Coach Lefty Driesell of the University of Maryland insisted yesterday that he and his team will not be distracted in the first round of the NCAA tournament Thursday because of the controversies surrounding Driesell and player Herman Veal, who went with the team to Houston although he is ineligible to play because he is on disciplinary probation.

"There's nothing right now in the whole world that's going to take my mind off the NCAA playoffs, I don't care what it could be," Driesell said at his weekly press conference.

Athletic Director Dick Dull said that yesterday morning he decided to let Veal go to Houston. On Monday, Dull had said Veal must stay in College Park and study, even though the school is on spring break. Dull said the basketball office had appealed, saying that Veal wanted to go and be part of the team.

"They've made assurances that he was doing satisfactorily in his studies, and that he wanted to be part of the team," Dull said, "and I yielded."

Sources said that the terms of the disciplinary action allow Veal to practice with the team (as he did yesterday) and attend games. But he can't dress for games or play in them.

The Terrapins left later in the afternoon for Houston, where they will play Tennessee-Chattanooga at 8:10 p.m Thursday at the Summit. The winner will play No. 1-ranked Houston Saturday at 6:45 p.m.

"There ain't nothing else on my mind," Driesell said. "We'll be ready Thursday. We won't let any distractions or anything else bother us."

Driesell refused, however, to address questions dealing with Veal, his junior cocaptain.

Ed Farmer, a 6-foot-7 freshman forward, or Mark Fothergill, 6-9, who has a sore back, will start in place of Veal, the team's No. 2 rebounder.

Farmer, having played in only 18 games, is unproven, but in recent practices has shown offensive talent, especially in rebounding.

"It's kind of good to be unknown," Farmer said yesterday. "Other teams don't know what to expect. They don't double-team you. I'll just try to do the things Herman did and whatever Coach asks me to do."

The Terrapins may take a different offensive approach now that they will no longer be working with the 30-second shot clock and 19-foot, three-point field goal employed during the ACC season.

Driesell can take more time to run his offense, which will probably include more double-post plays and set patterns for sophomore Adrian Branch, the team's leading scorer.

During the ACC season, Branch played from around the three-point arc, and his game became jump shooting. "That was outside-inside," Branch said of the strategy. "But now we can run the play two or three times, since there's no clock, and go to an interior game. That is still the strength of the team."

That will probably put Branch on the base line and in the lane, where he does his best work in one-on-one situations.

"There ain't nobody in the country who can stop Adrian Branch one on one when he's right," Driesell said.