- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 13, 2001

The Maryland basketball team's run toward a second straight Final Four begins today. The Terrapins, along with most teams in the area, began practice early this morning with Midnight Madness.
The Terps will be ranked in just about every preseason top 5 and have been rated as high as No. 2 in several polls behind only defending national champion Duke the team that knocked Maryland out of its first Final Four during last season's national semifinals in Minneapolis.
"The expectation level is high," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who returns four starters from last season's 25-11 team. "You can't have injuries, and you have to play well in the NCAA tournament. If those things do happen you have a chance."
Maryland returns All-ACC guard and preseason All-American Juan Dixon (18.2 points), last season's NCAA tournament West Region MVP Lonny Baxter (15.6 points, 7.9 rebounds), point guard Steve Blake and small forward Byron Mouton. The only starting spot open is power forward, vacated by Terence Morris, who is now playing for the NBA's Houston Rockets. Former bench contributors Tahj Holden and Chris Wilcox will vie for the position. Seven of the 10 players from last season's rotation are back.
The Terps have little time to prepare for their opener. They face Arizona in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in New York on Nov. 8. They will face either Temple or Florida also a likely top 5 team the following night.
"This is the shortest period of time I ever had before playing a very good basketball team," said Williams, who begins his 13th season coaching his alma mater. "We have to see if we can get enough things in by the time we get to Arizona."
Maryland will count on junior college transfer Ryan Randle, a 6-foot-9 center/forward, to provide help immediately. Randle will help make up for the loss of big men Morris and 7-footer Mike Mardesich, a key reserve who graduated and is playing professionally in Germany. Freshmen Andre Collins, a 5-9 point guard, and Michael Grinnon, a 6-6 swingman, hope to work themselves into the rotation. There is playing time available because sixth man Danny Miller transferred to Notre Dame last spring.

GEORGETOWN
Expectations also are high on the Hilltop, where Georgetown celebrated its Midnight Madness festivities hoping to match last season's march to the Sweet 16.
The Hoyas return the two most valuable players from last season's 25-8 squad senior point guard Kevin Braswell (11.5 points, 6.1 assists) and sophomore power forward Michael Sweetney (12.8 points, 7.4 rebounds). Both are Naismith Award candidates and certain preseason All-Big East selections, prompting every hoops publication to rank Georgetown in its Top 25.
"My biggest concern starting the season is complacency," fourth-year coach Craig Esherick said. "Last year, we had an NIT banner and four seniors who had never been to the NCAA tournament as motivation. This year, I'm worried that some of the guys might think all they have to do is put on a Georgetown uniform and show up for us to make it to the Sweet 16."
Braswell should have the leadership skills to handle that possible pitfall, but Esherick and the Hoyas have two other major issues to address before the team's Nov. 16 opener against Marymount.
The Hoyas must find a solid ball-handler to replace Demetrius Hunter, the two-year starter at off-guard who transferred to UNLV in August. Touted recruits Tony Bethel and Drew Hall likely will battle for the slot.
The team also must determine the status of prized recruit Harvey Thomas, one of the nation's top prospects at small forward. At 6-foot-8, Thomas would be a more physical presence in the lineup than Gerald Riley (last season's starting swingman) and a more potent offensive weapon than reserve forward Victor Samnick (primarily a rebounder and defensive specialist). But Georgetown still has not heard from the NCAA Clearinghouse concerning Thomas' eligibility this season.
With or without Thomas, however, the Hoyas likely will be 10-0 when they play host to Virginia at MCI Center on Dec. 20.

GEORGE MASON
The Patriots begin life without center George Evans. Fifth-year coach Jim Larranaga calls it the "passing of the torch." Evans, who is arguably the greatest player in school history, led Mason to two consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, highlighted by last season's three-point loss against Maryland in the first round of the West Region.
"Freestyle Mason Midnight Madness" was last night's theme to kickoff what should be a good season for the Patriots.
Over the past three years at the Patriot Center, Mason has gone 32-4 overall and 23-1 against Colonial Athletic Association opponents. Larranaga's trademark "scramble" defense set a school record allowing opponents just 64.7 points a game.
Jesse Young, the 6-10 junior center, is expected to accept Evans' torch. Young, who averaged 8.2 points for last season's Patriots (18-12), will be the team's top scoring option.
"We knew George was graduating, as we did with Tremaine Price and Erik Herring, so we've been planning the process of replacing [Evans] for quite some time," Larranaga said. "Jesse is 250 pounds, Jesse is the upperclassman, Jesse is the one who is strong and throws his body weight around and Jesse is the one that now is teaching the lessons. He's gone from student to teacher."
Despite losing three starters from last season, Larranaga has enough talent to make a run at the new-look CAA title. Four new schools Drexel, Hofstra, Delaware and Towson entered the league this season.
"They don't know that much about us," Larranaga said of the CAA's newest members. "They can read about us in magazines or watch it on last year's tapes. Not until you compete do you truly know your opponent."

GEORGE WASHINGTON
It's "Madness" all right in Foggy Bottom. Attila Cosby, last season's starting center who had a year of eligibility left, was sentenced to 21/2 years in jail for sexually assaulting a woman in an on-campus incident. Shooting guard SirValiant Brown, who had two seasons of eligibility left, declared for the NBA Draft and wasn't selected.
In addition, there were three on-court melees with opponents last season and a calling card incident in which three players sophomore forward Marquin Chandler is still with the team under scholarship charged nearly $1,000 worth of calls to the university. Those incidents, coupled with last season's 14-18 record, led to the resignation of coach Tom Penders.
The program was in such shambles that the school's women's coach, Joe McKeown, turned down the job. The job went to Karl Hobbs, a career assistant at Connecticut, and he inherits a team with only one proven player junior guard Chris Monroe (18.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg).
Penders' predecessor, Mike Jarvis, built GW into a competitive and respected program. However, the Colonials appear to be on their way to becoming the Atlantic 10's new doormat. Hobbs has a lot of work to do, and it remains to be seen whether he gets enough time to rebuild a once-proud program.

OTHERS
How fitting for American to schedule a volleyball game (against Navy) last night to open festivities for the upcoming basketball season. The 7-20 Eagles played volleyball off the glass last season, shooting 40.5 percent from the field, 57.2 percent from the free throw line and 28.8 percent from behind the 3-point arc. Patrick Doctor, a 6-9 center, is in the house, but the Eagles are still terminally ill.
Navy doesn't hold a "Midnight Madness" celebration, but there still is plenty to look forward to in Annapolis. This season's Midshipmen are small but athletic and will contend for the Patriot League title.
Thanks to coach Frankie Allen, Howard is no longer a 1-27 joke. The Bison, 10-18 last year, will hold their "Midnight Madness" party on Oct.19 with the MEAC's best perimeter team they led the conference in 3-pointers (188) and 3-point percentage (.362) last season.
Catholic, which will defend its Division III national title, starts practice on Monday. Quirky NCAA rules prohibit Division III schools from opening practice the same day as the big boys. Catholic plays the Harlem Globetrotters this year at DuFour Center, and it counts as a game played on the schedule but not in the win/loss column.


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