COLLEGE PARK -- Not that there was any doubt this year, but Maryland junior forward James Gist still considered it a "sigh of relief."
For the past two seasons, Gist and his teammates have gathered in the players' lounge at Comcast Center to watch the NCAA tournament field revealed on the Selection Sunday show.
For the first time in three years, Maryland's name appeared yesterday.
The Terps (24-8) earned the No. 4 seed in the Midwest Regional and will face No. 13 seed Davidson (29-4) in Buffalo, N.Y., on Thursday at 12:20 p.m. Davidson earned an automatic bid for winning the Southern Conference tournament.
"It was a lot different from the last two years," said Gist, who will play in the NCAA tournament for the first time. "Last two years we'd sit there on Selection Sunday just hoping our name would get called.
"This Sunday, we knew we were going to get called, we just didn't know where we were going to get called or what seed we were going to be. To see our name pop up on the screen was a good feeling, it was a sigh of relief. ... I can sleep good tonight knowing we're not going to the NIT, we're going to the NCAA tournament."
The No. 4 seed was a reward for a regular season that ended with a seven-game winning streak, including wins over Duke and North Carolina in a span of four days. It was a payoff for not folding in February, when a 2-5 record in the Atlantic Coast Conference had many outsiders counting out the Terps. It was also evidence that Maryland convinced the selection committee it is capable of more than it showed in the first round of the ACC tournament, where Maryland collapsed in an ugly loss to Miami.
"I felt pretty good all day," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "We had a good practice. I was a little anxious about our seed, to find out where we would be and where our seed would be. It is a good feeling that you're in good shape going into the Selection Sunday show."
The players had some wings, sandwiches and sodas in the lounge after practice yesterday. Bambale Osby said "everybody jumped up" when Maryland's seed was revealed.
"Coach says he thinks we got a really good draw," Osby said, "and I agree."
Should Maryland advance, it will face the winner of the game between fifth-seeded Butler and 12th-seeded Old Dominion. The Terps are in the same bracket as defending national champion Florida, which earned the No. 1 seed.
Davidson by no means equates an automatic win for Maryland, though.
Freshman guard Stephen Curry, son of NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry, was largely overlooked during the recruiting process but has been considered by some to be an ACC-caliber player.
He scored a game-high 29 points in the Southern Conference championship game to lead Davidson to its second consecutive title. He leads the league with 21.2 points per game and is the top free-throw shooter at 84.8 percent. Curry is second in the conference with 3.55 three-pointers per game. He and junior point guard Jason Richards, who averages 13.6 points and a conference-best 7.3 assists, comprise a small but talented backcourt.
Williams, who has known Wildcats coach Bob McKillop "a long time," last faced him in 2005, when the Terps beat Davidson in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament at Comcast Center.
"NCAA is always interesting because you get styles you haven't seen in a while, maybe in your league, so you have to make adjustments very quickly in a lot of those games," he said. "We are looking forward to it."
Maryland senior guard D.J. Strawberry said he has been waiting a year for it.
"It was exciting just to hear our name called," Strawberry said. "I've been waiting for this since last year around this time. We worked hard and we played well at the end of the season. I feel we deserve where we're at right now."
TERPS' FIRST ROUND
Opponent -- No. 13-seeded Davidson (29-4)
Head coach -- Bob McKillop (18th season, 311-217)
How it got here -- Earned an automatic bid with a 72-65 win over College of Charleston in the Southern Conference championship.
Series record -- Maryland leads 7-3
Last meeting -- March 23, 2005: Maryland 78, Davidson 63, NIT second round at Comcast Center
Comcast connection -- Former Terps coach Lefty Driesell took Davidson to the Elite Eight in his final two seasons there before being hired by Maryland in 1969.
Terp Talk -- "It's something that we did together, it wasn't just me," said Maryland freshman guard Greivis Vasquez on the program's return to the NCAA tournament. "I wasn't a hero or something like that. ... that was teamwork."
Heather A. Dinich
MARYLAND VS. DAVIDSON
What: Midwest Regional first round.
When: Thursday, 12:20 p.m.
Site: HSBC Arena, Buffalo, N.Y.
TV: Chs. 13, 9
Radio: 1300 AM, 105.7 FM
Line: Maryland by 7