Maryland and Wake Forest, which will play today at 1:30 p.m. in the Greensboro Coliseum, are teams that have changed lineups throughout this season -- Maryland by design, Wake Forest by accident.
In the past nine games, Maryland Coach Bob Wade has started a lineup that was different from the previous game. During that stretch, Maryland is 4-5, 0-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Only point guard Rudy Archer and forward Derrick Lewis have started every game. Freshman center Brian Williams has started every game in which he has played, but missed two of the nine games with a sprained ankle. Steve Hood missed one game with the same ailment.
"Lineups change game to game, whether it be at Maryland or anywhere else," Wade said. "I'm very happy that we have the personnel to change lineups if we have to."
One might think this late in the season, a coach would have established a pattern of who starts and who doesn't. Wade says no.
"The way we are doing it is fine," said Wade, whose team is 14-10 overall, 4-7 in the ACC and fighting to remain in the NCAA tournament picture. "It allows for competition during the week. If a kid does a yeoman's job in practice and does what is asked of him as far as his responsibilities offensively and defensively, he should be rewarded. It gives them something to shoot for."
Lewis was diplomatic in discussing the lineup shifts.
"I guess it depends on how you want to look at it," Lewis said after Thursday's 101-51 victory over Maryland-Eastern Shore. "The good thing is that we're flexible and we can start different people at different positions and not lose anything. Maybe the bad side is that we get used to one lineup and then change.
"I guess I feel comfortable with everybody. But sometimes I don't know what he's going to do and sometime he doesn't know what I'm going to do and that's why we turn the ball over. I guess it's just a matter of getting the chemistry together. We don't have control of the lineup. We just go out and try to do the role we're asked to do, no matter who starts."
On the other hand, Wake Forest Coach Bob Staak wishes he had the same players, much less the same lineup. Three games into the season, 6-11 sophomore center Greg Keith quit the team and has since transferred to Fairfield. Three other players were lost for the season due to injuries -- Robert Siler (knee), Tony Black (broken leg) and Derrick Keys (knee).
Staak got another body when Allen Dickens rejoined the team. Dickens had joined the team two years ago in midseason as a walk-on, and played last year. He wasn't playing until the rash of injuries hit. Counting Dickens, the Demon Deacons will have in uniform 10 players, six of whom are on scholarship.
"I feel very good about our team in terms of maturity," Staak said. "Unfortunately, we've had to change lineups because of the injury problems. It's a constant thing of changing gears, which I don't think helps your continuity in how you play."
Wake Forest was the preseason pick to finish last in the conference. The Demon Deacons might still end there, but they are now 3-8 in the league, 10-14 overall, having beaten Clemson, 79-73, Wednesday. The two other conference wins were over North Carolina and North Carolina State, both at Greensboro Coliseum.
"A lot of people picked us to finish eighth and our people would like to prove the so-called experts wrong," Staak said. "Some people thought we wouldn't even win a game. I just wish we hadn't had all of the injuries so we could've learned how good we could've been."
Elsewhere, Navy (11-14), which has lost two straight, will travel to Army today, hoping to extend its eight-game winning streak over the Cadets (9-17).
American (14-12, 9-4 in the Colonial Athletic Association) is a game behind first-place Richmond going into tonight's game at James Madison. If the Eagles win and the Spiders lose at home to William and Mary, the two teams would tie for the regular season title, though Richmond has clinched the top seed in the tournament by virtue of two wins over George Mason.
Howard (15-11, 9-5 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) has an important game at 8 tonight against Morgan State (12-16, 6-8) at Burr Gymnasium. The Bison are tied with South Carolina State and Florida A&M for second place, and all three are looking for the highest seed possible in the conference tournament, which begins Tuesday.