Minutes after Georgia Tech eliminated Maryland from the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament Friday night, Terrapin sophomore Adrian Branch pondered the obvious question.

"Does it look good, do you think we'll get a bid?" Branch asked.

That, of course, was before North Carolina State's victory over top-seeded North Carolina this afternoon. That development, coupled with Maryland's failure to attain the 20-win level, could hurt Maryland's chances of receiving one of the 24 at-large bids the NCAA tournament selection committee will extend Sunday afternoon.

Not to Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell's way of thinking.

"I said long before today that N.C. State should be invited," Driesell said. "They're one of the top 20 teams in the country, so there doesn't seem to be much question about 52. I don't think what N.C. State does has any bearing on us. The NCAA should pick N.C. State and Maryland.

"We've (ACC) had four teams the last two years go to the NCAA and five the year before that, I believe. This is only my opinion, but I don't think the NCAA committee should change its mind on a team because of what happens in a conference tournament. It's what happens all year that should count."

Each of the past three years, since the NCAA lifted its limit on the number of teams it could select from any one conference, the tournament has had no fewer than four teams from the ACC. This time, with so many strong teams in the Big East and Southeastern conferences--and a somewhat down year in the ACC--the NCAA could very easily invite only three ACC teams.

For that reason, State's game with Virginia at 1 p.m. Sunday might be crucial to Maryland. Should State win and receive the league's automatic bid, it would mean State, Virginia and North Carolina would definitely be invited.

Should State lose, the Wolfpack would finish 19-11. Maryland with a 19-9 record, including two victories over State, quite conceivably could receive the bid. State and Maryland tied for third place during the conference regular season with 8-6 records.

Driesell was asked after the loss to Tech if he felt sure his team would be among the 52 invited. "The only thing I know for sure is that I'm gonna pay my taxes and die," he said.

If the Terrapins don't get invited to the NCAA, Maryland has itself to fault. Maryland blew four chances in the final 26 seconds of regulation to beat Georgia Tech, and played remarkably uninspired basketball for a team promoted by its coach as one of the nation's top 20.

"I guess Georgia Tech's got our number. What else can I say?" Driesell said after Tech's fourth win over Maryland in their last five meetings.

Maryland's final chance to win in regulation came with one second left when Ben Coleman's attempt to score on a 75-foot alley-oop, in-bounds pass from Jeff Adkins rolled off the rim.

Coleman scored eight points, half his average. Branch scored 10 points, nine under his average.

"The thing we have to do now is get a little rest, a little practice and get ready for the playoffs," Driesell said.