Six games into the basketball season, Maryland has beaten Tennessee. It has beaten West Virginia. It has beaten Alabama. Those victories indicate that the Terrapins are going to be competitive this season.
Tonight, they will begin to learn how competitive.
The opponent at 8 p.m. in Cole Field House is Ohio State. The name strikes fear into few hearts. The Buckeyes were 15-14 last season. They have lost last season's leading scorer, Tony Campbell. They are picked no higher than third, and as low as sixth, in the Big Ten.
Don't be fooled. The Buckeyes (3-0) can play. They are big, experienced and deep. They have a victory over Arkansas, a 7-foot transfer center who can play and an excellent power forward back after he was academically ineligible for almost all of last season.
"They've got a lot of players," Coach Lefty Driesell said yesterday. "We've played some good teams so far, but this is probably the best we've faced."
Two or three times a year, Driesell digs into his 6-5 frame and pulls up fire and brimstone that may sound corny to outsiders but seems to work wonders with players.
"They beat us last year (72-68 at the Meadowlands) and I'm sure our players remember that, I know I do," Driesell said. "They've beaten Maryland twice in a row (1979 NIT) and I hate losing to anyone once, much less twice.
"I'm not saying I don't respect them, cause I do, but if they want to win this game they're gonna have to leave blood on the court. I know some coaches would go around today saying they're too good and we can't win, but I don't like to do that. I believe we're gonna beat 'em as sure as my name's Driesell. That's the way I am, though, I think I'm gonna whip everybody I play no matter who I got.
"If I keep talking, I'll get myself in a hole. I better stop."
Driesell's time might have been better spent on the Cole Field House floor where the Buckeyes worked out yesterday. There, he might have watched 7-foot Brad Sellers, the transfer from Wisconsin who is averaging 20.3 points and 8.7 rebounds a game, and Joe Concheck, the academic casualty of a year ago, who is averaging 15 points. Or, he could have checked out the backcourt combination of Troy Taylor and Ronnie Stokes, seniors who have played together since the seventh grade.
Sellers played two years at Wisconsin but left due to differences with Coach Steve Yoder, who had replaced the late Bill Cofield after Sellers' freshman year. Under Big Ten rules, a player who transfers within the conference cannot receive a scholarship from his new school. As a result, Sellers is paying his own way at Ohio State, making him one of the nation's most productive "walk-ons."
While Driesell spent yesterday talking about the rivalry between the ACC and the Big Ten, Ohio State Coach Eldon Miller was doing his football coach routine. He called Adrian Branch and Len Bias, "as strong a pair of forwards as you'll find anywhere in the country. I really like their guards a lot." And then, "Derrick Lewis is really an excellent player."
Miller refused to talk about an ACC-Big Ten rivalry: "That's ludicrous. We're just here to play Maryland. We like to schedule tough road games to get us ready for Big Ten play. This is certainly a tough road game."
For Maryland, it's a tough home game. Driesell was asked if he liked the difficult schedule he was playing this year, if he thought it would help his team down the line. "I don't know yet, it's too soon to tell," he said. "I wish we had more time to get ready for this game instead of playing Alabama on Saturday and Ohio State on Tuesday."
Driesell smiled. "I'd like to have a schedule like Georgetown," he said. "Play all my tough games on Saturday."
Driesell will continue to start junior college transfer Speedy Jones, with senior Jeff Adkins staying on the bench. "Jeff's just been beat out," Driesell said. "He's only shooting 30 percent from the floor and he's not confident. In the past, he's started out well and faded. Maybe this year, he'll reverse it. He's got to work harder in practice. If you get demoted, you have to work harder." . . . This is the second of a three-game series with Ohio State. Next year, the Terrapins go to Columbus . . . There is talk of bringing back the Maryland Invitation Tournament next year if a big-name opponent can be found to increase ticket sales. De Paul is a possibility. The schools have been negotiating to play for two years.