March 15
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every five years...

All of this NFL free agency stuff this week has led to some very interesting sports talk discussions around town.

Did the Ravens fail when they let the likes of Za'Darius Smith and C.J. Mosley skip off to new teams? Should the Ravens have been more involved in big spending on day one? How much have the Browns influenced the Ravens? Would Baltimore have ponied up $22 million over the next nine months for Earl Thomas if Cleveland wouldn't have traded for OBJ?.

Those questions were thrown around all week. There are, naturally, varying answers to them based on your own opinion on how a team should be run.

Over the last few years, I've settled on a philosophy of sorts.

Ozzie Newsome has created a few in his day. "Right player, right price" was a famous one. "I put high value on players who touch the ball or touch the quarterback," was another.

Both of those make sense. But you can also chip away at both, too, if you're not a believer.

I have a philosophy too. I don't work for a team, though, so mine can't really be put to the test. But the more I follow the NFL, the more I think it's a reasonable way to go about putting your team together.

He's definitely been worth keeping around...

As it relates to a player's free agency years only, here's the deal: Unless you can say at the end of those five years that a player is a 50-50 candidate to someday be a Hall of Famer, I'd let them all walk after five years.

It's not an exact science, mind you, just like "right player, right price" isn't exact, either. But I think if you look at the Ravens' history, "let them walk after five years" would have been a pretty reasonable way of doing business.

I'll admit this: It might not do a whole lot for the ticket holders, who love to latch on to players, wear their jersey to games, and so on. There's something to be said for consistency when it comes to your fan base and selling tickets.

But in a salary cap league, it strikes me that your best bet is to let the high-dollar-seekers go elsewhere once their rookie deal ends. Unless.......there's a chance they might be a Hall of Fame player.

I look at this current Ravens roster right now, as it stands today, and see two incumbent players who are potential Hall of Famers. Marshal Yanda. And Marlon Humphrey. Yanda will most certainly "get in the room" someday, meaning he'll be a finalist when the list gets reduced to 15 candidates. Whether he gets in the Hall remains to be seen.

It's still very early for Humphrey, but he has the look, so far, of a guy who could potentially garner Hall of Fame consideration someday. He has three years left on his rookie deal to take that from "maybe a candidate" to "most likely a candidate".

By the way, Justin Tucker is also a Hall of Fame candidate but for the purposes of this exercise, he's not counted. He's a kicker. They never wind up costing you much money, no matter how good they are.

So, when the likes of C.J. Mosley and Za'Darius Smith become free agents, I think it's simple: You let someone else overpay them.

When guys like Paul Kruger, Arthur Jones, Dannell Ellerbe and Pernell McPhee all have good five-year runs and become free agents, it's very simple: You let someone else overpay them. Heck, in the case of those three, I'm not 100% sure I'd even say they had "good runs". They were just decent NFL players at the time their rookie deals expired.

Looking back now, did the Ravens make a mistake by letting any of those four walk away? Absolutely not. And in a few years, the same will be said for the likes of Mosley and Smith, too. They'll wind up "just being guys" with the Jets and Packers, you watch and see.

The obvious wrinkle in this whole thing is this: What happens if your team wins the Super Bowl in that five year span? That's exactly what happened to the Ravens in 2012. They won the Super Bowl in the fifth year of Joe Flacco's contract. It was a best-case, worst-case scenario for the Ravens. Best case: We win the Super Bowl. Worst case: We have to pay the quarterback a gazillion dollars, which might hinder our chances of winning another one soon.

There's no one with a brain who would have said in 2012, "OK, now that Flacco just had the greatest post-season in history, let's let him walk and become a free agent." It was the perfect storm. And just like George Clooney and Marky Mark, it didn't have a perfect ending.

A couple of other teams have had the same thing happen to them. Seattle (Wilson) and Pittsburgh (Roethlisberger) both won before their QB's rookie deal expired and they wound up keeping those two guys around. If you applied the "might make the Hall of Fame someday" argument to those two, specifically, it was fair to say five years in both were at least 50-50 candidates to get to Canton someday. Roethlisberger is a lock, now, and Wilson is probably 65-35 at this point, with more football to come.

Quarterbacks are "odd" in that they're very much judged on Super Bowls. If Eli Manning were to somehow (don't laugh) pilot the Giants to one more title before is career is over, he'd almost certainly be considered for the Hall. As it stands now, I'm sure he'll get in the room someday, anyway.

If you can put the quarterback argument on the side, I think my philosophy stands up with every other position.

If there isn't at least 50-50 argument they're on the fast track to the Hall of Fame, there's no reason to overpay them.

That's probably the biggest reason why I'm so unconcerned about the five Ravens defections thus far and, more specifically, the two that chased the big money and left after their initial Ravens deals were finished. Do you really believe C.J. Mosley and Za'Darius Smith are that critical to the team's chances of winning this season? I sure don't. Not for the money they got, anyway.

Every five years, I say this, in general: Let those guys walk, unless you think you've found yourself a Hall of Fame player. Just for kicks, try this exercise. Go back and look at the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. That's where you'll find the likes of Mosley, Khalil Mack, Blake Bortles, Brandin Cooks, Johnny Manziel, Kelvin Benjamin and Mike Evans. A few of those guys have turned into players. One of them might make the Hall of Fame someday.

If you sift through that first round in 2014, you won't find many guys worth keeping around after their rookie deal expires.

That could be more about the drafting process and player evaluation than anything else, but someone has to get drafted in the first round. And it strikes me that only a handful of them are ever worthy of ponying up big bucks to keep them around.

Upon sharing this philosophy with a sports-nut friend, he asked, "If you're OK with losing Mosley and Smith, how are you going to replace them?"

Easy answer. "The same way you found them in the first place. Through the draft."

I do understand why the Ravens felt the need to overpay for Earl Thomas. Giving him $22 million in 9 months is the very definition of over-extending yourself for the sake of prying him away from another club. Ingram, I didn't quite get, but I think it's very obvious the Ravens are going to be run-first, throw-second with Lamar Jackson at the helm, so Ingram's arrival fits in well with that scheme.

As for the departed, none of them will come back to haunt the Ravens. And the money the Ravens are saving on the cap can be used, potentially, to keep Humphrey around in a few years. That is, if he's on the fast track to the Hall of Fame. If not, he can go as well.

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the terps spotlight

DALE WILLIAMS returns for his fourth season of covering all things Maryland men's basketball for #DMD. Terps Spotlight will preview and review all games in the 2018-19 season.

terps get humbled in chicago

For the third season in a row, the Maryland Terrapins left the host city of the Big Ten Tournament without winning a game. This year, the beatdown was delivered by a Nebraska Cornhusker team that barely had enough players to field a team, but had more than enough to beat Maryland 69-61. It really wasn’t even that close.

For Nebraska, James Palmer (24 points), Glynn Watson (19 points), and Isaiah Roby (15 points) combined to make more field goals than the entire Terp team, 20-18. Their 58 total points was only 3 points shy of Maryland’s 61.

Maryland was led by Anthony Cowan’s deceptive 18 points, as most of his production occurred during “desperation” time towards the back end of the end of the game. He also pushed his post season turnover total to 14 in just four tournament games, all losses.

Despite leading Maryland in points on Thursday, ball handling and turnovers were again a concern for Anthony Cowan Jr. in the loss to Nebraska.

Maryland was beaten by a team that was more experienced, exhibited much more poise, and just flat-out played harder. Plus, Nebraska was way faster than the slow footed turtles. Featuring a lineup of 3 seniors, 2 juniors, and one sophomore, Nebraska was frequently able to score by taking their Terrapin defender off the dribble. One half of the Cornhusker baskets were unassisted as Roby, Watson, and Palmer took turns beating their defender one-on-one.

Roby was far too fast for Jalen Smith or Bruno Fernando, Palmer abused mostly Darryl Morsell, and Watson beat whoever was out there attempting to check him. They were faster off the dribble, faster covering on defense, and faster getting to loose balls or rebounds. Nebraska wanted it more, simple as that.

Maryland, again, got off to a miserable offensive start. Coming off the bench, Aaron Wiggins made as many field goals in the first half (just 2) as Cowan, Morsell, Ayala, and Fernando combined. The Terps shot 7 for 24 in the first half and had as many field goals as they did turnovers. Palmer and Watson outscored the Terps 21-20. It was an ugly offensive first half and they scoreboard showed it. 32-20, the Cornhuskers led.

Nebraska executed their defensive game plan to near perfection. It wasn’t sophisticated, but it was effective. They doubled teamed Fernando whenever he touched the ball anywhere below the foul line. They simply cut off Fernando, pressured Cowan, and dared the rest of the Terps to beat them. They couldn’t.

The Terrapin offensive stats accumulated last night were eerily similar to their stats in the February 6th game against Nebraska. Last night they shot 36% compared to 38% in the previous meeting. They took 20 3-pointers in each game, making 7 in the first game and just 6 last night. They scored 61 points last night and 60 in the previous game.

The difference between winning the last game by 15 points, and losing last night by 8 was the shooting of Palmer and Watson. In the February Nebraska loss, those two combined to score 12 points, hitting just 2 of 23 shots. Last night they hit 14 of 25 and scored 43. Massive difference.

Mark Turgeon tried going to a small lineup in an effort to put more points on the board. Maryland did score more, but that lineup couldn’t defend and failed to gain an advantage on the boards. While I don’t question the “X’s and O’s” in last night’s game, something is clearly wrong with Turgeon’s ability to motivate this team. This was a huge game for them, and they played with little heart.

I’ve been fairly critical of the talent on this team and I still believe the guard play lacks speed and is well below average. Jalen Smith, at 6’10”, can’t finish inside and on most nights Morsell struggles with his shot. But that only partially explains some of the Terp woes. A good deal lies in their collective lack of aggression.

Last night I observed many instances of Bruno Fernando struggling to get back on defense. On several of those plays, Nebraska drew a foul or got the bucket for a score. This is not new of late and perhaps he is playing on tired legs. It looked that way last night.

Maybe having your “energy” guy playing like he has yet to guzzle his morning Royal Farms coffee influences the rest of the team. Whatever the reason is for the poor showing of late, Turgeon needs to figure it out.

On selection Sunday, Maryland’s name will be called for what I expect to be a 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Turgeon will have either 4 or 5 days to prepare his team for a game that this program cannot afford to lose.


caps beat flyers...again

Is there anything in sports better than seeing the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia start to empty out with roughly five minutes left in the game?


Better than the Mona Lisa?

The Caps did their part to get the orange-clad faithful to the exits early on Thursday night, posting a 5-2 win over the worst franchise in the history of sports. It was over early. The Caps jumped out to a 2-0 lead, extended it to 4-1, and then cruised around from there.

Thanks to the schedule makers, the Capitals sent the Flyers home with a frown on their face for the second time in eight days.

That's really all I have. There's no fancy game plan to break down. No "turning point" in the game to highlight. It was, simply, just a routine 5-2 beating of the Flyers in their own building that warms anyone's heart who roots for good over evil.

I just wanted to make sure you knew the score and who won.

The Capitals won.

But far more importantly: The Flyers lost. Somewhere in heaven, an angel got her wings right around 9:50 pm last night.

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March 14
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thank you, joe

I won't be able to generate the same kind of emotion the Ravens did yesterday when they published a short video thanking Joe Flacco for his 11 years of service.

And I won't try to, either.

Instead, I'll just give my favorite Joe Flacco story. One which likely won't surprise you all that much.

When yesterday's "new season" kicked off, the Ravens made official what we all knew was happening. They completed the trade that sent Joe Flacco to the Denver Broncos.

That move ended an 11 year run for Flacco in Charm City, one that included three trips to the AFC Championship Game, a Super Bowl title, and several years of being unfairly maligned for having coaxed a massive contract out of the Ravens in the aftermath of that 2013 NFL title.

I met Flacco as soon as he showed up in Baltimore back in 2008. He was, from the outset, talkative, funny and easy to interview. While some players were unapproachable, hard to reach and sometimes just plain nasty, Flacco was almost the complete opposite during his rookie season.

Thank you for the work you put in and for never making us feel ashamed of you, Joe.

It was that easy-going nature that led me to suggest to the powers-that-be at the radio station that perhaps we approach Flacco about writing a weekly entry for our website.

When we presented the idea to Flacco, it was early August. As far as he knew, he was going to be the back up to Kyle Boller and Troy Smith that season.

"Sure, I'll do it," Joe said when asked about the website entry. I explained to him how I'd call every Thursday for 10 minutes, write the whole thing up, send him a copy for his approval, and then post it on Friday morning.

We presented the entry as Flacco's own work, but truthfully, I asked a few questions, wrote it up and just assigned Joe's name to it.

The whole thing just about fell apart before it even got started. Flacco was named the starting quarterback in early September, 2008. We assumed he'd now have to back out of the website obligation. It's one thing for a 3rd stringer to goof around with a website once a week for a few minutes. It's entirely different for the starting quarterback to obligate himself to something silly like that.

"Heck no," he told me when I approached him at his locker and asked if he would prefer to cancel our proposed co-writing project. "I told you I'd do it," Joe said. "I'm doing it."

That first Thursday of the regular season, I called him at 6:30 pm as he requested. I threw four or five softball questions at him. "I'll write it up and email it over to you by 8:30 tonight," I said. "Just e-mail back that it's approved," I concluded.

Just after 9:00 pm, Joe replied that everything with the entry met his approval.

We did the same thing the following week. And again in week number three.

The fourth week, though, Joe changed things up. "My brother and I are going to the movies," he said. "So I won't be able to approve it until we get back around 10:30 pm. Is that OK?"

I assured him it was fine. Later that night, he sent a brief "It's approved" e-mail and that was that.

The following Wednesday at the Ravens facility, Flacco summoned me while I was talking with Dan Wilcox. "Hey," he said. "I'm going to dinner with some of the guys tomorrow night. I won't be home at 6:30 for your regular call."

Before I could suggest an alternative method for doing the interview, sending the written piece over, etc., Joe said, "Just write whatever you want. I trust you. But don't write anything that will get me in trouble with the league or with Coach Harbaugh. If you do that, you and I will have a problem."

And that's how Joe Flacco's "career" as a blog writer went. Four weeks into it, he basically just told me to write it up and carry on without him.

And I did.

From that day forward, Joe and I seemed to have an easy, natural relationship. I don't even know if he ever went online to read what I wrote for him. He never mentioned being unhappy, that's for sure.

I always liked Joe. I thought he was a perfect combination of wanting to win and, yet, not being so consumed with it that it turned him into a maniac. The notion from outsiders that Flacco didn't "care" once he got paid was silly. He cared more than anyone could have imagined.

It just wasn't his personality to show it, that's all.

What I really admired about Flacco is a trait of his I try to pass along to my kids at Calvert Hall Golf. He never got too high when things were going great and he never got too low when things weren't going great. He just played. He gave everything he had and accepted the wins and losses with equal degrees of humility. He didn't do something stupid when the team won and he didn't do anything stupid when the team lost. He was...just...Joe.

Once Joe signed that big contract in 2013, he went from fan favorite to fan target. Before the Super Bowl, mistakes were "part of the game". After the victory and the new contract, "Elite quarterbacks don't make that mistake" was the new favorite saying in town.

But you know what I saw? Flacco never changed. Even though hateful fans shouted him down on the radio and via the internet, Joe just kept on plugging away. His statistics over the 11 year run in Baltimore were modestly impressive. He's not a Hall of Famer by any means, but he was most certainly the best quarterback the Ravens ever had.

And Flacco did it all while representing the Ravens with impeccable character. Never the lead story on TMZ or in the police blotter. Nothing outrageous or stupid on Twitter. He just played football. And represented the Ravens in the best fashion he could.

Now that he's gone, people might even wind up appreciating him again.

Some of that potential appreciation will be dictated by what Lamar Jackson does over the next four years. Either way, though, Flacco brought Baltimore far more good times than bad times from 2008 through 2018.

We owe him a big thank you for those eleven years.

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The world can be full of paradoxes, and the NFL is part of the world, albeit a really strange part. Take what happened Tuesday and early Wednesday in New York, or more accurately, New Jersey.

The Jets have won 14 games over the past three seasons. In 2018, they were 3-3 after six weeks but then lost nine of their last 10 games, leaving coach Todd Bowles out of a job. The franchise’s last playoff appearance was eight years ago.

So what does a bad team do? Try to add good players, of course.

Early Tuesday, word leaked that Ravens Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley was signing a big deal with the Jets, five years with more than $50 million guaranteed. In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, running back Le’Veon Bell announced on social media that he was “back in the green, baby,” signing a four-year deal with the Jets with $35 million guaranteed.

(That’s an elusive “triple entendre,” by the way. Money, the Jets, and a reference to his college career at Michigan State. Bell isn’t a rapper for nothing…)

Meanwhile, the Giants have won eight games in the last two seasons, and have finished with a losing record five times in the last six years. For once, they haven’t been the good team that sometimes occupies MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands. Their quarterback is a declining 38-year-old, and he’s declining from somewhat above average, not stardom.

So what does a bad team do? What do you think? Trade away its best player.

C.J. Mosley left the Ravens to join the Jets but New York was busy adding other players as well this week.

Of course.

After signing wide receiver Odell Beckham to a $95 million contract with lots of guaranteed money less than a year ago, and after signaling even very recently that they never would have signed him and paid him like that if they wanted to trade him, the Giants traded him to the Cleveland Browns. In return, they got the Browns’ first-round pick in 2019 (#17), a third-round pick and safety Jabrill Peppers.

“A fleecing,” said the New York Post. “A one-of-a-kind transcendent talent, just traded off the team,” screamed the Daily News. The Star-Ledger headline? “Disastrous Odell Beckham trade is more proof that the Giants have become a sad joke.”

I’ll admit that trading Beckham after signing him to a big deal, as opposed to beforehand, and then having to eat that cap space this year with him playing somewhere else is kind of unfortunate. And I’ll admit that it looks bad to trade a talent like Beckham and not even get a high first-round draft pick in return.

What I won’t admit, though, is that the Jets were big winners on Tuesday and the Giants were big losers.

Not that the Jets and Giants were in the exact same situation, but how can we possibly know who made the right moves?

The Giants weren’t a winning team with Beckham on the team, great one-handed catches and Hall of Fame statistics or not. In fact, they’d become a consistently lousy team, whether that was Beckham’s fault or not. The Giants traded away a player who, along with Saquon Barkley, had become one of the few reasons to come see the team play. Is that a great reason to keep a player?

The Jets became the latest team (there’s one every year) to make big headlines in free agency. With Mosley and Bell, they can now tell their fans that they’ve gotten help for quarterback Sam Darnold both directly, with a stud runner and receiver, and indirectly, with a better defense that gets off the field.

Needless to say, the Jets overpaid for Mosley, who’s a smart player but not a physically dominant one. And Bell’s middle name might be “Issues,” not the least of which is the fact that he sat out the entire 2018 season in protest. Are these things cause for celebration?

The Jets (and the Browns, for that matter) must have gotten a lot better after Tuesday, ready to compete and win big in 2019. The Giants (and the Ravens, for that matter) must have gotten worse after Tuesday, seemingly looking toward 2020. Headlines written.

How do really know that, though? We don’t. We can only be hypothetical, though we can easily be hypothetical in the opposite way too.

Bell came into the league in 2013 and immediately stood next to Ben Roethlisberger, who had reached about the highest level he’d reach in his Hall of Fame career. He played with the best wide receiver in the league, besides maybe Beckham. Bell was a uniquely versatile player, yet it was impossible to simply key on him and let others beat you.

Now he’ll be playing next to Sam Darnold, who looks like he could be a good one. But defenses might be able to key on Bell like they couldn’t in Pittsburgh. Maybe he won’t be as dominant, even if he stays healthy and keeps away from off-the-field issues.

Mosley, of course, has the reputation (and the film that shows it, I suppose) that he can’t cover. I think that sometimes you have to give credit to opposing offenses, who find ways to expose holes in coverage that no linebacker can cover well. Still, I’m not sure Mosley is a player who comes into a defense and makes it more dominant. If he was, the Ravens may have treated him differently in free agency.

The Giants now have two first-round picks, at No. 6 with their own choice and No. 17 with the pick they just received from the Browns. Rumors being what they are—rumors—there’s a possibility that the Giants will be looking to draft Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, and there’s also a story that the team isn’t interested in Haskins at all with their early pick. Haskins grew up in New Jersey before moving to Maryland, and he’s indicated it would be a dream to play in the Meadowlands.

If Haskins ends up there, and the Giants pick well with the No. 17 choice, they could end up in good shape and not have to worry about what Odell Beckham is doing on the sidelines or listen to him complain about getting the ball. If the Giants would have kept Beckham and tried to sign players in free agency to make a bad team better, would that have made them better than a five-win team in 2019? They actually tried that before, and it didn’t work.

As for the Browns and Ravens, that’s fodder for another time. The AFC North is certainly in flux, and the Browns seemed headed toward the top even before the Beckham trade was consummated. Every team in the NFL changes quite a bit from season-to-season, but this year in the AFC North is on another level.

In the swamps of North Jersey, two teams that share the same stadium took different approaches to being bad teams. I’m certain both of them know that it doesn’t necessarily take a long time for a bad team to become good or a good team to become bad, and they had that in mind when they made the deals they made. I’m not nearly as certain that it’s so obvious which team took the right approach and which team took the wrong one.


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brien jackson

BRIEN JACKSON's work at #DMD promises to provide some of Baltimore's best sports insight and commentary, brought to you by SECU, the official credit-union of Drew's Morning Dish. Brien has done sports-media work with ESPN, CBS, and NPR. His contributions to #DMD will focus on the Orioles, the Ravens, and national sports stories.

free agency thoughts

As the NFL league year begins, its always nice to be reminded that this is the absolute funniest time of the entire year to follow the Ravens. You can set your clock by it, really: Fans will spend days freaking out about the Ravens lack of moves compared to what bad teams throwing gobs of money at 30 year old players are doing. Then the Ravens will make a few smaller acquisitions, pocket a few comp picks, and finish with 9 wins or better while those same fans start talking about how you don't win games in March.

Until March, when they're freaking out again right on cue.

But as always the first few days of (unofficial) free agency were quite busy, and indeed landscape changing in many ways, so here are a few scattered thoughts on how things are shaping up for the Ravens....and others.

-I have to start with the departure of Terrell Suggs, simply because he's my all time favorite Raven.

And yet, I'm not particularly bummed out about his departure at all. I guess that's in part because he wasn't all that productive last year, to the point he was being taken out of games on 3rd down passing situations, and because his choice to take a one year deal with Arizona, his hometown team but one that doesn't figure to be any good at all this year, suggests that Suggs knows he's on the last leg of his career and perhaps wanted to play for the Cardinals before hanging them up.

We went through a similar thing with Ed Reed, who was better in 2012 than Suggs was last year too, and then he didn't even finish the season with Houston before they cut him. And now you can almost forget that Reed ever even signed with another team at all. I won't be surprised if Suggs finds himself in a similar bind and, on field at least, the Ravens aren't going to miss him at all.

-Speaking of not missing them (and fans who love to freak out), why in the world were people actually acting like the sky was falling because some defensive players we all knew either weren't that good or were going to be way overpaid went elsewhere, but suddenly there was a "mass exodus" and the Ravens were destined to be terrible.

My gosh, how could they ever replace the amazing Eric Weddle just a few months after his Pro Bowl selection was a punchline and after nearly an entire season of complaints over his coverage? The Ravens had never lost a Pro Bowl first round pick in his prime before, this must be a total disaster for the front office (seriously, one beat writer was acting like this was some sort of apocalypse to start Eric DeCosta's tenure). Did we really forget how we justifiably complained about Mosley's poor coverage abilities in a day in age where that's really important for middle linebackers?

You'd like to think that people will learn, eventually, but they won't. It's amazing these people didn't become Washington fans after one of their many seasons of winning the March sweepstakes championship.

-Speaking of Mosley's departure, I've suddenly got a very good feeling about DeCosta's looming tenure in Baltimore as a direct result of that. The naysaying beat writers were right about one thing: Losing a player like Mosley is really not the Ravens' MO, and I absolutely think that Ozzie Newsome would have kept Mosley in town.

Under DeCosta the Ravens seemed to accurately value Mosley instead of overpaying because he was a homegrown Pro-Bowler who was good against the run in the middle of the field. That's a good sign that some important things are going to change.

-And obviously, the Ravens made a couple of big moves on Wednesday, signing safety Earl Thomas and running back Mark Ingram. I'm split on the deals: Adding Thomas is a major coup that upgrades the position from Weddle's tenure, will allow the team to play a lot more Cover 1 with Tony Jefferson in the box, and gives the Ravens a ball hawk who can provide a ton of help to a quartet of very good cornerbacks. Oh, and he can cover tight ends!

On the other hand, while I have nothing against Ingram per se, I have the same thoughts on the deal that I had about a hypothetical Le'Veon Bell signing: There's no need to commit free agency dollars to running backs at all. The Ravens are presumably going to use a read option based attack again, which uses Lamar Jackson's running threat to hold linebackers and create angles and seams.

Guys like Gus Edwards or Alfred Morris are great fits for that system, and you can easily snap them up because most other teams aren't putting a high value on them at all. The Ravens already have Edwards and Kenneth Dixon, they could have nabbed a couple more power backs in the late rounds or off of the scrap heap and been just fine, while reallocating some more of that money to the pass rush or a receiver.

The Ravens might not be done yet and there will be more guys becoming available after cuts (like Eric Berry, who was cut late Wednesday after the Ravens' deal with Thomas was announced), but I think we're going to end up regretting the money that Ingram is commanding pretty quickly.

-My one and only major complaint though: I don't get why the Ravens weren't in on former Bronco center Matt Paradis. They need upgrades on the interior line, or more accurately new guys who fit the run blocking schemes they'll likely be employing, and Paradis is one of the league's best center, durable, and he didn't get a crazy big contract either. I honestly thought they were going to land him, but they don't seem to have even been in the mix, and I don't get it at all.

-Looking elsewhere: The Giants are a mess, and I genuinely don't know if they even have any idea what their plan is right now. I'm surprised the Colts haven't been more active given that they were a playoff team and have the most cap space in the league. There were plenty of good fits for them too.

The Jets are throwing money around, but I don't think it's going to get them anywhere. And for all of the hand-wringing over the supposed purge of the Ravens' defense, it's really the Chiefs who are rapidly shedding the best players from an already not very good defense.

-I really can't get over what a mess the Steelers have made of themselves over the past several months. Say what you will about Le'Veon Bell, but the Steelers were reportedly offering Bell a larger contract than what he got with the Jets, but ran him off by haggling over the structure (which of course means that they never intended to actually end up paying Bell $66 million, and Bell knew it, but you get the point).

Meanwhile they poisoned their relationship with maybe the best receiver in the league because they couldn't even ask Ben Roethlisberger not to criticize teammates and coaches on the radio, but also didn't manage to get one of the four(!!!) picks in the top 35 selections Oakland has in return. Now they might be headed for a third place finish and things could get really ugly really quickly.

General manager Kevin Colbert didn't merely decline to say that Roethlisberger should start adhering to the cardinal rule of professional locker rooms, he went so far as to say that the other Steelers' players were like 52 kids who have the good sense to listen to everything Roethlisberger says about them (even though, as with his finger-pointing after he threw away a game in Denver, it's usually complete bunk that serves only to deflect blame from himself). If you were, say, Cameron Heyward, how would you feel about that?

-And finally, I'm just not ready to live in a world where the Cleveland freakin' Browns are a superteam. Alright maybe that's a stretch, but the Browns (THE BROWNS!!!) are going to be really good this year. Beckham and Landry are the best receiver duo in the league, and Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb will be the best running back combo as well.

With Baker Mayfield likely taking a step forward in his second year as well, their offense is a good bet to be the very best in the league. And their defense isn't too shabby either and boasts a lockdown cornerback in the making in Denzel Ward and a great pass rushing duo in Myles Garrett and Oliver Vernon. The world's only hope is that they don't find a kicker!

Seriously though, I was skeptical of Sashi Brown's theory that you could import baseball-esque rebuilding ideas to the NFL, and I criticized the heck out of them for all the times they moved back in the draft, to say nothing of passing on Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson (and I never even gave them guff for taking Garrett when Pat Mahomes was on the board). But ya know what? It was ugly, and it was farcical at times, but it sure looks like it worked.

The Browns have a great quarterback in the making and had gobs of both cap space and draft capital to play with once they got to that point, and now they look like bona fide Super Bowl contenders.

What a world.

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March 13
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the good news? plenty of parking spots

I think we know what the Ravens gave up for Lent: signing players.

In what might go down as "Black Tuesday" at the Castle, the Ravens saw three free agents defect yesterday, with C.J. Mosley heading to the Jets, Za'Darius Smith joining the Packers and John Brown heading to Buffalo. All three of those guys were starters in 2018.

And while none of the departures were all that unexpected, a hole to fill is still a hole to fill. And, so, with free agency now in full bloom as of 4 pm today, the Ravens can set out to start improving their roster for next season.

Oh, and Le'Veon Bell? He's no longer available, as he was forced to settle for a $52 million deal last night with the Jets, far below the $80 million contract he initially hoped to garner once his days in Pittsburgh came to an end.

Is Mark Ingram headed to Baltimore now that Le'Veon Bell has landed in New York?

Bell's people worked the phones hard on Tuesday, telling the Ravens their client "really wants to play in Baltimore", but Eric DeCosta never stepped forward with a formal offer of any kind. And perhaps Bell did want to play in Baltimore, but as his price, of course. The Ravens weren't going to bite that apple.

So, who are the Ravens going to pursue now that a number of the quality free agents are no longer available and they have roughly $25 million in cap space to work with?

Well, Mark Ingram seems like a reasonable bet now that the Le'Veon Bell domino has tumbled. Ingram won't jazz up the fan base like Bell would have, but he certainly wouldn't be a terrible signing by any means.


Who else?

There will be others, of course, but DeCosta and the Ravens are clearly settling in for the long run, looking ahead -- it would seem -- to next season, when they'll have gobs of money to spend and a laundry list of significant free agents from which to choose.

Some folks around town are going to hint that the Ravens are "tanking" the 2019 campaign and I don't see that at all. But it's also very clear they went into this off-season with one main goal: clean up their salary cap situation and get it under control.

In a salary cap league, there are times when you have to do that, I suppose.

And there are occasions when getting lean and mean also equates to losing.

But let's face it, none of the players they've lost thus far are going to crush them. Sure, all five in totality might be a massive hole to fill, but they can survive without C.J. Mosley. They can survive without Eric Weddle. They'll miss Terrell Suggs in the locker room, but life goes on. Z'Darius Smith? Good in half the games, nowhere to be seen in the other half. John Brown? If the quarterback has a big arm, there's value there, but all in all, he's a middle of the road guy at best.

The Ravens are going to do what they generally always do. They're going to follow the "right player, right price" formula, sign a few veterans who aren't marquee-type names, and focus all of their energy on the draft. That's really the only way to do it at this point.

And the rest of the division might be looking up at the Browns for a couple of years, anyway. The worm always turns, so the saying goes, and the Browns are stacking together quite an offense in Cleveland, adding Odell Beckham Jr. in a trade on Tuesday night. He'll join former LSU teammate Jarvis Landry, off-season signing Kareem Hunt (who will miss a handful of games due to suspension) and an already-decent Cleveland offense in 2019. If the Browns are able to woo Earl Thomas away from Seattle via free agency, that would be quite a haul.

Cleveland was a couple of missed kicks away from making the playoffs last year. With an improved roster, it could be their time to shine in the AFC North.

But the Ravens will be heard from, no doubt, throughout the next couple of months. As I wrote here yesterday, it's a marathon, not a sprint. Let's see where things are in August. By then, the race will be at the 20-mile marker and we'll know a lot more about the eventual outcome.

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drew vs. george pga tour contest

I feel like the coach of a youth league basketball game where we're leading 54-13 midway through the second half.

Call off the dogs? Put in the 3rd stringers? Play with three guys on the court?

I don't know...

Rafa Cabrera-Bello seems poised for a big win on the PGA Tour. Could it come this week at The Players?

After Rory McIlroy's T6 finish last week at Bay Hill, my lead over George is now 518-230. The first half of the season looks locked up, I guess. There are only six tournaments remaining until The Masters. After that, we'll pick the final 20 events for the proverbial "second half" of the season and see if George can make up any ground there.

This week, it's the Players Championship, which has long been looked at as golf's fifth major. TPC Sawgrass is a great test of golf and it's very rare that a Craig Perks kind of no-name wins this week's event.

Way back in early January when we made the first-half selections, I went with Rafa Cabrera-Bello and I'm not changing now. His form is rising, he was in contention last week at Bay Hill, and it seems to me like he's coming into this tournament with a perfect stride. I love his chances this week.

George is countering with a guy who used to be really good named Tiger Woods. Woods did not play last week due to a neck strain, but showed up on Tuesday loaded for bear and claimed without hesitation that he "feels great and is ready to go." I sure hope so. George could use the points.

I'd love to see Woods play well this week. Heck, I wouldn't even mind seeing him win the golf tournament, truth be told. It would be great for golf and even better for my buddy George.

And if it does happen, I can put the first string guys back on the floor.

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March 12
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let's not panic just yet...

Eric DeCosta knew it was coming, but it probably still stings the first time you read it or hear it.

"Bring back Ozzie!", lots of folks said on social media yesterday.

"DeCosta's a rookie!", someone else opined. I guess he or she forgot DeCosta has been with the Ravens organization for two decades.

While a bunch of other teams spent gobs of money on Monday, the Ravens did not. The first "unofficial day of free agency" saw the Ravens about as inactive as they could possibly be, save for losing Terrell Suggs to (apparently) Arizona.

All over town, panic buttons were being pushed.


The football off-season is indeed a marathon. It is not, in any way at all, a sprint.

There's free agency. Then comes the draft. And next, it's summer and training camp cuts come fast and furious.

The best teams participate in all three areas, not just one or two.

The Ravens, I assure you, will participate in all three.

Let's look at what's happened thus far, shall we?

Heading to Arizona to finish off his Hall of Fame career?

Terrell Suggs is going to spend the last couple of years of his career in Arizona, apparently. That's a good move for him. In fact, this very author right here predicted this move for Suggs way back in the middle of the 2018 season.

Finishing up with the Cardinals makes a lot of sense for Suggs, and it does nothing at all to hinder or dampen his chances of making the NFL Hall of Fame. He'll get a nice, over-paid welcome to the Cardinals, I'm sure. And it's one less "tough talk" DeCosta and Harbaugh have to have with an aging star who values himself more than his bosses value him.

And here's the truth: The Ravens won't really miss Suggs. Not this version of Terrell Suggs, anyway. Gone are the days when he played 75 snaps a game and terrorized opposing quarterbacks. He's now a half-a-game player in the December of his career, for sure.

The locker room might miss Terrell Suggs and the local media will miss his wit and open nature, but on the field, the Ravens will just move right along without #55 in the fold in the 2019. Father Time always wins.

There's still the possibility the Ravens could retain linebacker C.J. Mosley, but that looks more and more remote at this point. Mosley went on social media ten days ago and ranted and raved about "finding out about loyalty" and some other things that seemed alcohol-fueled more than anything else. Essentially, he seemed to be warning the Ravens that if they let him get to free agency, they'd regret it.

And maybe they will. But here's another nugget of gospel about a prominent Ravens player. Mosley is a good player. That's "good" as in "Better than a lot of guys but not a great player by any means." Rumors on Monday had Mosley perhaps commanding as much as $16 million per-year. If some team gives him that, they'll regret it, including the Ravens. Mosley's a good player, nothing more.

Now, Le'Veon Bell is another story. He's above being a "good" player. He's a potential game-changing contributor. But the Ravens are likely not going to go overboard for him, financially, and that appears to be Bell's only concern at this point. Remember, he's the guy who basically quit last September and said "$14 million isn't good enough for me." If he winds up signing for anything less than that, what's that say about his 2018 season-long stunt?

Every team, including the Ravens, will likely take into consideration Bell's role as a malcontent last season, where he left the Steelers high and dry. Whether that winds up costing him money in the long run remains to be seen, but with plenty of teams having ample salary cap space this spring, it stands to reason someone will pony up the big bucks for one of the game's premier running backs.

Saints' running back Mark Ingram is also expected to draw lots of attention and rumors on Monday night had the Ravens one of the finalists for his services. Ingram would be a nice "plan B" for the Ravens if Bell doesn't work out. He'd get a lot of use in the Greg Roman offense, that's for certain.

The Ravens were apparently "in" on safety Tyrann Mathieu. That is, right up until he got $42 million from the Chiefs on Monday. Now, the Ravens are searching yet again for someone to take the role of now-departed Eric Weddle. Former Calvert Hall and Penn State star Adrian Amos is available after a five-year stint with the Bears, but his price tag might be too high now.

Here's a news flash for area football fans. There's a long way to go in compiling the 2019 roster, but Charm City should be prepared for next season being a "down" year. That's not to say it will be a down year. As I've said on numerous occasions, it's a marathon, not a sprint. But the Ravens seem like they're in the beginning stages of a not-so-publicly-declared "rebuilding process" that begins at quarterback, where the guy leading the team next September will have all of eight career NFL games under his belt.

At this point, they have no real wide receivers of note. Their running back situation is average at best. They can improve those positions via the draft and free agency, potentially, but it strikes me that 2020 will be the year where the Ravens make big splashes in securing new, high quality players.

I don't think they intend on losing in 2019, but the holes in their roster might take longer than a few months to patch up.

If you're in for the marathon, you might not mind a 7-9 campaign in 2019.

If you're a believer that teams should always be sprinting, you might not be all that happy with what you see over the next few weeks.

One thing I believe is this: The Ravens know what they're doing.

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the terps spotlight

DALE WILLIAMS returns for his fourth season of covering all things Maryland men's basketball for #DMD. Terps Spotlight will preview and review all games in the 2018-19 season.

big ten tournament preview

It’s finally tournament time in the NCAA basketball world and the Big Ten Tournament starts this Wednesday at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.

Here’s my take on the early tournament matchups:


Game 1 – (12) Rutgers vs (13) Nebraska – Rutgers beat Nebraska in their only meeting this year. The 76-69 home court win for the Scarlet Knights was accomplished when Nebraska was at full strength, having yet to lose their center and leading rebounder, Isaac Copeland, to a season ending knee injury.

Nebraska is also dealing with Thomas Allen’s ankle injury, and the suspension of lightly used guard Nana Akenten. Rutgers stunned most pre-season prognosticators by finishing in a three-way tie for tenth place in the Big Ten. It was their first year of not being last. The emergence of Eugene Omoruyi was a major factor in Rutgers’ climb out of the conference cellar.

As much as I like Rutgers’ enthusiasm and the play of Omoruyi and point guard Geo Baker, in a tournament setting (assuming most everything else about the two teams is even) I lean towards the best half court player in the game. In this game, that would be Nebraska’s James Palmer. Nebraska, behind Palmer and Roby, wins the opening game as the Scarlet Knights fail to hit enough shots from the field to keep them in contention.

Game 2 – (14) Northwestern vs (11) Illinois – In early January, Illinois went on the road to take on Northwestern and was handed one of only 4 losses that Northwestern was able to put on any Big Ten team this year. However, in that game, Northwestern hit 8 of 19 three-point shots while Illinois went 0 for 11. That won’t happen again and the last place Northwestern Wildcats are in trouble here.

Illinois had a mid-season hot streak that saw them win five out of six Big Ten games. Included in their victims were Maryland and the regular season co-champs, Michigan State. Points will be scarce for Northwestern on Wednesday. Not only do the Wildcats shoot poorly, but many of their possessions are surely going to end in a turnover.

The Fighting Illini guards, Ayo Dosunmu and Trent Frasier, force turnovers and lead their team in scoring. Illinois prevails and the Northwestern season mercifully ends. The big question: Will Northwestern head coach, Chris Collins, survive the 13-18 season and a last place (4-16) Big Ten finish?

Could Minnesota and Amir Coffey make a post-season run in the Big 10 tournament?


Game 3 – (9) Indiana vs (8) Ohio State – After just watching Ohio State make a furious comeback and almost beat Wisconsin; you might be inclined to think that they have a good chance against an Indiana team that they already beat in Indiana. I think otherwise.

If the Buckeyes’ star player, Kaleb Wesson, remains suspended, this game is an Indiana blow-out. Even with him in the game, I’m not sure Ohio State has the guard power to beat the Hoosiers. Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Romeo Langford, and true power forward Juwan Morgan are the catalysts behind an Indiana four game winning streak that has their faithful dreaming of a Big Ten tournament run and an invite to the big dance.

Get real. No team that loses 12 of 13 conference games deserves an at-large bid. They will win this game, but their next round matchup with Michigan State will be the end of the Hoosier hopes.

Game 4 – (5) Maryland vs Game 1 winner – I expect the Terps to start their 2019 Big Ten Tournament against Nebraska. Maryland went 2-0 against Nebraska this year and on January 5th destroyed Rutgers on the road. This is actually a good draw for Turgeon’s Terps.

This Maryland squad won’t play like the tournament team that lost to Northwestern a few years back, or even the one that lost to Wisconsin last year. Neither one of Maryland’s potential Thursday opponents have the guard-play to give the Terps trouble. Maryland advances to play Wisconsin.

Game 5 – (10) Penn State vs (7) Minnesota – This should be a great college basketball game. I expect tons of aggressive play from Penn State’s Lamar Stevens and Josh Reaves, to go along with inspired play from Minnesota’s Jordan Murphy. Mix in Amir Coffey and Daniel Oturu for the Golden Gophers and the Nittany Lions’ Mike Watkins and this game is a tightly contested dog fight.

The two teams met once this year, with Minnesota prevailing 65-64 at home. Stevens, in my opinion, is the best one-on-one player in the Big Ten and two of his teammates, Josh Reaves and Jamari Wheeler, lead the Big Ten in steals. That being said, there’s just something about this Minnesota team that makes me believe, much like they did against Wisconsin and Purdue, that they can win physical ballgames.

Murphy’s heart and Coffey’s scoring propel the Golden Gophers to the third round and a date with #2 seed Purdue.

Game 6 – (6) Iowa vs Game 2 winner – If this goes as I expect, then Iowa will be playing Illinois and will become the first big upset loser in the tournament.

When I look at the earlier meeting between these two teams, a blowout 95-71 Iowa win, the stats are alarming. Iowa hit 15 of 21 three-point shots in that game, good for 71%. They hit 68% from the floor overall. Those long-range Iowa bombs totally negated the 17 Illini offensive rebounds. Iowa takes a lot of threes, and they make a bunch too, but they aren’t making 71% again.

Foul trouble also plagued the Illini in that loss to Iowa, as they had two players foul out. Illinois guards are too fast for the Hawkeyes backcourt. In a high scoring, up and down buzzer-beater, Illinois hangs on to beat Iowa and earn a date with #3 Michigan on Friday.


March 11
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weekend ponderings

The Le'Veon Bell in Baltimore rumors continue to bubble, although there's no telling from where they're actually originating.

With Antonio Brown's trade to the Raiders on Saturday night, it's only natural that Bell becomes the next big story as the NFL's free agency period begins this week. Bell can sign with any team he wants and the Ravens, who expect to be run-heavy in 2019, are a reasonable fit.

When I first reached out to a Ravens source in early January, the response was short: "Not interested."

The words have changed a little bit since then. Or perhaps just more clarified. But when I reached out again yesterday, I was told: "He's more interested in us than we are in him."

Could the helmets be reversed in this picture in 2019?

I understand. Bell doesn't really care all that much about where he plays, I assume. Like Harper and Machado, he just wants to get paid. And after sitting out an entire season and passing up the chance to make $14 million, his ego and bank account both need a massive payday this off-season.

But that's not to say that the running back wouldn't like to sign in Baltimore, where he knows two things for certain: First, he'll be used a lot in the Ravens offensive scheme. Second, he gets to face the Steelers twice a season.

My guess? It's purely an economics issue for the Ravens. Or perhaps it's just the natural posture one team adopts when they want a player but don't want the big-splash contract that comes with him. I just don't see the Ravens forking over $40 million'ish in guaranteed money for a running back, Le'Veon Bell or not. If Bell's contract demands were different and the guaranteed dollars came in significantly lower, I assume Eric DeCosta and John Harbaugh would have more interest in his services.

A number of teams with huge salary cap holes in 2019 are probably feeling the same as the Ravens. They want Bell, just not at his price. Don't forget, you're talking about a player who left his team at the altar in 2018, sitting out the entire campaign and most likely costing Pittsburgh a playoff spot. While that might have the been right thing for the player to do, every team is leery about a guy who sticks his employer in the backside like that.

Don't look now, but the Masters is a month away. Some people think spring is officially here when the clocks move forward. Some claim it's spring when baseball's first pitch is thrown. Me? It's spring when Masters week arrives at Augusta National.

The international crowd is making quite an early season statment on the PGA Tour and one of them, at least, figures to be in the hunt on Sunday afternoon when Jim Nantz says, "Hello, friends..."

Francesco Molinari's impressive performance at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday offers us a well-timed reminder that the Italian should be on everyone's short list for Augusta. Last year's British Open winner seems to thrive on tough golf courses, and yesterday's 64 at Bay Hill was almost a perfect round of golf on an otherwise difficult layout. Don't sell him short at Augusta, friends.

Justin Rose will be one of the favorites at Augusta National next month.

While Rory McIlroy hasn't won yet this season, his form continues to shine. With yesterday's T6 finish at the API, that gives Rory the following tournament scorecard in 2019: T4, T5, T4, 2, T6. Five tournaments and his worst finish was a tied for 6th. That's great playing, even if he failed to win in Mexico (World Golf Championships) and Orlando (Bay Hill) when presented with an opportunity on Sunday.

Whatever hampered McIlroy for a few years is seemingly a thing of the past. He endured injuries, an equipment change and relationship issues, and all three seemed to have taken their toll since 2015. Despite those problems, he still has five wins over the last four years and will almost certainly win at least once this season, if not several times. He needs the Masters to complete the career grand slam. I think he's a great bet to finally get that green jacket in 2019.

The more I watch Tommy Fleetwood, the more I think he's a future Masters winner, perhaps as early as this April. He's a great driver of the ball, an excellent putter, and his temperament is right for the game. He might not be the best English player right now, but he's quickly turning into one of the top golfers in the world. I can see Fleetwood doing big things in 2019. BIG things.

Justin Rose is not only the best English player, he might very well be the best golfer in the world right now. He's only played in three PGA Tour events thus far in 2019, winning one (Torrey Pines). While not the straightest guy on TOUR off the tee, it's comforting to know that driving accuracy is not a necessary trait at Augusta National, where there's very little rough and a number of big, receptive greens. Rose lost in a playoff to Sergio Garcia back in 2017. He's had a couple of other near misses at the Masters. This might very well be his year to finally slip on the jacket.

There will be others lurking on the weekend at Augusta, for sure. I still love Bryson DeChambeau's chances, even though he hasn't played all that well in the last month. I think 23-year old Haotong Li is a player to watch, if you're looking for someone off the radar screen. This could finally be the year Matt Kuchar puts it all together and closes the deal at Augusta. He's been in the hunt a lot there over the last decade.

And since you can't have a relevant golf discussion without mentioning Tiger Woods, here goes: I got into a friendly Twitter discussion with a golf enthusiast yesterday. He thinks Tiger has a chance this year. I say he can't putt those tricky Augusta greens well enough over four days to win there any longer. Woods might be better suited for the benign rotation of British Open layouts these days.

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yesterday, today and tomorrow

This Week’s Subject: Conference hoops tournaments


Postseason conference basketball tournaments abound now, even in the Ivy League, which once vowed never to sully itself in that way. The one-time chance for the Big South or SWAC to play on ESPN, with the winner going to the NCAA tournament, has defined this upcoming week for a long time now.

There’s little doubt, however, that if you combine history and quality of play, the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament has been the bellwether of league tournaments.

In the “big time,” the Big Eight (now 12, but with only 10 teams) began a tournament only in 1997; the Big Ten didn’t start one until the next year. The SEC went without one for 27 years, the Pacific 10 (now 12) didn’t have one throughout the entire 1990s.

The ACC started one in 1954 and has never wavered. If you consider that many of the schools that now play in the ACC once played in the Southern Conference, they’ve been playing in a postseason conference tournament since the 1920s.

The ACC tournament, unfortunately, has never been the same after John Gilchrist helped sixth-seeded Maryland beat the top three seeds, including Duke, to win the 2004 version in Greensboro. That was the final year of the nine-team ACC. The following year, Miami and Virginia Tech joined. The year after that, Boston College made it 12 teams.

These days, it’s really kind of a nightmare.

In the nine-team ACC tournament, there was usually one game on Thursday night, with the No. 8 seed playing No. 9, the only game that featured two mediocre teams. After that, every game was going to have at least one great team in it.

In the 15-team ACC tournament, six teams play on Tuesday. They play in front of a relatively small gathering that seems tiny in the bowels of a giant arena. The teams that win get to play the next day in front of a slightly larger crowd. The real tournament doesn’t begin until Thursday, frankly, when the tournament gets down to eight teams, which used to take just one game to happen. Now it takes seven.

Obviously all the “superconferences,” including Maryland and the Big Ten, deal with the same issue these days. And there’s no reason to rehash how football, and the money surrounding it, altered the landscape of college athletics through conference realignment.

It just remains particularly galling to me in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the tournament that used to mean more to fans of the participating teams than even having a great regular season.


If you’re a fan of Maryland basketball, it would be kind of nice to see the Terps to have a decent run in a conference tournament, even though Maryland is a lock for a good seed in the NCAA tournament.

Here’s a quick recap, for the Big Ten years. The Terps have lost their first game each of the last two years, including as a No. 3 seed in 2017 playing “at home” against Northwestern in Washington, D.C. The previous two years, after winning one game, Maryland bowed out in the semifinals by losing to Michigan State.

In their final ACC year, Mark Turgeon’s team lost its first game, to Florida State. The previous year his team had made a run, beating Duke for the second time that season, but the march to the semifinals wasn’t enough to propel the Terps into the NCAA tournament.

In 2010, Maryland tied Duke for the ACC regular-season title but lost its first game in the tournament, to Georgia Tech. In 2006, the Terps had the tournament “at home” in D.C. and lost to Clemson in the quarterfinals.

I could keep going. Point is…the Terps haven’t reached a conference tournament championship game since that epic 2004 championship run, and they’ve only reached the semifinals of a conference tournament four times in the last 14 seasons.

Can Maryland reach the championship game of this year’s Big Ten event, which begins in Chicago Wednesday? The chance got significantly smaller when Wisconsin beat Ohio State in overtime on Sunday, pushing Turgeon’s team to the No. 5 seed and forcing the Terps to play on Thursday against the winner of the game between Rutgers and Nebraska.

Most likely, though, the Terps are going to end up playing Wisconsin on Friday, just like they would have if they’d grabbed the No. 4 seed and the Badgers ended up No. 5. Maybe playing a game the day before will be a good thing.

On the court, taking away the difficulty of winning four games in four days, can Maryland make the title game? Maybe. Turgeon’s team has wins over Wisconsin and Purdue this year, and I’d say the Terps are significantly better than any of the teams that could pull upset specials.

The one team I’m not sure Maryland can beat is Michigan State, whom they would play in the semifinals barring an upset. Of course, you could also argue that beating Wisconsin in the quarterfinals would be a mini-upset, so we’ll take it one game at time.


Is fate smiling upon the UMBC Retrievers again in 2019? After beating Albany in a conference quarterfinal on Saturday, the answer is…maybe?

Tomorrow, quite literally, you can see the next chapter in that potential story right here in Baltimore. Binghamton, the No. 7 seed in the America East tournament, upset No. 2 seed Stony Brook on Saturday. The conference “reseeds” based on quarterfinal results, so Ryan Odom’s team will now host No. 4 Hartford at the new UMBC Event Center. Vermont will host Binghamton in the other semifinal.

Of course, sometimes a good break might not be what it appears. The Retrievers thought they’d have to go on the road to Stony Brook, where they had beaten the Seawolves this season. Now they get to play at home against the Hawks, a team to which they lost both regular-season games.

It would be a huge upset if UMBC got to host another game; the likely scenario is another trip to Vermont for the conference championship game. As usual, that game will tip off at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning, this year televised on ESPN2.

Even if the Retrievers hadn’t stunned Virginia last season, what Odom has done with the program after three years as head coach would be beyond noteworthy. Odom’s three squads at UMBC have won 21, 25, and 20 games respectively entering tomorrow night’s game. In the previous seven years to Odom’s arrival, under Randy Monroe and Aki Thomas, the team won 41 games and lost 172.

UMBC wasn’t just a lousy team in a conference that occasionally had a couple of decent teams. They were, without question, one of the worst 25 programs in the nation for those seven years. In 33 years playing Division I basketball, the Retrievers have won less than 40 percent of their games while toiling in four conferences trying to find a home. Odom’s teams have now won more than 65 percent of their games.

If you remember, the Retrievers’ monumental and historic upset of the Cavaliers in last year’s NCAA tournament meant quite a bit to Odom’s pocket. He agreed to a new contract through 2023 that pays him nearly twice what he was making before. Performance awards for benchmarks, such as making the NCAA tournament, also increased substantially for Odom and his staff.

I just can’t imagine that Odom won’t be snapped up by somebody else before his contract expires, no matter what he says about his current situation. He’s clearly too good of a coach for athletic directors to ignore, and one day he won’t ignore them either.


this weekend in
college lacrosse

Contributed by #DMD's college lacrosse analyst
John Pusateri

weekend college lacrosse review

#14 Syracuse 14 - #18 Johns Hopkins 10

In a tale of 2 halves, the Orange get revenge on the Blue Jays after getting blown out last year by Hopkins. The Blue Jays started the game strong, jumping out to a 5-1 lead in the 1st quarter featuring 2 goals by Alex Concannon. Syracuse then came alive tying the game midway through the 2nd, but the Blue Jays responded taking an 8-7 lead into halftime.

Score-wise, the 3rd was quiet with each team getting a goal. However, there was a barrage of shots by both teams but it was the goalies who stood tall including 6 saves from Ryan Darby and 8 saves from Syracuse's Drake Porter. But in the 4th, it appeared playing their 3rd road game in a row took it's toll on the Blue Jays as the Orange dominated the hustle stats of face-offs (6-2) and groundballs (11-2) which precipitated their 6-1 run for the win.

In addition to Concannon's 2 goals, the Blue Jays offense was led by Kyle Marr (2 goals, 1 assist) and Joey Epstein (2 goals). But the big star of the game for Hopkins was netminder Ryan Darby who made saved 18 out of the 32 shots put on cage by Syracuse.

Other Notable Games

Shawn Nadelen and Towson's stay at #1 ended on Sunday with an 18-11 loss to Cornell.

#2 Cornell 18 - #1 Towson 11 - After the Tigers held off a game Jacksonville team on Friday night, they get run over by a Cornell that was still smarting from handled by Penn State 19-13. The Tigers got bit hard by the turnover flu (23), particularly right after face-off wins and a tenacious Cornell D that caused 14 turnovers. And Towson didn't seem to have any answers for the Big Red's Clarke Petterson who ended up with an astonishing 8 goals.

Towson was led by Luke Fromert (Kent Island) with 2 goals and 2 assists and Brendan Sunday with 2 goals and an assist. The #1 ranking unfortunately will be short lived and no rest for the weary as they face Duke next Saturday.

#7 Maryland 14 - Albany 9 - The Terps do get that payback from last year's loss to the Great Danes. With Albany's leader Tehoka Nanticoke held out again due a potential NCAA violation, the Terps jumped out to a 7-2 1st half score and never looked back. Jared Bernhardt with a big 3 goal, 5 assist performance led the Terps along with 2 goals and 2 assists from Logan Wisnauskas and Anthony DeMaio each.

#19 Navy 12 - Lafayette 7 - The Midshipmen bounced back against the Leopards who jump out to 9-2 lead early in the 3rd and cruise the rest of the way for the win. Navy was led by goalie Ryan Kern 16 saves, Jack Sweeney (3 goals, 1 assist) and Michael Foster (1 goal, 3 assists).

#12 High Point 22 - UMBC 13 - The Retrievers unfortunately meet up with the Panthers on a bad day as High Point takes UMBC out to the wood shed. After a close 1st quarter, the Panthers use an 11-goal 2nd quarter for the dominating win.


March 10
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steelers won't be any good, but neither will the raiders

It seems very fitting that Antonio Brown will be playing for the Oakland Raiders next season. As you know, the Raiders are supposedly going to end up in Las Vegas in 2020. Brown going to the city of wagers is quiet poetic, since there's no telling at all what his eventual contribution will be to Jon Gruden's team.

The Steelers -- according to reports -- got a 3rd and 5th round draft pick for him in the trade that was leaked late Saturday night.

Time will tell what Pittsburgh can get with those picks. You might remember Brown himself was a 6th round selection in 2010. But chances are good that no matter what Pittsburgh eventually receives on draft day, the two players they choose will not be able to match up to what the future Hall of Famer gave the Steelers for nine seasons.

While Pittsburgh still has Ben Roethlisberger and a couple of other legitimate players, their time has come. The Steelers, as we know them, are finished. Roethlisberger will play a couple of more seasons, the team will struggle to win half their games, and Ben's next big moment will be on induction day in Canton sometime around 2027 when he goes into the Hall of Fame.

After turning down a potential trade to the Bills, Antonio Brown is headed to the Oakland Raiders.

With the departure of both Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, there's nothing left for Pittsburgh to do except get younger, lose a lot, and start the rebuilding process. My guess is they'll eventually part company with longtime coach Mike Tomlin as well, but that might not happen until Big Ben's days are over and they can give a new coach a new quarterback and truly grant them both a fresh start.

Brown, meanwhile, gets everything he wants by going to Oakland except, of course, winning. Unless Derek Carr suddenly turns into Joe Montana, the Raiders are going nowhere fast. They stunk this past season, they're going to stink next season, too, and it wouldn't shock me in the least if they're in the beginning stages of a five-year funk. But, hey, they have a coach that makes $10 million a year, so they have that going for them, which is nice.

The Raiders will rework Brown's contract to make him the game's highest paid wide receiver. He'll get to crow about that on Twitter, naturally, and I'm sure the Raiders will go out of their way to massage his fragile ego in press releases and such. Other than going to a good team, Brown's trade to Oakland checks off all the boxes.

But something happens to him now that didn't previously fall on his shoulders in Pittsburgh.

If the Raiders aren't any good, Brown's name will be mentioned first. Sure, I know he can't throw the ball and catch it. I get that. But that's not how the media works and I think we all know that. Now that he's organized his own move to Oakland, Brown will be expected to lead them to the post-season.

Every game this upcoming season, the Raiders will depend on Antonio Brown to get them into the winner's circle.

I wouldn't count on him to hold the door open for your grandmother in a wheelchair, let alone help the Raiders win 10 games next season. But we'll see. That's why they make betting slips up at Delaware Park, right?

Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, it's over.

I don't spend a lot of time following along and wishing bad things on any team except the Flyers, but it will certainly be nice to see the Steelers struggle through a couple of 6-10 seasons. I have no idea if the Ravens are going to be any good, either, but knowing the days of Roethlisberger, Bell and Brown are now officially over is heartwarming if nothing else.

But with the good comes the bad: We might get really sick of seeing Baker Mayfield win. I don't know how much of that I can handle...

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for those of you without a hole-in-one

My old friend Bill Bassler, Sr. is somewhere in heaven today and he can't believe the news.

He's not mad, I suppose, but I can hear him now in his gruff, dry voice. "You're kidding me, right? I never made an ace in my life and this woman does it in her 5th round of golf, ever?"

Both of those nuggets are true.

Bassler was the longtime head golf professional at Rolling Road. His son, Billy Jr., also served in that role for over two decades. Bill Sr. played well over 10,000 rounds of golf in his life and never made a hole-in-one. Never, ever.

What's even more amazing about that stat is that Bassler's course features five par-3 holes, including the downhill 10th hole which measures all of about 110 yards. I can't imagine how many times Bill and his group stood on that tee and Bassler said to himself, "Come on, Bill, it's a hundred yard shot. You could throw this thing in the hole from here."

Paula Rich teed it up for the 5th time in her life this past Thursday.

Paula Rich's unique scorecard from her round last Thursday in California.

She's not very good, as most people aren't who are playing "real golf" for the fifth time.

Here's a look at the scorecard of the middle part of her round on Thursday: 9-9-1-9-9

She made a 9, another 9 and then a "1". As in, a hole in one.

Followed up by two more nines, which were sort of inevitable after she made an ace.

Paula knocked her tee shot on the par-3 112th hole into the cup...with...get ready...her driver.

"Hey, heard you made an ace on that little shorty at Butte Creek Country Club..."

"I did, yes!!!"

"What club did you use? Wedge? 9-iron?"

"No, I used my driver."

Somewhere, Bill Bassler Sr. can't believe it.

I have four hole in ones, but sadly I haven't made one since January 1, 2007. My first one came on June 4, 1995 at Mount Pleasant (hole six) with my buddy Greg Ruark and two other friends. I remember it like it was yesterday. Flag was back left, I hit a 9-iron above the hole about 15-feet, and it dug into the green, drifted left, and rolled right into the hole.

I reported that achievement to Bill Sr. a few days later at Rolling Road. He was standing in the pro shop, reading the newspaper and circling winners for the race track later in the day.

"I made a hole in one on Saturday," I announced. At that point, I had no idea Bill Sr. was without an ace.

"Lots of people make them," he said, without even looking up. "If you want to really do something special, pick me out the winners of the 7th, 8th and 9th races today at Pimlico."

Now I see what he means. I haven't made an ace in 12 years. A woman out in California just made one in her 5th round ever.

Golf is a crazy, crazy game.


March 9
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baseball and football both tinkering with rules

I think you can file some of this under "If it ain't broke, don't fix it", but a few of the proposed rule changes in both baseball and football do make sense.

A couple of them are just dumb. But for every good proposed change, a bad one has to come along as well, as I suppose.

Baseball's proposed changes are actually going to take flight this summer in the independent Atlantic League.

The four biggest ones are: using TrackMan (radar) to assist umpires with balls and strikes, prohibiting the infield shift, moving the mound back two feet to 62 feet, 6 inches, and requiring all pitchers to face at least three hitters.

That MLB is willing to have a league test these rules means they're far past the white board stage and are now seriously being evaluated. Two of the four (shift, three hitter requirement) are clearly about pace of play. As we outlined here a couple of days ago at #DMD, Major League Baseball has various reasons for wanting the game to finish well under a window of three hours.

The TrackMan umpire-assist rule is almost certain to pass, although it's fair to point out that most MLB umpires grade out favorably in their behind-the-plate duties. Still, it seems silly to not have some sort of radar "assistance" to help with close calls, replays, etc.

The infield shift is likely going to be a thing of the past if sampling in the Atlantic League goes as expected this summer.

The infield shift is dead. It might still be around for another year or two while the rule gets created, approved and implemented, but for the most part there will be no more infield shift come 2020 or 2021. The new rule that the Atlantic League will use is that two infielders must be on each side of the second base bag when the pitch is thrown. That's simple enough. Shift.....over.

It's almost a certainty that MLB will adopt the "three batter minimum rule" after the Atlantic League trial is complete. In 2018, there were 1,145 instances of a pitcher coming in to face one batter and 1,143 instances of a pitcher facing two batters. Eliminate those two, in theory, and you have almost 3,000 occasions where the game will not be interrupted for 2-3 minutes while a pitching change is made. That's a lot of time saved.

The pitching mound move will be split into two "seasons". The Atlantic League will use the regular distance (60', 6") in the first half of the season and the longer, proposed distance (62', 6") in the second half. This change, without question, is being made (potentially) to help reduce the number of strikeouts that have gone up, up, up in the Major Leagues. It remains to be seen if the new distance will, in fact, help cut down on strikeouts, but it seems like a natural solution. Giving a player two more feet to identify the ball would be a huge asset.

Unless baseball sees some kind of drastic, unconsidered alteration to the quality of their game, there's little date that three of the four changes are going to find their way to the majors sometime soon. Only the mound distance seems to be a longshot at this point.

Meanwhile, in the NFL, everyone's concerned about overtime and replay and making sure the right team wins. Player safety? Not that much of a concern any longer.

The Kansas City Chiefs will propose that both teams receive the ball in overtime. This makes sense, I suppose, but it's clearly in response to the way they lost the AFC title game to the Patriots. New England won the coin flip, put together a 15-play drive, and that was that.

The Chiefs' proposal would also abolish overtime in the preseason and eliminate the overtime coin toss. Instead, the team that won the pregame coin toss would choose whether it wanted to start overtime with the ball or on defense.

I still don't see what's so wrong with just allowing for overtime to be another extended quarter of football, particularly in the playoffs. Only 12 teams make the post-season. They're playing for history every January. There's no reason why, if a game goes to overtime, they shouldn't just keep playing "football" until a winner is determined.

I can understand a different rule in the regular season, and perhaps both teams getting the ball one time makes good sense, but in the playoffs, just play another quarter (at least) to decide the winner. That's probably a roundabout way of agreeing with the proposed rule change, by the way. If it's as simple as "both teams get the ball", that makes sense, too.

The Denver Broncos are trying to get rid of the onside kick. According to the Broncos' proposal, each team would have one opportunity per game to remain on offense after a fourth-quarter score. Instead of kicking off, the team would line up at its 35-yard line for what is in essence a fourth-and-15. If the team gains the 15 yards, it maintains possession. If not, the defense takes over.

The new AAF has a similar rule in place already. The AAF (Alliance of American Football) offers teams the chance to convert a fourth-and-12 from its 28 if it is down by 17 points or more in a game or if it is trailing by any deficit with five minutes or less remaining in the fourth quarter.

In 2018, NFL teams recovered just 4 of 52 onside kicks. That's a telling statistic, obviously. The onside kick no longer works in the NFL.

And the Redskins are going to propose that all plays in the game be subject to a coaches' challenge. That's an easy one. Nothing actually changes about the number of challenges. Instead, everything can now be challenged. This, of course, would have helped the Saints in last year's NFC title game against the Rams.

Rules, rules, rules.

Most people are OK with them until a situation arises where they get unfairly "burned" by one of them.

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this weekend in
college lacrosse

Contributed by #DMD's college lacrosse analyst
John Pusateri

weekend college lacrosse preview

Game of the Week: #18 Johns Hopkins @ #14 Syracuse (Saturday 1:00 pm, Syracuse, NY)

This classic national lacrosse rivalry resumes today when the Blue Jays travel north to take on the Orange. Funny that this is considered a down year for both even though they are nationally ranked. But with both teams at 2-2 and fighting for national respect and quality wins for their resumes, this should be a great battle. After taking it on the chin by the #1 and #3 teams, Johns Hopkins has reeled off 2 straight road wins against quality opponents.

Can Hopkins extend the win streak to 3 in a row against the Orange who just dropped a heartbreaker in OT to Virginia in what appears to be a pretty even match-up? Let's look at some keys to the game to see how they will impact the outcome.

Get'em on Cage: There's an old saying that 100% of the shots that aren't on cage won't score. So you need to get shots on goal if you want a chance to score. And particularly with the new shot clock, you need to get even more shots on goal. Syracuse is generating is putting 25.3 shots per game on frame while Hopkins is averaging 21.8. Part of that difference is the Orange shot on goal percentage is at 61.0% while the Blue Jays are at 56.1%. This gives the Orange a goal-plus advantage.

Stopping Shots on Cage: Hopkins Ryan Darby has a save percentage of 44.7% on the season and had his best outing of the season last week stopping 52.0% of the shots on cage from Princeton. Syracuse's Drake Porter has a season average of 58.3% and is averaging 14 saves per game (8th in the NCAA). This would seem to be a big advantage for Syracuse, but 35 of the 57 goals given up Darby were against #1 Towson and #3 Loyola. We'll still give the advantage to Syracuse.

Getting the Ball..and Taking Care of It: Hopkins is winning 49.5% of their face-offs while Syracuse is winning at 55.7%. Syracuse averages 34 ground balls per game while Hopkins averages 29.5. The Blue Jays are committing 17.5 turnovers per game while the Orange average only 12.3 turnovers per game. Part of that difference is Hopkins is clearing at only 74.7% while Syracuse is clearing at 85.7%.

Intangibles: While Syracuse has played a competitive schedule, Johns Hopkins has the tougher slate of games by far. The Blue Jays are starting to trend up and has better wins. The loss to Colgate by the Orange is starting to look like one that will count as a bad loss come tournament selection time. This will be Hopkins 3rd game in a row on the road.

Final Prediction: The stats seem to make Syracuse the clear favorite. But those advantages were due in part to a softer schedule, so this will be closer than expected. The Blue Jays finally had a good game from attackman Cole Williams and may have uncovered a midfield scoring threat in Brett Baskin. Can these two continue to be threats to give Joey Epstein and Kyle Marr room to operate? And can the defense and goalie Ryan Darby continue to improve? I think the Blue Jays will continue to play tough. But I'm not sure they can come away with their 3rd road win in a row. This will be a fun one to watch. But I see Syracuse winning, 12-11.

Other Notable Games:

#1 Towson vs #2 Cornell (Sunday 3/10 1:00 pm, Crown Lacrosse Event Charlotte, NC) - As part of a 2 game weekend, the #1 Tigers get their first big test against the #2 Big Red. Both played Friday night games before Sunday's big match-up so whoever comes away fresh and healthy will have the clear advantage. Given Towson played Jacksonville (covered below) and Cornell lost to Penn State, 19-13, I'm giving the advantage to my Tigers.

#7 Maryland @ Albany (Saturday 3/9 1:00 pm, Albany NY) - The Terps seek some payback on last season's comeback win by the Great Danes at College Park. With some big losses in the offseason as well as some drama with Albany's offensive leader Tehoka Nanticoke, I'm thinking the Terps get that payback and then some.

#19 Navy @ Lafayette (Saturday 3/9 12:00 pm, Easton PA) - After rebounding from the loss to Maryland by handling Patriot league foe Bucknell, the Mids have a surprising mid-week letdown to Princeton 11-19. Look for them to bounce back against a decent 4-2 Leopard team who hasn't fared well against better competition.

UMBC @ #12 High Point (Saturday 3/9 11am, High Point NC) - The Retrievers step up in weight class to a surprising 5-1 High Point team who took down Duke in the beginning of the season and feature one of the nations best goalies in St. Mary's Tim Troutner, Jr. one of the nations best. UMBC should give them a game, but will come up short again.

Friday Night Lights

Crazy weekend with several Friday night games on tap that featured a couple of local teams.

#1 Towson 15 - Jacksonville 13 -- Rain soaked game with featured the #1 Tigers pulling out to a commanding 6-1 lead. However, Jacksonville cut the lead down in the 3rd before the Tigers pulled away again for good in the 4th. Brody McLean paced the offense with 5 goals while midfielder Grant Maloof scored 4 times and Brendan Sunday added 2 goals and 2 assists.

Mount St. Mary's 9 - Mercer 8 -- Great week for the Mount coming of a big OT win against #15 Richmond on Tuesday. That's a 3 game win streak after an 0-4 start. Joe Bethke, Chris DePretoro and Brendan McCarthy had 2 goals and 1 assist each. Mount St Mary's will be riding some nice momentum heading into Tuesday's game with Johns Hopkins next week.


dale williams aims
the terps spotlight

DALE WILLIAMS returns for his fourth season of covering all things Maryland men's basketball for #DMD. Terps Spotlight will preview and review all games in the 2018-19 season.

terps blast minnesota to finish 13-7 in big ten

If you took Maryland (-7) last night, you were a winner, and so were the Terps, as they easily dispatched the Minnesota Golden Gophers by a score of 69-60 on senior night at the XFINITY Center.

Maryland was paced by Anthony Cowan’s 21 points and Jalen Smith’s 19. Both high scoring Terps hit 3 of 6 three-point shots.

Maryland held a 34-22 halftime lead partially because Minnesota decided to overplay the Terp guards. Maryland was ready for it and burned Minnesota with frequent back door cuts which led to easy buckets and an early lead that reached 9 points before the midway point of the first half. The Golden Gophers made the game’s first basket, but after that Maryland never trailed.

Minnesota lacks a true point guard and is not particularly speedy at any of the backcourt positions. This is a perfect recipe for a Maryland win. Cowan had no problem getting to the rim and the Golden Gophers put little pressure on the Maryland ball handlers.

Anthony Cowan had 21 points for Maryland last night in their 69-60 win over Minnesota.

It took all season, but Maryland finally played a Big 10 game where they forced more turnovers than they committed. The turnover numbers were 13-10 in the Terps favor and the points-off-turnovers showed Maryland with an 18-6 advantage.

Maryland stretched their 12-point halftime lead to a big 22-point bulge before allowing Minnesota to make a late run which made the final score somewhat respectable. The final 9-point margin of victory in no way depicted the blowout that this game became.

The Terps offense was not a well-oiled machine last night. They shot just 37% in the first half but Minnesota was even worse, hitting just 7 of 26 first half attempts. Maryland’s lackluster second half defensive effort allowed The Golden Gophers to score 38 second half points after allowing just 22 in the first 20 minutes.

The matchups were very much in Maryland’s favor last night. The Terps fare well whenever they face a team that lacks quickness and intensity at the 1,2, and 3 spots. Minnesota fits right into that bill. Amir Coffey had 23 points and rebounding machine Jordan Murphy produced 14 points and 10 rebounds, but Minnesota as a team lacks the recipe that troubles the Terps.

If Maryland has the advantage in the backcourt, they are tough to beat because their front court, with Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith, is long and talented.

Last night Smith was mostly matched up with the shorter Jordan and Smith used that height advantage to post his 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocked shots. In short, Minnesota is just not built to compete with Maryland.

The Terps, having wrapped up their regular season play, can now sit back and watch how the rest of the conference tournament seedings play out. Maryland will either be a four seed and get the double bye, or a five seed and play on Thursday in the tournament’s second round in Chicago.

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March 8
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rabil's lacrosse league might get it right

There's a new sheriff in town. In "lacrosse town", anyway.

With no professional lacrosse league in the history of the U.S. -- indoor or outdoor -- able to go from the drawing board to a financial success story, the time might be ripe for Paul Rabil's new Premier Lacrosse League.

If the name Paul Rabil sounds familiar it's with good reason. He played his college lacrosse at Johns Hopkins and has spent his post-college-career serving as the sport's pied piper of sorts, cashing in on several significant personal sponsorship deals while playing the professional game and learning a little something about how sports management works in the meantime.

Rabil's league will begin play on June 1st.

Here's the most unique part about the league: There's not one city in the country who actually has a team in the PLL.

Wait, Drew, what? How is it possible that there's a new lacrosse league in the U.S. but no city in the U.S. has a team in the league?

I'm glad you asked.

PLL co-founder and former Johns Hopkins star Paul Rabil is the man heading up the Premier Lacrosse League.

There are six teams in the league in this inaugural PLL season. And they are just that. Lacrosse teams. They have names, but no city to call home. Instead, the PLL will take on the "traveling circus" look, jumping around the country and playing weekend lacrosse "festivals" rather than city-vs.-city match-ups the way most Americans are accustomed to.

Thus far, they're scheduled to play in Boston, Chicago and New York, either in NFL stadiums or MLS soccer facilities. More cities are going to be announced soon.

The PLL has six teams: Archers, Atlas, Chaos, Chrome, Redwoods and Whipsnakes.

I know what you're thinking and I probably agree. The names aren't all that great. Then again, without a city to connect with, naming the teams isn't as easy as you might think.

But the on-field product looks like it's going to be better than great. 160 of the best lacrosse players in the world will play in the PLL, with 3 games televised on NBC this summer (and, yes, that's the NBC) and 16 more being televised on NBCSports (where a majority of NHL games are seen).

And because it's 2019 and everyone's married to their mobile device, every PLL game will be streamed live by NBC. Now, if you're a lacrosse junkie, there's virtually no reason why you can't check out every slate of weekend games.

Rabil, known as the best lacrosse player in the nation over the last decade, is the mastermind behind the league. Like many, he toiled for years in the other American outdoor leagues, but never found the business model to be favorable.

In other words, the player's got paid, but not enough. They were the stars of the league, but had little or no health coverage. They were trapped in their own market, a victim of who drafted them from the outset. There wasn't much player movement.

So Rabil got some venture capital money thrown his way, convinced the folks at NBC that 6 million lacrosse players around the country will tune in to see big time lacrosse on TV, and then set out to recruit the players.

Many of the current PLL players were obligated to Major League Lacrosse until their contracts expired at the end of this past February. Once those players became free agents, Rabil and the PLL swooped in and convinced them that the PLL is the way to go.

A number of familiar high school and college names in the Baltimore area will play in the PLL, including many from the lacrosse-rich MIAA conference. Former Calvert Hall stars Stephen "Bones Kelly, Garrett Epple, Evan Connell and Ryan Brown are all part of the Archers Lacrosse Club.

There have been some snags, of course, most of them of the legal variety. Let's just say Rabil and his attorney have become much closer over the last 12 months.

So, in the end, what will make this lacrosse league work when others couldn't?

Archers Lacrosse Club is one of the six "teams" in the PLL and it features several former Baltimore high school lacrosse stars.

Well, this league is simply all about lacrosse players. Any player under contract to the PLL owns a small piece of equity in the league itself. So, in this case, if the league does well financially, the players do, too.

Rabil's league will pay the players real money for their efforts. A good player in the MLL might have made $16,000 to $24,000 for a summer's worth of lacrosse...sometimes as many as 20 games, which included travel and days off from their mortgage-paying jobs. In the PLL, those same players will now earn between $30,000 and $50,000, potentially play 16 games overall, and neary everything they do will take place on the weekend.

Will it seem odd that the six PLL teams won't have a home city? Sure. This "traveling circus" idea is definitely unique. But by having the best lacrosse players show up, say, in Boston for the weekend, it almost guarantees a great couple days of lacrosse, including games, clinics and community events.

And let's face it, the reality is that TV matters as much as anything with the PLL. So if the action on the field matches Rabil's vision and enthusiasm, the new league might be on the right track.

One other smart move the league's making in its infancy: Every player "owns" his likeness and can market himself in any way that's approved by the league. Those four words could loom important down the road -- "approved by the league" -- but at least for the time being, players are being encouraged, rather than discouraged, to actively promote themselves and their alignment with the PLL on all of their personal social media platforms.

This, of course, is different than the NFL, where, for example, Justin Tucker isn't allowed to wear a Ravens jersey or identify himself as a member of the Ravens when he shows up on your TV screen promoting Royal Farms.

But when Joe Flacco was on the team, his M&T Bank ads always referred to him as, "Joe Flacco, Ravens quarterback".

The reason? Royal Farms doesn't line the pockets of the Ravens or the NFL, M&T Bank does.

In the PLL, lacrosse players won't have to worry about that issue initially, as long as their representation meets with some very basic standards of PLL marketing.

It's not easy to start a sports league of any kind, but Rabil and the PLL seemingly have a puncher's chance of making it work. Yes, it's lacrosse, which to this day very much remains a niche sport in our country. But with more and more colleges and state universities fielding men's and women's lacrosse programs, it's only a matter of time before that enthusiasm catches up with a demand for the product, similar to what Major League Soccer has experienced in the U.S. over the last 24 years.

When Paul Rabil was a player, you would have been foolish to bet against him.

I'm thinking the same thing might be true now, too.

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dale williams aims
the terps spotlight

DALE WILLIAMS returns for his fourth season of covering all things Maryland men's basketball for #DMD. Terps Spotlight will preview and review all games in the 2018-19 season.

terps host minnesota tonight

Tonight is senior night at the XFINITY Center in College Park. This will be the last home game for Terp seniors Ivan Bender and seldom used Andrew Terrell, and most likely the last home game for Bruno Fernando. The Minnesota Golden Gophers are Maryland’s regular season ending opponent in a game beginning at 7:00 pm.

This will be the second meeting between these two teams in 2018-2019. Maryland won the first get-together by outscoring the Gophers 13-2 late in the game to run a slim 4-point lead into an 82-67 final score.

The highlight of the game was the Terp zone defense that they employed with just over 14 minutes remaining in the second half and the Terps down by 5, 54-49. I thought Minnesota continued to get good looks, but their shots didn’t go in. However, the zone certainly changed the tempo of the game and disrupted Minnesota’s offensive flow.

The Terps need to work hard tonight to keep Minnesota's Amir Coffey from feeling his shooting groove.

The Golden Gophers were having success driving into the paint and scoring in close. Amir Coffey, Minnesota’s leading scorer, was getting to his left hand and beating Darryl Morsell off the dribble. Maryland made their first 8 shots of the second half, but couldn’t get control of the game because Minnesota was scoring too.

However, after several minutes of playing zone, Maryland’s shooting (16 for 23 in the second half) and Minnesota’s inability to figure out the Terrapin 1-2-2 had the Terps putting together a run that didn’t stop until the final buzzer sounded.

Anthony Cowan had a monster second half, going 6 for 7 from the field and 8 for 8 from the foul line to score 23 second half points. It was a total reversal from his 1 for 5 first half, and it paced Maryland to a 48-point second half offensive explosion.

Minnesota did their part to help the Terps win by making only 4 of 14 second half free throws and were just 9 of 23 from the line for the game.

Just because the zone was effective during the Maryland second half run in their first game, don’t expect Maryland to start tonight’s game that way. They’ll play man, and hopefully the team will be better at defending ball screens and pick and rolls. Miscommunications and slow recovery after hedging or switching have become a real issue for the Maryland defense and the other Big Ten teams have taken notice.

The keys to Terp success tonight are identical to what they were 2 months ago. Limit Amir Coffey, don’t let Jordan Murphy have his way on the glass and stop the Minnesota run-outs. On offense, attach the foul prone Murphy and knock down the outside shots that Minnesota will allow.

The Golden Gophers don’t feature a true point guard on their team. This make things much easier for Anthony Cowan. His match-up with any Gopher guard is a win for Maryland. Also a win for Maryland is Bruno Fernando’s match-up. Murphy is too small and freshman center Daniel Oturo isn’t ready to handle the much bigger and tougher Fernando.

Minnesota is on the bubble for a NCAA tournament bid. They have good wins against Washington, Wisconsin, Iowa, Purdue, and Nebraska when the Cornhuskers had Isaac Copeland Jr. A win in College Park would certainly put them in the field of 68. Maryland still has an outside shot at the 4th slot (and a double bye) in the Big Ten Tourney, but even with a loss can’t drop below the 5th seed.

Maryland will win this game tonight. This will be Fernando’s last contest in College Park and there is no way he lets his team suffer a loss. His inspired 20-point effort will send Maryland into the Big Ten tournament with a one game winning streak and not the three-game losing streak that a loss would give them.

I see the Terps pulling away from Minnesota to win by 12. 78-66. Bruno finishes with a double/double (20 points, 12 rebounds), Cowan gets 20, and Aaron Wiggins goes for a career high 16 points to lead the Terps.


March 7
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will baseball's marriage to gambling work?

Once Major League Baseball signed their multiyear partnership with MGM Resorts International last November, you had to know there were going to be some wrinkles within the sport.

Little by little, we're starting to hear about them.

Yesterday's news was perhaps the most interesting thus far. Managers will now have to first submit their lineup to the Commissioner's office five hours before scheduled first pitch. In the past, the managers would provide the team PR contact with their lineup four hours prior to the game. And then the PR folks would make the lineups known to the media shortly thereafter.

That won't be happening in 2019.

The Commissioner's office gets them first. I assume you know what his office does with them next, right? If you guessed "sends them to the MGM in Las Vegas", you're correct.

Don't look now, but Major League Baseball is starting to tiptoe into the nation's gambling capital, Las Vegas.

The the MLB office would provide that kind of privileged information to a marketing partner isn't at all surprising. That's why MGM forked over millions and millions of dollars to the league. Get that wager in -- legally -- as soon as the information hits the wire. Hopefully with MGM, right Rob Manfred?

Two other potential links to gambling have surfaced recently, although both are currently lingering in "rumor mill" stage. But if you're one of those "where there's smoke, there's fire" types, you'll like these two.

A specific part of baseball's continued interest in shortening the length of games is being prompted by the MGM's desire to have the east coast games be finished prior to the start of the west coast contests. In other words, a Red Sox-Yankees game that starts at 7:05 pm and doesn't end until 10:15 pm greatly reduces the chance that a bettor will wager on both the early AND late games (assuming they're on the east coast).

But if baseball can cut the game times down to the 2:50 or so mark, the bettors might very well be able to double-up on their nightly wagering. A bettor could use use their winnings from the early game to bet on the late games...or, after an unsuccessful early slate, try and recoup their money with the west coast games.

I've often wondered why baseball was sooooooo interested in cutting a few minutes out of a 3-hour baseball game. I mean, who really cares if the game takes 3:07 or 3:03? What's the difference? Why worry about a pitch clock or not throwing four balls for an intentional walk? We're talking a few minutes every game, max.

Now, perhaps, it makes a little more sense. The real goal isn't necessarily to shave minutes off of a game, but more importantly, get the game into a routine where it might only take upwards of 2 hours and 50 minutes per-contest. As Johnny Nash once sang, "I can see clearly now..."

There's also been another rumor of having eastern time zone games begin at a standard weeknight time of 6:50 pm. The reason? You know why. To try and get the games to finish well before 10:00 pm.

Late scratches and changes to the scheduled starting pitchers will be "strongly discouraged" by the league office, rumor has it. Once a manager puts his lineup out five hours before first pitch, he is to start the game with it unless there are extenuating circumstances that, in some cases, might have to receive league approval.

If that one passes and becomes part of baseball's day of game operations code, the league office might as well just start making out the lineups themselves.

But I understand it, too. Gambling runs the NFL. It probably runs the NBA a lot more than we realize. And baseball, a sport with very little overall gambling activity, would probably enjoy being a little more "dirty", if you will.

Anyone with knowledge of the NFL knows why the Wednesday injury report is mandated. And let's not forget about the specific language now used throughout the week to describe a player's activity level in practice. It's all done to keep gamblers apprised of what's going on with certain players and teams leading up to Sunday's games.

That's why teams can't fiddle around with their injury report. "Let's just say Tom Brady's OUT and then we'll sneak him out there in warm ups and start him." No, no, no. It doesn't work that way. Vegas would hit the roof if any team or prominent player pulled a stunt like that in a game that mattered.

And now that baseball has a real-life bed partner in the gambling industry - a big wig, no less - there's no telling what they might have to do to keep up their end of the sponsorship bargain.

Earlier lineups, fewer mid-day changes, faster games. It all adds up to getting more folks to gamble.

Make the product better?

Make the product more money?

That's the goal...

But you might have to pick one.

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The thing about Mark Turgeon is…it would be wrong to say that he hasn’t been a successful basketball coach.

This is Turgeon’s 12th season in the “big time” — four years in the Big 12 at Texas A&M and eight years at Maryland in the ACC and Big 10. When Maryland’s name is called on Selection Sunday, 10 days from today, he’ll have taken eight of those 12 teams to the NCAA tournament. None of those eight teams snuck into the tourney, either.

The thing about this season is…it would be wrong to say that Turgeon has done a poor job with his team.

Among major conference squads, only UCLA and Kentucky entered the season with less experience. With a win Friday against Minnesota, the Terps would get to 13 wins in the highest-rated conference in the country, a nice result even for an experienced team. Five of their league losses have come against excellent teams, and they’ve also gotten wins against two of those teams.

However, the thing about last week is…it would be wrong to say that it shouldn’t bother Maryland fans a lot, even though it probably won’t have much bearing on NCAA tournament seeding unless the Terps keep losing.

Last Tuesday at Penn State, according to their coach, the Terps didn’t play hard. On Sunday in College Park against Michigan, the Terps played hard but not nearly well enough to win.

On the surface, there’s no shame in a road loss to an improving team and a home loss to a team that, as Dale Williams noted on Monday, has better players at every position. Beneath the surface, though, it once again has fans questioning how good this team really is.

When they don’t play hard, they’re not good enough to make up for it, even against a well-under .500 opponent. When they do play hard, they’re still not good enough to beat a high-level team. Mark Turgeon’s teams may win games, but sometimes you wonder how. They don’t execute well, they commit turnovers at an alarming rate for a high-major team and don’t make up for it on the defensive end.

He recruits pretty good players, including this year’s freshman class. But that’s not enough. Just once, I wish I would see the kind of spacing and offensive execution you see from John Beilein’s Michigan teams. Just once, I wish his teams took care of the ball like Purdue under Matt Painter or Wisconsin under Bo Ryan and Greg Gard.

It’s just not going to happen, not with Turgeon on the bench. That’s not what his teams do. They depend on individuals to make individual plays, and they depend on the other team to make the same mistakes they do.

On one level, I admire what Turgeon does with Maryland’s offense. He tailors what the Terps do to the players he has available. If he didn’t have Bruno Fernando, he wouldn’t do so much isolation in the post. When he had a player like Melo Trimble, good shooters on the wings and his best post player was Damonte Dodd, his team played a lot differently. When Kevin Huerter blossomed last year, Turgeon ran more set plays to get him open.

I’d call it an NBA way of coaching, and that’s fine in principle. I also think it makes sense in a world where, even at Maryland, the best players are only around for a couple years. It can be difficult to watch, however, because when college players are forced into making a lot of decisions, they tend to make a lot of bad ones. There are only three teams in the “Power Six” conferences that commit turnovers on a higher percentage of possessions than does Maryland, and none of those teams is even sniffing the NCAA tournament.

This isn’t a one-year anomaly. Only once in eight years has Turgeon’s Maryland team ranked in the top half of that category in Division I, and that was in the coach’s first year when none of the players were his recruits. The past two seasons after Trimble’s exit from the program have been particularly bad.

It’s maddening, really. If the Terps played like North Carolina and tried to get as many possessions as they could get, you would expect more turnovers. I hate bringing up the previous Maryland coach, but his teams played fast without committing a lot of bad turnovers.

Maryland doesn’t value the ball, and it’s been going on for years, no matter who’s out on the court. That’s on the coach.

Defensively, I think the Terps do an excellent job most of the time. The aim is containment -- they don’t deny passing lanes or gamble for cheap steals. Their goal is to make the opponent use a lot of the shot clock, make them take a difficult shot and then grab the rebound.

I’ve seen Turgeon’s teams dominate defensively for 15 or 20 minutes in a way I never saw Maryland do before he came to College Park. That takes discipline, and that’s on the coach too. The problem is that, unlike Wisconsin or Purdue, Maryland plays that way defensively without the same offensive discipline. The Terps waste too many possessions, but they don’t get them back from the other team. They have to hope the other team misses a lot of shots, and sometimes they don’t.

After eight years, we still really don’t know what Turgeon’s Maryland program is about. There have been plenty of exciting players, but his teams haven’t been consistent enough to create the same excitement from fans. His teams have won nearly 60 Big Ten games in five years, but as good as that is, it means they’ve been a solid team and not an elite one.

Besides winning (or losing) a lot, it’s hard to say what really constitutes a “program.” It doesn’t have to be a certain system, though that’s often the case. It doesn’t have to be a certain type of player that consistently arrives on campus, though that’s sometimes the case too. Sometimes it’s simply the fieriness of a coach and how that translates to his team.

I don’t see any of that at Maryland, even after eight years, and even after four NCAA tournament appearances in the last five years. And that’s a problem.


what is lent and why does it last forty days?

Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means "spring." The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.

Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others.

Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days because each Sunday represents a "mini-Easter" and the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection.

I hope you have a fulfilling Lenten season!


March 6
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unpopular weddle move might become popular if...

In a bit of a surprise yesterday, the Ravens cut popular safety Eric Weddle.

It wasn't a complete shock, but faced with the prospect of losing both C.J. Mosley and Terrell Suggs this spring, the Ravens were expected to keep Weddle around for the 2019 campaign. Now, they face the possibility of not having Mosley, Suggs or Weddle on the team next season.

Say what you will about all three, and each has his blemishes for certain, but those are three pretty big holes to fill in one fell swoop.

So why would the Ravens let Weddle go in that case? With Mosley set to test the free agent waters barring a new contract in the next 10 days and Suggs in a similar position, wouldn't it have been smart to keep the Pro Bowl safety in the fold for 2019?

Or are the Ravens thinking that the $7.5 million they're saving on the cap can be better used elsewhere?

Let's hope so.

Could Eric Weddle's departure pave the way for the arrival of former Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell?

Veteran leadership is often overlooked in sports. While it's true that most veteran leaders are probably leading better than playing better at that stage of their career(s), it's still an important intangible to have at your disposal. And in this day and age, where players are probably listening to their coaches less and less, having players in the locker room who keep things straight is a "must have" on almost any team.

Quick...if Mosley, Suggs and Weddle are out, who is the Ravens "leader" in 2019?

I'm still here.

Still here.

I'm actually thinking myself. And I have no names at all rattling around in my head.

Marlon Humphrey perhaps?

In a lot of cases, the leader is usually the guy who makes the most money. Makes sense, right? In the case of the Ravens, then, Brandon Williams would probably become the de facto team leader in 2019. But he's hardly the leader type. Good player and all. Great guy. But you won't find many defensive tackles getting 52 other players fired up before the game.

I see one of the two scenarios likely playing out, particularly given some of Eric DeCosta's early comments in the first six weeks of his roles as the team's general manager.

The various veteran player moves the team has made (Flacco, Crabtree, Weddle) in recent weeks have eased the team's salary cap burden to such an extent that paying -- or some would say over paying -- for Mosley now seems more realistic. While it's true the Ravens could just franchise Mosley and give him the $15 million-plus for 2019, they can probably create a more reasonable long term deal now and keep their former #1 pick in the fold for another 4-5 years at least.

Mosley, without question, would step into the "team leader" role under a scenario like that.

The money could also be freed up for someone like Le'Veon Bell. While a team official stressed to me a month ago that the Ravens wouldn't have an interest in Bell, I could see the tides shifting in this particular scenario given the organization's obvious hole at the wide receiver position. Since it's very clear Greg Roman is going to be tutoring a "run-heavy" offense, why not draft a bunch of receivers and give them a year or two to grow, all the while bringing in one of the league's top five running backs and getting two or three really good years out of him before potentially re-setting the offense in 2021 with Lamar Jackson growing in both passing skills and general quarterbacking acumen?

That's a long way of saying this: Run the ball for a couple of years until you run Bell into the ground, Jackson learns the game and the team's new wide receivers have things figured out.

I've heard of worse plans than that one, although Bell's not coming to Baltimore on the cheap. He would be a very expensive acquisition.

If the leadership issue really doesn't concern the Ravens all that much and if adding free agent wide receivers isn't in the cards, signing Le'Veon Bell starts to make more sense. And if you have the money........

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from the desk of
brien jackson

BRIEN JACKSON's work at #DMD promises to provide some of Baltimore's best sports insight and commentary, brought to you by SECU, the official credit-union of Drew's Morning Dish. Brien has done sports-media work with ESPN, CBS, and NPR. His contributions to #DMD will focus on the Orioles, the Ravens, and national sports stories.

Sometimes they make it so easy.

Every now and then the NCAA bumbles their way into juxtaposing stories in such a way that says it all, without the need to say anything. It's almost like a compulsion at times, really.

On Tuesday, three shoe company employees were sentenced in connection with the Justice Department's much hyped "wire fraud" case surrounding payments to players. To mark the occasion, prosecuting U.S. attorney Robert Khuzami graced us with his most entertaining howler in a now long stream of such absurd statements.

"The sentences imposed today only begin to reflect the magnitude of the harm these defendants caused through a scheme that not only defrauded multiple public universities but upended the lives of young student-athletes and corrupted a game cherished by so many."

This entire case has been a true master class in self-refutation, and I have to concede that Khuzami's ability to summarize that brilliantly in just one sentence is downright impressive.

It's been a while since we've covered this, so let's recap briefly: Khuzami's theory is that by paying money to players/recruits, the shoe company employees and other looming defendants defrauded the universities those players played for because they were knowingly causing them to be ineligible under NCAA rules. Thus, violations of NCAA rules can be turned into criminal charges of fraud.

It's a dubious legal theory that may well yet lose on appeal, but even if it weren't there's a couple of glaring holes in the case, and particularly in Khuzami's framing of it.

These three were sentenced to prison yesterday for their respective roles in the Adidas-college athletics scandal.

First of all, if Khuzami's theory is right, then the players and their families who accepted the payments that they knew were against NCAA rules are quite clearly co-conspirators in the criminal fraud. And yet, Khuzami isn't charging any of them as such, nor has he remotely hinted that he has considered it.

Quite the contrary, his statement paints them as victims of a conspiracy that they were equal and necessary parts of. Secondary victims at least, less so than the schools that they signed to play for, and who are the real victims here under Khuzami's theory. And therein lies the second, rather large, problem: Khuzami's entire case rests on the assumption that "the schools," however that's supposed to be defined, are completely oblivious to and in the dark about payments being made to players to play for them.

The idea is that employees of Adidas were paying players to commit to Arizona, or Louisville, or Kansas, or NC State and those schools (and again, it's not clear who has agency to represent the university here) have absolutely no idea that's happening. If they were aware of it, then by definition they couldn't be the victims of fraud and the entire case would unravel.

So the great irony here is that the fans and commentators who are cheering on this effort to "clean up" college basketball are actually endorsing the theory that the programs and schools are clean as a sheet.

Suffice it to say, nobody who knows anything at all about college sports believes that.

But it's fitting that the news was announced on Tuesday all the same, because that was just one day after we got another potentially Earth shattering development in college sports. As I'm sure you've heard far and wide by now, after 30 years Jim Delaney is retiring!

As Big Ten commissioner, that is.

I guess I should specify that because, let's be honest, if I didn't, most of you would spend the rest of this article having no idea who I was talking about. Heck, until Monday I didn't know Delaney had been in the position for 30 years and I'm a lifelong Big Ten fan!

But you know what else we learned? Delaney is walking away with bonuses approaching $20 million, on top of yearly earnings that are estimated to reach nearly that much. How does someone you never heard of make that much money? Well I can only assume that it was for the amazing leadership he provided in leading his conference through the Sandusky/Penn State and Nasser/Michigan State controversies.

Yes, that's right, both of those gigantic scandals that sent sexual predators employed by athletic departments to prison for decades and cost the employing schools millions of dollars in liability happened on Delaney's watch, and the fact that no one ever brought his name up one way or the other in the aftermath shows you exactly how much cache the Big Ten commissioner has, no matter how much the job pays.

Seriously though, what Delaney did to earn his money was obvious: He made other people even more money! On Delaney's watch, the Big Ten was a pioneer first in expansion and secondly in cable television. Under his watch the conference added Penn State and Nebraska, and then Maryland and Rutgers. The latter two were brought in only for the purpose of adding the New York and D.C. markets to the reach of the Big Ten Network, which he was also instrumental in creating.

Is that a good thing? I don't think so. The Nebraska addition really set off the last round of major conference realignment that altered the landscape of college sports in profound ways, and mostly for the worse compared to when I was a kid. Nebraska joining the Big 10 cost us the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry, and the SEC's subsequent expansion cost us Kansas-Missouri and Texas-Texas A&M, the latter of which was a bona fide Thanksgiving tradition for 10 year old me.

Speaking of, the addition of the Big 10 title game and changing conference schedule pushed the Ohio State-Michigan game to Thanksgiving weekend, ruining Ohio State's decades long tradition of having drunken underclassmen jumping in Mirror Lake on the Thursday before the game. Really, that's a big deal!

And of course I don't have to tell most of you what the addition of Maryland has done to the basketball program.

Does any of that matter? Nope, not at all. What matters is that Delaney made a lot of money for the right people: University presidents, athletic directors, and coaches. That's all that ever matters.

And so, the events of Monday and Tuesday were a perfect juxtaposition: On Monday, a functionary whose purpose for three decades has been to turn college sports into a multi-billion dollar media enterprise at all costs announces his exit with an eight figure payday, and on Tuesday three shoe executives get sentenced to prison by a prosecutor stretching the interpretation of federal statute to criminalize payments to players well below $1 million in total on a premise that literally everyone is 100% BS.

Sometimes they make it so easy.


drew vs. george pga tour contest

In no way am I statistically inclined enough to know that the first-half of the contest is, in reality, over. I guess George could rattle off a couple of winners in a row and I could post a couple of missed cuts and just like that, my buddy might be right back in the thick of things.

But this is feeling like we're on the 11th tee and I'm 5-up and Geo knows it's just a matter of time before the hats come off, we shake hands, and retire to the 19th hole for a spot of tea or a quick lager.

Can Rory McIlroy make it two in a row at Arnie's tournament this week?

I actually felt bad for George last week. I did. Really. He and I both had to go with new players because our previous picks did not enter the event, so I went with Sergio Garcia and Geo selected Emiliano Grillo. My friend will even attest to a mid-week call I made, lauding him for the pick and raving about how impressed I've been with Grillo over the last year or so. And, like clockwork, for the first time in nearly one full calendar year, Grillo missed the cut at the Honda.

Garcia, meanwhile, hung around the leaderboard and finished T9 down in South Florida. 74 more points for the good guy.

So, the lead is now 454-206, with only seven events left in the first half of our contest. In baseball, I'd be ahead 7-2 in the 6th inning. Still a ballgame and all, but not much time for the trailing team to get back in it.

I initially had Tiger Woods in the field this week but he withdrew on Monday with a neck strain. I stopped worrying about Tiger's injuries a long time ago. This is what 43 year old golfers go through, I suppose. So, in Tiger's place, I'm using the defending champion, Rory McIlroy. He seems the perfect fit for me this week. He's had a nice run over the last month with three top 5 performances and winning at Bay Hill a year ago doesn't hurt, either.

George counters with Bryson DeChambeau, who has not played particularly well since winning over in the Middle East in mid-January.

I'm a huge DeChambeau fan. And a big George McDowell fan. So I'm sorta-kinda hoping things turn around for both of them this week.

McIlroy shoots 68-69-65-66. DeChambeau shoots 70-65-69-66. Rory finishes first. DeChambeau finishes second.

Aren't I just a swell guy?

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March 5
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harbaugh speaks about faith, family and football

As the featured speaker at last night's annual Fellowship of Christian Athletes celebration and dinner, John Harbaugh spoke a lot about his faith. That was to be expected, of course.

But Harbaugh sprinkled in some great stories along the way, easily interjecting God and His message throughout the night. It was a memorable evening to say the least and the nearly 1,000 in attendance got some inner glimpses into life as an NFL head coach.

Among the nuggets the Ravens coach left us with were the following:

On whether or not the Ravens will sign Le'Veon Bell.

JH: "Maybe. That's all I can say. Maybe. Don't be surprised if we do is how I'll leave it."

On why he didn't go with Joe Flacco in the 2nd half against the Chargers.

JH: "I honestly thought Lamar and his style gave us the best chance to win given what the Chargers were doing with their pass rush. We considered Joe for sure, but in the end I really thought Lamar, with his speed, gave us the best chance to offset what the Chargers were doing defensively."

On the post-Super Bowl midfield handshake with his brother, Jim, after the Ravens defeated the 49'ers, 34-31, to win Super Bowl 47.

JH: "As happy as I was that we won, there was a big part of me that was hurting for Jim. I mean, come on, he's my little brother. So we get out to midfield and I'm going to give him a hug and say 'Love ya, bro' and just as we shake hands, Jim sort of elbows me away in the same motion. I lean in to say something and he says, 'There'll be no hug' and that was that."

On what happened in the aftermath of the heartbreaking loss to the Patriots in the AFC title game in 2012.

JH: "I said a few things afterwards, told them to keep their heads up, not to be any less proud of their effort than had they won, and suddenly Ray (Lewis) says, 'Coach, I need to say something.' So when Ray says that, you give him the floor. Ray stands up at the head of the room and says, 'God never makes a mistake. Don't ever forget that. God never makes a mistake. We're here right now hurting like this because God has other plans for us.' And wouldn't you know it, we went right back there the following year and beat them."

On last season's final home game against Cleveland.

JH: "It truly was God's plan to have us right back in that last game, at home, with our playoff spot at stake. The year before against the Bengals, it felt like we were all cut in half by that loss. Just absolutely cut in half. So, here we go against the Browns, it's 26-24 and they get the ball back with 2 minutes to go. I know what everyone is thinking at that moment, 'Can this possibly be happening to us again?' So, they get a great catch from Perriman but it gets reviewed. What happens? They rule it a catch. A few plays later, Landry catches the ball but it hits the ground. They say it's incomplete. Another review. They change it. It's a catch. I'm standing there thinking, 'I can't believe this is happening again.' Now, they get the ball on our 40 and it's 1st and 10. I get on the headset with Wink (Martindale, defensive coordinator) and say, 'Wink, are you there?' and he says right away, 'I know, John, I know. Four straight all-out blitz packages. Here we go.' And we blitzed them four straight downs and somehow got a stop and won the game."

On watching the NFC title game with Bill Belichick in 2013.

JH: "So, we're on the field getting ready for the championship game and Bill wanders over, like he always does. He says, 'John, I really, really like your team.' He always that to me. We're standing there watching the end of the 49'ers/Falcons game. One of us in Foxboro is playing the winner, obviously. It comes down to the final series, the Falcons are driving, and it seems like Atlanta is about to win. Suddenly, the 49'ers get that stop they need and they win. They're running around celebrating and Bill looks at me and says, 'Looks like your brother's going to the Super Bowl.' and with that, he walks away. I mean, I knew my brother was going to the Super Bowl. I just watched it on the big screen with you. But did you have to remind me? And it was right then I realized, 'Hey, we absolutely have to win today. There's no way I can let my brother go to the Super Bowl without me."

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caps starting to roll (again) at right time

Don't look now, but so far this 2018-2019 NHL season is almost a mirror image of last season for the Washington. The Caps sure hope it ends just like it did last year, too, when they beat Las Vegas in five games to win the Stanley Cup.

But there's a long way to go before that happens.

The Caps just went up to New York and took four points in 72 hours from the Islanders (Friday, 3-1) and Rangers (Sunday, 3-2). Coupled with some ragged play from the Islanders of late, the Caps have erased a five point deficit in the Metropolitan Division and now lead Barry Trotz's team by two points with 16 regular season games remaining. Washington has played one more game than have the Islanders, it should be noted.

Can Washington roar through March and position themselves as a potential Cup favorite this spring? They sure can. Here are five keys for the Capitals between now and mid-April when the playoffs start.

Keep Holtby fresh -- A lot of folks forget that Philip Grubauer, not Braden Holtby, was the starting netminder for the Capitals at the start of last spring's playoffs. But after losing two home games to Columbus, Grubauer hit the bench and Holtby returned to his starting spot. Grubauer didn't pay another game in the post-season.

The Caps have received some excellent play from back-up Phoenix Copley this season, and it will be Copley's ability to handle at least six of the final sixteen regular season games that could make a difference for the Caps come playoff time. A rested Braden Holtby will be very valuable to the Capitals in April and May.

Tighten up the defense -- The Capitals made a very sneaky, solid trade at the deadline last week when they acquired blueliner Nick Jensen from the Detroit Red Wings. Jensen was very good in both wins in New York over the weekend and will help the Caps ailing penalty killing unit as well. With both Brooks Orpik and Dmitry Orlov having less than stellar years thus far, Jensen's arrival and steady play could be huge for the Caps in the post-season.

Could Lars Eller step up and have a big post-season in 2019?

Who is this year's DSP? -- Devante Smith-Pelly scored just 7 goals in 75 games of the 2017-2018 regular season. He then scored 7 goals in 24 playoff games a year ago, including a huge third period goal in the Game 5 Cup clincher in Las Vegas. This season, though, Smith-Pelly fell on hard times, with just four goals in 54 games before being released two weeks ago. Someone has to step in and be the surprise playoff scorer this season. Who will it be? Andre Burakovsky has suffered through a miserable campaign to date, with just nine goals thus far. Could he break out in April, May and June? After scoring 18 goals last season, Lars Eller has tallied just eight times so far in 2018-2019. Could he be the playoff hero again this season?

Keep the big guns healthy -- The Caps miraculously withstood a significant playoff injury to Nicklas Backstrom last May and were able to beat the Blue Jackets and Penguins without him. One has to wonder if the Capitals could do the same this time around if Ovechkin, Kuznetsov or Backstrom were unavailable for a series or two? The answer is probably "no". For the Caps to win, those three have to be healthy in the spring. Ovechkin has had a remarkable season, Kuznetsov has been hot and cold and Backstrom still has the ability to dominate a period with his crafty stickwork and sublime passing skills. But come playoff time, you'd rather have those three than not.

Avoid Tampa Bay if possible -- It's likely inevitable that the Caps will have to face the Tampa Bay Lightning at some point if they want to get out of the Eastern Division again, but the longer you can put off meeting the Lightning, the better. They are going to be the runaway winner of the President's Trophy and could wind up near the 125 point plateau. They will be the team to beat come playoff time.


March 4
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there's still no place better than the garden

I'm blessed to say I've been in virtually every significant sports arena or venue in the country. And as I was reminded again yesterday, there's nothing that can top Madison Square Garden.

Fenway Park? It's awesome. Boston loves their baseball.

Wrigley Field? Amazing. No other word can describe the scene three hours before and three hours after a Cubs game.

Old Chicago Stadium, where the Blackhawks and Bulls once played? I was there many times in the soccer business. What a building that was.

I've been to most of the great college arenas as well, including Cameron Indoor (although I didn't actually see a game there), The Palestra, Hinkle Fieldhouse and others. Those are really cool, more because of their tradition than anything else.

Oscar winner Rami Malek was in the house yesterday watching the Rangers and Capitals at the Garden.

Baseball wise, I've seen the newer stadiums in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit and New York (Yankees, not Mets). For my money, still, the best place to watch a baseball game -- just one, if you could pick the venue -- is Chavez Ravine out in Los Angeles. Been there, too. That place is really cool.

Obviously, I've been in Camden Yards hundreds of times. Great stadium, no doubt. But it doesn't rank anywhere near my Top 5 list of places I've been, sports wise.

Madison Square Garden is still number one. It didn't even matter that the Caps won yesterday, either, beating the New York Rangers 3-2. Nice win and all, but my opinion on MSG as a venue always remains unchanged no matter I actually go there to see.

Maybe it's because their team stinks this season or perhaps New Yorkers are a tad more soft on a lazy March weekend, but people were actually nice up there yesterday. Not just in the arena, mind you, but everywhere. On the train, in restaurants, at the arena, etc. It was weird. "What happened to the New York I knew," I asked myself a couple of times after someone held open a door for me, ushered me in front of them at the coffee shop because they didn't have their phone ready for the scan code, and so on. It was.........weird.

Inside the Garden, you know what I found? It was normal. An amazing corn beef sandwich was $15.00. And yes, I mean, it was amazing. It wasn't ballpark food. It came from a real deli set up in the Garden with sandwiches galore. And it was $15.00. That's Nashville pricing, not New York pricing.

There was a chinese restaurant on the concourse. Not a place where the food is kind of pre-made and they dip it out buffet style. It was real chinese. Made to order. It helped if you use the convenient MSG app, of course. That way you order it from your seat and go pick it up whenever you want. What a country, right? Maybe we are making it great again, after all.

If you've never been to the Garden, here's what's really interesting. The building is actually upstairs. It's above ground, I mean. The (Penn) train station is directly underneath the arena. You get out of Penn Station and actually go up several escalators to get to the arena's main entrance. Then you take several more escalators to get to the lower concourse. It's not weird until you think about it.

You're actually three or four floors above the ground watching these hockey players skate around on ice. The more beer you have (I had none), the more it probably works on your mind.

Nothing beats Madison Square Garden.

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yesterday, today and tomorrow

This Week’s Subject: 3-pointers


In 1986, 1987 and 1988, Larry Bird won the first three “long distance shootouts” during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend.

Bird, famously a trash-talker during the normal course of play, took the same attitude to these made-for-television exhibition contests.

Before the first one, in Dallas in 1986, he walked into the locker room and asked “which one of you guys is going to finish second?” In 1988 at the old Chicago Stadium, Bird took his final shot with the red, white and blue “money ball” and walked away with his finger raised while the ball was in the air, as if he knew it was going in the second it left his hand.

Larry Bird elevated the Celtics to new heights with his shooting and scoring prowess.

In retrospect, there was a reason the three-point contest was so cool, besides the fact that Bird made it that way. Nobody really shot many three-pointers during actual basketball games. It was a novelty.

In 1986, Bird led the league with 82 three-pointers. The following year, he again led the league with 90. He never had more than 237 three-point attempts in a single season. Less than 10 percent of his career field-goal attempts came from behind the arc.

He was a six-foot-nine power forward, a Hall of Fame player with the kind of preternatural basketball genius that people still talk about nearly 30 years after he retired. Why would he spend any time concentrating on becoming a better shooter from 23 feet away from the basket?

Egged on by teammate Danny Ainge, and the fact that the winner’s check would be $10,000, Bird prepared for that first contest for weeks by shooting hundreds of shots after practice from the usual five spots behind the arc. If he hadn’t been chosen for the contest, he wouldn’t have done that.

“As soon as I heard Larry could win $10,000 in one day for shooting three-pointers, I knew it was over,” teammate Kevin McHale said at the time.

Many of the other players who participated and did well in the early three-point contests were smaller guards, and sometimes even role players, such as journeyman Craig Hodges. Their whole purpose for being on rosters was to shoot long-distance shots, yet the number they took was still incredibly paltry. In Hodges’ best year in the NBA, he took a grand total of 135 three-point shots.

And don’t forget…college basketball went to the three-pointer full time in 1986-87. Indiana won the national championship that season…and they took around seven three-point shots per game, six of which came from one player, Steve Alford.


I bring this up because I happened to be watching a high school boys’ basketball game the other day, the Baltimore Catholic League semifinal between St. Maria Goretti and Mount St. Joseph. These were two excellent teams, each featuring NCAA Division I prospects.

At one point, Goretti had a fast break opportunity, a three-on-two situation. The point guard quickly dribbled the ball to the foul line…when not one but both of his teammates sprinted toward opposite corners to “spot up” for a three-pointer.

There wasn’t a thought for either of them to crash the basket, either to score or maybe rebound a missed layup. If Goretti was going to get a layup, it would have to come from the point guard forgetting his teammates and getting to the basket himself.

The players on the court during that game were all born in the 21st century, by which time the three-pointer, especially in college basketball, had become the most important shot in the game. They’d come of age in a basketball sense in an era when certain teams rely almost exclusively on the three-pointer to be competitive.

So I’m not sure why I was so surprised by Goretti’s fast break; maybe it’s because I rarely watch high school games, especially between teams of this caliber. And I’m not looking to go backwards, because you don’t have to be a mathematical genius to understand the advantages of efficient three-point shooting.

Just the next night, actually, on the same court, Loyola beat Lehigh 92-73. The Greyhounds made 12 of their 16 attempts from three-point range (75%), the second-best percentage for a game in all of Division I this season. That does a good job of explaining how a team fighting for last place in the conference routs a team that entered the day tied for first place.

The issue, I think, is what has been lost by the emphasis on three-point shooting, even by players that aren’t particularly great at it.

The point of “running an offense” is to get a high-percentage shot. Rightly, I think, coaches and players have realized that an open three-point shot by a capable shooter is a better shot than a contested mid-range shot, even if that’s coming from a great player.

What I would say, however, is that teams don’t spend enough time figuring out how to get open layups, shots that good players will make nearly 100% of the time. Indoctrinating that into young players isn’t nearly as exciting as telling them they get to play like Steph Curry.


Since we seem to have already reached the post-modern era of the three-pointer, where is it going, exactly?

Back in 2016, the Harlem Globetrotters introduced basketball’s first four-point line. The line is 30 feet away from the basket, more than six feet behind the current NBA three-point line. For several years before, the Globetrotters had several four-point circles at a similar distance as a novelty.

I get it…the entire existence of the Globetrotters is a novelty. Still, do you know who it was who made the slam dunk popular? How about the alley-oop? I’m guessing the Globetrotters started jacking three-pointers in a big way before it ever became strategy in the NBA.

What once was showmanship can become part of the game in a short period of time. Oh, and go look at YouTube clips of Steph Curry and try to approximate the number of shots he takes that might qualify for four-point territory.

The four-point line idea, at the very least, brings up the question of whether the three-point line should be moved back from its current distances.

In the NBA, the distance is 23 feet, nine inches except in the corners, where it shortens to 22 feet because a continuous arc wouldn’t fit on the court (see: geometry). In order for a player to stand inbounds near the corner and be able to shoot a three-pointer, that area couldn’t be moved back.

I’ve seen some calls to eliminate that part of the line, so that there would be no shorter three-point attempt, and lesser shooters couldn’t become great ones because of the shorter shot that still counts as three points.

The NCAA line currently stands at 20 feet, nine inches, and should be moved back immediately to at least a 22-foot arc. The current distance has been in play since 2008 for men’s basketball, and 2011 for women’s basketball, and it’s time now to make adjustments because of the continuous improvement and emphasis on three-point shooting by college teams.

In the high school game I watched the other day, most of the three-pointers taken were from behind the college line, and not just the high school line of 19 feet, nine inches. So I see no reason not to move high school rules back to the current college distance.

As for the four-pointer, there is a certain level of integrity to the game. Comebacks are fun, and the three-point shot often gives lesser teams a chance. I wonder how much more could be wrung out of the game Globetrotter-style before it starts to look like an actual Globetrotters game.


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the terps spotlight

DALE WILLIAMS returns for his fourth season of covering all things Maryland men's basketball for #DMD. Terps Spotlight will preview and review all games in the 2018-19 season.

michigan knocks off maryland, 69-62

For 31 minutes and 39 seconds, yesterday’s tussle between the Maryland Terrapins and Michigan Wolverines was a great game.

It turned into a real dogfight between two teams hungry for a win.

The Terps were clinging to a slight 43-41 lead before Michigan’s poise and talent rose to the next level while Maryland was unable to respond in kind. The Wolverines then scored 28 points during the game’s last 9:11, and beat Maryland 69-62 in front of a sold-out crowd, some flash mobbing students, and the thrilling halftime entertainment of the Red Panda.

To put the late Michigan scoring blitz into proper perspective, 28 points in the last 9:11 equates to about 62 points in a half. That’s a ton of points to surrender. You can’t win games giving up those kinds of numbers in crunch time.

Michigan scored in every way possible during that deciding run. They had hit only 2 of 16 threes until the final 9:11, but hit 4 of 4 down the stretch. They scored on driving hook shots and opposite hand floaters. They snuck past sleeping defenders for easy layups and made every free throw. Despite Maryland scoring on 5 consecutive possessions, the Terps couldn’t make up ground because they had no defensive answers for the Wolverine onslaught.

Anthony Cowan picked a bad time to have a bad game, as the Maryland guard was vastly outplayed on Sunday in the Terps' 7 point loss to Michigan.

From an individual perspective, every Terp got outplayed by their respective opponent yesterday.

Bruno Fernando struggled to score against Michigan’s 7’1” Jon Teske. Teske’s size forced Fernando to alter many of his shot attempts. Fernando’s inability to go to his left hand leaves a gaping hole in his offensive repertoire and makes it much easier to defend him.

For the game, Fernando was just 5 of 13 from the field and could rarely convert when working one-on-one against Teske. Teske also shot 5 for 13, but one of those baskets was a triple during the decisive 28-point Michigan explosion. Teske also committed zero turnovers, while Bruno had 3. Despite Fernando’s 6 blocked shots, he got outplayed.

I keep saying, and I believe this whole-heartedly, you can’t win big college hoop games against quality teams without solid guard play, especially from your point. Anthony Cowan vs. Zavier Simpson was Mike Tyson vs Marvis Frazier. Simpson was 6 for 7 from the field and had 10 assists and only 2 turnovers. Cowan was 4-15 from the field, 1-7 from the three-point line, and his assist to turnover ratio was a nasty 1-4.

Most of Cowan’s offensive production was accomplished during desperation time and when it really mattered, he couldn’t deliver. Cowan was only 1 for 11 shooting until several late game baskets. Meanwhile, Simpson was making his high arching 3 o’clock hook shot look as easy as a layup. I’m guessing he hit 5 of those YMCA pick-up game looking shots. To be fair to Cowan, some of those hooks were defended by Eric Ayala. But when Cowan wasn’t guarding Simpson, he was guarding Jordan Poole. Poole beat him, too.

The 2 guard was another position where Michigan bettered Maryland. Jordan Poole is a great defender at the 2 with his 6’5” length and his athleticism. He was too big for Cowan and too fast for Ayala. He didn’t have a great shooting game, but he was far more impactful with his defense, coming up with 2 steals. Maryland as a team, had just one steal, by Fernando. The Terp guards continue to fail at forcing turnovers and getting steals. Ayala’s inability to get steals is alarming. Poole was better than Ayala on Sunday.

At the 3, or small forward spot, Darryl Morsell gave up several inches to Ignas Brazdeikis, and the freshman Brazdeikis took full advantage of it. Morsell’s offensive game was decent, scoring 10 points on 4-8 shooting, but his defensive assignment tossed in 21 points and grabbed 7 rebounds including 3 off the offensive glass. It was a big mismatch in Michigan’s favor. Brazdeikis had 9 of his 13 second half points during the last 5:20 of the game. That included a three pointer after which he taunted the Terp student section.

Isaiah Livers played Jalen Smith to a standstill, but his 3 second half three-pointers were big for the Wolverines. Two of those came during the decisive last 9 minutes, and the one he hit with the shot clock running down and 54 seconds left in the game was a crowd silencer. Maryland had cut the Michigan lead to 5, and Livers made it 8 again. Dagger time.

The Terps started out the game shooting threes, and hitting their first 2 right away. 4 of the first 5 Maryland shots were from long range, but the three-point production dried up quickly. After connecting on their first 2 triples, the Terps would miss all 5 of their remaining three-pointers in the half.

Maryland did some solid work in the paint while building a six-point first half lead, 22 to 16, with 7 minutes and 11 seconds left in opening 20 minutes. Michigan helped the Terps pull ahead by shooting woefully from the field. For the half, the Wolverines would hit just 10 of 29 shots, including 1 of 11 threes.

The 22-16 lead would slowly dwindle though, and finally evaporate completely as Maryland began taking bad shots. Morsell, Cowan, and Wiggins all took tough off-balance runners that never had a chance to go in. In between, Ricky Lindo shot an air-ball 3 and Fernando added a turnover when he was double teamed.

Michigan capitalized off the Terp offensive futilities by going on a 12-2 to run to finish the half. Much of the scoring came from Jon Teske dunks and layups. Maryland couldn’t stop the big center from scoring on the same pick-and-roll move over and over again.

Michigan’s 28-24 halftime lead was also helped by their 7-0 advantage in foul shooting. They made 7 of 8 while the Terps Ricky Lindo missed Maryland’s only try from the foul line. The Wolverines also benefited from grabbing 9 first half offensive rebounds.

Maryland took a brief lead in the second half when Jalen Smith hit three quick baskets in the paint that were wrapped around an Ayala three pointer. To finish off the Terp mini-run, Fernando made a jumper and Maryland found themselves ahead 43-41 with 11:23 left.

This is when Michigan began to score at a rapid rate...and Maryland went cold. The Terps would miss their next seven shots, and Smith would miss 2 free throws. Michigan built a lead that reached 9 points. Game over.

With Michigan having the defensive ability to limit the two top Terp scorers, Cowan and Fernando, Maryland had to fight hard just to stay in the game. They hung for a while, but when the 1 for 11 first half Michigan three-point shooting reversed course and turned into a 5-9 second half, Maryland couldn’t keep up.

Michigan had better size and better athletes than Maryland at every position. Several of the Michigan starters were a part of last year’s Big Ten tournament winner and were participants in the 2018 NCAA title game, where they got smoked by Villanova courtesy of Donte DiVincenzo’s 31 points. This is a confident team, with quality players and they are poised to make another deep run in both the NCAA and Big Ten tournament this year.

This was a game in which I thought the Terps might be able to squeeze out a win. In the end, Teske was able to keep Fernando from dominating inside and Cowan struggled mightily, again. You can’t beat the 9th ranked team when your two “stars” get shut down.

Maryland wraps up their regular season play on Friday when they take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the XFINITY Center at 7pm. It will be senior night for Andrew Terrell and Ivan Bender.

Before they head to College Park, Minnesota has a date with Purdue on Tuesday and needs to win at least one of their next two games, plus a game or two in the Big Ten Tournament if they hope to nab an at-large bid to the big dance.

Maryland can still finish fourth in the Big Ten, and get a double bye in the conference tournament, if they beat Minnesota and Wisconsin loses either a home game to Iowa, or a road contest at Ohio State.

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this weekend in
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John Pusateri

weekend college lacrosse review

#17 Notre Dame 14 - #2 Maryland 13 OT - Great back and forth game held inside at Notre Dame's practice facility due to the extreme cold. The game featured several runs and momentum swings including a late Terp comeback to put the game into OT, when Logan Wisnauskas dished one to Anthony DeMaio to tie the game with just 16 seconds left.

However, on the last face-off, Terp defender Nick Brozowski committed a 30-second holding penalty which carried over into overtime and gave possession to Notre Dame without having to face-off. Tough break for the Terps who dominated draws 20-10 and most likely would've started with the ball in OT.

The Irish never relented on the opening possession and eventually netted the game winner. Logan Wisnauskas (2g,3a), Jared Bernhardt (2g,2a) and Kyle Long (2g, 2a) paced Maryland's offense and Austin Heningsen was fairly dominate at face-offs winning 17 of 25 draws. Don't like making excuses, but the normally reliable Danny Dolan appeared to have some issues with the lighting inside as he only made 7 saves in this one.

#18 Johns Hopkins 14 - Princeton 12 - Solid road win for the Blue Jays who've appear to have righted the ship in moving their record to 2-2 after starting out 0-2. New faces and old contributed as Hopkins fought off a 9-7 deficit late in the 3rd by having their own 5 goal run in route to the victory over the Tigers.

Joey Epstein (2g,1a) continues to score and Cole Williams looks to be back after a 4 point performance (3g,1a). But freshman Brett Baskin's 3 goals was an expected lift as well as the effort at the face-off X from freshman Matt Nareweski (10 of 15) and Kyle Prouty (9 of 13).

Another key to the victory was a good performance by goalie Ryan Darby making 13 saves. Senior Danny Jones had a remarkable performance as a defensive middie with an astonishing 6 caused turnovers and 3 ground balls.

Loyola's Pat Spencer continued to produce a historic senior season, with 3 goals and 8 assists on Saturday in the 'Hounds win over Holy Cross.

Brown 14 - UMBC 13 OT - Tough break for the Retrievers after overcoming a 13-9 deficit in the 4th by outscoring Brown 4-0 in the quarter to push the game to extra time. UMBC's offense featured a breakout game for Bryan McIntyre with 5 goals along with 1 goal and 4 assists from Billy Nolan. Josh Jordan also recorded a hat trick a week after netting 3 goals against Mount St. Mary's.

#1 Loyola 19 - Holy Cross 15 - Figured the Greyhounds to put plenty of points on the board. But the Crusaders made this a game and cut the Loyola lead to 1 goal at 12-11 going into the 4th quarter. But 4 goals and an assist by freshman midfield Chase Scanlan helped to put Holy Cross away to give the Greyhounds their first win of the Patriot League season. Offense was lead by the charitable Pat Spencer who had 3 goals and a remarkable 8 assists, along with Scanlan (5g, 2a) and Kevin Lindley (6g,1a).

Mount St. Mary's 12 - VMI 6 - The Mount finally gets its first victory of the season against VMI. Their offense featured 6 goal scorers and were lead by Chris DiPretoro (4g,1a). Goalie Chris Furnback had a great performance in the cage with 15 saves.

Navy 14 - Bucknell 8 - The Midshipmen shake off a tough loss to the Terps last weekend by taking it out on the Bison for their first win in the Patriot League. Navy opened the game with a 6-0 run featuring multiple goals Christian Daniel (4g,3a) and Greyson Torain (2g,2a) and never looked back. In addition to Daniel and Torain, the offense also had a good day from midfielder Ryan Wade's 2 goals and 2 assists.

March 3
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sunday musings

It won't quite feel like Maryland-Duke down at College Park today, but the Michigan visit to College Park is probably as close as the Terps can come to a "significant" Big Ten regular season game.

I'll let Dale Williams handle all the heavy lifting with regard to the scouting report for Michigan and the breakdown of the Terps-Wolverines game. As always, Dale provides excellent analysis in his preview that you can find below.

I don't think it's hyperbole to say the Big Ten brand of basketball and Maryland's shift from the ACC to the Big Ten have both been less than inspiring for area basketball supporters. Maryland loves the move. I guess $42 million can do that to a school.

But what Maryland athletics really needs, somehow, are rivals. Maryland football, while in the ACC, never really had a conference rival of any kind, I don't think. I mean, there were years that Florida State was really good and they'd come in to College Park, win 55-10, and that would be that. Maryland did beat Miami one year when it mattered, in Randy Edsall's first game, but that didn't establish any sort of rivalry at all.

Maryland basketball crowds have suffered a bit this season with an uneven Big 10 schedule, but when College Park is filled to the brim, few places in the country have as much enthusiasm.

Oddly, if you asked me who Maryland's biggest football rival was back in those days, I would have said "Penn State", even though they didn't play every year and didn't play in the same conference.

And, now, who is Maryland's biggest basketball rival? The feel of it tells me it would be Michigan State, if only because they annually seem to have the best team in the conference. But Maryland and Michigan State don't play twice every year because of the Big Ten's unbalanced schedule. It's hard to establish any kind of rivalry with a school that you don't see every basketball season.

Not that the Big Ten can change its scheduling just for Maryland, but it's also incumbent upon the conference to come up with a plan to make basketball and football as relevant as they possibly can. Football, of course, has about 57 things to fix before they become relevant and they're trying to do that with the hiring of Mike Loxley, for starters.

But even with Loxley at the helm, it seems almost unreasonable to think that the Terps can ever actually compete with the likes of Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. Beat one of them every other year or so? Maybe. But consistently win the recruiting battle with those schools? Probably not.

Competitiveness aside, though, Maryland football could use a legit rival or two, just like Maryland basketball could use someone to visit College Park every year and get people's blood going. Beating Michigan State in hoops would be nice, but not nearly as nice as just knowing they're going to be on the schedule every winter.

Maryland's basketball schedule has been quirky this season, to say the least. Because the Big Ten sold its soul to TV, there have been mid-week games at 6:30 pm, Friday night games at 8:30 pm and only a sprinkling of prime, 2:00 pm Saturday games. The 7-week winter break that leaves the school empty from early December through the end of January doesn't help, either. There were several games in January where the student section was mostly empty because there weren't any kids on campus.

And while this isn't specifically a discussion about marketing and promotions, it's always fair to mention those things when discussing a team's ability to enthuse a fan base. Maryland's marketing of its sports products has always been sub-par, particularly in their outreach to Baltimore and the surrounding counties "up here". Whether they intentionally do it or the Baltimore market just becomes the forgotten friend, the University of Maryland has only occasionally paid attention to Charm City.

What Maryland really needs are a couple of home football games that matter and a couple of basketball games that become the "must have" tickets of the season.

No one expects Maryland vs. Michigan State to become Duke-North Carolina or Alabama-Auburn. But the Big Ten must figure out a way to give Maryland an annual high profile opponent. And, no, sorry, Rutgers and Penn State, in basketball at least, are not high profile.

The joke could be on all of us, though. Maryland might not really care about the empty basketball seats and the overall lack of sizzle their schedule brings every season. Like I referenced above, $42 million cures a lot of ills.

But today's game will be an interesting example of "what could be". The excitement level will be through the roof and the basketball should be competitive and fulfilling. Maybe the Maryland vs. Michigan game should be the final one on the Terps' home schedule every March. Perhaps that would be a step towards creating an interesting component to an otherwise dull and unpredictable Big Ten schedule.

Vijay Singh could do something today at the Honda Classic that hasn't been done before.

Singh could become the oldest player to ever win a regular PGA Tour event. He's 56.

It's hard enough to win on TOUR. Ask Jordan Spieth. He hasn't won since 2017. And he's a great player.

Singh sits one shot behind someone named Wyndham Clark. If you think Singh winning would be a surprise, double that when it comes to Wyndham Clark ending up in the winner's circle today.

While it's true the field is somewhat watered down at the Honda, a win for Singh would truly be "one for the ages". He last tasted victory on the PGA Tour in 2008. Why he's even playing on the "big Tour" these days is somewhat puzzling. But there he is, today, playing in the last group and owning a very legitimate shot at winning.

What it goes to show, of course, is that the golf ball and clubface have no idea how old you are. As Singh said yesterday, "I found something today that I used to feel every time I played. I just hope it's there tomorrow when we tee off." Such are the words of a man who knows the volatile nature of golf. One day you know what you're doing, the next day you don't.

While this isn't a major or anything even close to it, a victory today would provide an asterisk to an otherwise already-remarkable career. Singh has won 34 times on the PGA TOUR and by almost any account was the most dominant player on the TOUR throughout his career if you simply remove the names Woods and Mickelson.

A win today, though, would give him 35*, with one of those coming at the age of 56. If you're looking for a great story, there it is. Father Time always wins, but occasionally he oversleeps and someone sneaks in that probably shouldn't be there.

Can Vijay beat Father Time today? Don't be surprised if he does.

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dale williams aims
the terps spotlight

DALE WILLIAMS returns for his fourth season of covering all things Maryland men's basketball for #DMD. Terps Spotlight will preview and review all games in the 2018-19 season.

terps host wolverines today

From a regular season standpoint, today’s game against 9th ranked Michigan is Maryland’s home “Super Bowl”.

Virginia may have had a higher national ranking (4th) when they came into the XFINITY Center for an ACC/Big Ten Challenge game way back on November 28, but this afternoon’s sold out game has far more “buzz” and is far more important as the post season approaches.

With only a home game against Minnesota left on their schedule after tonight’s contest against the Wolverines, this is the Terps biggest home game of the year.

Both Michigan and Maryland should come into the game with plenty of motivation. For the Terps, the sting of the Penn State whipping they recently endured is still fresh in their minds.

For Michigan, yesterday’s loss by Michigan State at Indiana dropped the Spartans into a tie with Michigan at 14-4. Michigan, should they beat Maryland today and Michigan State next week, and get some help by way of a Purdue loss, could still grab the top seed in the Big Ten Tournament. Today's nationally televised game starts at 3:45 p.m.

Aaron Wiggins led Maryland with 15 points in their loss at Michigan earlier this season.

After re-watching the 65-52 loss that Michigan put on Maryland in Ann Arbor just 15 days ago, it was easy to pinpoint one area where Maryland needs to improve if they want to have any reasonable chance to hang with the Wolverines.

Maryland can compete with Michigan if they get back on defense in time to stop the easy Wolverine transition baskets. If they don’t, they’ll lose.

Turnovers are always going to be an issue with this Terp team, and they’ll have nights when shots don’t fall (especially on the road), but transition defense is mostly a result of effort and hustle. There is very little strategy involved with getting back quickly on defense, but the Terps failed mightily in that department against Michigan.

Actually, it’s a continual problem for Maryland, but the issue is magnified against Michigan because of the Wolverines strong defensive abilities. When your own points are hard to come by, you can’t expect to win if you give easy ones to your opponent.

Michigan boasts the top defense in the Big Ten and they feature solid defenders at every position. At the guard spots, Jordan Poole and Zavier Simpson are both quality athletes and they defend aggressively. Simpson is only 6’ tall, and would seem to be a natural matchup with Maryland’s Anthony Cowan, but Michigan’s coach, John Beilein, put the bigger Poole (6’5”) on Cowan and the quicker Simpson checked Maryland’s Eric Ayala.

Ayala went scoreless, missing all seven of his shots, five of which were threes. Cowan hit just 4 of 12 from the field. The matchups worked for Michigan.

Jon Teske, the 7’1” center, did a nice job on Bruno Fernando in the first half. Fernando became much more assertive with his isolation moves in the second half, and as a result went 5-6 from the field.

The battle between the two bigs should be a good one, but Teske also altered a multitude of shots from other Terps. Three Maryland shots were block by the Michigan center.

The three and four spots might see some change for Michigan, and defensively it could make them tougher. Usual Wolverine starter, Charles Mathews, is nursing an ankle injury and is listed as “doubtful” for the game today. In his place, Isaiah Livers will get the start. Livers is a full inch taller than Mathews and carries an additional 30 pounds of bulk. Livers adds size, three-point range (44%), and is someone who can guard around the paint and on the perimeter.

I expect Livers to guard Jalen Smith, leaving Ignas Brazdeikis with Daryll Morsell.

Brazdeikis might be the weakest link, defensively for the Michigan starters, but the freshman is another good athlete. He is better on the offensive end, where he leads Michigan with 14.6 points per game. He’ll be a tough offensive matchup for Morsell, and his defensive limitations might be minimized by Morsell’s limited offensive range.

I wasn’t impressed by the Michigan half court offense in their first meeting with Maryland, but their running game made up for it. Layups, dunks and open threes resulted from the Terps lackluster efforts to get back and stop the ball.

Frequently in that game at Ann Arbor, I saw Fernando skip back, and on several occasions, I witnessed Cowan putting out less than full effort. This just can’t happen again. If Maryland puts the clamps on the Michigan transition game, I trust the host's half-court offense and half-court defense to keep this game competitive.

The Terp offense must go through Fernando, and the big man from Angola needs to deliver. I don’t think the Wolverines will double Fernando, so the kick-outs and assists won’t be to frequent. Bruno needs to score.

I’d also like to see Aaron Wiggins get 30 minutes of playing time today. He logged 28 minutes against Michigan in game 1, and I’d like to see at least that in game 2. He led Maryland with 15 points in that first game, going 3-6 from the three-point line. He’s not the defender that Morsell is, but the Terps are going to need points and Wiggins is the better offensive option.

Some of the needed Maryland points will come from Eric Ayala. Ayala’s brief Terp history shows shooting highs and lows, and today will be a high. Ayala has failed to hit a 3-pointer in three of his last 4 games. The lone bright spot in that 4-game run was his 3-6 long range shooting in Maryland’s win against Iowa. Ayala will find open shots rare to come by, but he’ll shoot at a rate that’s closer to his 43% average and far from the shutout he’s had in some of his recent games.

There are some things in Maryland’s favor today. Michigan is 9-1 at home in the Big ten this year, but just 5-3 on the road. They have lost at Wisconsin, Iowa, and Penn State while losing to Michigan State at home in Ann Arbor. Maryland will be hosting a 100-year celebration today, and the gym is sold out. The crowd will be crazy.

Bruno Fernando showed me in the second half of the first game that he can score on Teske. I expect Fernando to be used early, which could eventually force double teams that open things up for other Terps.

Michigan’s half court offense doesn’t scare me, and if Maryland can focus on transition defense, then points will be scarce for Michigan.

The crowd, the adrenalin, and the loss to Penn State are enough to make me a believer in a bounce back win for Maryland today. The line is Michigan (-1.5). The final score is Maryland 68 – Michigan 65.


March 2
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why is adam jones still unemployed?

This one, I don't get.

I'm the first to realize Adam Jones is on the 15th hole of his career, but lots of big tournaments have been won on the final four holes. In other words, Jones still has time left to help a team.

How is it that he's still unemployed?

This isn't a beg session for the Orioles to bring him back. Jones doesn't fit into the plan of Mike Elias, I'm sure. And I have no idea if #10 would even sign up for two or three years of intentional losing, all the while not even occupying a full time spot.

Who needs Adam Jones when you have Joey Rickard, right?

It will be strange not to see Adam Jones running out to centerfield at Camden Yards in 2019.

But how is that every other team in major league baseball is so set with their outfield configuration that Jones can't get a job? All 29 other teams have three better outfielders than Jones? Four better, even?

Sorry, I'm not buying it. And while I'm not statistically inclined enough to sift through all the numbers and data and launch angles and exit velocity and defensive coverage and all that other garbage that aids in overvaluing players, I know this about Jones.

You'll never go wrong having him on your side.

Someone is missing out by not signing Adam Jones.

There are certain things in an athlete's makeup that are just sort of part of their DNA. Their raw ability is one, for sure. Their work ethic and desire to improve is another. Jones doesn't really need to put those things on display any longer. Everyone knows he's a good player.

But the thing Jones has that others might not is his basic dedication to being a professional. As odd as that might seem, that's the one thing 20-something players don't always get until they round second base and reach their 4th decade. When you hit age 30, it starts to sink in.

Jones was a model professional on the field in Baltimore. His outspoken nature got him in trouble a few times, and his honesty about a situation in Boston turned into a national story, but Jones always handled those things as well as anyone would, I thought.

What Jones understood that a lot of others didn't is that showing up and working hard was at least half the battle, if not more. I suppose that's why he showed up on the lineup card every day during the bulk of his Orioles career. Buck knew he was good for it, every single game.

I'm not citing one statistic here. No batting average needed. Nothing about OBP or Wins Above Replacement or anything else. I don't need to know how much less ground he covers in the outfield now than he did, say, 4 years ago.

Adam Jones is still very much a major league baseball player. He's better than any of the outfielders the Orioles will introduce on opening day in four weeks, that's for darn sure.

And he could help some team, somewhere, I know.

Not only would any team be better with Adam Jones on it, the players in that organization would benefit, too.

Why he remains unsigned is a mystery. But then again, as we just saw with those goofy signings in Philadelphia and San Diego, a lot of baseball decisions are mysteries these days.

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this weekend in
college lacrosse

Contributed by #DMD's college lacrosse analyst
John Pusateri

weekend college lacrosse preview

The traditional start of lacrosse (March) is finally here! And there will be plenty of good games to watch. So, rather than deep dive on one particular game, let's take a brief look at each.

#3 Maryland @ #17 Notre Dame (Sunday 12pm ESPNU) - Classic historical ACC match-up and possibly the toughest match-up for the Terps this season. The Irish will probably be playing with a little bit of red rear-end factor after losing by a goal to defensive-minded Richmond last weekend.

John Tillman and Maryland face a huge ACC test on Sunday in South Bend.

Maryland has played five games to Notre Dame's two and the Terps recently beat common opponent Richmond by 1. A big problem with Notre Dame is their star attackman Ryder Garnsey was ruled academically ineligible for the season. The Irish always play tough and still have Mt St Joe star Bryan Costabile, one of the nations best midfielders. However, not sure he can pick up all the slack from Garnsey against a Terp team poised to take over the #1 ranking after current #1 Loyola lost to Towson this week. Look for the Terps to take an 11-8 victory in South Bend.

#18 Johns Hopkins @ Princeton (Saturday 12pm, Princeton NJ) - After playing 2 of the top teams in the country, the Blue Jays fought off the now #20 Tar Heels on the road, in the mud, to secure their first win of the season. The road doesn't get easier any against a Princeton team who generated 55 shots (35 on cage) against #13 Virginia. If not for an incredible 24 save effort by Virginia goalie Patrick Burkinshaw, the Tigers probably wouldn't have lost in OT.

Hopkins should be playing with some confidence now and attackman Joey Epstein appears to have taken over as the offensive leader of the Blue Jays. But is Hopkins goalie Ryan Darby capable of a similar performance against the onslaught of shots that could be unleashed by Princeton when he has yet to save 50% of the shots on cage in a game? Until he's done it, chance are not likely. Given this, I think the Blue Jays will come up short in a 13-11 defeat to the Tigers.

UMBC vs Brown (Saturday 12pm, Catonsville MD) - The Retrievers are looking for win #2 after fighting off a game Mount St. Mary's team who plays everyone tough. Very interesting match-up with Brown who just lost to fellow America East Conference team Stony Brook. The Seawolves are one of the best teams in the conference this year, so this should be an interesting barometer as to where UMBC stands in the league.

A big problem with both teams is their faceoff units are well below 50%. However, Brown is a little more consistent and has had better goalie play. I think UMBC is improving, but feel Brown will take them in a tight game, 11-9.

#1 Loyola vs Holy Cross (Saturday 1pm, Baltimore MD) - The top ranked Greyhounds open Patriot League play against the Crusaders, who just knocked off Ivy League stalwart Harvard for one of their bigger wins historically. Holy Cross is improved this season. But given the sting of the Greyhounds defeat to Towson on Wednesday, I'll borrow Mr. T's prediction of his fight in Rocky 3 in regards to the rematch with the Italian Stallion for the Crusaders...."pain". Loyola "a whole lot" - Holy Cross "a little".

Mount St. Mary's @ VMI (Saturday 3:30pm, Lexington VA) - The Mount is looking for its first victory after 4 games against tough competition, including #7 Towson and #19 Georgetown. However, former Navy standout Jon Birsner has the Cadets off to a hot start at 2-0. Mount St Mary's needs to clean-up their 20+ turnovers per game against a VMI team averaging 15.5 caused turnovers per game. However, that number was against lesser competition. So, I think the Mount will do so and earn their first win of the season 12-10.


March 1
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next up, mike trout gets $50 million per-season

Don't laugh. I might not be that far off.

By the time Mike Trout hits free agency in the winter of 2020, he might very well be asking for $50 million annually.

Now, as we saw with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, "wanting" a massive, wildly out-of-proportion contract is one thing. Getting it is another.

Harper, as you know by now, was forced to "settle" for a paltry $330 million after his four-month scavenger hunt for a team dumb enough to pay him $400 million came up with $70 million short.

I hope he can overcome his disappointment in time to hit .259 for the Phillies this season.

Trout will be an interesting case because his free agency period may very well dovetail perfectly with the next series of CBA discussions between the owners and the player's association. There are already rumors circulating about a strike in 2021.

10 years, $500 million? Maybe. If he's willing to settle for that.

Here's your double standard of the day. No baseball player is worth $35 million a year. The only reason players get it now is because the owners cave in year after year after year. But that's neither here nor there, because $35 million is what they get and that's that. But if any current player ever was worth $35 million, it would be Trout. That said, he's not getting $35 million next time around. He'll ask for $50 million for starters.

$50 million. To play baseball. For one year.

And somewhere, a Harvard grad with a computer will produce a series of abstract statistics that shows Trout is worth...yep....$50 million a year.

Harper's signing in Philadelphia brings to an end a four-month odyssey for both the former Nationals star and our own erstwhile occasional star, Manny Machado. It became funny -- to me, anyway -- to know those two were out there twisting in the wind, outraged at the fact that they couldn't rake in the $400 million they and their agents thought should be coming to them.

I'll admit I have a somewhat odd sense of humor. For instance, other than a funny seven minute cameo at the end of Wedding Crashers, I've never laughed at anything Will Ferrell has done. Some folks think he's hilarious. I think he's actually "un-funny". It's forced, over the top and, well, just kind of stupid to me. But I'm in the minority on that one. Ferrell's made a gazillion dollars with his brand of humor.

So, when I say I think it's funny that Harper and Machado had to sweat it out this winter, I understand that's probably an opinion not shared by many.

But it warmed my heart to know they were sitting in a restaurant somewhere in mid-January, dividing up the $550 dinner bill with the other three guys they were with because, well, "I don't have a contract yet, bro..."

You could hear it this week in Machado's words when he spoke for the first time as a member of the Padres. "The Orioles didn't show me a little bit of love," he said. Awwwwww, poor Manny. It's such a shame he couldn't live on that $16 million of "love" the Orioles gave him in 2018.

Strangely, Machado singled out the Dodgers for showing him love, trading away all those prospects to get him last July. I thought it was funny that Manny conveniently forgot the Dodgers didn't want him in the off-season.

Machado was really just looking for respect. He uses money as a way of validating his importance. He probably got that trait from his buddy Alex Rodriguez, who no doubt looked at himself the same way back in the days of his free agency tours. In Manny's wacky mind, he couldn't possibly have been "disrespected" to the tune, say, of $285 million. It had to be $300 million and not a penny less.

Harper might be cut from the same cloth. I didn't follow him or the Nationals enough to know much about him, but I'd occasionally see a headline about Harper drawing someone's ire in the dugout. Didn't Jonathan Papelbon take a swing at him once because Harper was jaking it on the basepaths? Sounds about right. The Orioles got so accustomed to Manny half-assing it they eventually just stopped caring.

In the end, Harper and Manny won. They got their money, the respect they craved, and they upped the salary bar for the next guy to come along.

Manny gets the better victory, to me, because he's going to a place where no one will put any pressure on him to perform. He can play for the next 10 years out in San Diego and no one will notice. Harper, meanwhile, goes right into the lion's den in Philadelphia. They'll be thrilled to see him on opening day, but if he's hitting .204 in late April and strikes out with the tying run at third in the bottom of the ninth, he'll get blasted.

And ultimately, baseball loses. Two players with good statistics who have never won anything in their lives just backed up two Brinks trucks and lugged away $300 million-plus in guaranteed money. If they hit .250, they still get the money. If they hit 18 home runs, they still get the money. If they make 18 errors, they still get the money.

No matter how they perform in the next decade or more, those two guys get paid. It's hard to blame them, though. Baseball and the owners have done this to themselves.

Maybe the 2020 theme should be this: Make Baseball Great Again

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from the desk of
brien jackson

BRIEN JACKSON's work at #DMD promises to provide some of Baltimore's best sports insight and commentary, brought to you by SECU, the official credit-union of Drew's Morning Dish. Brien has done sports-media work with ESPN, CBS, and NPR. His contributions to #DMD will focus on the Orioles, the Ravens, and national sports stories.

Maybe one day the specter of Manny Machado won't hang over the Orioles any longer, but today is not that day.

Earlier this week, the former O's star ruffled some feathers in Birdland with an almost throwaway remark concerning his departure from the team. "The Dodgers last year, they showed me some love," Machado told Sports Illustrated. "The Orioles drafted me. I did a lot for that community, I did a lot for that state, and they didn't show me a little bit of love. It is what it is. But going over to L.A., L.A. giving up a lot of prospects for me, that kind of shows you what I meant to them."

Now in context it's clear that Machado is talking about the Orioles never making him a serious contract extension offer, which by most accounts is true. If the Orioles ever did make a formal long term contract offer, it was for nowhere near the $300 million he just got guaranteed by the Padres. For years it's been clear that the Orioles had no plans whatsoever to so much as try to keep Machado in town beyond 2018.

Still, the comments made a lot of people in Baltimore mad, which I suppose is understandable. No one likes to take shade from the star who just left town, least of all when it comes across as though it might be being directed at a fanbase that certainly never wronged Machado.

What I take away from this however is that professional athletes, and professional athletics, is just...weird. Or maybe to be more precise, the difference between what fans perceive it as and reality is a whole lot larger than we think.

Take the football soap opera in Pittsburgh. For all of the drama surrounding Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, the underlying issue is a situation that thousands of workers deal with every day.

With Bell, he wanted a particular compensation package from his employer, and the two sides couldn't come to an agreement, so he decided he wants to go elsewhere.

"I always hoped I'd wind up in San Diego. I've been dreaming about this day since I was a little boy in Miami." (He didn't really say that...)

With Brown, he can't take his manager (Tomlin) or a particularly insufferable coworker who nonetheless has management's favor and he's decided that he doesn't want to work with them anymore. It's really pretty straight forward stuff, but what makes it so weird is that they're not allowed to just put in notice and go work for another company the way you or I can.

And heck, in Bell's case that's true even though he wasn't even under contract!

Machado's case seems weirdly different, but not so much at the same time. I think it's clear that, first and foremost, Machado has viewed the last year or so as a sort of affirmation of himself, which is sad on some level. The guy is a supremely talented baseball player, one of the 20 best in the whole world at least, and it seems like he needed this offseason to validate himself in his own mind.

A few reporters have said that Machado was genuinely hurt when the Orioles traded him, which just seems bizarre on the face of it. The Orioles were terrible and he was an impending free agent. Of course they traded him! Shouldn't he understand that? Because he's not an abstraction who exists in our internet comment sections or a character who lives in our television. He's a person. A very well paid person, sure, but still just a person.

He's a supremely talented athlete, yes, but Manny didn't just wake up that way one morning. Lord only knows how many hours of practice and workouts and disciplined eating habits that the other 99.9% of us could never follow through with it took Manny Machado to get to the point of signing a $300 million contract.

Of course he wants to feel affirmation for all of that work and accomplishment. All of us want that. And honestly, it seems that on some level Manny genuinely wanted to be a career Oriole, and have the team build around him for the next decade.

He wasn't going to sacrifice nine figures worth of income for it, understandably, but given his druthers I think he would rather be making $300 million in Baltimore than in San Diego (insert joke here). Like he said, the Orioles drafted him, and then pretty much immediately began proceeding from the premise that he'd be gone after 2018. That has to sting a little bit.

And the truth of the matter is that the Orioles very much should be paying him $300 million over the next decade, and they'd be in markedly better shape if they were. Yes I know that's going to strike most of you as a real howler, and I know there's plenty of anti-Machado sentiment here. But consider this: Between Chris Davis (161 million), Alex Cobb ($57 million), J.J. Hardy ($40 million), Marc Trumbo ($37.5 million), Darren O'Day ($31 million), and Andrew Cashner ($16 million) the Orioles have committed a whopping $342.5 million, all going to veteran players who were bad bets when the contract was signed.

And since the terms of these deals don't include Chris Davis' 2015 season or Trumbo's 2016 campaign, the total value the Orioles have gotten from $42.5 million than Machado is guaranteed over the next year is barely more than nothing.

O'Day and Davis were good, but hardly irreplaceable, in 2016 and that is the sum total of return the Orioles got on this investment. You could swap all of these guys for Machado's contract and not only would the Orioles get more onfield production for it, they'd save enough money to nab two or three additional free agents in the current market.

This isn't strictly hindsight either, all of those players had obvious red flags when they were signed, and the moves garnered plenty of criticism. The one you might exclude is the Cashner deal, simply because it doesn't guarantee that much money, but that still leaves you easily north of $300 million in completely wasted money.

Whether you love Manny or hate him, the simple fact is that this was a disastrous team building plan and deserves to go down as an all-time boneheaded mistake by a professional sports franchise.

The Orioles decided somewhere in 2015 that they just weren't going to pretend to keep Machado long term, and the result of that decision was a strategy to pour everything into the years prior to 2019 in the desperate hope that they'd find a World Series title along the way. That meant handing out contracts to available veterans, particularly the ones that were already here....and it was a total disaster.

The end result was a 115 loss season in a season in which they signed two free agent starting pitchers in hopes of competing for the playoffs, a roster in ruins and a 2019 team with a real chance at being historically bad, and a massive rebuilding challenge that, quite frankly, might take a decade or more to come to fruition.

It would be an oversimplification to say that deciding the above group of nothings was worth paying nearly 15% more than Machado will make on his megadeal is the reason that the Orioles are in their current mess, but not much of one.


drew vs. george pga tour contest

Well, this is getting out of hand.

After Dustin Johnson's win last week (my second victory of the season, but who's counting?), I've opened up a 380-206 lead over my buddy George. He got a major assist from Justin Thomas last Sunday, after J.T. fired a final round 63 that brought him all the way up to 8th place. If not for that, it would have been a blowout.

Can Sergio Garcia win at the Honda this week?

Things aren't starting off great for George this week, either. My pick for the week, Sergio Garcia, shot 3-under yesterday in the first round of the Honda Classic. George's man, Emiliano Grillo, posted a 1-over par round on Thursday.

Truth? I'm kind of pulling for Grillo this week. As it stands now, this match between George and I might be over by the 13th hole. And I've always liked the pineapple-vodka drink they make at the snack bar next to the 15th tee. I'd hate to miss it because I closed George out on the 14th green.

I have Tiger Woods already selected for next week's Arnold Palmer Invitational, but I'm toying with the idea of going with Rickie Fowler instead. Can you imagine if I closed George out by having Fowler apply the hammer?

No....I better stick with Woods. Using Fowler at this stage is like running up the score. And I'd never do that.

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