One of the reasons Maryland was ranked so highly early this season was the continued development of junior guard Greg (Dutch) Morley.
Now, as the Terrapins move into the most important part of the season, Coach Lefty Driesell has replaced the 6-foot-2 former De Matha star with Reggie Jackson -- two inches taller, 40 pounds heavier and slightly better on defense. Jackson, who has played well in two straight starting assignments, against Clemson and Maryland-Eastern Shore, will start again Saturday afternoon against 13th-ranked Notre Dame in Cole Field House.
Elsewhere, Georgetown, also at a crucial juncture, will have to fight off injuries and a free-throw curse in addition to 17th-ranked Connecticut in Storrs, Conn. Forward Eric Smith is suffering from a hyperextended left elbow and may not start against the Huskies (11-2, 3-2 in the Big East). And center Ed Spriggs' mobility has been limited because of a sprained ankle.
Maryland also has injury problems. Driesell said that backup center Taylor Baldwin, suffering from a chronic knee problem will probably miss the rest of the season and be redshirted. Reserve forward Mark Fothergill, with a broken hand, is also going to be put back, Driesell said.
But neither figured to see much playing time this season, in any event. Driesell is more concerned with the lead guard problem.
"It's just hard for us to play Greg Manning and Dutch at the same time," Driesell said yesterday. "In a way, Greg is the person who puts Dutch on the bench. (Manning, 6-foot-1, is scoring 14 points per game and considered indispensable.) It's hard to match up defensively with the two of them in the game."
Driesell was saying that Notre Dame's two 6-5 guards, John Paxson and Silver Spring native Tracy Jackson, might score many points against his smallish guards. "We may play Ernest Graham (his 6-7 starting forward) at a guard a lot if Notre Dame's big lineup bothers us."
Notre Dame Coach Digger Phelps uses 10 players, switching them in and out of the lineup at different positions. Sometimes even Phelps' own players get confused.
"We've got to have seven people playing well against Notre Dame," Driesell said. He'll also have to have at least two guards playing well. One may be freshman Steve Rivers, the team's quickest guard, according to Driesell. "He gives us a dimension our other guards don't give us and he runs the break really well."
Georgetown's main problem is hitting the short shots at the end of its controlled fast break. Freshman center Ray Knight, who scored 10 points Wednesday, in a rout of Southern Connecticut, may get a lot of playing time if Spriggs' ankle isn't better.
Thompson expressed displeasure Wednesday night that a few of his players have been trying to hide their injuries.
"I know that the kids are trying to attain a certain level of accomplishment and I respect them for that," said Thompson. "But there's a thin line between being courageous and foolish."
In addition to the injuries, the Hoyas are shooting a miserable 59 percent from the free throw line in their five conference games. "Missing free throws causes us to change the entire strategy of our game," Thompson said.
"They (the Hoyas) are good shooters, but they're psyched out. I've never had a team where the psych was over the whole team. You can't harp on it, though, because they'll only get worse. We'd have won three more games if we'd hit the free throws. We don't even talk about it."