The Washington Times - December 5, 2008, 10:25AM

I was in Comcast Center on Wednesday early.

As in really early.


As in early enough to see at least one basketball player roaming the hallway hours before tip and early enough to encounter a few members of the program well before they were dialed into game mode.

I asked just about everyone about how Orlando went, and I invariably heard things were good early, not-so-great later on and that everyone was looking forward to playing Michigan.

Harmless small talk, obviously. But I’m a bit mischievous, so I pointed out of course they’d do fine against a Big Ten team, but it was Sunday they should really worry about.

That’s because it’s BB&T Classic time, and a trip to the Phone Booth for Maryland these days is akin to Superman trying to climb a mountain made of kryptonite.

Since Maryland won the national championship, it is 2-8 at Verizon Center. The Terrapins have lost in the BB&T Classic (2-7) and ACC tournament (0-1).

They’ve lost to nationally recognized names (Notre Dame, Gonzaga) and strong regional mid-majors (George Washington, circa 2005, and Virginia Commonwealth).

They’ve lost in overtime (West Virginia) and lost by comfortable margins (by double digits four times).

They’ve lost when they could afford a hiccup (2006 after a win at Illinois) and when they couldn’t (2005 ACC tournament against Clemson).

They’ve lost in years they eventually went to the NCAA tournament (2002, 2003, 2006) and years they didn’t (2004, 2005, 2007) —- remember, the BB&T is in December, so a 2005 loss correlates to the 2006 season.

Mostly, the Terps have just lost, and the regularity of it is absolutely bizarre.

The inherent irony of it all is Maryland coach Gary Williams has the best of intentions for playing in the event —- giving up a home game that would both presumably be easier to win and pay a lot of bills in College Park to instead raise money for charity as one of the featured teams in a doubleheader —- and is “rewarded” with a loss on an annual basis.

In four of the last five years, Maryland stumbled in the BB&T Classic immediately after winning an ACC/Big Ten Challenge game. And now the Terps have their Challenge victory.

Maybe the greater challenge, though, will be getting a win in downtown D.C. against George Washington on Sunday.

—- Patrick Stevens