16 sweet enough for Maryland? GW, Ga. Tech thought they had it made, too

March 06, 1996|By KEN MURRAY | KEN MURRAY,SUN STAFF

With his 16th win in hand and the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament still ahead of him, Maryland coach Gary Williams felt like a man who had won a reprieve late Monday night.

In his season of endless tribulation, Williams figured the Terps finally assured themselves of an NCAA tournament bid by beating Florida State.

"I think tying Duke for fourth in the ACC regular season gets us there," he said. "It's hard to take Duke without taking us. We're both 8-8 in the league."

Hard, maybe, but not impossible.

Ask Mike Jarvis, whose George Washington Colonials went 18-12 and tied for second in the Atlantic 10, then got the big snub from the NCAA Selection Committee last year.

Or Bobby Cremins, whose Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets went 18-12 -- and 8-8 in the ACC -- and were left out in the cold at tournament time.

That's why Maryland senior Duane Simpkins wasn't leaping to any conclusions after the Terps finished the regular season at 16-11.

"I saw what happened to GW last year," Simpkins said. "I talked with Vaughn Jones before that, and he thought they were in. But they weren't. That might be the worst feeling of your career."

Williams makes valid points in stressing Maryland's strength of schedule (fifth-toughest in the nation) and RPI power rating (30th). And how many teams can say they played Massachusetts to within three points or Kentucky within 12 this season?

What's more, Maryland (3-5) and Duke (4-6) have similar records against the Top 25.

But if the Terps want to remove all doubt they belong, they need to beat Duke (18-11) in the quarterfinal round of the ACC tourney in Greensboro, N.C., on Friday. A third loss to a Duke team that doesn't expect to have Chris Collins (sprained right foot) could earn a ticket to the National Invitation Tournament.

Because when the NCAA's Selection Committee drafts 64 teams into four regional brackets on Sunday, there figure to be an overflow of at-large teams with deserving records that got upset in conference tournaments.

Such as Santa Clara, which lost to Pepperdine in the first round of the West Coast Conference.

And Wisconsin-Green Bay, which lost to Detroit in the semifinals of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference.

And Davidson, which lost to Western Carolina in the championship game of the Southern Conference.

Cremins could see the trend last year, when he got squeezed out and started calling for an increase of eight to 10 teams in the tournament.

"In fairness to the Selection Committee, these tournaments at the end of the year really make it a hard puzzle to put together," Cremins said.

"Wisconsin-Green Bay is going to get in, even though it lost in its tournament. Davidson's in an interesting position, to go undefeated in the Southern Conference and get upset. Bradley [of the Missouri Valley Conference], I'm sure, will get in.

"If that's what's going to happen, if those teams continue to get in, fine. But you cannot hurt the bigger conferences. Let's make it easier for everybody. Let's add eight slots, even if we've got to add play-in games."

The ACC remains No. 1 in conference RPI. In yesterday's teleconference, league coaches made a case for six teams, a circumstance that would pull in Clemson as well as Maryland.

"I think Clemson [17-9, 7-9] should really be considered," said Duke's Mike Krzyzewski. "I'd be really disappointed if we didn't get in because we won 18 games and played our best basketball at the end of the year. I'd be disappointed if Maryland didn't get in, too."

Florida State coach Pat Kennedy endorsed Maryland as a tournament team after losing, 88-78, to the Terps.

"I thought Maryland showed a lot of character, knowing how important that game was to their team," Kennedy said. "With their strength of schedule and power rating, there's no question they should be in the tournament."

Pub Date: 3/06/96

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