The University of Maryland basketball team plays host to Clemson today, and there isn't likely to be anything startling or revealing coming from this game other than an indication of which team has the best chance of climbing into the middle of the Atlantic Coast Conference pack.
But it won't be a yawner at Cole Field House (1:30 p.m.) because the lower half of the conference standings are becoming important to NCAA tournament bids. The conference almost certainly will send five teams to the tournament and might send six. Both the Terrapins (11-10, 1-6) and the Tigers (14-8, 2-6) say they are better than their records in the ranking-littered ACC.
Georgetown is one local team with a winning streak. The Hoyas have won seven straight since their loss to St. John's and are likely to make it eight when they play Seton Hall at Capital Centre at 1 p.m. The 11th-ranked Hoyas (18-3, 8-2 in the Big East) won an earlier meeting with Seton Hall, 82-72, in the New Jersey Meadowlands and have a 14-0 record against the Pirates (11-12, 1-8) since Big East play began in 1980.
Seton Hall, the last-place team in the league, made a major breakthrough recently by beating Pittsburgh on the road for its first conference road victory in five years. Coach P.J. Carlesimo's emphasis on defense apparently has paid off since the Pirates are ranked 13th nationally and have held opponents to 42.3 percent shooting from the field.
The Pirates also have one of the league's best scorers in Andre McCloud of H.D. Woodson High, who is sixth with 15.2 points per game.
But Georgetown, ranked third in defense, has been getting excellent offensive play from three and four players per game. A team spokesman said Reggie Williams and Michael Jackson -- who had sore ankles -- will be ready to play today.
A more competitive game could start in College Park 30 minutes later, even though neither participant is ranked. A litany of bad luck, losing streaks and failed comebacks has plagued Maryland and Clemson. Take the Terrapins, losers of eight of their last 10 and looking for some sort of watershed victory as they head into their last-chance stretch of conference games. Consider Clemson, loser of seven of its last eight and just slightly better off for the moment in that increasingly important sixth place in the ACC.
"Maryland's the best 11-10 team in the country and the best 1-6 conference team in the country," Clemson Coach Cliff Ellis said. "They haven't gotten a break. They just haven't put it all together yet."
The matchup of the afternoon will be between two of the most accomplished forwards in the conference in Maryland's Len Bias and Clemson's Horace Grant, and both offenses are built around the stars. Bias continues to average 23.1 points to lead the league in scoring. Grant is Clemson's leading rebounder, averaging 10.1, and scorer at 15.3 points per game.
Grant is on his way to accomplishing an all-around feat: if he continues on his current pace he can become only the second forward in the history of the conference to shoot 60 percent or better from the field (he is at 61), average 15 or more points per game and 10 or more rebounds per game in a season. The only other player to do that was North Carolina's Bobby Jones in 1972-1973.
Grant probably will be most responsible for trying to contain Bias, but the Tigers will follow the now customary pattern against the all-America and use most of their roster to keep a fresh player on him at all times. They have been going with a three-guard offense lately, which means Grant will need some help from 6-foot-9 center Glen McCants (9.0 points, 5.9 rebounds).
"Bias is definitely going to get his points," Ellis said. "We just don't want him to get 30 or 40. You're not going to stop him, but you can at least make it tougher for him. You just want to make sure he doesn't get them in bundles."
Navy (18-4, 9-1) plays an important game at James Madison tonight, 7:30, in a Colonial Athletic Association matchup. The Midshipmen are heavy favorites over the Dukes (4-17, 2-7) but are 0-4 at JMU Convocation Center.
"Who knows why?" Navy Coach Paul Evans said. "They get big crowds for us. But I think we're much better prepared this year. We're more experienced than we have been in the past when we went there."
The Midshipmen have an earlier blowout going for them: they beat the Dukes, 85-54, at Annapolis this season. Center David Robinson had 33 points and 20 rebounds in Navy's 81-68 victory over George Mason on Thursday. The Dukes are coming off a deflating 74-66 overtime loss to American in the first half of the CAA doubleheader at Mason Thursday.
George Mason (12-10, 6-4) will have to recover quickly from its loss to Navy when it meets American at Fort Myer. The Eagles (8-13, 2-8) broke an eight-game losing streak with their victory over the Dukes.
George Washington is at Rutgers in a 1 p.m. matchup of mediocre Atlantic 10 teams, with the Colonials (8-13, 3-9) still seeking their first road victory this season. UDC 96, Bowie State 75
Lyndon DeBellotte scored 24 points and Johnny Jones had 20 points and 13 rebounds to lead the University of the District of Columbia over the Bulldogs last night before 833 at Bowie State's James Gymnasium.
Johnny Gantt scored 15 points for UDC (12-8). For Bowie State (1-19), Charles Peterson had 22 points and 10 rebounds, Bruce Purnell 14 points and 12 rebounds.