Maryland ranked 6th in AP poll Preseason position for basketball team is highest since '80-81

'We like the ranking'

Team will play three of the Top 5 squads

November 06, 1998|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- If the Maryland basketball team isn't satisfied with its standing in the Associated Press preseason Top 25, it can do something about it.

Maryland is No. 6 in the initial rankings released by the AP yesterday, and in the span of less than four weeks, the Terps will get the chance to knock off three of the five teams ahead of them.

The first five consists of Duke, Connecticut, Stanford, defending NCAA champion Kentucky and Michigan State.

Only once in the last two decades has Maryland begun a season with greater advance notice: The Terps were picked No. 4 in 1980.

"We like the ranking," coach Gary Williams said yesterday. "We put pressure on ourselves to be an excellent team. Hopefully, the ranking will reflect in the way we play."

The recognition was expected. The Terps were No. 5 in most of the national publications that began appearing on the newsstands in September, with an occasional No. 4 or No. 6. Maryland is No. 5 in the preseason coaches' poll conducted by USA Today/ESPN.

"You ought to like it," Williams said of the rankings after Wednesday's exhibition against the Aussie All-Stars. "As a college basketball player, that has to be a big thrill. I only missed it by about 55 spots when I was a player. You're 18 to 22 years old, and unless you're that special player who is going to go to the pros, that's as good as it gets."

The Terps don't have to go outside the Atlantic Coast Conference to take aim at the nation's No. 1 team. Longtime nemesis Duke is the AP's pre-season favorite for the first time since 1991. The Blue Devils never dropped out of the No. 1 spot that season, when they won their second straight NCAA title.

Sophomore center Elton Brand Williams and company come to Cole Field House Jan. 3. Maryland faces No. 3 Stanford Dec. 6 in the semifinals of the BB&T Classic at the MCI Center. The Terps play No. 4 Kentucky at Rupp Arena Dec. 12, and the Puerto Rico Shootout Thanksgiving weekend was designed with a Terps-Wildcats title game in mind.

"You have to enjoy the fact that we're ranked, but use it as a means to make us practice real hard," Williams said. "You have to defend that position. You lose a game, you won't be there. The preseason polls are great, but that's all it is. It'll be a memory when we create our own identity.

"You learn as a coach that there are no guarantees. Everyone is talking about the Puerto Rican [Shootout] tournament like it's our first game, but we have four games before then. We have to win those games."

Maryland opens Nov. 14 against Western Carolina, the first of four games at Cole Field House before the Puerto Rico Shootout. The Terps must blend four newcomers with a cast of veterans which features one of the ACC's proven players in senior wing Laron Profit.

Brand is one of three returning starters for the Blue Devils, whose roster bulges with high school All-Americans.

Hopes soared at Connecticut when Big East Player of the Year zTC Richard Hamilton wisely turned down the NBA and returned for his junior season.

Stanford has everyone back from a team which took Kentucky into overtime in the NCAA semifinals. Kentucky has several holes to fill, but coach Tubby Smith's team will grow up in a hurry against a nonconference schedule that's even tougher than Maryland's. Michigan State has junior guard Mateen Cleaves and the other four starters back from a Sweet 16 team.

After the Terps, the second five consists of Temple, Kansas, Tennessee and Utah. The Temple roster includes Mark Karcher, The Sun's Player of the Year in 1996-97 for St. Frances, who will play after sitting out last season as an academic non-qualifier.

North Carolina, last season's top-ranked team heading into the NCAA tournament, is No. 11.


1998-99 Terps schedule


11 -- California All-Stars, 8 p.m.

14 -- Western Carolina, 8 p.m.

17 -- UMBC, 8 p.m.

20 -- Hofstra, 8 p.m.

23 -- Duquesne, 8 p.m.

26-28 -- at Puerto Rico Shootout (ESPN, ESPN2), TBA.


3 -- Wake Forest (RJ), 8 p.m.

6 -- vs. Stanford at BB&T Classic at MCI Center (ABC), 1 p.m.

7 -- at BB&T Classic (HTS), 8: 30 p.m.

12 -- at Kentucky (ESPN), 8: 30 p.m.

-- vs. Princeton at Baltimore Arena (ESPN), 9: 30 p.m.

23 -- North Texas, 8 p.m.

27 -- South Carolina State, 1: 30 p.m.


3 -- Duke (RJ/ESPN2), 1: 30 p.m.

7 -- at Virginia (RJ), 8 p.m.

10 -- North Carolina State (RJ), 1: 30 p.m.

13 -- at North Carolina (ESPN), 9 p.m.

19 -- Georgia Tech (RJ), 9 p.m.

24 -- at Clemson (RJ/ESPN2), 4 p.m.

27 -- Florida State (ESPN2), 8 p.m.

31 -- at Wake Forest (RJ), 1: 30 p.m.


3 -- at Duke (ESPN), 9 p.m.

6 -- Virginia (RJ), 1 p.m.

10 -- at North Carolina State (ESPN), 7 p.m.

13 -- North Carolina (RJ/ESPN2), 4 p.m.

21 -- at Georgia Tech (RJ/ESPN2), 1: 30 p.m.

24 -- Clemson (ESPN), 7 p.m.

27 -- at Florida State (RJ), 1: 30 p.m.


4-7 -- at ACC Tournament in Charlotte, N.C., TBA, RJ/ESPN

Terps in the Top 10

This is the 14th Maryland men's basketball team to be ranked in the Top 10 since the Associated Press media poll began on Jan. 20, 1949. The preseason poll was instituted in 1961.

Season ..... Preseason ... Highest .. Postseason

1954-55 .... Unranked .... No. 6 .... None

.... Unranked .... No. 6 .... NCAA regional semis

1971-72 .... No. 6 ....... No. 5 .... NIT champion

1972-73 .... No. 3 ....... No. 2 .... NCAA regional final

1973-74 .... No. 4 ....... No. 2 .... None

1974-75 .... No. 4 ....... No. 2 .... NCAA regional final

1975-76 .... No. 3 ....... No. 2 .... None

1976-77 .... No. 8 ....... Same ..... None

.... Unranked .... No. 7 .... NCAA regional semis

1980-81 .... No. 4 ....... Same ..... NCAA regional semis

1983-84 .... No. 8 ....... No. 5 .... NCAA regional semis

1994-95 .... No. 7 ....... No. 5 .... NCAA regional semis

1996-97 .... Unranked .... No. 5 .... NCAA first round

Source: ACC

Pub Date: 11/06/98

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