Last year, this would have made perfect sense. Everyone and Jay Bilas' uncle dismissed Gary Williams and his undersized, underwhelming bunch.
Then the Terps went ahead and made the round of 32 and folks scratched their heads and conceded that Gary could indeed still coach. And Hey! Those kids they have weren't half bad either!
That's why I was befuddled to learn the Dick Vitale had left the Terps off of his preseason Top 40 list. Sure Dukie V likes to dance with the Devils, but this?
What's amusing, though, is how much the Terps would appear to appeal to Vitale's basketball taste buds. Sure, they don't play in Cameron Indoor, but most of the other pieces fit the mold. Let's take a look at how the Terps match up with Dickie V's most famous phrases.PTPer! Prime! Time! Player!: With the return of Greivis Vasquez, the Terps boast one of the top talents in the ACC. The Vivacious Venezuelan has been named second team all-ACC two years in a row and last year led the Terps in scoring (17.5), rebounding (5.4) and assists (5.0). Then there was that triple-double he tossed up in the Terps' upset over the eventual national champion Tar Heels. So yeah, that works.
Diaper Dandies!: The Terps biggest problem area is in the low post. That'll happen when you insert 6-foot-6 small forward Dave Neal at center seven games into the season.
Fortunately, the Terps incoming class includes 6-foot-9 Jordan Williams and 6-foot-8 James Padgett out of Lincoln HS (NY). Williams is ranked 85 on rivals.com, and once broke the backboard in a high school games because some opposing fans were giving him a hard time.
Dipsy-doo dunkeroo: Dick, meet Landon Milbourne. You might have seen him before on SportsCenter's top 10 plays. If you don't recall the man's slam-jam-bam, please allow YouTube to jog your memory. He's a true "Three S" man: Super, Scintillating, Sensational.
The Trifecta!: In his senior year, we could finally see the Eric Hayes that always promises to break out. Hayes can shoot (.375 3PFG%). He simply must afford himself the confidence to let it fly. The silky point guard hit at least two long balls in 16 games last season, nailing five in a win again NC State. Put simply, the Terps are better when Hayes is taking (and making) shots.
At the conclusion of last season, the Terps were among the top 32 teams in the land. Since then, they saw their best player return, added two young big men to fill their frontcourt needs, and graduated only lone senior Dave Neal.
Seven of the teams top eight scoreres are back, and at the same time, league opponents Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Florida State and Miami all lost major contributors to the NBA draft.
Andy Katz saw enough to put the Terps at No. 17 in his latest Top 25 on June 16. Given a year to build on last season's surprise success, the Terps deserve that pub. The only question that remains, can they live up to it?
Well, that and how Dickie V missed what should have been right in front of his bugged-out eyes.