The jokes about a season without live television -- "No lights, no cameras, just action;" "Come inside and feel the pride because you won't see it live" -- have become so pervasive around Maryland that the Terrapins incorporated them in preseason advertising.
More surprising, the gags came with the blessing of Coach Gary Williams. "It got people's attention," he said. "Besides, everyone knows our situation. It's not like the news is a surprise."
The sanctions levied on Maryland last spring included the ban on television (which knocks Maryland out of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament) and postseason play in 1990-91. But if you think that's dimmed the enthusiasm of the often fiery Williams, think again.
When a poll of conference media placed Maryland at the bottom of the ACC by an overwhelming margin, Williams countered with: "I know we'll win some games and I don't think we'll finish last."
For that to happen, Maryland will have to find a way to replace the contributions of four starters: Teyon McCoy, Jesse Martin, Jerrod Mustaf and Tony Massenburg. McCoy, who averaged 10.7 points, transferred to Texas shortly after the sanctions were announced. Martin, who averaged 9.9 points, is redshirting in order to get his grades up to university standards.
Mustaf was a first-round draft choice of the New York Knicks after leaving school at the end of a sophomore year in which he averaged 18.5 points and 7.7 rebounds. Massenburg, a second-round pick of the San Antonio Spurs, was the Terrapins' leader, averaging 18 points and 10.1 rebounds.
Maryland lost 71.6 percent of its points, 62.2 percent of its rebounds and 59.5 percent of its assists. So where will the points come from? Enter Walt Williams and Matt Roe.
Apart from the possible pairing of 6-foot-7 Grant Hill with 6-6 Greg Koubek at Duke, Williams (6-8) and Roe (6-6) will be the biggest backcourt in the ACC. The duo will probably have to score more points than any other group if the Terrapins are to make Gary Williams's prediction come true.
Walt Williams's decision to stay at Maryland probably gave the team two or three victories it otherwise couldn't have expected. Williams averaged 12.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.7 steals and a blocked shot last season -- the only ACC player in the league's top 10 in the last three categories.
Roe was the hardest-working Maryland player last year -- and he was ineligible to play after transferring from Syracuse. In his last season of play, 1988-89, the current senior averaged 11 points, making 83 three-point field goals. Last season, Maryland hit 110 as a team.
Gary Williams doesn't like a three-point basket as much as powering the ball inside for two and drawing a foul, but without Massenburg and Mustaf, the long shot will become a bigger part of the Maryland offense. Walt Williams will either take the shot or slash to the basket before passing the ball back out to Roe.
Still, the coach knows the Terrapins have to establish some kind of inside game. During preseason practices the reserves have worked on a variety of gimmick defenses, including a triangle-and-two in which Williams and Roe were guarded man-to-man and the other three players were covered by a zone. That's likely to be the norm for Maryland -- opponents concentrating on Williams and Roe and daring the other players to beat them.
"We've talked about that," said Gary Williams. "The other players have to want some scoring responsibility. We can't just say that Walt will save us when things get tough; we have to want to take that pressure off him."
There are a number of possibilities for help, but none is a proven commodity -- particularly against ACC competition. Sophomore center Evers Burns averaged 4.3 points last year; senior center Cedric Lewis 3.1. Another transfer, Eric Kjome, averaged nine points for Air Force in 1987.
One routine Gary Williams is experimenting with has Roe moving to small forward with Kevin McLinton playing the off-guard. McLinton, son of late Redskins middle linebacker Harold McLinton, started three of the six games he played in a year ago as a freshman before breaking his left leg.
Junior-college transfers Garfield Smith and Matthew Downing likely will get significant playing time too, but the key to Maryland's season may well be junior Vince Broadnax. Maryland's best defensive player, Broadnax earned a scholarship last year for his tireless efforts and probably will start at small forward.
Broadnax started his Maryland career by walking on to an open tryout by then coach Bob Wade and playing 19 minutes during the 1988-89 season. Last year he appeared in all 33 games, playing 513 minutes. Although he averaged only 3.5 points, a similar leap in offensive statistics, combined with his solid defensive work, could give the Terrapins a huge boost.
"Two years ago I just wanted to make the team and last year I just wanted to try and get some playing time," Broadnax said. "Now it's trying to be the best player I can be. This year I can contribute by scoring more. If that happens you never know what doors will open for you."