Opportunity knocks will Terps reply?

March 11, 1996|By JOHN EISENBERG

A seventh seed despite a dozen losses?

Pretty generous.

A first-round matchup with a team from the small West Coast Conference?

Pretty fortunate.

The Maryland Terrapins can't complain about their treatment from the NCAA Selection Committee this year.

As a matter of fact, does anyone know if Gary Williams has a cousin on the committee?

Someone somewhere wanted to cut his team a break, that's for sure.

OK, maybe that's unfair. With back-to-back Sweet 16 trips on their ledger and with 11 of their 12 losses this season against teams that made the NCAA field announced yesterday, the Terps deserved some latitude.

But this much?

The inconsistent Terps played .200 ball (2-8) against teams ranked in last week's Associated Press Top 25, yet their seventh seed in the West Regional implies that the committee considers them among the nation's top 28 teams. Huh?

The committee must not have heard about the 22-point loss at Florida State or any of the half-dozen other disappearing acts the Terps pulled this year.

They are indeed one of the nation's top 28 teams when they show up, but they don't show up all the time.

The tournament committee overlooked their inconsistency and gave them a break.

Obviously, the committee rewarded the Terps for playing one of the nation's toughest schedules.

Never mind that the Terps rarely beat the toughest teams on that schedule. Just playing the schedule was enough, apparently.

More than enough.

Turns out the Terps probably didn't have to beat Duke in the ACC tournament last week to get into the NCAA field.

They still would have made it even with a third loss to Duke and a 16-12 record.

The tournament committee, hellbent on making up for overlooking Georgia Tech a year ago, treated the ACC like a corporate sponsor yesterday.

The conference got everything it wanted on Selection Sunday. More teams in the tournament than any other conference. None seeded lower than ninth.

Of course, the ACC has had a team in each of the past eight Final Fours, so it deserves royal treatment.

True, the committee went overboard when it rated the ACC as the nation's toughest conference this year. The ACC is down. The Big East is far tougher at the top.

But the ACC got a lot of breaks. The committee easily could have penalized the Terps for winning only five of 16 games against teams that made the 64-team field, yet it rewarded the Terps for beating Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Duke, George Washington and Missouri.

No whining, Terps fans. Your team got all it could have asked for. Santa Clara is the weakest of the 10th seeds. (The others are Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas State.) And a possible second-round matchup with second-seeded Kansas, though clearly a long shot for the Terps, would put them against a team that Virginia crushed in the tournament a year ago.

Not that Santa Clara is an easy opponent, understand. The Broncos beat UCLA this year. Maryland couldn't. The Broncos beat Georgia Tech on a neutral floor this year. Maryland couldn't. The Broncos have one of the best players in the country, guard Steve Nash, a possible NBA lottery pick. Maryland doesn't have that.

The Terps do have more depth, more balance and a better pedigree than the Broncos. They should win. Remember, Santa Clara is from the same conference as Gonzaga, which Maryland outclassed in the first round a year ago.

As a rule, the Terps can handle teams with one star, as long as that star isn't a big man.

Williams' toughest chore this week will be mental preparation. It will be all but impossible for the Terps to view Santa Clara as anything less than a comedown from the ACC, yet the Broncos are a legitimate team that shocked second-seeded Arizona in the first round of the NCAA tournament two years ago.

It is the kind of game the inconsistent Terps could give away.

Basically, as has been the case all year, it depends on whether the Terps show up. If they do, they should win easily. But if they lapse into one of their sleepwalking exhibitions, they could get sent home.

The tournament committee has given the Terps a break. Now, can the players make the most of it?

Pub Date: 3/11/96

Terps opponents

How Maryland has fared against teams that made the NCAA tournament:

Opponent .. .. .. .. .. Result

Kentucky .. .. .. .. .. L, 96-84

UMass .. .. .. .. .. .. L, 50-47

at G. Washington ... .. W, 98-81

at UCLA ... .. .. .. .. L, 73-63

at Ga. Tech .. .. .. .. L, 98-84

N.Carolina, OT .. .. .. L, 88-86

at Wk.Forest . .. .. .. L, 77-64

Clemson ... .. .. .. .. W, 65-60

at Duke ... .. .. .. .. L, 83-73

Ga. Tech .. .. .. .. .. W, 88-74

at N.Carolina ... .. .. W, 84-78

Wk.Forest . .. .. .. .. L, 85-78

at Clemson ... .. .. .. L, 68-61

Duke .. ... .. .. .. .. L, 77-75

Duke ... .. .. .. .. .. W, 82-69

Ga. Tech .. .. .. .. .. L, 84-79

Record . .. .. .. .. .. ... 5-11

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