Author Dave Ungrady discusses his new book about Len Bias
In advance of Maryland's matchup Sunday evening against Oregon State, I had a conversation with Greg Crawford, NCAA Insider at CSN Northwest and CSNNW.com. We touched on college basketball politics, how these two teams match up, and more. Read it all below.
MARTIN: It's kind of interesting that both Oregon State football and now Oregon State basketball suffered season-opening losses that they'd rather forget. How does Craig Robinson's team bounce back from something like that especially considering the expectations for him and this team in 2013?
CRAWFORD: I think expectations for Oregon State this year are low by most accounts. That to me would be a mistake. They literally are going to have to take games one at a time.
Maryland is a huge test, but this might be a Beaver team that loses to teams they should beat and surprises teams they should lose too. In the end, I think the Beavers are at least a 20 win team this year.
CRAWFORD: But even though there’s the possibility that they win 20 games, the Pac-12 really gets very little respect in basketball. What is the buzz around playing Oregon State?
MARTIN: The biggest buzz, obviously, is the news of President Obama and the First Family being in attendance on Sunday evening. I'm not sure how many tickets the Terrapins sold prior to the rumors becoming official on Friday, but I'd expect that number to rise by tip-off on Sunday. Security will be higher, but it should be a unique experience.
CRAWFORD: Robinson might have the presidential ties, but Coach Turgeon still has many friends on the west coast that he made in Oregon, when he was an assistant coach at Oregon. How has he been received at Maryland?
MARTIN: When Mark Turgeon came to Maryland, he wasn't in an easy spot. He followed a legend, Gary Williams, who had delivered the school a national title but then saw the relationship with the school sour. I think the fanbase is understanding that there was a lot of rebuilding to do from a recruiting standpoint and from a "national brand" standpoint. Turgeon is doing that.
His 2014 recruiting class is stellar. He convinced two of the area's best prospects to stay home. Under Armour is a big asset for the program when it comes to funding. Everything is headed in the right direction, but an NCAA tournament berth this season would help to keep the train rolling.
As for everything basketball related on Sunday, this will be a good opportunity for Maryland. They have taken some criticism about the weakness of their non-conference schedule, so playing a Pac-12 school like Oregon State is both a test and a chance to strengthen their tournament resume though we're only three games into the season.
Maryland is also still figuring out how to cope without No. 5 overall pick Alex Len, who was the anchor in the middle of the team's defense last season. Oregon State's size with Devon Collier and Angus Brandt will allow them to see how stable the frontcourt is before ACC play. Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell should be featured.
CRAWFORD: And they missed the NCAA tournament last season, but made a solid run in the NIT. What are realistic expectations for Maryland basketball each year, outside of winning a national championship?
MARTIN: It's definitely NCAA tournament or bust for this team. With Mark Turgeon in his third season, that's the expectation. Dez Wells has the opportunity to be an All-ACC player and other pieces like Jake Layman and Mitchell have developed in the offseason. There is a strong 2014 class on the horizon for Maryland, as good as top 10 in the country, but the foundation needs to be built this season with an NCAA tournament appearance.
MARTIN: One of the areas of uncertainty for Maryland is in the post, so center Angus Brandt is going to be an interesting test for the Terrapins. Brandt missed the majority of last season with a knee injury, but is back and averaging close to a double-double through two games.When he is playing at a high level, what problems does he create for an opposing team?
CRAWFORD: Angus Brandt is going to give it his all every game. He has a style of offense that is hard to guard and his moves are unpredictable. Defensively he can do some damage in passing lanes down low, but I would not label him as a strong defensive player. The bottom line, the Beavers will be much better with him, as without him and I am sure they are glad to have him back. He will also get much better as the season goes along.
MARTIN: Roberto Nelson is averaging an impressive 30 points per game through two contests, but that accounts for nearly 40 percent of Oregon State's total offensive output. If a defense is able to shut down Nelson, do the Beavers have a legitimate second option?
CRAWFORD: The backup offense for Oregon State is probably by committee. Since Devon Collier averaged 13 points per game last year, getting him back from his suspension will help.
There is a void with Eric Moreland having to sit out his 14-game suspension, so thus the committee aspect. Whoever is hot at the time will probably get the playing minutes. Providing Roberto Nelson stays healthy, he is one player in the Pac-12 that very few teams will be able to stop offensively. He is easily in my top 10 of Pac-12 players and will play professional basketball somewhere in the future.