Towson State, the only school in the state that will play in the upcoming NCAA Division I basketball tournament, will send a "hungrier" team than the one that gave No. 1 seed Oklahoma a scare a year ago.
That, according to Devin Boyd, a member of both teams, is one difference between the two Tiger entries.
The other difference, unfortunately, is talent.
"This team doesn't have the talent we had a year ago," says Boyd, the Tigers' high-scoring junior guard. "We're not going to get better talent than we had then -- players like Kurk Lee, now in the NBA, Kennell Jones and Kelly Williamson.
"But this team is hungrier. Everything we've accomplished this year has been through hard work."
Kevin Bannon, who coaches the Rider team that Towson beat, 69-63, in the East Coast Conference tournament finals Tuesday night, says the present Towson team reminds him of last year's.
"They have the same traits, the same personality," Bannon says. "Ideally they should have a big man to play against these NCAA teams, but Towson plays bigger than it is. When you get down to the end, the great players show up, the Devin Boyds and the Chuck Lightenings.
"Towson can scare somebody," Bannon said. "Whoever plays 'em had better be ready."
Towson will learn its opening round opponent during a pairings party for TSU students and friends Sunday from 4-7 p.m. at the University Union.
The Tigers are not likely to be awed no matter what team they draw. Says coach Terry Truax: "Besides playing the No. 1 seed last year, we've played four teams in the top 25 this year. Having been to the tournament already is a help to us."
* Rider's Bannon is a young basketball coach with a sense of humor. Going into the ECC tournament championship game against Towson he said:
"Towson is the defending champion, they're seeded No. 1 and we're No. 6. They have the conference's Coach of the Year [Truax], Player of the Year [Boyd] and they've already beaten us twice. We'll play in their gym with their balls and they'll get to sleep in their own beds and 90 percent of the fans will be rooting for them. We've got them right where we want 'em." In spite of all that, Rider nearly won.
* Ex-Oriole Joe Durham, now a coach with the club's Double A farm team in Hagerstown, saw enough of Mike Mussina last year to be convinced the young Stanford grad is going to become a good pitcher for the O's.
Says Durham: "I wouldn't be afraid to put him out there now and let him compete for one of the starting jobs. The kid has good control, a great change and a real nice knuckle-curve."
* The college lacrosse season has barely begun but it could be that the top four teams in the country will be facing each other this weekend. Defending NCAA champion Syracuse will get a stiff test against North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Loyola will be at Virginia.
Some who watched Syracuse open with a 19-8 win last Saturday at Villanova disagree with those who expect the graduation of the Gait twins to drop the Orange well down in the rankings. Bob Blatchley, a Baltimore area official, points out that in the second period Syracuse was ahead of supposedly up-and-coming Villanova, 14-2. Blatchley, whose son, John, is an attackman at Towson State, was tremendously impressed by Syracuse's speed and aggressiveness.
* Jim Palmer seethes at two things: (a) the suggestion he's trying his comeback for money and (b) explanations for his motivation from people who haven't talked to him about it.
It will ruffle none of Palmer's feathers, then, if Dr. Bill Englehart expresses his opinion. He is Palmer's old neighbor and one of Jim's closest friends. And he doesn't think Palmer is doing it for money.
"It's just something Jim has to prove to himself," says the good doctor. "Since the Orioles let him go in '84 he's been wondering if he can still play. If he didn't try it now, he could have gone the rest of his life without knowing."