Maryland Coach Bob Wade would like to see his team at least come close to having as many rebounds as the opponent, which today is North Carolina in Chapel Hill at 2 p.m.
Pittsburgh Coach Paul Evans would like to demonstrate to Georgetown why the eighth-ranked Panthers are in first place in the Big East Conference when they play host to the 18th-ranked Hoyas in the Civic Arena at 2 (WUSA-TV-9, WBAL-TV-11). Georgetown Coach John Thompson would like his team to extend its three-game winning streak and continue playing the kind of defense that's confused Seton Hall, Syracuse and Villanova.
Navy Coach Pete Herrmann, whose team had a near-crippling start, but has played as well as anyone in the Colonial Athletic Association of late, wants to grab one of the top seeds for the CAA tournament. American Coach Ed Tapscott, whose Eagles have won five straight, would also like an upper placement in the CAA for a better seed. Those two teams will settle that tonight at Halsey Field House in Annapolis, 7:30.
Maryland is 13-9 and 4-6 in the Atlantic Coast Conference heading into this afternoon's televised game (ESPN, WDCA-TV-20) against the fifth-ranked Tar Heels. North Carolina (19-3, 8-2) has won five in a row since losing to Wake Forest Jan. 28; the Terrapins have lost two straight.
In each loss, Maryland had rebounding problems. Against Duke, though the Blue Devils had only a two-rebound edge overall, Maryland was outrebounded, 22-9, in the first half when the Blue Devils took control. Wednesday, Georgia Tech outrebounded the Terrapins, 45-29. The Terrapins have had a rebounding edge in only four of 21 games against Division I competition. For a few minutes of Thursday's practice, Wade had one of the team managers put a cover over the basket, so there would be rebounds to practice grabbing.
The Terrapins still are getting their signals crossed on what defense they're playing. One person will be in a man-to-man while the other four are set up in a zone, or two people will guard the same opponent. Those situations, and a slowness in getting back after scoring, has led to some easy baskets for the other team.
"It's strange," senior Derrick Lewis said, "in that we've played together long enough to have a feel for one another."
Tuesday, Wade said he thought his team needed to win four of its last six regular season games to get an NCAA tournament bid. Today's game was one of those Wade wasn't planning on getting. And a blowout loss would not help Maryland's cause at all.
The Tar Heels beat Maryland, 71-65, on Jan. 14 in College Park, in a game that wasn't as close as the final score indicated.
North Carolina must play twice in about 24 hours this weekend. Sunday, top-ranked Temple will visit the Dean Smith Center, where, since January 1986, the Tar Heels are 28-2. Maryland (in 1986) and Duke (earlier this year) have handed the Tar Heels the defeats.
Georgetown (17-6, 7-5 and fourth in the Big East) faces a real test today with the Panthers. Pittsburgh (18-3, 8-2) lost to the Hoyas Jan. 6 after senior center Charles Smith got in foul trouble early and took just five shots. Junior swing man Demetreus Gore suffered a two-for-nine shooting performance, and the Panthers' freshman back court of Sean Miller and Jason Matthews went four of 11 from the floor.
But that performance was an aberration on an otherwise successful first season for the 6-foot Miller, who has already been named Big East freshman of the week four times. In games against Syracuse and Villanova last week, Miller scored 18 and 16 points, respectively. He currently ranks just behind Syracuse's Sherman Douglas (Spingarn High) in assists and is third in the conference in three-point shooting.
Matthews made two clutch three-pointers late in Tuesday's 87-86 victory over Providence after going two for 11 in the first 38 minutes. The Panthers had to come from behind three times in the final three minutes to win. Smith had 33 points for Pittsburgh to bolster his team-leading scoring average (18 points a game).
The most consistent Panther has been junior forward Jerome Lane, he of the backboard-breaking dunk in a game earlier this season against Providence. His 12.5 rebounds per game leads the Big East, and he's second to Smith on the team in scoring, at 12.5.
But Evans has gotten his own share of the headlines. After Georgetown's 62-57 victory, Evans said Hoyas Coach John Thompson intimidated officials and was "more powerful" than Georgetown President Timothy Healy and Athletic Director Frank Rienzo. Last Saturday, Evans and Villanova Coach Rollie Massimino engaged in a shouting match, with obscenties exchanged, when they met to shake hands at the end of the game.
Navy (11-12, 6-5 in the CAA) is even hotter than American, having won eight in a row. The Midshipmen have won 25 straight games in February, dating back to the 1985 season.
Three weeks ago, the Midshipmen beat American easily at Bender Arena, 75-60. Navy has defeated American eight straight times since the 1981-82 season, and American hasn't won at Halsey Field House since Feb. 16, 1977.
American (12-12, 7-4 and tied for second in the CAA) hasn't been this hot since it won five straight at the start of the 1985-86 season. But the Eagles have never been in contention for the CAA championship this late in the season.
The Eagles' bench has been a catalyst during the recent run, scoring 177 points over the last five games. Forward Clarence Ingram, guard Fred Tillman and freshman center Ron Davenport have given American quality minutes off the bench. Junior forward Eric White, who has come off the bench in recent games, scored 14 points and had eight rebounds in the Eagles' victory over East Carolina Monday.