Eleventh-ranked Maryland will attempt to win its fourth Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship in five years starting Friday at 8 p.m. against Virginia in the first round of the ACC women's basketball tournament at Reynolds Coliseum.

Defending ACC champion Maryland, ninth-ranked North Carolina State and top-seeded North Carolina are considered the favorites. Maryland and N.C. State have met in the finals of the previous four tournaments, but that won't happen this year because both are in the same bracket. The Wolfpack won the ACC tournament in 1980 at Cole Field House.

"I don't want to pick a team to beat," Maryland Coach Chris Weller said today. "It's going to be a well-balanced tournament. There are lot of good teams here and it just depends on which teams are playing well."

Maryland completed its regular season last week by losing to eighth-ranked Tennessee, 70-62, on the road. The Terrapins played five teams in the top 20 in their last eight games, three on the road. Before Maryland lost to top-ranked Louisiana Tech on Feb. 1, it had won 11 straight, but since then has lost four of its last seven.

Still, N.C. State Coach Kay Yow is properly wary of the Terrapins, even if State won, 71-65, during the regular season. "Based on the national rankings, Maryland or us would have the inside track as the tournament favorite," she said. "Maryland's very explosive--they can score from all five positions."

Before a possible semifinal matchup with the Wolfpack, Maryland (19-6, 6-1) must defeat inconsistent Virginia (17-10, 2-5). The Cavaliers defeated fourth-ranked Old Dominion earlier this season, but played poorly in a 67-62 loss to Maryland at Cole Field House.

"Virginia has been a little unpredictable all season," said Weller. "I'm not sure what to expect. . . If you catch them on a night when they are hot they can beat anybody."

Second-seeded N.C. State (22-4, 6-1) plays Duke (12-13, 2-5) at 6 p.m. Top-seeded North Carolina (16-10, 6-1) plays eighth-seeded Wake Forest (11-16, 0-7) at 1 and fourth-seeded Clemson (18-10, 4-3) plays fifth-seeded Georgia Tech (9-15, 2-5) at 3. Clemson forward Barbara Kennedy is the leading scorer in the nation with a 28.2 average.

Maryland, North Carolina State and North Carolina tied for first place in the regular season with 6-1 league records. Maryland defeated Carolina, 84-71, in the regular season and Carolina beat N.C. State, 58-44. Coin tosses by the ACC commissioner decided the seedings.

The winners of the Carolina-Wake Forest and Clemson-Georgia Tech games will play in one semifinal at 6 p.m. Saturday, followed by the winners of the N.C. State-Duke and Maryland-Virginia games at 8. The final is Sunday at 4 p.m.

The winner of the tournament receives an automatic berth in the NCAA postseason tournament, which starts March 12.