Loyola's smiling, Coppin State's grimacing. Current expressions are irrelevant, however, because the next two weeks are just preamble to the most important part of their basketball seasons -- conference tournaments that could land them in the NCAAs.
At 9-13 overall, the Greyhounds are the state's most perplexing team. They suffered lapses in losses to foes ranging from Navy to Towson State to Richmond to Princeton, but then turned around and handled Xavier, which has been to the last six NCAA tournaments.
Coming off a huge win at Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference leader Manhattan, Loyola finishes the regular season with four straight home games, beginning tomorrow (7:30 p.m.) against Niagara. Loyola is currently sixth in the nine-team MAAC at 6-6, but in position to move up several notches.
Once the jockeying's done, the Greyhounds will try to get their first postseason victory since 1987. Their MAAC tournament will be held March 5-8 in Albany, N.Y.
Coppin State, meanwhile, is in the midst of an 18-day span in which it will play only twice, and the Eagles could use the rest to mend some injuries. At one time they were in command of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, but they've lost four of their last five, a skid they hope to end Saturday at UMES.
Darren Woods, the senior forward who's the state's most productive sixth man with averages of 12.9 points and 5.1 rebounds, injured a knee in a come-from-ahead loss at Delaware State Feb. 5, and hasn't played in the last four games. Sophomore guard James Mazyck missed three of those games with a sore ankle, and assorted ailments kept sophomore center Coleman Scott out of two of the recent losses.
One thing to remember about the MEAC tournament: Unlike 1990-91, there are no play-in games in this year's NCAA tournament. Because of membership changes elsewhere -- including the East Coast Conference -- the champions from the six bottom-rated conferences of a year ago won't have to play an extra game to gain a spot in this year's 64-team field.
* The state's Division III teams conclude the regular season this weekend.
Salisbury State, second-ranked in the nation with a 22-1 record and a 21-game win streak, can get career win No. 300 for coach Ward Lambert Saturday, when the Sea Gulls host arch-rival Frostburg State. Both will participate in the Eastern States
Athletic Conference tournament next week at Salisbury State, which will then await the announcement of NCAA pairings March 1.
Johns Hopkins is home Saturday (8 p.m.) against Washington in a key Middle Atlantic Conference Southeast Section game. The two teams have been going in opposite directions lately, but the slumping Blue Jays still could get an at-large NCAA berth, provided they reach the finals of the MAC Southern Division tournament next week.
Goucher's men will play their first-ever postseason game next Tuesday, when they go to St. Mary's or York for a first-round game in the Capital Athletic Conference tournament. David Clark, a freshman guard from Catonsville, has been hot since the 32-day holiday break, as he's averaged 21.6 points in the Gophers' last 13 games.
* Towson State's Mark Haynes, a senior from Edgewood who began his collegiate career at Maryland, was named the Most Valuable Swimmer at the ECC championships. Haynes won the 200 and 400 individual medleys and the 200 breaststroke.
UMBC's Megan Malchak shared the women's award, as she established meet records in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes and the 400 IM. A sophomore biochemistry major out of Hammond High who has a 3.75 cumulative grade-point average, Malchak will try to reach the NCAA qualifying standard of 2 minutes, 20.29 seconds in the 200 breaststroke at the Eastern championships, today through Sunday at Rutgers.
* Two locals helped Virginia Tech sweep the Metro Conference championships. Heidi Allen, a senior from Severna Park, won the 3,000 and 5,000, an event in which her best is 16:48.2. Brooks Martin, who went to Calvert Hall, took the men's Metro 5,000 in 14:52.1.
* Morgan State will be after its eighth straight MEAC wrestling title tomorrow, when the conference tourney is held at Hill Field House . . . Navy's 16th-ranked team wrestles Army Saturday (1 p.m.) at Alumni Hall . . . Washington lacrosse coach Terry Corcoran will be inducted into the Hobart Hall of Fame April 11.