The talk today was of size, speed, pure athleticism. And Len Bias, Maryland's 6-foot-8 freshman forward, was asked if he prefers going against quick players or power players.
"It doesn't matter," he replied. "I can play quick, or I can play power."
More than likely, Bias will have to play both. Because Saturday at 6:45 p.m. EST (WDVM-TV-9), Maryland will take The Summit court to play No. 1-ranked Houston, which has combined power and quickness better than any other team in the nation this season. The Cougars also have the nation's longest winning streak, 22 games.
The winner of this second-round NCAA Midwest Regional game will advance to next week's semifinals in Kansas City. For many reasons, Houston is a heavy favorite.
First there is Clyde Drexler, the 6-7, 210-pound junior swingman who averages 17 points and nine rebounds. Then there is Michael Young, the 6-6, 215-pound guard who averages 18 points and six rebounds. Next, Larry Micheaux, the 6-9, 225-pound forward, is contributing 14 points and seven rebounds. And the center is Akeem (The Dream) Abdul Olajuwon, 7 feet, 250 pounds with 13 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots per game.
Each has the strength of a Brahma bull and the speed of a cougar.
"I haven't seen the Houston players, but I'll probably be scared to death when I do," said Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell. "We're not going to run up and down the floor with them. I don't think that would be to our advantage."
Bias can help reduce that advantage. He made five of six shots Thursday, the last a 16-foot jumper with two seconds left, giving Maryland a 52-51 victory over Tennessee-Chattanooga in a first-round game.
But Bias played what, essentially, is known as the small forward in that game. Nothing about Houston is small. And with so many big bodies capable of producing so many big numbers, Bias' performance could be the key. He has averaged about 10 points and six rebounds per game since becoming a starter three weeks ago.
The pressure is also on Maryland center Ben Coleman, the 6-9 junior who will have to deal with Olajuwon.
Coleman was asked today to compare Olajuwon with 7-4 Ralph Sampson of Virginia, whom the Terrapins have handled well.
"Akeem is much more aggressive," Coleman said. "And by the size of his frame, it looks like he might clear out some bodies now and then."
But all the worries don't belong to Maryland. With 6-8 sophomore Adrian Branch back in his one-on-one game, Driesell says, the Terrapins "can play with anybody."
With that, Houston Coach Guy Lewis doesn't disagree. Asked this afternoon who would start the game on Branch, Lewis replied, "The CBS cameras."
And as Driesell will point out at every opportunity, "If I was Houston, I'd be pretty worried about Maryland. We beat North Carolina and UCLA when they were ranked in the top three. And we played Virginia to a two-point loss when they were ranked No. 2."
"Coach just has a way of getting us fired up for these games," said guard Jeff Adkins. "He's probably the best motivator in the country."
Driesell admitted he loves these situations. "It just seems like we get pumped up for these games," he said. "Plus, people haven't given us any respect."
And as Bias headed toward the closed, early evening practice, he had one more thought. "I guess," he said, "it's time to get physical."