Maryland, which a week ago seemed to have oodles of depth, suddenly finds itself a seven-man basketball team in need of a quick rebound from its worst defeat in six seasons.
When Billy Bryant, 6-foot-5 starting guard, suffered a broken left hand with two minutes left in Wednesday night's 93-71 Atlantic Coast Conference loss at Clemson, it meant the Terps had lost three players within a week.
Ironically, the depth that caused the disenchantment and eventual season-long suspension of James (Turk) Tillman Monday, evaporated completely in three days. The Terps have only one reserve at wing forward or guard. Bryant and Tillman could play either position.
Coach Lefty Driesell said he is leaning toward starting freshman Jo Jo Hunter ahead of sophomore sharp-shooter Brian Magid at Bryant's position Saturday against North Carolina.
Only Magid and 6-foot-10 Mike Davis remain as tested reserves. Driesell gave freshman point guard Mark Crawford opportunites in the Terps' last two games, but Crawford does not appear settled enough to step in and help at this point.
So Driesell's maneuverability is limited.
What happens if Steve Sheppard, the Terps' small forward, gets in foul trouble?
"We're in trouble," Driesell replied, to move 6-foot-8 Lawrence Boston to Larry Gibson, Mike Davis and Boston. With 6-9 freshman John Bilney out at least two three weeks more with a severely sprained ankle, the only other inside reserve is not available.
What happens if point guard Brad Davis gets in foul trouble or plays poorly enough to warrant substitution, as he did against Clemson?
Driesell says he would go with either Hunter or Crawford. But Crawford's performance against Navy and Clemson probably has cooled Driesell on using him now.
What little good news Driesell got this week came yesterday, after Clemson physicians said Bryant would be out three to six weeks. Dr. Stanford Lavine, the Terp's team doctor, examined the hand and diagnosed the break as not as serious as originally thought. He said that Bryant could be back in two to 2 1/2 weeks.
That would leave Driesell with about three weeks to prepare the Terps for the ACC tournament starting March 3. In a sense, the ACC regular-season race has become another NBA regular season.
The pros play the regular season for the home-court advantage in the play-offs. The seven ACC teams now play the regular season for the first-round bye in the ACC tournament and for the likely at-large NCCA bid in case the champion is upset in the tournament.
Seven of the 11 players Maryland took to Clemson Wednesday were playing their first game in Littlejohn Coliseum, a so-called pit.
Yet, except for sophomore center Larry Gibson, who missed last year's game there with a knee injury, what hurt the Terps most - as it is in the other losses of this 12.3 season - was the subpar play of the three-year veterans Sheppard and Brad Davis.
Both Wake Forest and Clemson kept Davis from penetrating the middle, neutralizing the 6-3 junior's effectiveness in a half-court offense.
Sheppard, the team's leading scorer, shot 14-for-45 with only 12 rebounds in the three losses. He had only one rebound against Clemson.
The Tigers held a rebound margin of 15 and it was the fourth time in the part six games the Terps were bounded. Rebounding was a supposed strength this season; so was a point guard like Davis.