The Maryland men’s basketball team lost two key players this offseason in Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen Smith, both of whom helped lead the Terps to a successful season last year. Cowan averaged 16.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists during his senior season at Maryland, while Smith averaged 15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 0.8 assists as a sophomore.
The Terps are going to be looking for veteran players to step up and fill the shoes of Cowan and Smith during the 2020-21 season. Junior Eric Ayala averaged 8.5 points, 2.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists for Maryland last season, while senior Darryl Morsell averaged 8.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.
“Now they lost some key guys this year. They’ve got Ayala, Morsell, some good recruits coming in, but those veterans are going to have to step up because the conference this year is going to be even tougher, I think,” legendary ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale said on Glenn Clark Radio Sept. 24.
Last season, Maryland went 24-7 overall and 14-6 in the Big Ten to earn a share of the regular-season conference championship title with Wisconsin and Michigan State.
“They shared the Big Ten title, closed 11-3 in their last 14 games,” Vitale said. “The bottom line is, basically, the league is so tough. Every game was a battle, I think people forget that. They want everyone to be undefeated but that just doesn’t happen.”
Vitale explained that although Mark Turgeon has not had as much success in the postseason during his nine seasons with the Terps, he has still won a lot of games at Maryland. Turgeon is 204-99 since taking over as Maryland’s head coach in 2011-12.
“You’ve got to follow a legend, the legend of all time, Gary Williams. Gary did such a phenomenal job. He was such a popular guy with the kids, the students, the alumni. He had that emotion, that passion, that personality, so it makes it kind of tough,” Vitale said. “Mark has done a solid job. He’s a good basketball technician.”
ACC men’s basketball coaches proposed an “all-inclusive” 2021 NCAA tournament that would include every Division I team. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, several ACC coaches are looking to avoid nonconference games in the 2020-21 season. This season is going to be irregular and because of this, some think that every team deserves the chance to compete in the NCAA tournament. Vitale isn’t one of them.
“I think one thing that’s happened now with the tournament, we reward some [power conference] teams for total mediocrity. The fact they play in a conference, they finish seventh or eighth in the conference, they basically go .500 — and some even under .500 — and they get in the tournament. I don’t think that’s good,” Vitale said. “… You decided to be in that conference. You have to play there, and you have to compete and you have to be successful. If you’re not, then forget about it.”
“I think you’ve got to reward people who do well,” Vitale added. “I just think you’ve got to reward teams that have great years.”
Vitale noted the difference between the NBA playoffs and the NCAA Tournament in describing the excitement of each and every NCAA matchup.
“You’ve got a deal where one bad night, the party’s over. It’s over. If you have a bad night — you can be the best team in the country all year. Remember when Kentucky was undefeated. They got beat — didn’t play well, Wisconsin played well, beat them in the tournament. That’s what makes it special, though,” Vitale said. “… In the NBA, you can have a couple of slips and you can still go on and win the series four out of seven. So again, I think the unique style makes the college game so special.”
Vitale’s new book, “The Lost Season,” touches on the lost postseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic and what could’ve come out of March Madness in 2020. Proceeds will be donated to The V Foundation for Pediatric Cancer Research.
“All my life, I’ve tried to have passion and love for what I do. That’s why my book is important to me. Because right now, I’m obsessed with raising money for kids battling cancer,” Vitale said. “You can’t be biased and survive. This is my 42nd year. I’m in 14 halls of fame. I can’t run, I can’t jump. I can’t shoot. … But all my life, I’m trying to have love and passion for what I do.”
For more from Vitale, listen to the full interview here:
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