Walking in a Williams wonderland

The University of Maryland moved into the second round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament yesterday, defeating California 84-71 in a mild upset. The first half was a tight, scrappy affair. However, the Terps took control in the second half behind the strong-willed play of unheralded sophomore guard Adrian Bowie (a former ballboy for Maryland), a 3-2 zone defense, and uncharacteristically good shooting.

The real key to the game, though, was probably the fact that Cal, the nation’s best three-point shooting team, went only 7 for 24 from behind the arc. Luck surely played a role, but Maryland also made Cal’s guards work hard at both ends, including having to break a press that generated some timely turnovers as well.

Next up for Maryland is a Memphis team rated among the nation’s top five. But long-time Maryland fans will remember that in 1994 Gary Williams’ Terps upset a strong U.Mass. team coached by John Calipari, the current coach of Memphis. As is the case this year, Maryland was a 10 seed and Calipari’s squad was a 2.

To be sure, that Maryland club, despite its seed, was more talented than this year’s addition. I reckon that only one current Terp, Greivis Vasquez, would have started for the 1994 squad which included Joe Smith and Keith Booth. In addition, Calipari’s Memphis team plays better defense, I think, than his 1994 U. Mass. team did. Maryland is quite vulnerable (as most teams are) against a club that plays excellent defense; it tends to fare better against great offensive teams like North Carolina.

So the odds definitely favor Memphis tomorrow. But Maryland has been overcoming the odds for much of the season.

UPDATE: In a surprising development, Maryland finds itself one of only three ACC teams in the final 32. Clemson, Wake Forest, Florida State and Boston College all lost to lower-seeded teams. Powerhouses North Carolina and Duke are the only other ACC teams to advance.

Most stunning of all was Cleveland State’s decisive victory over Wake. Shades of “Mouse” McFadden.

Don’t blame me; I lifted the Deacon’s curse a few years ago, or tried to.

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