COLLEGE PARK -- When the game was scheduled last spring, Maryland was coming off its two-year NCAA ban from postseason competition and Howard was coming off its first NCAA tournament appearance in 11 years.
At the time, it looked like an interesting early January matchup.
Tonight it looks like nothing more than a mismatch at Cole Field House.
"When I first looked at the schedule, I thought it was a fantastic time for us to play them," Howard coach Butch Beard said yesterday. "Now the way we're playing and the way they looked against Louisville, hopefully we can survive and not be embarrassed."
While the 7-1 Terrapins are riding a six-game winning streak and are coming off Monday night's 72-67 victory over the Cardinals, the 2-6 Bison are coming off a 10-day break that has allowed some injuries to heal and has given Beard a chance to work out some kinks in the offense.
Beard, who played at Louisville in the late 1960s, saw what Maryland did to his alma mater last week, and is concerned that things don't get out of hand early.
"If we can stay competitive for 25-30 minutes and keep it a 10-point game, I'll be happy," he said. "If they get a couple of dunks right away, we might not do anything."
When Beard took over at Howard last season, the Bison started out 1-8 before finishing 17-14 and winning the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. This early season has been another struggle.
"The expectations were extremely high, and my expectations were probably even higher," said Beard, a former NBA player and assistant coach. "I thought we'd be a better team by now. What I didn't know was that the kids don't retain well."
The Bison also have been wracked by injuries and illness, leaving senior guard Milan Brown as the team's only experienced starter.
Howard has eight sophomores -- including Beard's son Corey and Phil Chenier Jr. -- and one freshman.
"We're very young," he said.
Still, they pose a dangerous enough psychological threat to Maryland, which can't get caught up in reflecting too much on Monday's big victory or thinking ahead to Tuesday's Atlantic Coast Conference opener against Georgia Tech.
"By this time of year, you know that you have to play hard every night," said Maryland coach Gary Williams. "We've done a pretty good job of getting ready for every game."
That the Bison went to the NCAA tournament last year certainly helps in the preparation.
"This is the time of year that they turned it around last year," said Williams. "We don't want them to turn it around against us."