NCAA tournament: a look at Terps vs. Cal

Sure, the Terps are thrilled to get in. Now it's a race between two excellent game coaches -- Gary Williams and Mike Montgomery -- to prepare. These teams haven't played each other since 1996-'97 (the Terps won).

I have to start by noting how good Williams is in the first round. Give him and another coach the same amount of time to game-plan for an opponent they haven't played ... and Gary usually comes out on top.


Here's my anxiety if I'm Maryland.

I wrote from Atlanta how the Terps, out of necessity, played a pack-it-in zone whenever possible. At the beginning of the season, several players told me they were more comfortable in man-to-man.


But they sometimes have to play zone because they are a smallish team and need to clog the lane to prevent opposing big guys from dominating. At the ACC tournament, they played zone quite well and didn't pay a high price. N.C. State and Wake Forest combined to shoot just 11-for-52 from beyond the three-point line.

But playing a sagging of zone is a luxury you can't afford if the other team starts to hit threes. That's what happened against Duke.

And that's where Cal can hurt you. The Golden Bears make 43.4 percent of their threes -- best in the nation.

Jerome Randle, a 5-foot-10 junior guard from Chicago, is third in the nation at 46.8 percent on threes.

Maryland is 225th in the nation -- and 11th in the ACC -- in three-point field-goal percentage defense (35.1 percent).

Having said all that, Maryland needn't worry about Cal's inside game as much as it did against, say, Wake Forest. Like Maryland, Cal isn't a fabulous rebounding team. The Bears are plus-2.3 on the boards, which ranks them sixth in the Pacific-10.

They're usually led in rebounding by Jamal Boykin or Omonde Amoke. Those guys go 6-8 and 6-7.

Cal does have a 7-footer, Jordan Wilkes, who plays about 16 minutes a game and averages 4.8 points and 4.0 rebounds.


I'm not ready to predict yet, but I'll say this: Cal must feel the Terps are a pretty formidable 10 seed. Maryland has played lately with intensity and confidence.

This is one of those tournament games where the seeds make absolutely no difference. In other words, you couldn't consider it much of an upset if Maryland won. Not after how the Terps have fared lately in the potent ACC.

More later, folks.

Thanks to my colleague, Rick Maese, for covering for me while I made my way back from Atlanta yesterday afternoon.