Despite its less than impressive start, Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell said yesterday his basketball team "will be heard from before the season is over."

The Terrapins play Towson State tonight at 8 o'clock in Cole Field House, in a final tuneup before playing fourth-ranked UCLA on Dec. 23.

Driesell said he has seen enough improvement in the last week to believe "this team has the potential to be pretty good."

Asked at his weekly luncheon how good Maryland can be, Driesell said, "better than you think. We're not great. We're young, with a lot of inexperienced players. It's a matter of us coming together as a team. I think some progress has been made. Anybody who comes in here (to Cole Field House) is going to have a tough game. Nobody beats up on my teams."

Part of the reason for Driesell's optimism is the improvement of freshman guard Jeff Baxter, who had the best game of his short career in Saturday's victory over Duquesne. "As he gains experience," Driesell said, "he's going to be a good point guard."

Maryland (3-2) has lost to Penn State and St. Joseph's. "We'd have beaten St. Joseph's if we had Adrian Branch," Driesell said. "Maybe I shouldn't say that because I don't want to make excuses, but Adrian is a great player."

Branch, the leading scorer in the Atlantic Coast Conference at 21.3 points per game, missed the St. Joe's game with a sore left knee. Branch made seven of eight shots against Duquesne, and is expected to be in the starting lineup against Towson. "Adrian seems to be fine," Driesell said. "His situation is wait and see."

Driesell also said he would like more production from the power-forward position. Herman Veal has been slowed by a chronically sore right ankle, Mark Fothergill has played better coming off the bench than starting, and freshman Len Bias has been inconsistent.

"Lenny's going to be a very good player, but right now he's giving us next to nothing," Driesell said. "I'm working on his head right now, he'll be all right."