NCAA

Terps looking forward to the season

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Terps looking forward to the season

October is the time for optimism in college basketball, and the feeling was on display yesterday in College Park.

For the Maryland Terrapins, there are reasons to look forward to this season. After more than two decades with Gary Williams coaching the team, last year the Terps adjusted to new head coach Mark Turgeon.

Turgeon did an admirable job in his first year, winning 17 games, but he did so without the benefit of his first recruiting class or even a full offseason to implement his schemes and systems. This year, that has all changed.

"I'm much more comfortable," Turgeon said.

Turgeon brought in the highest-rated recruiting class at Maryland in almost a decade. The Terps roster has been completely overhauled in the last year, with former players leaving the team and new transfers heading to College Park. Turgeon is building the squad he wants, and the buzz around the team shows that the players are buying in.

Last season, the Terps relied on the streaky scoring of sophomore guard Terrell Stoglin, who could pose problems for opposing teams or his own depending on his jumper. After an offseason rules violation, Stoglin is no longer with the team.

Instead, the 2012-2013 Terps can expect more scoring balance, and in-turn a more fluid offense. Nick Faust said this year's team already has a much different feel, and he said it will be visible within the offense.

"Everyone puts their hands on the ball before the shot goes up," Faust said.

At times last season, the Maryland offense seemed rushed, and often Stoglin would shoot the ball without involving his teammates.

While Faust should pick up some of Stoglin's scoring output, perhaps the biggest difference for Maryland will be its front court.

Senior James Padgett, sophomore Alex Len, and freshmen Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell present roughly 1,000 lbs. of muscle and height for the Terps. The four big men will be expected to rebound, score and play defense for the Terps, giving Maryland a big presence in the middle.

Len and Cleare come into the year with the most hype.

"He's a whole different guy now," Turgeon said of Len.

Last year, Len missed much of practice and early parts of the season dealing with NCAA eligibility issues after transferring to the U.S. from his native Ukraine. When Len finally arrived on the court for Maryland, the physicality of the American game surprised him, and over the course of the season his thin 7'1" frame wore down.

Over the summer, Len has been eating as much as he can. He joked that Turgeon wants him to eat five or six meals a day, consuming as much as 5,000 calories. Last year, Len played around 220 lbs., but this year he said his weight is up to almost 250 lbs.

"Coach wants me to eat a lot," Len said.

His English is much improved, and many expect a similar improvement in his game. Len is a tall body with good shot-blocking skills, and he has the outside shooting talent and passing ability often cultivated in European bigs. In a recent CBS Sports list, Len ranked as the 48th best college basketball player in the country.

His counterpart this year could well be freshman Shaq Cleare. Cleare is large, with broad shoulders and a big smile. The practice battles between Len and Cleare will help both players improve, and Len is already happy that Cleare has arrived on campus.

"When Shaq came in it was like a present for me," Len said.

He explained that last year he struggled against the big, physical players that man the middle on most Atlantic Coast Conference teams. Now, Len gets to face those players in practice.

"We battle every day," Cleare said, adding that the matchups can get "very physical." The action involves a few elbows here and there, and Cleare joked that at times it gets so rough the players end up pulling on each other's socks.

"Alex has gotten a lot stronger. He should dominate this year," Cleare said of Len. "The sky is the limit."

NBA dreams could be possible for both Len and Cleare.

Len has the height, but Cleare has the size. The highly recruited 6'9" freshman from the Bahamas - by way of Houston - is coming into the season weighing around 250. Cleare compares his game to former Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger, now with the Boston Celtics. Terp fans would be very pleased if Cleare replicated Sullinger's success.

An improved front court could set the Terps up for success, but without dependable guard play the team will not get far. After an injury plagued 2011-2012, junior point guard Pe'Shon Howard is excited to get on the court with this team.

"I'm so excited to play," Howard said. "We're going to be able to get better every day."

Howard is still rehabbing from a knee injury, and his status for the Maryland season opener in Brooklyn on Nov. 9 against Kentucky is in question. But once he is ready to go, this will be Howard's team. He will run the point, and be expected to facilitate an offense with explosive playmakers like Faust and many hungry big men.

Freshmen Jake Layman presents a bit of a wild card for the Terps.

Layman played this past summer with the U.S. Men's Under 18 basketball team. Layman was a surprise by some to make the team, but he thrived in team play. Though he stands 6'8", at just 190 lbs. Layman is more of a slasher than a banger, and he has a soft shooting touch.

"Once we get comfortable, we can accomplish anything," Layman said. "It's going to be awesome."

Maryland has not made the NCAA tournament in two years, and for that to change, the freshmen will need to make a big impact. Turgeon made it clear that though the national predictions do not expect much of Maryland, that is not the feeling within the program.

"The national spotlight stuff will come," Turgeon said. "With the talent that we have, we're going to have a chance to get to the postseason. We're going to get better."

Georgetown notches impressive road win, Mac McClung dunks again

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Georgetown notches impressive road win, Mac McClung dunks again

The Georgetown Hoyas notched an impressive road win on Tuesday night, defeating Illinois, 88-80 as part of the fourth annual Gavitt Tipoff Games. The Hoyas (3-0) were led by freshman James Akinjo (19 points), Josh LeBlanc (14 points) and Mac McClung (12 points), while freshman Ayo Dusunmo led all players with 25 points for the Illini (1-1) in the loss.

While Georgetown is far from a finished product or even a Top 25 team, the Hoyas are must-see television.

There's a Ewing (head coach Patrick) on the sideline, a Mourning (Alonzo's son Trey) in the middle, a future pro who can stretch the floor (Jessie Govan) and the most electrifying dunker in the country (McClung).

Akinjo has all the makings of a future All Big East First Team selection, LeBlanc provides ideal length to guard multiple positions, and sophomore Jamorko Pickett is a playmaker very few are talking about right now. That just might be a great thing.

Speaking of McClung, the Gate City, Va. freshman once again put on a mixtape performance, going up-and-under for a nifty finish and finishing a transition play in reverse style.

McClung did finish 0-for-4 from beyond the arc and has now missed all 11 of his 3-point attempts this season. But the 6-1 dunk sensation does have six steals and nine assists to go along with 24 points in the first three games of his college career.

Next up for the Hoyas is a trip to Montego Bay, Jamaica to take on Loyola Marymount and South Florida as part of the 2018 Jamaica Classic, which begins Friday, Nov. 16 on CBS Sports Network.

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Virginia, Virginia Tech each moved one spot in new top-25 poll but in opposite directions

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Virginia, Virginia Tech each moved one spot in new top-25 poll but in opposite directions

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Duke changed everything about who AP Top 25 voters considered to be the nation's best team with a single dominating performance against a marquee opponent.

It also gave the Blue Devils yet another milestone under Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski: a record number of appearances at No. 1.

The Blue Devils jumped from fourth to first Monday in the first regular-season poll, leapfrogging Kansas at the top after a blowout win against then-No. 2 Kentucky last week. That allowed Duke to set a record with its 135th week at No. 1, breaking a tie with UCLA for the most top rankings in poll history.

The 34-point win against the Wildcats in the Champions Classic to open the season marked the program's most lopsided win against a top-5 opponent. Duke was practically flawless behind star freshmen RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish, and that created a buzz about the team's already lofty potential being somehow even higher than anyone anticipated.

Granted, it was one game. And Duke (2-0) didn't look nearly so dazzling Sunday at home against Army. But that one performance caused a major voting shift, even with now-No. 2 Kansas earning a quality win of its own against then-No. 10 Michigan State in the first game of the Champions Classic.

Kansas was a solid preseason No. 1 by earning 37 of 65 first-place votes, followed by 19 for Kentucky and four for Duke. But Duke now has 48 first-place votes, claiming the top spot for all 19 voters who had Kentucky as preseason No. 1 while also causing 23 voters to switch from Kansas in the preseason Duke this week.

Duke also prompted switches from the lone voters who had Gonzaga and Villanova at No. 1 in the preseason.

The hype probably won't slow anytime soon, either. The Blue Devils have everyone's attention.

"Part of becoming good is keeping the noise out of your locker room," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the Army win. "And when something good happens and you have the start of the season ... there's a lot of noise. And for us, it's not always good noise, but in this case, it was exceptional noise. Exceptional noise.

"When you have four freshmen and we don't have veterans, you have to be more mature about listening to that."

COMPLETE MEN'S BASKETBALL TOP-25 RANKINGS WEEK 2

1. Duke 2-0 (48 votes, No. 4 last week)

2. Kansas 1-0 (14 votes, No. 1 last week)

3. Gonzaga 2-0 (No. 3 last week)

4. Virginia 2-0 (2 votes, No. 5 last week)

5. Tennessee 2-0 (1 vote, No. 6 last week)

6. Nevada 2-0 (No. 7 last week)

7. North Carolina 2-0 (No. 8 last week)

8. Villanova 2-0 (No. 9 last week)

9. Auburn 2-0 (No. 11 last week)

10. Kentucky 1-1 (No. 2 last week)

11. Michigan State (No. 10 last week)

12. Kansas State 1-0 (No. 12 last week)

13. Oregon 2-0 (No. 14 last week)

14. Florida State 2-0 (No. 17 last week)

15. Syracuse 2-0 (No. 16 last week)

16. Virginia Tech 1-0 (No. 15 last week)

17. Mississippi State 2-0 (No. 18 last week)

18. Michigan 2-0 (No. 19 last week)

19. Clemson 2-0 (No. 22 last week)

20. UCLA 2-0 (No. 21 last week)

21. TCU 2-0 (No. 20 last week)

22. LSU 2-0 (No. 23 last week)

23. Purdue 2-0 (No. 24 last week)

24. Marquette 2-0 (Not ranked last week)

25. Buffalo 2-0 (Not ranked last week)

AT THE TOP

Gonzaga stayed at No. 3, followed by Virginia and Tennessee each climbing a spot to round out the top 5. Nevada, North Carolina, reigning national champion Villanova and Auburn were next, while Kentucky slid eight spots to No. 10.

TOP RISERS

There weren't any dramatic climbs beyond the Duke-Kansas change at the top. In all, 16 teams moved up this week poll, with No. 14 Florida State and No. 19 Clemson matching Duke's three-spot jump for the biggest of the week.

Twelve of the gains were merely one spot.

LONGEST SLIDES

Kentucky's fall was the biggest for any team that stayed in the poll. The others were all modest, with four teams -- Kansas, No. 11 Michigan State, No. 16 Virginia Tech and No. 21 TCU -- falling one spot each.

NEWCOMERS

There were two new teams in the poll with No. 24 Marquette and No. 25 Buffalo.

It's the first appearance for Marquette in nearly five years since last appearing at No. 25 in November 2013.

As for Buffalo, it's the first AP Top 25 appearance in program history. It comes after the Bulls got 43 points and 14 rebounds from CJ Massinburg to beat then-No. 13 West Virginia on the road -- another marquee upset for a team that beat Arizona and eventual No. 1 overall NBA draft pick Deandre Ayton in the first round of last year's NCAA Tournament.

SLIDING OUT

The Mountaineers slid all the way out after losing to the Bulls, which marked their first loss in a home opener since November 2003. Washington fell out from No. 25 after a loss to Auburn.

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