Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell, ecstatic over being awarded an at-large berth in the NCAA basketball tournament, said last night it only takes six victories to win the national championship and that his team has just as good a shot at the title as any other.
"I've said my goal is to win that national championship, and we're in the field of 48, or at least when they get to 48," Driesell said. "I just got a call from Moses (Malone, the Philadelphia 76ers' center) and he wished me luck. He called me after we lost to Virginia and said he thought we had a good chance to win the ACC tournament.
"I'm very excited about being selected. I don't care where or who we play, as long as we got in. That was the big thing, getting in.
"A lot of people thought because we had such a young club, we didn't have a chance of going to the NCAAs," Driesell said. "We got beat pretty bad by Penn State in our first game and lost some others. But we beat UCLA when they were ranked first, beat North Carolina when they were ranked second. I'm very proud of this club. This is a fitting end for them."
Meanwhile, Georgetown Coach John Thompson, whose team fell one basket shy of the national title last year, withheld his enthusiasm last night.
Instead, Thompson wore a serious, contemplative look after his 21-9 Hoyas finished practice last night. "There's nobody in the tournament that concerns me more than we concern ourselves," he said. "I told the kids that we can't beat ourselves. If we're able to control the mistakes we make ourselves, I think we can be competitive with anybody."
Thompson said junior guard Fred Brown, who hasn't played in five weeks because of a strained patella tendon in his right knee, might play in the NCAA tournament. For the first time in weeks, Brown practiced with the team last night.
Maryland (19-9) was placed in the Midwest Region, where it will meet Tennessee-Chattanooga (26-3) in a first-round game Thursday night in Houston. Should Maryland win, it will meet host and top-seeded Houston, the nation's No. 1-ranked team on Saturday.
Driesell said he has only once seen film clips of Tennessee-Chattanooga, and only then because the Moccasins happened to be playing North Carolina.
"We were watching films of Carolina at the time," Driesell said. "I don't know a thing about Chattanooga. But right now, they're the only thing on my mind."
Maryland lost to Georgia Tech, 64-58, in the first round of the ACC tournament. Tennessee-Chattanooga won the Southern Conference tournament Saturday, beating East Tennessee State, 70-62. Houston edged TCU, 62-59, to win the Southwest Conference tournament title.
Tennessee-Chattanooga, which Maryland defeated in the first round of NCAA play two years ago, is a team whose coach's root are close to College Park. Murray Arnold grew up in Adelphi, graduated from American University and was an assistant coach for three years at De Matha High School.
Arnold has three starters back from the team that defeated North Carolina State and lost to Minnesota by a point in last year's NCAA tournament. But it's a smaller, quicker team than last year's.
At Howard, Coach A.B. Williamson said he wasn't surprised but still was disappointed at being passed over by the NIT committee.
"I looked at the standings and saw a lot of teams with records close to ours (19-9) and I knew it would be tight," Williamson said. "I'm just disappointed for the kids because they overcame a lot of adversity this year and played very well."