- The Washington Times - Monday, March 11, 2002

Maryland got the reward it expected for its stellar regular season yesterday when it was selected as a No.1 seed in the NCAA tournament for the first time.
The Terrapins, ranked second nationally, will face the winner of tomorrow's play-in game for the 16th-seed between Siena and Alcorn State in the first round of the East Region on Friday at MCI Center.
The NCAA journey will begin just a short bus ride from College Park, but the only ending they see as worthy is reaching the Final Four in Atlanta's Georgia Dome.
"To me, not getting to the Final Four would be a disappointment," said Maryland forward Byron Mouton, a member of the first Terps team ever to reach the college basketball showcase last season. "Everybody talks about if you don't win it all, you still had a great season. We have so much talent and so many great for players. I'm big on the Final Four."
While Maryland received good news, no other local teams made the 65-team NCAA field. Georgetown and Virginia were hoping for at-large bids, but mounting late-season losses cost the pair and their once-promising seasons will end in the NIT.
The Terps joined top-ranked Kansas (Midwest), Duke (South) and Cincinnati (West) as No.1 seeds. If Maryland wins Friday no No.16 seed has upset a top seed since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 they would meet the winner between No.8 Wisconsin and No.9 St. John's on Sunday at MCI Center. Two wins would place them in the East Region semifinals, which start March22 in Syracuse, N.Y.
"This is the first time in our school history that we are a No.1," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who leads the Terps into their ninth consecutive NCAA tournament. "We're very proud of this. It's a great feeling."
If seedings hold, Maryland would play No.4 Kentucky in the Sweet 16 and second-seeded Connecticut for a trip to the Final Four. The East Region champ meets the Midwest winner, where Kansas is the favorite.
The Terps, whose previous highest seed was No.2 in 1980 and 1999, earned the top seed due to their best regular-season record of 25-3 (now 26-4 after the ACC tournament) and going 15-1 while capturing their first outright ACC regular-season title in 22 seasons. Maryland won 13 straight games before being upset by N.C. State in Saturday's ACC tournament semifinals.
"Maybe we needed a loss like this," said Maryland guard Juan Dixon, of the 86-82 loss. "We ran off so many in a row. Maybe we need to sit back and start all over again. It's a new season."
MCI Center also will play host to East Region first-round games between second-seed Connecticut and No.15 Hampton and No.7 N.C. State and No.10 Michigan State.
Coincidentally, the Terps will be near home in the first season the NCAA is implementing a procedure that tries to keep the top four seeds in each region closer to home for first- and second-round games. For instance, a "pod" of four teams in the West Region will play in Pittsburgh, that region's top-seed Cincinnati will play No.16 Boston University and No.8 UCLA faces No.9 Mississippi in the first round.
Maryland would have played at MCI Center without the new procedure as the top seed in the East. The Terps look at it as an added benefit that they can play so close to home, after venturing thousands of miles to Boise, Idaho; Minneapolis; and Orlando, Fla., for sub-regionals the past three seasons.
"It's great to know we are a No.1 seed and we're going to play right down the street at the MCI Center," Maryland center Lonny Baxter said.
It's the launching point for what Maryland believes will be a deep run through March Madness that will lead it back to the Final Four.
"We know what it takes to get back there," Dixon said. "We've grown up a lot since last year. … I think we'll be prepared to make a run for the national title."


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