Lefty Driesell will have no trouble finding bulletin board material today.
The Maryland basketball coach loves to fill the walls of his locker room with printed slights of his team or paeans to opponents in order to try to get his players as fired up to play as he gets fired up to coach.
Today, one little statistic should be all Driesell needs: Georgia Tech 6, Maryland 2. That is their head-to-head record the last four seasons. The Yellow Jackets come to Cole Field House to give the Terrapins another shot (4 p.m., WJLA-TV-7).
Even if Coach Bobby Cremins did not have this mysterious hold over Driesell and Maryland, this would be a crucial game. Maryland, ranked 17th nationally, is 4-1 in Atlantic Coast Conference play (17-5 overall) and Tech, ranked eighth nationally, is 4-3 (and 14-5 overall). A victory for the Yellow Jackets would be a major step toward being a serious contender for the conference title. A victory for Maryland would keep the Terrapins two games ahead of the pack in the lost column and is vital because the Terrapins still must play six conference road games after today.
"What do we have to do to turn it around against them?" Driesell asked rhetorically yesterday. "Put more numbers on the board against them. We've lost a couple of close games to them, games we easily could have won but didn't. It's not any big deal."
Every loss is a big deal to Driesell. He was extremely distraught in December when the Terrapins lost the final of the Rainbow Classic to Georgia Tech on Mark Price's layup with three seconds left. This game is much more important, though, because it counts in the conference standings.
There are several other games involving local teams today that count in their conference standings. George Washington (10-7 overall, 5-4 in the Atlantic 10) hosts Rutgers (10-7, 6-3) in a 7:30 p.m. game at Smith Center. The Colonials, in spite of their struggles in the past month, have kept winning at home.
Navy, which lost its first ECAC South game of the season Thursday to George Mason, hosts Richmond today at 2 p.m. Both teams are 7-1 in league play and tied for first place. The Mids are 14-3 in all games after having their 11-game winning streak stopped. Richmond is 11-5.
George Mason (9-8, 4-3 in the league) tries to avoid a letdown against East Carolina, which is 0-5 in conference play. Howard also will try to avoid having a letdown against a weak conference opponent when it takes its 5-1 MEAC record to Bethune-Cookman. The Wildcats are 2-11 overall and 2-3 in the league.
The best game of the day, though, should be the one involving Driesell and his new nemesis, Cremins. Tech has been a Jekyll-Hyde team recently. After beating Arkansas, Washington and Maryland to win the tournament in Hawaii and move into the top 10 for the first time in school history, the Yellow Jackets promptly lost to Wake Forest and Clemson. Two weeks later, they won at North Carolina, the school's first victory ever at North Carolina, prompting a visit to the locker room from UNC Coach Dean Smith.
Riding high, Tech turned right around and lost to N.C. State -- at home -- on Wednesday. That loss prompted Cremins' now-tired lament, "We're just not there yet."
Tech is here. It has a front line that includes 6-foot-11 Yvon Joseph, 6-11 John Salley and 6-5 freshman Duane Ferrell, from Calvert Hall High School in Towson, Md. Joseph is big and strong if ungainly; Salley is averaging 14.7 points per game and shooting 67 percent and Ferrell might be the ACC's best freshman. The guards are Mark Price, a preseason pick as ACC player of the year and a former rookie of the year, and Bruce Dalrymple, who Cremins has said might be the best rebounding guard in the country.
That starting five can match up with any in the league and with most in the country. There is a lack of depth, although 7-foot freshman Antoine Ford gives Cremins yet another big body underneath. When Tech loses, it is not because it lacks talent.
Today, the key should be rebounding and tempo. If the game is a bruising, half-court contest, Tech should win because it is bigger, stronger and slower. If the game is played in transition, the Terrapins should win because they can get up and down the floor with anybody and because guard Keith Gatlin plays the open floor like Eric Clapton plays guitar.
Yesterday, while Driesell was trying to concentrate on the present, he was distracted by questions about the future. First, he read a report in The Richmond Times-Dispatch quoting backup center Terry Long as saying he is unhappy about his playing time at Maryland and thinking of transferring. Driesell said he talked to Long about it and Long told him he answered, "Yes," when asked if he had "thought" about transferring. "He's not going anywhere," Driesell said. "I talked to him and he wants to stay here."
Another possible transfer student earlier this week was 6-9 Cleveland State freshman Eugene Miles. Miles was on campus yesterday for an official visit. Driesell said Miles plans to visit other schools before deciding where to enroll.
Do not expect it to be Maryland. Miles did not have good grades in high school and, although he passed three courses during his first semester at Cleveland State, he is probably too much of an academic question mark for Maryland -- or Driesell -- to take a chance on.