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Indiana, Maryland face off in title-game rematch


The ACC and Big Ten will be battling for pride during this week's ACC/Big Ten Challenge. I know it's only the preseason before we head into important conference play. But the bottom line is that two of the nation's premier conferences go head-to-head with bragging rights on the line.

I'm really looking forward to the showdown at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis: Indiana and Maryland will battle in a rematch of last season's national championship game (ESPN, Tuesday, 9 p.m. ET). Let's face it, this is not truly a rematch since many of the players have moved on.

Tom Coverdale
Point guard Tom Coverdale is the leading returning scorer for Indiana.
Yes, coaches Mike Davis and Gary Williams will go at it again, but think about the names missing from the matchup in Atlanta last spring. Indiana lost Jared Jeffries to the Washington Wizards. One of his teammates there is former Terp Juan Dixon. Lonny Baxter is also in the pros, playing for the Chicago Bulls.

The personnel has changed, but the same pride, intensity and emotion will be there on the court. The Hoosiers have a dynamite perimeter game. In fact, is there a deeper team in that area in America? Look at that lineup, with Tom Coverdale at the point and Bracey Wright and Kyle Hornsby on the wings. Off the bench, Indiana has experienced Donald Perry and diaper-dandy standout Marshall Strickland. Any time you have five quality perimeter players you have a chance to win.

On the interior, Davis hopes to have George Leach back after he sat out Sunday's win over North Texas due to a strained rotator cuff. Jeff Newton has answered the call (15 points and 14 rebounds on Sunday).

For Maryland, Williams has the personnel that can match up with anyone in America. Yes, the parts have changed, but the talent is still impressive, baby! This team has size, solid backcourt play and an understanding of what it takes to win. A number of these kids were part of the national-championship team.

Steve Blake runs the attack at point guard, and he's the orchestra leader. He's coming off an 0-for-4 game against Duquesne, but the Terps won by 50 points. He responds when it counts in big games. Drew Nicholas has given Maryland scoring right out of the gate. Last season, he was instant offense off the bench. With Dixon gone, Nicholas has become a big-time scorer in Williams' system.

In the lane, Ryan Randle has developed into a factor, a big body who knows how to post up. Tahj Holden gives Williams an inside-outside presence while Calvin McCall is athletic up front. McCall is Maryland's former football quarterback.

Williams can rotate in several contributors from his bench. Jamar Smith, a juco transfer from Alleghany (the same school that gave the Terps Steve Francis), joins diaper dandy Travis Garrison up front, along with Nick Caner-Medley. John Gilchrist gives support as a backup point guard.

This should be one heckuva matchup. These are two teams with a lot of pride. Both have been underrated at the start of the season. They have already shown they are legitimate top-15 teams.

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