MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

UCLA’s enormous 87-60 victory over MARYLAND BASKETBALL on Wednesday night, in retrospect, should not have come as a surprise to any of us, as by the end of the first half it was pretty evident to everybody what we were seeing.

For the second game in a row, the flat-footed and outmanned Terps were absolutely smothered by a half-court defense in committing 16 turnovers, as Maryland was outclassed in every way by the Bruins — size, speed, athleticism and depth. It was quite clear from the beginning how UCLA was a Final Four and Sweet 16 team the previous two years, and the night marked the truest barometer yet of where the Maryland program currently stands.

Furthermore, it makes the Terps’ 8-0 start to the season, with wins over quality opponents such as St. Louis, Miami and Illinois, all the more impressive and equally worthwhile, because to truly understand where the program needs to go and what it wants to become, a painful dose of reality is often times the truest tonic.

What Maryland saw in UCLA is what Maryland one day wants to become – a team that can beat opponents in waves with pressure and versatility and not lose a step in doing so. In other words, more quality basketball players are required, which is what head coach Kevin Willard is steadfastly trying to secure.

The Terps’ surprising national ranking is likely a thing of the past for the foreseeable future, but that’s okay; being ranked as high as No. 13 in the country was merely a case of flying too close to the sun and, like Icarus, the Terps have found the fall to be a mighty one.

But again, while it’s always fun to fly first class (I’ve been told), that was never really where the Terps ever belonged. Not this particular group; not yet.

Thus, having come out of the first brutal scheduling gauntlet of the season with a 1-3 mark, the Terps will now take a needed week off and then a week off after that with what will hopefully be more manageable games with St. Peter’s (a Sweet 16 team a year ago) and then UMBC before the meat of the Big Ten schedule takes hold.

Maryland has the right head coach and the right direction in place, but this is still going to be a process. Terps fans and boosters should appreciate that and enjoy it. They might learn something …

Big, big weekend for #NFLTheTVShow and that includes the three teams in our 2-Hour Drive Conference (2HDC), beginning with the BALTIMORE RAVENS taking on the Cleveland Browns Saturday afternoon.

The Browns, despite their 5-8 record, are three-point favorites at home over the first-place Ravens and I get it. The Browns are a gigantic pain in the arse to just about every team they play because they have people on their defensive front and a running back that most teams do not have or cannot contain. They also have a playmaking quarterback back in the fold, which the Ravens do not have these days.

Again, I cannot overemphasize what a pain the Browns are.

Yet, they are the Browns. Of course, the Ravens used to be the Browns, which is why they are so hated in Cleveland, which I understand completely, but if the city of Cleveland would have taken care of Art Modell the way he took care of the city, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. So sometimes you get what you deserve.

Anyway, I will reluctantly go with the Ravens to win because, in spite of themselves, they are just a better team. Their defense is finally healthy and their running backs are finally healthy. But because they have no passing game, it will not surprise me one bit if the Browns win.

How’s that for a definite maybe?

On Sunday the PITTSBURGH STEELERS are at the Carolina Panthers, who are also favored by the homefield three points. Both teams are 5-8, while the Panthers have won two straight and are 4-3 at home.

The Steelers are 3-4 on the road, but that won’t matter in this one since the place is going to be crawling with Steelers fans. Look for the Steelers to bounce back from last week’s loss to the Ravens and to continue to make a playoff push that is not yet off the table. Look for the Steelers to play very hungry in this one.

Finally, on Sunday night, the WASHINGTON COMMANDERS host the New York Giants, and I just hate it when cutie-pie talking heads, most notably Chris Berman, say “the New York football Giants” since there hasn’t been a New York baseball Giants since 1958. Of course, there hasn’t been a Washington Football Team (which I liked, by the way) since 2021.

Anyway, both teams are 7-5-1, having tied in their first meeting a couple of weeks ago. The Commanders are 4.5-point favorites.

This one feels like it could be a heckuva game, particularly on the Sunday night/primetime stage and given the history of the New York and Washington franchises.

The winner has the inside track to the playoffs and I believe that winner will be the Commanders, because they’re just a better team.

In fact, this team is a pretty darn good team and is playing with an awful lot of confidence.

Hail!

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT