Although Maryland will have to take a deep breath and count to 10 before doing too much extrapolating, its 78-75 triumph over Notre Dame Tuesday night in South Bend, Ind., could have several short- and long-term implications.
The most immediate result was that the Terrapins ended a two-game losing streak with a solid, sometimes spectacular performance against a good team before unfriendly fans. Actually, because the Terrapins grabbed an early lead and led by as many as 15 points in the first half, the Irish fans at the Athletic and Convocation Center didn't play much of a role.
"I had heard it was a very difficult place to play," said freshman center Brian Williams. "Personally, I didn't see that."
However, the small but vocal Maryland section -- led by guard Teyon McCoy's family and friends from nearby Hammond, Ind. -- was quite happy.
McCoy was a surprise starter who did a solid job on Notre Dame all-America point guard David Rivers. McCoy held Rivers to eight first-half points, and scored eight of his 10 in that span.
"Teyon played a fantastic game," Coach Bob Wade said.
The same might be said of Williams and sophomore forward Tony Massenburg. Williams hit eight of 12 shots from the floor, made both of his free throws with 1:07 left and the outcome still in some doubt, and finished with a team-high 18 points. Massenburg missed only one of eight shots (the last one) and departed with 16 points, 12 in the first half when the Terrapins built their lead.
"We ran our offense a lot better than we have in the past," said Williams, who along with Massenburg, benefitted from the double- and triple-teaming of Derrick Lewis. "We ran the plays properly and that helped open up a lot of things."
And when Notre Dame made one last push, cutting the lead to three points with less than seven minutes left, the Terrapins turned it up a notch and held on. "I thought we played hard through the entire ball game, and we played with confidence," Wade said yesterday.
There are still 40 days before the NCAA tournament field is announced. But having already beaten Duke in Durham, a victory at Notre Dame will help Maryland in the eyes of selection committee members, should the Terrapins not win the ACC tournament. And, said Notre Dame Coach Digger Phelps, Maryland would be better off if it didn't win the conference tournament March 11-13 in Greensboro, N.C.
"Probably the worst thing that could happen to them is to win the ACC tournament," Phelps said. "Then the pressure is on them. If they can win one or two games and then taste defeat before going into the NCAA tournament, they'll be tough. The worst thing would be to go through the ACC tournament undefeated. Then you get knocked off."
Wade will have no part of NCAA tournament theorizing. His team is 11-6, 3-3 in the ACC and has 10 games (four at home) left, starting Saturday at Old Dominion. "I'm not counting games," Wade said. "I'm just looking at the next game."
If Wade isn't, other Maryland officials, who must deal with a budget deficit, are at least taking a glance. In the fall, officials projected a shortfall of about $800,000 for the fiscal year. However, because of several sellouts, including all ACC games, Athletic Director Lew Perkins is projecting revenues of $150,000 more than budgeted. That would still leave a deficit of about $650,000.
This year, teams that play in the first round of the NCAA tournament are expected to earn $230,700, according to the NCAA. A spot in the second round is expected to earn a school $461,500, the regional semifinals are worth $692,200, and the regional finals are worth $922,900. A school reaching the Final Four is expected to receive $1,153,700.
According to an ACC spokesman, conference members keep all gate receipts from a first-round game, minus expenses not covered by the NCAA. Beyond the first round, a school keeps 70 percent of the receipts with the other 30 percent being split evenly among the other seven schools. Schools keep all receipts from NIT games.