About-Face: Terps Will Host NIT Game
Monday, March 13, 2006
For the second consecutive season, Maryland did not make the NCAA tournament, a fate that was expected after Boston College blew out the Terrapins in Friday's quarterfinals of the ACC tournament.
What was unexpected was the bizarre events that followed yesterday's unveiling of the 65-team NCAA tournament.
Terps Coach Gary Williams initially announced that Maryland would decline a spot in the National Invitation Tournament. No more than 30 minutes later, however, Williams said that Maryland would accept the invitation. The Terps (19-12) will play Saturday at Comcast Center against the winner of the game between Manhattan and Fairleigh Dickinson.
"Unbelievable," was how Williams summed up the night.
Williams, around the time the NIT matchups were expected to be announced, entered the Comcast Center media room to tell reporters that he chose not to play in large part because of injuries. He said Nik Caner-Medley's ankle injury, which he suffered against Boston College, would prevent the team from being at full strength.
Caner-Medley said earlier in the evening he was unsure whether he would be healthy enough to play this week. Williams said all of his players agreed with the decision to decline the NIT bid and that he discussed the decision with Larry Leckonby, a senior associate athletic director. He said he did not speak to Athletic Director Debbie Yow but said she was aware of the decision.
Williams was in the process of telling reporters why Maryland's season was over when he was relayed a telephone message from C.M. Newton, the chair of the NIT selection committee. Williams left the room, only to return later to explain why he made an about-face.
Williams said Newton reminded him that Maryland had already told NIT representatives during the season that Comcast Center would be available to play host to an NIT game should the Terps not make the NCAA tournament. Williams told reporters last night that he had not been aware of that agreement.
Williams said he also decided to play out of respect for Newton and Dean Smith, another member of the selection committee.
"They've got the right people involved," Williams said. "They never had 'basketball people.' Now they do."
Because of a settlement between the two parties, the NCAA bought the NIT and made some changes to the tournament. For instance, teams received seeds this season; Maryland is the top seed in the East region.
Williams smiled when a reporter suggested the NIT might offer a stronger field because most of the mid-major programs were invited to the NCAA tournament this year. The unveiling of the NCAA tournament field left Williams questioning the consistency of the selection process and whether the ACC had received proper respect after it had the same number of teams (four) invited as the Missouri Valley Conference.