Final Four follow-up: Only Terps left standing

Arizona, Michigan State, even Duke fail in bids to make return trips

East Regional notebook

College Basketball

March 23, 2002|By Paul McMullen and Gary Lambrecht | Paul McMullen and Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Duke was upset in the South Regional by fifth seed Indiana. Arizona can attest to Oklahoma's strength. Michigan State was never a contender.

How does it feel, Maryland, being the only member of last season's Final Four to still be playing?

"That's crazy," senior guard Juan Dixon said. "That says a lot about us. The guys remember what it takes to get back. Duke's a great team. It's weird seeing us in the Elite Eight and Duke at home."

But there was no celebration last night, and the Terps seemed downright subdued coming off the court.

"It's a veteran team," coach Gary Williams said. "Sometimes I wish they had more emotion."

Maryland's experience showed back on Dec. 3, when it beat Connecticut, 77-65, in the championship game of the BB&T Classic at MCI Center.

"I know Jim Calhoun pretty well, and his teams always get better," Williams said of his coaching counterpart. "They were young, trying to feel their way. Any veteran team is going to have an advantage in November and December. They've improved, but we're a better team than we were then, too."

Practice pays off

Junior guard Drew Nicholas planned to place special emphasis on the pre-game shoot-around before last night's East Regional semifinal confrontation with fourth-seeded Kentucky.

For shooters like Nicholas, who is top seed Maryland's prime scoring threat off the bench, getting used to the Carrier Dome's surroundings was important. For players like Nicholas, who is the Terps' most versatile performer and perhaps their best outside shooter, firing from the perimeter in a dome poses some problems.

"It's the backdrop. It feels like you're trying to throw the ball at a rim that's sitting in the middle of the ocean," said Nicholas, who hit three of his six shots - and two of his four three-pointers - last night to finish with eight points.

"The pre-game shoot-around is critical," he said. "You've got to get a lot of shots up to get the feel. Besides that, it's just another rim and just another court."

Look out, Emeka

Most Connecticut opponents shy away from center Emeka Okafor. Not Southern Illinois, which went right at the nation's second-leading shot blocker. Coach Bruce Weber ordered the Salukis to go right at Okafor, and they continually pounded the ball inside to 6-foot-6, 250-pound center Rolan Roberts in the opening minutes. Roberts finished with 24 points.

"Their first seven plays were run right at Emeka," Calhoun said. "That's great coaching. He [Roberts] challenged him. Even if he didn't make the shot, he let Emeka know about his presence."

Tubby turndown

Kentucky coach Tubby Smith, who is a native of Scotland in Southern Maryland, nearly became a Terp. Smith had orally committed to Maryland following a successful high school career in Scotland. But before his freshman season of 1969-70, Maryland hired Lefty Driesell, who chose not to sign the 6-foot-3 swingman from Great Mills High School.

Smith went on to become an all-conference player at High Point (N.C.) College.

Kentucky by the numbers

Since 1903, Kentucky has fielded 99 basketball teams. The Wildcats have won seven NCAA titles, the most recent in 1998. Kentucky has won more games (1,817) than any other school, appeared in more NCAA tournaments (43), won more tournament games (89), appeared in more tournament games (126) and produced a higher winning percentage (76.2) than any other school.

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