Lefty Driesell, the master of motivation, is hoping to draw another seismic emotional effort from his Terrapins tonight, when Maryland opens its Atlantic Coast Conference basketball season against fourth-ranked Virginia at 9 in sold-out Cole Field House (WJLA-TV-7).

"If we beat Virginia Saturday, there ain't no way anybody's going to keep us out of the top 10 (in the polls)," Driesell said, rising out of his chair, his hands flailing and his voice growing louder. "See, I tell that to my team and it oughta get my players fired up. Then, we beat North Carolina the next game and we'll be No. 1.

"We ain't afraid of Virginia. We ain't giving Virginia nothing. It's gonna be a dogfight. I'd pay $6 or $7 to see it. I told Mr. (Dick) Dull (the athletic director) to set up some $100 seats like they got in the Capital Centre. But I don't think he's as money hungry as I am. That's right, I am excited. I can't wait to get started."

It was largely Driesell's inspiration that helped Maryland upset UCLA two weeks ago and Virginia last February when the Cavaliers were ranked No. 1. "I think my teams like the big games," the coach said.

Driesell was asked if the Cavaliers might have an emotional edge this time and be full of animosity, since Maryland won the last meeting.

"They ain't got no psychological advantage over me," he said. "I'm an animosity person."

As in any big game, emotion will play a large role, but not the only one.

Virginia still has Ralph Sampson, the 7-foot-4, two-time player-of-the-year, who will stand seven inches above Ben Coleman and Mark Fothergill, the two Terrapins who will try to defend against him.

Virginia has Othell Wilson, the ACC's best point guard, and Rick Carlisle, one of the ACC's best shooters.

And, most important, Virginia has the new rules.

The 30-second clock and the 19-foot three-point field goal, most people agree, will help Virginia, because they help Sampson.

A faster game favors the more talented team, and Virginia may be the most talented team in the nation. Maryland won one of two overtime games against Virginia last year by slowing the tempo to a standstill, smothering Sampson with sagging zone defenses and letting the other Cavaliers take outside jump shots.

"We'll have to change our strategy from last year," Driesell said. "Last year, we sloughed back on Sampson and gave up the outside jump shots. You do that now and you give up some three-pointers."

Fothergill was the defensive key in last year's games, often going man-to-man against Sampson in Driesell's triangle-and-two defense. Sampson, now averaging 18 points and 12 rebounds per game, had six points and six rebounds in the first game against Maryland last year, and eight points and five rebounds in the second.

Fothergill was equal to Driesell in emotions before, during and after that game. He said the kind of things about Sampson and the Cavaliers that wind up on bulletin boards just before another contest.

"That's why Coach Driesell told me specifically to keep my mouth closed before the game," Fothergill said. "They've probably got enough of my quotes up in their locker room."

Fothergill's rebounding has improved greatly since last season. He is averaging five in about 20 minutes a game. Fothergill has always gotten decent position inside, but used to tip the ball around and lose control too often.

"I told Fothergill, 'I ain't gonna put up with that slappin', one-hand stuff on rebounds,' " Driesell said. "I said, 'You learn to go up and grab the ball with two hands or sit on the bench.' Sometimes, you demote a guy, it fires him up some."

Of course, Driesell's favorite phrase before big games like this is "fired up."

Said Driesell: "We gotta keep Ralph from dunking and the other guys from playing out of their heads. And we gotta play out of our heads."