From this visit to Tenn., UM hopes for new tune

In previous 2 trips there, Terps hit tournament exit

IUPUI brings good news

NCAA Tournament

Nashville notebook

March 22, 2003|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Maryland's two previous trips to the state of Tennessee did not go well.

The Terps' NCAA aspirations in 1999 went down in a heap as they were bruised by St. John's, 76-63, in a Sweet 16 game played in Knoxville. Sophomore Terence Morris was bullied by Ron Artest, and Steve Francis spent the second half trash-talking the Red Storm backcourt about his impending NBA riches.

Two years earlier, the Keith Booth era came to an end in Memphis, where Maryland was eliminated by the College of Charleston, 75-66, in a first-round game. The College of Charleston was a 12th seed, despite being ranked higher than the Terps in the polls.

On the history front, Midwest Regional "pod" participant IUPUI is coached by Ron Hunter, and its best-known fan is an old college teammate, Ron Harper. In the mid-1980s, Hunter and Harper played at Miami of Ohio, which took fifth-seeded Maryland into overtime in the first round in 1985. The Terps lost in the Sweet 16 that year to eventual-champion Villanova.

Good omens

Maryland found encouraging omens in some off-court details. When the Terps ruled the NCAA last year, they spent the first two weekends of the tournament at Friday-Sunday sites. If they survive this weekend, they advance to San Antonio, another Friday-Sunday site.

Maryland was shown respect last year, when CBS assigned its No. 1 announcing team of Jim Nantz and Billy Packer to the Terps' four games in the East Regional. Nantz and Packer are calling their games here, although Kentucky is their primary concern at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.

With Kentucky and Maryland, three of the past seven NCAA titlists are represented in Nashville. Incredibly, two of the nation's elite programs combined to go 0-3 against a mediocre Virginia team, which swept the Terps in the regular season and zoned the Wildcats for a 75-61 win in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational.

Feel-good loss

IUPUI was an obscure combination of Indiana University and Purdue in Indianapolis until it won the Mid-Continent Conference tournament. Its starters include Matt Crenshaw, a Navy veteran from Charlottesville, Va.

"We heard so much negative, with what was going on with Georgia, Rhode Island and Fresno State," said Hunter, the Jaguars coach, of a series of scandals that hit college basketball. "Along came a school called IUPUI and made everybody feel good. We put a little, small school on the map. We played the best team in the country today."

Seeing red

Maryland was forced to wear its road red uniforms in the opening round of the NCAA tournament after three white outfits were stolen from a hotel room.

School spokesman Mark Fratto said the white uniforms were taken from a student manager's room at a downtown hotel where the team was staying.

After the theft was discovered in the morning, Maryland officials called their counterparts at North Carolina-Wilmington, the first-round opponent.

The No. 11-seeded Seahawks, who were scheduled to wear their road uniforms as the lower-ranked team, agreed to switch to white so No. 6 Maryland could go with their red uniforms.

Familiar matchup

After Kentucky's win opened the afternoon session, thousands of Wildcats fans departed and missed Utah's win over Oregon. They have seen enough of the Utes, who were eliminated three straight times by Kentucky from 1996 to 1998. Utah will try one more time to knock off Kentucky, in tomorrow's second round.

"When you play in the 8-9 game, you're going to have to get No. 1 the next game," said Utah coach Rick Majerus, who wasn't bothered by the NCAA sending him up against Kentucky again. "If they didn't take into account that Brigham Young is a Mormon school, they're not going to take into account how often we've played Kentucky."

Odds and ends

Xavier star David West was recruited to play for the Musketeers when they were coached by Skip Prosser, the former Loyola boss who's now at Wake Forest. ... Oregon's Luke Ridnour, the Pacific-10 Player of the Year, is a slick guard who evokes former Providence star Ernie DiGregorio. ... Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow counts Kentucky among the women's teams she coached. ... Rob Mullens began the school year as an administrator at Maryland. In September, he became the executive associate director of athletics at Kentucky, in charge of finance.

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