- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Maryland will get a rare chance to scout its first-round NCAA opponent when the Terrapins gather tonight to watch the play-in between Siena and Alcorn State.
The Terps are the top seed in the East Region as they prepare for Friday's opening round at MCI Center against tonight's winner.
"It will be interesting," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "It always is when you're a No. 1 seed or a very high seed. You don't have a chance all the time to see the team play that you are going to play. We have to do a good job taking advantage of that situation in being able to watch that game."
The two small-conference programs have surely seen the fourth-ranked Terps play many times on national broadcasts, and are likely just auditioning to be first-round fodder in the main draw. But Maryland insists it will take the survivor between tonight's two unfamiliar programs as seriously as if Duke or Kansas were on the docket. The Terps remember being a No. 3 seed last season and escaping with an 83-80 win over George Mason in the first round. Maryland is also coming off being upset by N.C. State in the ACC tournament semifinals.
"It's a one-game shot. It's not a best-out-of-seven like in the NBA," said Williams, who was named ACC Coach of the Year yesterday. "[Players] know they earned the right to be the No.1, but you can't be too happy about that. You have to get ready to play the next game. Because whoever we play doesn't care that we are a No.1 seed. They are going to try to beat us. That's how you have to feel going into that if you're us."
The Terps (26-4) practiced yesterday and will take today off other than meeting to watch the game. They will pick up some tips tonight and start working out tomorrow for Friday's game. Maryland coaches are not allowed to go to the play-in game in Dayton because of an NCAA rule designed to not give the top-seed an advantage.
Maryland insists it is taking nothing for granted despite being a prohibitive favorite. No 16th seed has ever upset the No.1 seed since the NCAA went to a 64-team format in 1984.
"Good," Williams said. "I hope it stays that way. … Obviously this game is very important for us. There is a lot at stake."
While the Terps will be viewing their next opponent, Siena and Alcorn State are concentrating on each other. Siena, located near Albany in Loudonville, N.Y., is thrilled to be in the tournament. The Saints had a three-game losing streak and a 12-18 record before sweeping four games as the sixth seed in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament to earn the automatic NCAA bid. They are the only team in the tournament with a losing record.
"We are ready for this," Siena's Dwayne Archbold told the Albany (N.Y.) Times-Union. "I'm not thinking about Maryland. Why would I? Alcorn State is the next game. The way I look at it is we are going to be in every game we play, so it doesn't matter who we play."
Archbold, a 6-foot-6 power forward, was named MAAC tournament MVP after scoring 30 points in the title game. The senior leads the team with 20.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. The Brooklyn, N.Y., resident had a season-high 36 points in a MAAC quarterfinal win over Marist.
While Siena is enthusiastic about being in the play-in game, Alcorn State sees it as a slap in the face. The Lorman, Miss., school thought it had earned its way into the main draw with a 20-9 record, including going 16-2 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. The Braves won 20 of their last 24 after losing their first five on the road to bigger conference teams. The NCAA committee paid more attention to their 2-7 non-conference record.
"There's three or four teams with worse records that made the [regular] field," Alcorn State coach Davey Whitney told the Biloxi Sun Herald. "We're one of the hottest teams in the country. We have won seven straight. I thought we would've gotten a 15th seed."
The Braves were probably hurt by Winthrop, the South's No.16 seed that will play No.1 Duke. Winthrop lost to Northwestern State in the play-in game last season, and there is a feeling the NCAA selection committee didn't want to send it back to that game.
Alcorn State is another medium-sized team, led by 6-8 power forward Marcus Fleming. The three-time All-SWAC performer averages 15.0 points on 51-percent shooting and 7.5 rebounds. The Braves play their home games at the Davey L. Whitney Complex, named for the current coach. Whitney has a 494-282 record in 26 seasons at the school and will retire after the season.
Whitney and the Braves do have a claim to fame at Maryland by playing at Cole Field House in Williams' first season. The Terps won that game 110-91 on Dec. 30, 1989. It was the first win of Maryland's current 84-game non-conference home winning streak and the only time the two programs have met.
Maryland has never played Siena. The Saints are looking forward to that initial meeting after playing a less-heralded opponent.
"I'm glad we are in the play-in game," Siena guard Phil Cavo said. "This is a chance to get a win. It's a lot better shot than if we had to play a No. 1 seed right off the bat. Now, we get a chance to get our feet wet before we play Maryland."


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