Terps, Virginia: select company?

March 11, 1994|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Staff Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- When they met six days ago at Cole Field House, the Virginia and Maryland basketball teams were jockeying for position to get into this year's NCAA tournament. The Cavaliers seemed to have the inside track. The Terrapins needed a win to remain in the race.

When they meet again today at noon in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament at the Charlotte Coliseum, Maryland (16-10) and Virginia (15-11) have apparently traded places. With a 70-68 victory that raised their conference record to 8-8, the Terps appear to be in good position. The Cavaliers, despite the same league record, probably need to win today.

Not that Maryland coach Gary Williams is more secure than his counterpart, Virginia's Jeff Jones. Both have come here in the past thinking their teams had merited an invitation from the NCAA tournament selection committee, and both have been left disappointed.

In 1990, it was Maryland.

"I thought we had played well enough [to get a bid]," Williams recalled of a year in which the Terps came into their opening-round game against Duke with an 18-12 overall record.

But after playing the Blue Devils even throughout most of the first half, the Terps lost senior center Tony Massenburg with a scratched cornea right before halftime. Massenburg tried to play with his vision blurred and Maryland lost by 20.

With a 6-8 record in the ACC and a blowout defeat in the ACC tournament, and with the NCAA about to put the team on probation, Maryland was snubbed by the selection committee and wound up losing in the second round of the NIT.

"This year's team had to fight to get to 8-8," said Williams. "We made our statement. Now it's up to the committee."

For Virginia, today's situation is similar to two years ago, when the Cavaliers were 15-12 heading into their quarterfinal game against Georgia Tech. They lost to the Yellow Jackets, but went on to win the NIT.

While many believe Virginia's non-conference schedule, which includes a win over Minnesota at home, and an 8-8 league record, which includes a win over North Carolina, is enough to get in, Jones would like to erase any doubt by winning today.

"I think right now we merit being considered," Jones said here yesterday. "Whether we merit being in it or not can drive you crazy when you think about that."

The changing of positions has caused an attitude adjustment on both teams. A week ago against Virginia, the Terps seemed a bit uptight as they tried to break a three-game losing streak. After building their lead to 13 in the second half, Maryland barely managed to hang on.

They are now a different bunch, confident but cautious. While most were in high school the last time Maryland was in this position, and some -- like freshmen Joe Smith and Keith Booth -- in junior high the last time the school made the NCAA tournament, they know that coming out flat against the Cavaliers could mean rejection come Sunday.

"We know that anything can happen," said sophomore point guard Duane Simpkins. "We're going out with the idea that we have nothing to lose, but we do have something to lose."

Virginia knows that it must beat Maryland to get a bid.

"I'm sure the pressure will help us," said freshman point guard Harold Deane, who helped fuel the Cavaliers' comeback last week. "When you're in a must-win situation, you play better.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.