February 17, 2010

Terps Rally, Beat Woeful Wolfpack

After a poor first half, Maryland surged late to take control behind yet another strong performance by Vasquez. In spite of a no-show by Hayes, Mosley, and Tucker (combined 1-13), the Terps achieved a critical road win in the ACC and are now just 2 wins away from my goal of 10-6 in conference. Defense really seemed to be the difference tonight during a 24-7 (and 13-0) run covering the majority of the second half, as NC State managed only 21 second half points and shot 35% for the game. Once Maryland rallied to take the lead, the game was never really in doubt. In the last 10 minutes, it was quite clear that only one team on the court really had something to play for, with Maryland controlling almost every aspect of the game. Only Dennis Horner kept the Wolfpack respectable, with an impressive 19 and 10 and seemingly everywhere on the court at times.

The Terps have now weathered the storm, literally. With 3 games in 5 days as a result of the bad weather, Maryland could easily have wilted from fatigue or just the struggles of logistical difficulties. But after a tough loss to Duke, we rallied to beat UVA and NC State in must-win games to set up a very interesting end to the conference schedule. There are no more "breather" games left in the Terps' back-loaded schedule, after an impressive 8-3 start against the underbelly of the league. The Terps' best win so far is over 7-5 FSU (twice), and no other vanquished foe is better than .500 in league play.

The remaining games are GT, Clemson, @VT, Duke, and @UVA, and we really need 2 of those at a minimum. A victory in at least one of the first two games, both at home, is critical because the @VT and Duke stretch will be very tough, both opponents at the top of the current conference standings. Neither GT nor Clemson has done anything worthwhile on the road this year, and Maryland has to hope the home-court advantage at Comcast can continue that trend. The final game in Charlottesville against a fading Cavaliers team will turn into a must-win if we stagger into that game 1-3 over the previous 4. In a weak year for the ACC, the Terps don't need to give the NCAA committee any reason for doubts, with something like a 1-4 finish and a first-round loss in the ACC tournament. All we have to do is take care of business, something the Terps have done all year against lesser opposition, and continued tonight, digging deep to get a road win against one of the worst teams in the league this year.

February 15, 2010

Nordic Triathlon?

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Like everyone else, I spent all of Valentine’s weekend watching the Olympics.  I love that NBC is giving more prime coverage to some of the more unusual Winter Olympic sports, rather than filling its coverage with profiles of every figure skater in the competition.

On Sunday, we got to see the two weird combo events in the Winter Games: Biathlon and Nordic Combined. 

For those who aren’t Olympics junkies, Biathlon combines cross country skiing with target shooting.  The competitors ski with a rifle strapped to their backs and have to stop several times during the race to shoot at small targets.  The challenge is that cross country skiing is one of the most difficult cardiovascular workouts (remember the old Nordic Trac commercials?) and shooting requires you to be perfectly still.  So the biathletes get their heart rates high during the skiing and then have to calm down very quickly as they enter the shooting gallery.

Nordic Combined is another two-sport event combining ski jumping and cross country skiing.  The interesting thing here is that while both events involve skis strapped to the athletes’ feet, they require totally different skills.  As I mentioned above, cross country skiing is all about endurance and cardio.  Ski jumping requires explosive strength in the jump and total body control in flight.  Competitors in Nordic Combined have to prepare with two totally different training regimens. 

So this raises the obvious question: Why isn’t there a Nordic Triathlon?  Combine ski jumping with a biathlon and you have a new event that requires an even broader set of skills.  Cross country skiing is already an element of the other two events, so combining the two seems like a no-brainer.  For added drama, the athletes could also be required to complete the ski jump with rifles strapped to their backs.  Why not?