Maryland is playing the last-place team in the Atlantic Coast Conference tonight, but the game has become important because of what has come before it and what will follow.

The Terrapins (12-7 overall, 3-4 in the league) will go into Littlejohn Coliseum to face Clemson (11-9, 1-6) after losing Monday night to Georgia Tech, 96-83, at Cole Field House.

After Clemson, the future is full of trouble for the Terrapins, who have lost three in a row in the ACC. Maryland has had trouble at home of late, and that's where they'll be Saturday. Duke will be the opponent and the eighth-ranked Blue Devils will be looking to avenge a loss to the Terrapins. Then, Maryland faces Georgia Tech and sixth-ranked North Carolina on the road.

"We need the {Clemson} game to stay in the middle of the pack," said Maryland Coach Bob Wade after the Georgia Tech defeat. "Not only are we playing for a position going into the ACC tournament, we're trying to win every game we can so hopefully we will receive some consideration at the end of the road."

Wade is, of course, referring to the NCAA tournament.

Achieving an invitation will be made easier once freshman center Brian Williams' sprained left ankle heals enough to put him back in the lineup. But that almost certainly won't be tonight, and he may not play Saturday.

The Terrapins were already the worst rebounding team in the ACC with Williams. The Yellow Jackets were next to last going into Monday night's game and they out-rebounded the Terrapins by 37-24.

"Rebounding is desire," Wade said yesterday. "Sometimes we relax and that allows the other team to get the rebound. We've done everything we could to instill in our players the idea that we need the ball. But we have not been good on the boards."

Maryland beat Clemson, 68-53, on Jan. 9 in Cole Field House. Since then, the Tigers have been beset by injuries. At the moment, Coach Cliff Ellis has eight of his original 12 scholarship players. For all intents and purposes, the Tigers have two guards, Grayson Marshall and Tim Kincaid.