Ah, the BB&T Classic. The Cotton Bowl of early-season college basketball tournaments. It was once so proud, so regal. But now...well, it's actually still pretty good, even if it's not quite as notable as it once was.
Quick history: the BB&T used to be a solid hoops tournament in the Nation's Capital, anchored by DMV stalwarts Maryland and George Washington and fleshed out by national powerhouses like Kansas, Connecticut, Texas and Gonzaga. Think Maui Invitational with fewer palm trees and more and better Chaminades.
But as similar tournaments waxed, the BB&T waned. Facing a lack of interest from name-brand programs, organizers in 2005 switched from a two-day tournament to a one-day tripleheader featuring several local programs. This year, as is typically the case, Maryland is the event's top draw. The tournament takes places Dec. 5 at Verizon Center in D.C.
In the first game, humble American University takes on Florida. It will be interesting to see how the #16 Gators respond four days after scoring just 54 points in a pitiful loss to Central Florida. Whether they come out adrenalized or demoralized could reveal a lot about their prospects this season.
The second stanza features another down-on-their-luck D.C. program—George Washington—and the Naval Academy, their neighbor up the road. The Colonials have a good tradition at the BB&T, having won the old tournament three times in its 10 year existence playing a scrappy, fun-to-watch brand of basketball (remember Shawnta Rogers?).
But 2-4 GW has fallen on hard times, going 19-35 from 2007 to 2009 before scratching out a 16-14 mark last season. Frankly, I'm starting to wonder what kinds of compromising photographs head coach Karl Hobbs has on the university leadership.
As for Maryland, this year the Terps tangle with Temple University. With Temple struggling out of the gate, this could be a chance for Maryland to notch a meaningful out-of-conference win.Much like their vaporization of Penn State last week at the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, however, this victory may not ultimately be of a marquee nature.
The 4-2 Owls lost two of their three big tests thus far, falling to Cal and Texas A&M but defeating Georgia. It's a big stumble for the A-10 favorites, who were ranked in the top 25 just a week ago.
Temple makes no secret about their approach: defense, defense, defense. And it doesn't matter. No opponent has broken 60 on Temple yet, though they also rank 298th nationally in points scored (hence the record). Their leading scorer is Ramone Moore, but it's not like you shut them down if you take him away.
No, Maryland's success, if it is to come, will be predicated on offense. Clearly, this will be a battle of styles and of wills for run-and-gun Maryland. They'll need to stay patient and they'll need to work hard to get guys open, get them the ball, and get off shots. Jordan Williams (or anyone else) probably won't be able to ride in on the white horse and bail them out. No 12-2 runs are likely in the offing.
This one will be a grinder. If Maryland's leaders can help the team punch through Temple's fortifications, they will earn a very nice win over a regional contemporary. It may not be Pittsburgh or Illinois, but out of conference is out of conference, and with a mediocre-at-best performance in that department to date I'm sure the Terps would take it twice this Sunday.