Presto’s Picks: November Crunch makes life busy for Maryland, Navy and other locals

November may be Closing Month in college football, but it’s also Opening Month in men and women’s college basketball.

And it’s not like the 20th century, when schools would wait until the Thanksgiving week (often after the football season had ended in the ancient days of 11-game regular seasons).

Schools are playing hoops, and lots of it, now. The Maryland men will have five games under their belts before the traditional “Day after Thanksgiving 4 p.m. tipoff” duel with Coppin State.

The Terrapin women host preseason No. 1 and defending national champ South Carolina Friday night, the same evening the Navy men are participating in the Veterans Classic (facing Princeton, while Houston takes on St. Joe’s).

I feel for the sports information offices at football schools; they’re being stretched these next three weekends.

While I’m not a fan of the equivalent of having a burger shoved in my face as I’m savoring the final bites of my Eggs Norwegian (smoked salmon instead of the Benedict’s ham), I’m curious to see how the stories of each of the local hoops teams begin.

I’m an AP voter and had Preview Week earlier this month, for heaven’s sake. I just wish we had the chance to let the football stories play out in the area before moving on to the march toward March. Of course, there are at least two schools in Virginia who are more than ready to move on to hoops.

Navy (3-6) vs. No. 20 Notre Dame (6-3), noon, ABC

Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium is one of eight sites to host this matchup in the 21st century, a list that includes multiple Florida stops (Orlando and Jacksonville), as well as an overseas trip (Dublin, Ireland), but does not include Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.

But six of those sites were used between 2007 and 2017, an era where Navy won four times and lost three others by one possession. Since then. the series has reverted to form, with the Fighting Irish taking the last three meetings by an average score of 43-16.

This year under first-year coach Marcus Freeman, Notre Dame has recovered from early hiccups and stumbles to average 40 points in their last three wins — a stretch that includes a 35-14 rout of then-unbeaten Clemson.

The Mids don’t have that second gear those teams that have threatened the Irish have had. But at least the drive home will be nice.

Presto’s Pick: Navy sinks, 27-10.

Virginia Tech (2-7, 1-5 ACC) at Duke (6-3, 3-3), noon, ESPN3

Two of the four first-year coaches in the ACC couldn’t have had more contrasting seasons. On the same weekend the Hokies, a postseason presence for the last 30 years, were eliminated from bowl contention, the Blue Devils locked up their first bid to play that 13th game since 2018.

Duke is bowl-bound thanks to a balanced offense (second in the ACC rushing and fifth passing, while second in sacks allowed), but they haven’t been able to shut foes down (13th against the pass and 14th on third down).

The Hokies could easily take a double-digit lead on this team — and that’s what scares the Blacksburg faithful, after blowing 18-point and 12-point leads in their most recent losses. Tech’s nine-game winning streak at Wade Wallace Stadium ends this weekend.

Presto’s Pick: Hokies are humbled in a 31-20 loss.

Virginia (3-6, 1-5 ACC) vs. Pitt (5-4, 2-3), noon, ACC Network

Home has not been sweet home for the bettors in this series, as the road team has covered five of the last six meetings. The Cavaliers are fighting to keep bowl eligibility in play, while the Panthers can punch their postseason ticket.

Last weekend was encouraging for both teams, as the Cavaliers put more than 20 points on the board against an FBS team for the first time this fall, while Pitt kept Syracuse out of the end zone and secured their victory with a sack for a safety in the final minutes.

This Panthers defense gets after you: They’re fourth in the ACC with 29 sacks, rank third in the conference at stopping the run, and are second-best at getting off the field on third down.

One wonders whether running back Israel Abanikanda (320 yards rushing against Virginia Tech last month) will play after missing the Syracuse game with an undisclosed injury (Cavaliers are 11th best in the ACC at stopping the run). U.Va. wonders whether last week’s offensive explosion was the mirage of meeting the most porous defense in the league.

Kippy & Buffy are pouring again Saturday, this time enjoying a Tannat from Uruguay in a bottle of 2020 Bodega Garzón. Tasting notes include “fresh aromas reminiscent of red and black fruits such as plums and raspberries on a spice-flavored aroma. It has a great personality in mouth. Its ripe tannins and its minerality make it a terroir wine of great identity.”

And don’t worry: This is one of the times having a “great personality” is a good thing.

Presto’s Pick: Cavaliers’ offense “has a great personality” (and that’s not a good thing) in a 24-14 loss.

James Madison (5-3, 3-2 Sun Belt) at Old Dominion (3-6, 2-3), 1 p.m., ESPN+

ODU was “this close” to competing for the de facto Commonwealth Crown after upsetting Virginia Tech in Norfolk before losing by a last-second field goal in Charlottesville to Virginia. Since then, the Monarchs have dropped four of six.

JMU began the year with the bang of a 5-0 start and a No. 25 ranking, before dropping three straight for the first time since 2013 (that’s three head coaches ago). The Dukes need to find their passing groove after consecutive losses where Todd Centeio was either unavailable due to injury or ineffective due to incompletions.

The Monarchs might be just the right medicine: Despite a pass rush that’s tied for second in the Sun Belt with 27 sacks, they’re next to last in stopping the run (and sack yardage goes toward that total). Sounds like just the job for JMU running back Percy Agyei-Obese (three 100-yard efforts in four games with 96 against Marshall the exception).

Presto’s Pick: Dukes snap their slide and deliver a 31-17 win.

Maryland (6-3, 3-3 Big Ten) at No. 14 Penn State (7-2, 4-2), 3:30 p.m., FOX

The Terps’ defense was dominated in the first half last Saturday by a Wisconsin running game that produced a grinding touchdown drive (77 yards on 12 plays) as well as a breakaway blast (an 89-yard TD run).

They face a dual-threat running game this week with Nicolas Singleton (679 yards on 6.1 per carry with eight touchdowns) and Katron Allen (563 yards on 5.2 per carry and eight TD’s).

Fifth-year senior Sam Clifford is producing well in his fourth season as a starter, despite losing Jahan Dotson (11 catches for 242 yards and 3 TD against U.Md. last year) to the NFL, and their line is doing a great job keeping him upright (sacks per passing attempt are half what they have been the last two seasons).

The Nittany Lions led both No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan in the third quarter before falling victim to second-half surges. Maryland has outscored Big Ten foes 96-72 in six league games after intermission, but will their second-half rally this week be enough?

Presto’s Pick: Terps come painfully close to a second straight win in Happy Valley, slipping 24-20.

Howard gets by South Carolina State, Georgetown beats Bucknell, William & Mary is victorious over Villanova, Richmond slips to Delaware, Towson tops Stony Brook, Morgan State falls to Delaware State.

Last Week: 6-4, as the November frost spreads to the picks.

Overall: 65-26.

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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