake Forest ended the 2007-2008 season with a 17-13 overall record, including a 7-9 record in conference play. This year the Demon Deacons’ roster will be little changed. Wake will lose Cameron Stanley, who averaged 1 point per game, but the rest of last year’s roster will return. Wake is one of only two teams to welcome back all five starters.

Wake will also be joined by three, highly touted freshman, considered the third-best recruiting class in the nation including Al-Farouq Aminu, Ty Walker and Tony Woods. The 6-foot-9-combination guard/forward Al-Farouq Aminu is versatile enough to play the perimeter or down low in the post. He was named the preseason ACC Rookie of the Year in October. At 7-feet and 215 pounds Ty Walker averaged 8.1 blocks as a senior and was ranked the #2 center by Rivals.com. At 6-foot-11 and 245-pounds center Tony Woods was rated the #3 center and the #20 recruit of the class of 2008.

Returning point guards, sophomore Jeff Teague and junior Ishmael Smith, are two of the quickest in the country. Smith broke his foot in mid-September, but he is expected to be back in good-health by the Deacon’s season opener. Smith averaged 8.6 points and 3.4 rebounds and led the Deacons with 4.7 assists per game. Teague won ACC Rookie of the Week four times last season and was named to the ACC All-Freshman Team. He averaged 13.9 points per game and scored in double figures in 19 of his final 22 games of the season.

The young Wake Forest team only has one senior on the roster. Senior Harvey Hale is the leading three-point shooter. Hale averages 8.1 points per game and started in 12 games last year. Two-year starter, junior L.D. Williams is known primarily for his lockdown defense, but Williams can also score. He averaged 8.9 points per game last season. Sophomore James Johnson led the Deacons in scoring with 14.6 points per game and 8.1 rebounds. Johnson was named to the ACC All-Freshman Team and finished runner-up for ACC Rookie of the Year. 7-foot center Chas McFarland shot 49.0% on the year and averaged 5.8 rebounds per game. 6-foot-11 junior David Weaver won the team’s Best Defensive Player Award and shot 61.5% from the field last season.

Wake Forest earned third place in the ACC preseason poll due to the outstanding combination of last season’s starters and this season’s recruiting class. Last year, Wake showed pure athleticism when they beat the #2 ranked Duke Blue Devils. The Deacons snapped the Blue Devils’ 12-game winning streak, in an 86-73 victory at Lawrence Joel Coliseum. After a three-year absence from the NCAA tournament, many believe Wake will make a solid run to the big dance this year.

Maryland has beaten Wake Forest in each of the last four contests, most recently with a 74-40 win over the Demon Deacons on February 28, 2008 in Lawrence Joel Coliseum. Maryland will play Wake Forest only once this year on Tuesday, March 3rd at 9:00 pm in Comcast Center.