Maryland will play North Carolina State for the third time this season at 2 p.m. Friday when the teams meet in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
Most signs point to defeat for the Terrapins, who probably will play without center Charles Pittman. Pittman broke his left foot 24 days ago.
Today, Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell, after changing his mind several times in the course of discussing Pittman's status, finally said he would use Pittman only "if we're in a dire emergency, even if Dr. (Stan) Lavine does say it's okay."
Pittman practiced fairly hard today and took part in most regular drills. "I think I can go," he said. "It didn't bother me during the fast break drill at all."
The Terrapins clearly would like to use Pittman against the one team they historically have had problems against in the tournament. Maryland has lost eight of the the last nine games it has played against the Wolfpack in the ACC tournament. The last time Maryland lost in the opening round of the ACC tournament was in 1977 and it was against North Carolina State.
The Terrapins lost to State in the regular season by 21 and 14 points.
North Carolina, the No. 1 team in the nation and the top seed in this tournament, will open ACC play at noon against eighth-seeded Georgia Tech. The Tar Heels are expected to win easily, even if they play without freshman sensation Michael Jordan. Jordan is expected to play although he was released today from the school's infirmary after suffering tonsillitis.
Virginia, ranked No. 3 in the nation and expected to meet Carolina in the nationally televised final Sunday afternoon, will play seventh-seeded Clemson at 7 p.m. The first round will end with Wake Forest, seeded third, facing sixth-seeded Duke at 9 p.m. All four first-round games will be televised in Washington by WMAL-TV-7.
Terry Holland, Virginia's coach, did his imitation of John Thompson, Georgetown's coach, today by keeping his second-seeded Cavaliers (27-2, 12-2) 30 miles east, in Burlington, N.C., to practice in relative seclusion.
Some ACC coaches and players believe that Virginia is tight coming into the tournament. Brook Steppe, Georgia Tech's best player, said so today.
"Maybe that pressure of being No. 1 so long just caught up with Virginia," he said. "I really do think they've been tight for the last couple of weeks. I'm not trying to diminish Maryland's victory over them (last Saturday), but they weren't really doing the things recently that made them so good earlier in the season. Maybe the loss was good for Virginia."
The victory still has Driesell and the Terrapins flying. "Maryland has been playing well," Steppe said. "It seems like they've just taken off."
The Terrapins have reached the final here the last two years. They are heavy underdogs to get that far again. Still, several times this season, they have played remarkably against heavily favored opponents.
Maryland (15-11, 5-9 in the conference), the fifth seed in this tournament, will need such an effort to defeat North Carolina State (21-8, 7-7).
The Wolfpack is the only team in the league that Maryland hasn't even come close to beating this season. "We just don't seem to match up well against them," Driesell said earlier this week.
There are only two matchups that will prove important. If Maryland can't contain 6-foot-10 forward Thurl Bailey and 6-1 guard Dereck Whittenburg, the Terrapins won't have a chance. Whittenburg, a graduate of De Matha High, scored 26 points in State's first victory.
Bailey, a graduate of Bladensburg High, made eight of nine shots in the second game and hurt Maryland with jumpers from the base line. Zone defenses mean little to either player.
Maryland probably will play man-to-man defense. Freshman Jeff Adkins most likely will guard Whittenburg. Either 6-6 Herman Veal or 6-9 Mark Fothergill will guard Bailey. Fothergill recently shut down Sam Perkins of North Carolina and Ralph Sampson of Virginia.