ACC basketball: Maryland craves two wins
By David Ginsburg
COLLEGE PARK, Md. ó Gary Williams says Maryland probably doesn’t need to win the ACC Tournament to become a part of March Madness.
The coach said two victories should put the Terrapins in “good shape” to get into the NCAA tournament. But why leave anything to chance?
“Obviously, to make it real easy, if we win the whole thing, we’re guaranteed a spot,” center Dave Neal said.
The seventh-seeded Terrapins (18-12, 7-9) open play Thursday night at the Georgia Dome against N.C. State, a team they defeated on the road earlier this month. If Maryland wins, a matchup against No. 8 Wake Forest looms Friday.
The Terps led the Demon Deacons by seven points at halftime on March 3. Although Maryland came out on the short end of a 65-63 decision, it wouldn’t be lacking confidence in a rematch.
“We played Wake just about as tough as anybody’s played them so far,” Neal said.
Before the Terps can turn their attention to Wake, they must first get by N.C. State.
“Obviously you have to beat N.C. State ó that’s the whole focus,” Williams said. “Realistically, where everything is now, I’d say two wins would put us in good shape. But we’re going down there to win the tournament, just like we did in 2004. That’s the goal.”
Two wins would give Maryland 20 for the season and even its record in conference games. That, plus signature wins over North Carolina, Michigan State and potentially Wake Forest, could get the Terrapins in the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years.
Williams has made no effort to downplay that scenario in part because he knows it’s pointless to try. But he’s counting on his players not to get ahead of themselves by looking past the Wolfpack.
“They’re college students,” Williams said. “They understand that you have to win against N.C. State. That’s the whole key to everything.”
It appears as if he’s gotten his point across.
“Sometimes when you think ahead, you lose focus of the big picture,” Landon Milbourne said. “And the big picture right now is to win Thursday.”