Terps' NCAA tournament stock rising

Win over Duke means big improvement in Maryland's seed

March 05, 2010|By Don Markus | don.markus@baltsun.com

COLLEGE PARK — — Gary Williams and Mike Krzyzewski weren't looking too far ahead after their teams played Wednesday night at Comcast Center, but Maryland's 79-72 victory over Duke could have some significant postseason ramifications for the No. 22 Terps.

In the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, where, barring either team losing Saturday or all the tiebreakers suddenly turning in Maryland's favor, Duke will enter as the No. 1 seed if the Terps and Blue Devils finish with identical 13-3 conference records.

Maryland's win over No. 4 Duke could push the Terps into the Top 15 in next week's national rankings and into a possible No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament - with the prospects of moving even higher if the Terps advance far or win the ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C.

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas believes the Terps are now entrenched as a five seed but could move up if they advance in the tournament.

"If they win the tournament, they're not co-ACC champions, they're the ACC champions," Bilas said Thursday. "Absolutely, they'll be a higher seed."

Bilas, who was at Comcast Center on Wednesday night as part of the broadcast team, picked Maryland to beat Duke - his alma mater - in both games this season. He sees the most improvement in the Terps on the offensive end.

"They're a very good offensive team. They've gotten a lot tougher," Bilas said. "They're not going to be this year a great rebounding team, but they can cover that up and be successful in other areas. They're solid defensively - they're not great, they're solid - but they're really good offensively. They've been playing at a really high level for the last month. They're very efficient; they're shooting it really well. Shooting is an issue; who knows how long that lasts at this level? They've had a wonderful month, I don't necessarily see it ending, but you never know when you're going to shoot it that well all the time."

The victory over the Blue Devils was certainly the most high-profile for Maryland this season. It is the culmination of a recent stretch that included a double-overtime win at Virginia Tech, coming from 15 points down to beat Clemson at home and beating Georgia Tech on a 3-point shot at the buzzer by Cliff Tucker.

"This is definitely the most momentum we've had" going into the ACC tournament," senior guard Eric Hayes said after Maryland (22-7) ended a six-game losing streak against Duke (25-5) and extended its winning streak to six games. But "we have a huge game at Virginia [on Saturday]. I don't think I've won there in my career."

Wednesday's win could help Maryland - and Duke - as they get ready for the NCAA tournament, according to Krzyzewski.

"Being in a big-time game like this is good for both teams," Krzyzewski said during his post-game news conference. "Our guys responded in this atmosphere; they were in a position to win, and I'm proud of that. For both teams to play a game at this level is good for both teams."

It also showed how far the Terps have come in the past three weeks, and how their NCAA tournament resume has improved.

Clearly on the bubble after losing at Duke by 21 points in mid-February, Maryland was a No. 6 or No. 7 seed going into this week but is suddenly among the trendy picks to make a long run in the NCAA tournament. Krzyzewski, whose Blue Devils are considered a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, came away impressed.

"Their kids played their butts off," Krzyzewski said. "I like their team a lot. I think their kids are really good competitors. They're an extension of their coach. Gary does a really good job with them. They're playing lights-out basketball, and they're to be congratulated."

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