"Two years from now," someone was telling Gary Williams yesterday, "your team will be in the Final Four."
"I wish I could hold you to that," said Williams, the University of Maryland's basketball coach.
Most of the nation's Division I coaches -- Gary Williams among them -- will be in Minneapolis this weekend for the culmination of the season: the Final Four, beginning with Saturday's semifinals with Duke meeting Indiana and Michigan going against Cincinnati.
Williams thinks Duke is up to defending its NCAA championship.
"Duke hasn't been playing the kind of defense they can play," Williams said. "They had some unsettling things happen in the last month of the season and it affected their defense. We shot 65 percent against them. Kentucky last week scored 11 of the last 14 times they had the ball.
"I've thought all along that if Duke could get to the Final Four they could relax and just play their game.
"Duke has no weaknesses. Athletically they can do so many things. They can go eight deep better than any team in the country. Indiana is playing very well, though. It should be a great game."
Williams goes with Michigan over Cincinnati.
"Michigan is too big and too good for them," Williams said. "You can see that when you match up each player. I'm amazed that Michigan has come this far with all these freshmen, but some of those kids have known each other and played together for years.
"Cincinnati has great athletes. They can scramble everything on you. Usually junior college players are wild, but these Cincinnati junior college kids aren't."
And where will Gary Williams be Monday when Saturday's winners meet for the NCAA championship? Why, he'll be where everybody who's anybody will be: at Oriole Park at Camden Yards watching the Orioles' opener.
"I love baseball," Gary said, "and the semifinals are always the best day at the Final Four anyway.
"I was a better baseball player than basketball player in high school. I was a centerfielder. I could run and throw. But it's harder to get up a baseball game when you're that age, so I went to Maryland and became a basketball player."
* How can Oriole Park at Camden Yards be more brightly illuminated with 58 fewer light bulbs than Memorial Stadium had? Answer: These are some bulbs. At 1,500 watts, they cost $560 apiece.
* One reason the O's can reasonably expect to improve this year is the disabled list. It would be hard to have as many players on it this year as they had last: Glenn Davis, 116 days; Dave Johnson, 68; Bill Ripken, 31. Ben McDonald was on it twice for 49 days.
* Cal Ripken Jr.'s importance to the Orioles is reflected in the amount of space devoted to him in the club's new media guide. Cal gets 11 1/2 pages. Glenn Davis -- the team's highest paid player at $2,865,000 -- gets 3 1/2 pages, same as Bill Ripken.
* John Tucker is an amazing athlete. Last Sunday he played the first half for the Maryland Lacrosse Club and scored three quick ones in the MLC's 9-6 win over Greene Turtle.
Then Tucker drove to Philadelphia, where that night he had five goals and four assists to lead the Wings to a 14-12 Major Indoor Lacrosse League win over Baltimore, eliminating the Thunder from the playoffs. It was Tucker's swan song in the indoor game.
Not everything in Tucker's lacrosse life is coming up roses. Within eight days, the Gilman team he coaches was hammered by St. Paul's, 18-9, and by Loyola, 17-7. St. Paul's is the MSA A Conference defending champ and favorite to repeat, but it's hard to believe St. Paul's is any better than the sharp looking Loyola team that routed Gilman Tuesday.
* The big guy in the yellow sweater and baseball cap helping lacrosse coach Joe McFadden at Loyola High this year is Franz Wittelsberger. Franz is the all-time career scoring leader at Johns Hopkins, where he had 151 goals between 1973 and 1976. A part-timer at Loyola, Wittelsberger is in the construction and home improvement business here.
* Hopkins knocked off physically superior Syracuse in lacrosse two weeks ago the same way Princeton basketball coach Pete Carril beats superior talent -- by taking the air out of the ball, slowing it down, playing a halfcourt game.
This Saturday deep and talented North Carolina (No. 5 in The Baltimore Sun poll) is at No. 3 Hopkins. As Syracuse coach Roy Simmons says: "Hopkins is going to have to do the same thing to beat Carolina."