For UM, two titles is one tough task

Terps know that history frowns on shot at repeat

Ncaa Tournament

March 20, 2003|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Does Maryland have what it takes to defend its NCAA title?

History says no. Only once in the past three decades has the NCAA tournament produced a repeat champion.

Duke won back-to-back titles in 1991 and '92 behind Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill. In the decade since, five of the 10 defending champions were No. 1 seeds. Three got to the Final Four and two returned to the title game, but none was able to stand on the pinnacle again.

No defending champion since has been as lightly regarded as the Terps, who began the campaign with the No. 13 spot in the Associated Press preseason rankings, slipped to their current spot of No. 17 and are the sixth seed in the South Regional.

Five of the 10 previous defending champions were the preseason No. 1. North Carolina was a massive disappointment in 1994, but two years later UCLA lowered the bar even further.

A review of the recent record shows what Maryland is up against:

1993: Duke's dynasty was undone by the departure of Laettner and the play of California's dynamic freshman guard, Jason Kidd.

Hill and Hurley made for a solid nucleus that was ranked third in the preseason, but North Carolina ruled the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season and Georgia Tech the ACC tournament. Seeded No. 3 in the Midwest, Duke trailed sixth-seeded Cal and Kidd by 17 points with 13 minutes left. They regained the lead, but Hurley had no magic left, Hill turned it over on a key possession and the Blue Devils were vanquished, 82-77, in the second round.

1994: George Lynch was the only regular who had to be replaced, and a freshman class that included Rasheed Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse made North Carolina well-equipped to repeat. No. 1 in the preseason, the Tar Heels took that bull's-eye into the NCAAs, where Eric Montross and company were shocked by ninth-seeded Boston College, 75-72, in the East second round at USAir Arena in Landover.

Two games removed from a 33-point loss to Georgetown in the Big East tournament, the Eagles got 18 points from Bill Curley, but Tar Heels coach Dean Smith complained about a flagrant foul that sidelined point guard Derrick Phelps with 15:53 remaining.

1995: With all of coach Nolan Richardson's pieces back, Arkansas was ranked No. 1 in the preseason. The Razorbacks were seeded second in the Midwest, where top seed Kansas was eliminated in the Sweet 16 and their road cleared all the way to the championship game at the Seattle Kingdome, where Arkansas was finally stopped, 89-78, by UCLA, No. 1 out West.

The media speculated that UCLA's National Player of the Year, Ed O'Bannon, wasn't up to stopping Corliss Williamson, but Bruins coach Jim Harrick checked him with 7-footer George Zidek, and the Razorbacks' low-post force made just three of his 16 field-goal tries.

1996: UCLA's title had come despite an injury to point guard Tyus Edney, but this time it was on the wrong end of a fairy tale.

Despite losing Edney, O'Bannon and Zidek, UCLA was ranked No. 4 in the preseason. An ineffectual regular season resulted in a fourth seed in the Southeast and a date with 13th-seeded Princeton and Pete Carril, who was coaching his final college season. A back-door basket by freshman Gabe Lewullis earned a 43-41 victory for the Tigers, who got 11 points from Towson Catholic grad Sydney Johnson.

It's the only time since 1988, when Indiana lost to Richmond, that the defending champ failed to survive the first round.

1997: Kentucky did not collapse after losing Antoine Walker, Walter McCarty, Tony Delk and Derek Anderson from its first title team in 18 years. Jeff Sheppard thought the Wildcats were so stacked that he sat out the year as a redshirt, and Ron Mercer became the top gun on a team that was No. 3 in the preseason and the top seed in the West.

In one half of the bracket, Kentucky easily ran its NCAA win streak to 11 games. In the other, Arizona, the fourth seed in the Southeast, played giant-killer. In the final in Indianapolis, Lute Olson's crew made Rick Pitino's their third top-seeded conquest, 84-79, in overtime.

1998: With its first six players back, Arizona was a clear preseason No. 1. Ranked No. 4 and seeded first in the West, the Wildcats made Maryland their 23rd victim in 24 games, but then Olson got undressed by Utah coach Rick Majerus in the region final in Anaheim. A triangle and two defense shut down Mike Bibby and Miles Simon, and Utah's Andre Miller posted a triple double to trounce Arizona, 76-51, in a blowout that didn't seem that close.

It was one of the worst tournament defeats ever by a defending champion.

1999: After appearing in three straight championship games and winning two of them, Kentucky had some holes to fill. The Wildcats lost starters Sheppard, Alan Edwards and Nazr Mohammed, but returnees Scott Padgett, Wayne Turner and Jamaal Magloire were ranked No. 4 in the preseason and wound up with the third seed in the Midwest. Kentucky blew a 13-point lead in the regional final, went stone cold and fell to top-seeded Michigan State, 73-66.

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