The Maryland Five

March 15, 1994

Sixty-four college teams will square off in the much-touted NCAA men's basketball tournament this month. Three of them (4.7 percent) are from Maryland (which has 1.9 percent of the nation's population). It was a stellar year for Maryland hoopsters. (Coppin State and Towson State universities were near misses.)

When basketball couch potatoes hear Loyola announced, they instinctively think of an otherwise obscure school in California called Loyola Marymount. Wrong!

This year's Loyola is Loyola of Maryland, up on Charles Street, which is quite different. Loyola won 17 games and lost 12 this year and captured its conference title after going 2-25 last year. It was one of the great turnarounds in a single season. This is Loyola of Maryland's first visit ever to "March Madness."

The U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis won its conference crown and is in the tournament for the first time since superstar David Robinson was a midshipman, in 1987. The University of Maryland College Park, unlike Loyola and the Naval Academy, is not reaching the stars so much as returning to what was its natural habitat -- for the first time since 1988. And these Terps are all underclassmen. They are just getting used to the altitude, and will be back.

That's the men's NCAA tournament. Two schools from Maryland are in the NCAA women's basketball tournament, which grew to an equal 64 teams this year. One is Loyola-Baltimore (as it surely will be called during the playoff games), landing teams of each gender in these big season-ending showdowns. The other is Mount St. Mary's College of Emmitsburg.

These teams all showed heart as well as skill to get where they are. Lots of congratulations to all the scholar-athletes who got them there. And if it happens that the men's Final Four includes the Maryland three, it will be darned hard to know for whom to cheer loudest.

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