In math of Vitale and Phelps, Terps gain berth even with loss


When the college basketball cognoscenti gather to talk about the effects of underclassmen leaving early for the NBA, this year's Maryland team is usually in the mix.

Last season's national Player of the Year Joe Smith left the Chesapeake Bay area for the San Francisco Bay area and the Golden State Warriors, and the Terps nearly went to sea in his absence.

"When Joe Smith was in the middle, he was guarded by two players. That means the rest of the players were guarded by one man or in some cases, half a man," said CBS analyst Billy Packer. "Now, with him gone, instead of being guarded by half a man, you're being guarded by a man or sometimes two. All of a sudden, you go from 'I thought I was a heck of a player' to 'How come I'm not getting those rebounds?' "

And so now, the Terps, a regional semifinalist in the last two NCAA tournaments with Smith, find themselves in danger of not getting named to this year's field, as the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament opens today.

Dick Vitale and Digger Phelps, who analyze college basketball for ESPN, say the Terps, who have 16 wins and an 8-8 league mark, are already in the 64-team NCAA tournament even with a loss to Duke in today's ACC quarterfinals (Channel 54, noon), thanks to Georgia Tech's being left out last year with 18 wins and an identical conference record.

"They [Georgia Tech] got robbed. They did everything the committee said they had to do, and I think the embarrassment over that will help Maryland," said Vitale. "A win over Duke will absolutely lock it away, but I still think with their strength of schedule and a .500 mark in the league, they're in, but it would make life a whole lot easier if they won."

The Terps-Duke game kicks off a full day of ACC action on Channel 54, which will carry all of the tournament from Greensboro, N.C., through today's quarterfinals, tomorrow's semifinals at 1: 30 and the championship game Sunday at 1 p.m. WBAL (1090 AM) will air all Maryland games through the tournament.

ESPN and ESPN2, which will carry the tournament to the rest of the nation, will be blacked out here and air alternate programming.

Placing a bid

Sufficiently chastened from lowered ratings for last year's tournament selection show, CBS has paired the proceedings from one hour to the usual 30 minutes, and will send its lead announcing team of Packer and Jim Nantz to Kansas City for the unveiling of the men's field at 6: 30 p.m. Sunday.

Of course, none of its competitors is going to let CBS have the spotlight unchallenged. For instance, ESPN will air a 63-minute tournament special that goes on the air three minutes before CBS, but will get the pairings just after CBS has shown them.

NBC, meanwhile, which got lucky last year as the return of Michael Jordan coincided with the second round of the tournament, will try again to blunt CBS with the cheap scheduling trick of running the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks on Sunday (Channel 11, 5: 30 p.m.) while the pairings are being announced.

The NBA game should be at halftime when the bids are unveiled, which is a good thing, since you're not likely to hear anything about them on NBC.

The rest of the hardwood

The women's 64-team NCAA field gets announced first at 7: 30 p.m. Sunday on ESPN, the new home of the tournament. Meanwhile, the usually fluffy "NBA Inside Stuff" has a feature tomorrow (Channel 11, 12: 30 p.m.) on Cori Carson, a former Maryland player who is thriving at Division III Marymount College in Arlington, Va., after a liver transplant.

James Brown does the first of a five-game fill-in for play-by-play man Mel Proctor on Sunday when the Washington Bullets play host to Atlanta at 3 p.m. on Home Team Sports, while Proctor, the other hardest working man in show business, is away.

Across the dials

When WBAL isn't following the Terps this weekend, it'll have Orioles spring training games, against the New York Mets tomorrow at 7 p.m., and against the Atlanta Braves on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Speaking of the Orioles, "Sports Forum" on WWLG (1360 AM) sets up shop at the Orioles' spring training hotel headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., starting tonight at 5 p.m., and continuing Monday and Tuesday.

Pub Date: 3/08/96

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