For the first time in three years coach Terry Truax and his Towson State basketball team are on the sidelines as the NCAA basketball tournament is about to begin.
There's one good thing about that: As a non-participant, Truax can feel free to express strong opinions about March madness.
Truax on Duke, the 2-1 favorite to win it all:
"I don't think Duke is going to repeat. That's a tough bracket they're in. It's not like it was when John Wooden won 10 out of 12 tournaments at UCLA. There were only 16 teams in it in those days.
"Today you have to win six games. Duke certainly won't have any trouble beating Campbell in the first round, but then they get Iowa or Texas, both tough teams. No school has repeated since UCLA in '73. I don't think Duke will either."
On a prospective Final Four:
"I like Kansas [the No. 1 seed] in the Midwest and Indiana in the West. This'll surprise you -- I like North Carolina in the Southeast. I can see Duke getting to the Final Four. As you can see, I go with coaches. Dean Smith. Bobby Knight."
On the tournament chances of longtime Towson State opponent Delaware, a 1,000-to-1 shot in its first appearance in the NCAAs:
"Delaware has some good talent and a 20-game winning streak. But they've got a tough draw with Cincinnati in the first round. That'll be too much of a step up for Delaware."
On Towson State's season:
"As late as 10 o'clock Sunday night I was still hopeful we'd be invited to the NIT [National Invitation Tournament]. I thought we had a chance after being in the NCAAs the last two years and finishing 17-13 this year and winning the East Coast Conference tournament for a third straight year.
"But the NIT committee probably had the 32 teams just about chosen by the middle of last week. The reality is, the people who make the decisions are looking for teams that sell tickets and have high visibility. That's not Towson State. They want four teams that will be a magnet to make people go to Madison Square Garden."
* Baltimorean Art Kramer, former president of the University of Maryland's Terrapin Club, spends winters in Naples, Fla., these days. He stopped off in Baltimore yesterday after having watched Maryland beat Clemson and lose a close one to Duke in the ACC tournament in Charlotte last weekend.
Says Kramer: "The only good games in the tournament were the two Maryland games. Everything else was boring. It's amazing how [coach] Gary Williams has taken players who were nothing and made them something."
Kramer, as a legal resident of Naples, which the Orioles hoped to make their permanent spring training headquarters, watched with great interest as those plans collapsed.
"It looked like it was all set," Kramer said. "A developer was going to build the Orioles a ballpark that would seat 8,000-10,000 and Collier County was going to help out with a tourist tax. The Orioles were all for it.
"Then the guy announced plans to build a hotel and a big shopping center at the same location. It would have been terrible. The County Commission stopped it and now the Orioles don't have a home."
* One of the top high school athletes in the Baltimore area -- Loyola High football halfback and lacrosse star Brad Hoag -- has been recruited heavily by dozens of schools for more than a year. The youngster has made his choice: Virginia.
* A remarkable 22-year-old Baltimore woman, Joy Koch, will bring an unusual team to her hometown for a game next Monday.
Koch, a graduate of St. Paul's who was an All-American lacrosse player at Hobart and William Smith College, is now an English teacher in Japan. She also coaches women's lacrosse there and will lead a group from the Japanese National team against the Hopkins women at 6:30 under the lights at Homewood.
* Tim Wittman, the Baltimore native and former Blast captain, proved he can still score when he kicked in a pair of goals for San Diego in the Sockers' 10-7 win over the Blast last Saturday. Afterward, however, some fans went to the Blast front office to complain about Wittman's obscene gestures to the crowd. That's too bad. Wittman, who complained of being taunted by fans Saturday, was such a fan favorite when he played here.