Except for one thing - an overwhelming amount of confidence in the Terps' chances this year.
I think we're right up there with everybody, junior guard Adrian Bowie said. Its a wide open league. We want to win, we want to beat Duke, we want to beat North Carolina. If we want to be the top team, we have to beat the top teams.
We finished the year with a 'we can beat any team in the nation' attitude and I think we still have that, senior forward Landon Milbourne said. There were two teams in the championship game last year [Michigan State and North Carolina], and we beat both of them, so I don't see why we can't make it there.
This newfound confidence borders on brashness - these Terrapins know they're good, and for good reason. This was a young team last season with many questions surrounding the future of coach Gary Williams and of the program, and they answered with a 20-13 season and a victory over Cal in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
People didn't think we deserved to be there, Milbourne said. And that win was a statement.
We're coming into this season with a new [attitude] after ending so well last year, coach Williams said. We just want to continue that. We want to be aggressive still, run with the ball, and play well on defense. You have to have pride to be a good defensive player, and if you have a lot of guys with pride out there, then you can have pride in your team.
Williams and the players pointed to parity in the ACC this year and the addition of freshmen Jordan Williams and James Padgett as reasons that Maryland could compete for a conference title this year. With key players Jeff Teague from Wake Forest, Tyler Hansbrough from North Carolina, and Jack McClinton from Miami going from the ACC to the pros, coach Williams said this is the first time in a while that there is no clear favorite to win the conference.
Nothing's automatic, he said. There are more teams in the ACC at about the same level than there have been [in a long time].
With the loss of Dave Neal (who is now on scholarship at Trinity College in Ireland and will be turning pro in Australia after receiving his degree) to graduation, the Terps, largely a back-court team to begin with, seem to have some issues up front this year. However, coach Williams expects Padgett, Williams, Steve Goins, Dino Gregory, and Jin Soo Choi to make a big impact inside this year.
I am confident that we can do more things, he said. We feel that we have more ways to score inside. Every year you have to be 8 or 9 [players] deep, and I think we have a good chance of getting there this year.
[The freshmen] definitely give us some size, sophomore guard Sean Mosley said. As opposed to having [the shorter] Dave [Neal] and Landon [Milbourne] in the box.
Both freshmen are feeling comfortable in their first semester at College Park.
High school and college are completely different games, Jordan Williams said. I've got to get ready, we need post players. We're all excited for the season. Tomorrow makes it official, we've all been working hard. I believe I'm ready.
I'm very excited, Padgett said. I can't wait for the season to start. It's great to be needed, we had a great team last year and it should be even better this year. It feels good when the older guys have confidence in you.
However, two of the seniors are making sure that the rest of the team doesn't get too caught up in the hype.
We're going to continue being underdogs, senior guard Greivis Vasquez said. We haven't proved anything yet. We went through a lot last year. Our goal was to make it to the tournament, and we made it. We can't focus on our ranking, we just have to win. Bottom line, I just want to win. If Mosley or Milbourne has to lead the team in points to do it, I don't care, as long as we win.
We don't want to get too excited or too complacent, Milbourne said. We've got a lot of experience coming back. I want to set our team apart from teams in the past. We know we can do it.
Fans, however, can certainly get excited about this Terps' team. Maryland Madness starts tomorrow, October 16th, with a volleyball game at 5:30. Maryland plays its first regular season game Friday, November 13th, at home against Charleston Southern.