Basketball around the Beltway: Where do local college teams stand?

WASHINGTON — Is everybody okay out there?

The holiday season that wraps up with New Year’s Day often leaves one feeling a little out of sorts, and it takes more than a few of us a while to get back to normal and move on. Hey, I’m still writing “2014” on most of my checks.

Sometimes one is able to transition to the New Year smoothly despite a rough December and sometimes one stumbles out of the gate. Welcome to Basketball around the Beltway, 2016.

#3 Maryland (13-1, 2-0 Big Ten) almost got bounced in its league opener by, of all teams, Penn State. Down 58-45 with 6:19 left, the Terps suffocating D held the Nittany Lions to 1-7 shooting down the stretch. Diamond Stone set a freshman record with 39 points (breaking Joe Smith’s mark set against Rider) and 12 rebounds to lead the rally, and after a 70-64 win the Terps made short order of Northwestern a few days later (leading by 20 at the half of a 72-59 win). Stone followed up his Big Ten debut with 10 points and 3 rebounds en route to capturing conference Freshman and Player of the Week honors. Diamond is truly a Terps’ best friend. Maryland welcomes Rutgers (6-9 and 0-2 in league play) before facing Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio State.

Georgetown (9-5, 2-0 Big East) gave every indication through their pre-Christmas struggles with the likes of Monmouth and UNC-Asheville that they would struggle once Big East play began. Thus, consecutive double digit wins to begin league play makes one take notice — until one realizes that Marquette and DePaul are a combined 0-4 in conference action. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored 12 points over the last 2:09 against the Golden Eagles; the lack of a consistent secondary option may haunt this team as the schedule ratchets up, and their Tuesday night loss at Creighton won’t help. The Hoyas play five ranked teams in a six-game span from January 16 to February 2.

George Washington (12-2, 1-0 Atlantic Ten) tipped off league play with a 69-63 win over Fordham. Tyler Cavanaugh notched his third double-double of the season, as the 6-foot-9 transfer continues to provide match-up nightmares for opponents. Although he languished on the bench at Wake Forest in ACC play, Cavanaugh is quicker than most big men in the Atlantic Ten while being bigger than most wing forwards. When he and Kevin Larsen are both rolling, it gets nasty for opponents. The Colonials begin a tough stretch with three of their next four games away from the Smith Center (including a trip to #25 Dayton).

Remember what I said about New Year’s hangovers? They are bleary-eyed in Charlottesville after #4 Virginia (12-2, 1-1 Atlantic Coast) dropped a stunning 70-68 loss to Virginia Tech (10-5, 2-0 ACC). The Cavaliers turned the ball over 16 times in defeat and proved that the triumvirate of Anthony Gill, Malcolm Brogdon and London Perrantes need some help (the rest of the team shot 3-17). The fact that the Hokies almost gave up an 11-point lead with 2:14 left has to be even more maddening for both sides. How could coach Buzz Williams team go 3-9 from the free throw line down the stretch, and how could Tony Bennett’s club not capitalize? Perrantes will be thinking about his missed layup with four seconds left for some time. Never mind that Virginia Tech visits Duke Saturday — for the moment, the Commonwealth is flipped, with the Cavaliers looking up the standings at the first-place Hokies.

George Mason (6-8, 0-1 Atlantic Ten) is back to reality after confidence-building wins over Wagner and Longwood. The Patriots fell 71-47 to VCU in their conference opener, turning the ball over 22 times. The early conference season is far from kind — next up are games with St. Bonaventure, Saint Joseph’s and Davidson. Coach Dave Paulsen may go through his TUMS allotment sooner than one thinks.

American (2-11, 0-2 Patriot League) welcomes you to the world of “guarantee game scheduling.” AU is in a conference where four schools already have 10 losses and one of them (Loyola-MD) is tied for the league lead. The Eagles came within eight points of the Greyhounds in their conference opener before taking a step back against Colgate (35% shooting and 16 turnovers). A midweek trip to conference co-leader Bucknell looms.

Howard (7-8, 1-1 MEAC) slips under .500 with five losses in six games. While James Daniel continues to lead the nation in scoring with 29 points a game, it’s apparent the junior is missing the remainder of the James Gang. The Bison were prepared for James Carlton’s graduation last spring, but they weren’t ready to lose James Miller to injury in November. Home games against Ivies Cornell and Harvard bracket a weekend against Delaware State and Coppin State. The Eagles and Hornets are a combined 3-26 to start the season.

Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

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