To ranked Terps, seventh heaven is still months away

November 15, 1994|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- There was little in the way of suspense yesterday, and even less in the way of celebration. By now, the Maryland basketball team is used to its lofty status.

After seeing themselves picked in the top 10 in the country by most preseason publications, after being chosen to finish second in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Terrapins were hardly surprised to hear that they were selected seventh in the Associated Press poll of writers and broadcasters.

Maryland was one of three teams to split the first-place votes that didn't go to near-unanimous No. 1 Arkansas, the defending national champion. North Carolina, ranked second, and No. 4 Kentucky also received one first-place vote each.

"It's just like any preseason poll -- you take it for what it's worth," said Maryland coach Gary Williams. "You don't let it get in the way of your preparation. The only thing I don't like about it is if the players look and see what other people are saying and start thinking they don't have to work hard. If you use it as a goal to reach, that if you work hard you'll be one of the best teams, then it's good."

Still, it marks the highest a Maryland team has been picked in the AP preseason poll since the 1973-74 season, when the Terps were chosen fourth and were as high as No. 2 on three occasions. They finished 23-5 and lost to North Carolina State, 103-100, in the memorable final of the ACC tournament. Ranked fourth, they turned down an NIT bid.

Going into the 1980-81 season, Maryland again was picked fourth in the preseason and finished 21-10. The Terps were 18th in the final poll, lost to North Carolina in the ACC tournament final and lost to eventual champion Indiana in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

These Terps say they know they still have a lot to prove off last season's 18-12 record, which ended with a run to the Sweet 16, but also included struggling with three wins in their last 11 ACC games.

"You can look at No. 7 and say we don't deserve it based off last year, or you can say we're one of the best teams in the country and we're ready to take the next step," guard Duane Simpkins said last night.

Fairly heady stuff for a team that a year ago was picked to finish seventh in the ACC. Junior guard Johnny Rhodes said that Maryland fans aren't the only ones talking about the Terps going further this year, possibly all the way to Seattle for the Final Four: The topic has come up among the players as well.

"A lot of people [on campus] expect us to, and we want to go even further than the Final Four," said Rhodes. "Every player's dream is to get a championship ring. That's what I want, and I know that's what every guy on this team wants."

To accomplish this feat -- Maryland never has played in the Final Four and has reached the final eight only twice -- the Terps will have to get through the most ambitious schedule Williams has put together since returning in 1989.

There are seven Top 25 teams on the schedule, including five ranked teams in the ACC. Maryland likely will play an eighth, No. 9 Indiana, in the second round of the Maui Invitational a week from today and could wind up playing as many as nine if the Terps and No. 16 Michigan reach the final Nov. 23.

That means as many as 14 of their 29 regular-season games will be against Top 25 competition, including six against other Top 10 teams: two each against the Tar Heels and No. 8 Duke, as well as non-conference games against the Hoosiers and No. 3 Massachusetts.

"When I first got the job, people expected us to play a schedule like this," Williams said. "But you learn that to reach the NCAA tournament, you have to be careful [not to overschedule]. I think we'll see how good we are right off the bat."

NOTES: The ACC had the most teams in the Top 25, followed by the Big Ten with five. The SEC and the Big East each had four. . . . The Terps will play their final exhibition game tomorrow night against Verich Reps, beginning at 8.

AP TOP 25

The top 25 teams in the Associated Press' preseason college basketball poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, 1993-94 record, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote, and last season's final ranking:

No. School .. .. .. .. Record .. .. Pts .. .. FR

1. Arkansas (63) .. .. 31-3 . .. .. 1,646 ... 2

2. N. Carolina (1) ... 28-7 . .. .. 1,490 ... 1

3. Massachusetts .. .. 28-7 . .. .. 1,391 ... 8

4. Kentucky (1) ... .. 27-7 . .. .. 1,361 ... 7

5. Arizona .. .. .. .. 29-6 . .. .. 1,270 ... 9

6. UCLA .. .. .. .. .. 21-7 . .. .. 1,239 .. 17

7. Maryland (1) ... . 18-12 . .. .. 1,126 .. --

8. Duke .. .. .. .. .. 28-6 . .. .. 1,120 ... 6

9. Indiana .. .. .. .. 21-9 . .. .. . 971 .. 18

10. Florida . .. .. .. 27-8 . .. .. . 960 .. 14

11. Kansas .. .. .. .. 29-8 . .. .. . 958 .. 13

12. Syracuse ... .. .. 23-7 . .. .. . 951 .. 15

13. Cincinnati . .. . 22-10 . .. .. . 882 .. 25

14. Virginia ... .. . 18-13 . .. .. . 856 .. --

15. Georgetown . .. . 19-12 . .. .. . 620 .. --

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