The Big Ten tournament is in Maryland's backyard, but that didn't matter much in the ACC

Maryland's the de facto host of the Big Ten tournament this year. That was not an auspicious fact in the ACC.

In the great tradition of Gary Williams, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim wondered Wednesday why the Atlantic Coast Conference should ever bother returning to Greensboro, N.C., (aka "The Gate City"!) for its men's basketball tournament. 

Of course, the tournament's history is as North Carolinian as Bojangles biscuits. For the first 22 years of competition, it was held in the Tar Heel State, first in Raleigh, and later in Greensboro and Charlotte. The tournament didn't leave North Carolina until 1976, when it migrated for a year to Landover's Capital Centre. 

The eight-team, three-day showcase returned to Maryland twice more in the next 11 years. And then it never came back, nor will it ever again, probably. Before the Terps left for the Big Ten Conference in 2014, the closest the ACC tournament came to College Park was Washington, in 2005. By that point, there were 11 member schools and a round before the quarterfinals. 

With Maryland set for its quarterfinal game Friday in Washington's first Big Ten tournament, it's worth remembering that home often can be hospitable, but you have to build the trophy case yourself.

1976 (Landover)

Seed: No. 2

Results: Def. No. 7 seed Duke, 80-78, in overtime in quarterfinals; lost to No. 6 seed Virginia, 73-65, in semifinals

Summary: Led by John Lucas (19.9 points per game) and Steve Sheppard (17.6 ppg, 8.8 rebounds per game), the Terps went undefeated in nonconference play and 11-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Come tournament time, they took down one of Duke's last pre-Krzyzewski teams in overtime, then faced a surprise team in the semifinals. Second-year Virginia coach Terry Holland's team had upset No. 17 North Carolina State.

How did Maryland coach Lefty Driesell do against his Cavaliers counterpart, who played for him at Davidson? "I must be stupid or something,” Driesell said after the No. 9 Terps' upset loss. "I stunk as a coach, we stunk as a team and Virginia made us stink." 

Maryland's season ended there. The ACC final featured the only two ACC teams to make the NCAA tournament that year: eventual conference champion Virginia and No. 2 North Carolina, which lost to the Cavaliers, 67-62.

1981 (Landover)

Seed: No. 4

Results: Def. No. 5 seed Duke, 56-53, in quarterfinals; def. No. 1 seed Virginia, 85-62, in semifinals; lost to No. 2 seed North Carolina, 61-60, in final

Summary: After finishing the 1979-80 season No. 8 nationally and returning Albert King, Buck Williams and Greg Manning for their senior year, the Terps started the season ranked No. 4. They ended the regular season far from those expectations, losing four of their final seven games. At least the ACC tournament wasn't far from Cole Field House.

In its opener, Maryland got by Mike Krzyzewski's first Duke team. Against Virginia, ranked No. 4 and led by future National Player of the Year Ralph Sampson, the Terps rolled. 

In 1980, Maryland lost by one to Duke in the tournament championship game. A year later, it was the same margin, only James Worthy-led North Carolina was crowned. "Maybe the good Lord doesn't want me to win this tournament," Driesell said after his fifth runner-up finish. In the NCAA tournament, the Terps were no luckier. In the round of 32, eventual national champion Indiana, the No. 3 seed, cruised to a 99-64 victory behind Isiah Thomas' 19 points and 14 assists and Ray Tolbert's 26 points.

1987 (Landover)

Seed: No. 8

Results: Lost to No. 1 seed North Carolina, 82-63, in quarterfinals

Summary: The last ACC tournament at the Capital Centre also coincided with the Terps' first season after the death of Len Bias and under coach Bob Wade. It did not go well.

Maryland finished the regular season 9-16 overall and with its only winless record in ACC play, assured of its first losing season since 1968-69. The Terps' third meeting against North Carolina, in the ACC tournament quarterfinals, went better than their first (a 33-point road loss) and worse than their second (a seven-point home loss). It was a defeat anyway, and Derrick Lewis' first-team all-conference season was over.

2005 (Washington)

Seed: No. 8

Results: Lost to No. 9 seed Clemson, 84-72, in first round

Summary: Had the ACC held its first tournament in Washington a year earlier, Terps fans would have remembered it more fondly. Not that the bar could have been set any lower. 

A year after John Gilchrist masterminded a sweep through the conference's top three seeds and Maryland's first tournament title in two decades, the Terps entered mid-February having swept Duke and improved to 6-5 in league play. A 12th straight NCAA tournament seemed well in hand. Then Maryland dropped four of its next five, including a home loss to an under-.500 Clemson team that already had won their first meeting.

A loss in their regular-season finale denied the Terps a first-round bye and a top-five seed. They ended up in the Nos. 8-9 game against the pesky Tigers instead. Desperately needing a win to go dancing, Maryland lost forward James Gist before the game to a bruised left knee, then saw Gilchrist sprain his left ankle, limiting him to three second-half minutes.

When they left the MCI Center floor, the Terps had lost three games in the same season to one opponent for the first time since 1992-93 and become the first defending ACC champion to go out in the quarterfinal round since Georgia Tech in 1994. Maryland did not make the NCAA tournament; worse, maybe, Duke won the ACC tournament.

Overall: 3-4 in four ACC tournament appearances, no conference championships

Copyright © 2017, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
70°