- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 16, 2002

The Siena basketball players showed up at the appointed hour on Fun Street last night.

That was the first part of the assignment. The second was to get down on all fours and roll over, which they did 85-70.

Who let the 26-point underdogs out?

The selection committee had no choice but to let the Saints in the 65-team field after the rest of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference took a leave of absence around the seventh-place team.

The Saints used to be the Indians, if it pleases Richard Regan, the local chief on the semantical warpath.

The Saints landed in Tony Cheng's neighborhood after stopping in Dayton, Ohio, the site of the footnote that measures the difference between the 16th and 17th seeds. In the case of Siena and Alcorn State, the difference was four points. A date with embarrassment qualifies as the reward.

Gary Williams, who has the hardest-working sweat glands in America, was in no mood to hear such talk. The Maryland coach makes it a habit to imagine the worst. Valium is one alternative. Make it a double in his case.

The venue beat Boise, Idaho, the first stop for the Terrapins last season, and nearly the last after George Evans went abracadabra and Lonny Baxter disappeared. The experience is said to be important.

The Terps, in fact, are older than most of the players with the Los Angeles Clippers. Juan Dixon seemingly has been playing in College Park since the days of Bob Wade.

Dixon is old school, a relic from a bygone era, reportedly a fifth-year senior. But who can be sure? Dixon is more than three years older than Kwame Brown and a number of pounds shy of a complete body. If Dixon were any thinner, he would be a threat to slip through the shower drain.

The Terps lost to N.C. State in the ACC tournament. It was a so-called wake-up call before the march to Atlanta for the Final Four. It was a good loss, as meaningless losses go. Siena provided the Terps with an excuse to put on their game faces before the event begins in earnest for them tomorrow.

The game was held at bedtime, possibly out of consideration of the bleary-eyed cursing their bracket sheets. There was no need to worry about this one. No 16th seed ever has defeated a No.1 seed, not in 18 seasons, although Holy Cross gave it a good try against Kansas.

Rob Lanier, the Siena coach, expressed the proper amount of pessimism going into the game.

"A lot of things have to happen for us to have a chance to make history," he said.

Washington, of course, is littered with history, plus scholars of the U.S. Constitution, the three of them best known as the D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission.

They undoubtedly are grappling with the most vexing question around Washington these days, which is: Is this town big enough for Mike Tyson and 100,000 Girl Scouts on June 8?

The Girl Scouts are planning a Sing Along to celebrate their 90th anniversary. It could end up a squeal-along if they sell Tyson a bad batch of cookies.

At least the Terps were able to lend an air of competency to the surroundings. They just might be good enough to go far. They also might be unlucky enough to stumble. These 40-minute engagements are susceptible to both conditions.

No wonder the players on the bench hold hands near the end of a tight game, as if trying to reach a higher authority.

Thirty-three teams have been eliminated, with another 16 to go before the weekend is completed. The single-elimination format is efficient, just not always fair to the stronger teams, if determining them is the purpose.

Bye-bye, USC.

If it consoles Henry Bibby any, the UNC Wilmington-USC game ranks as the best so far.

The Terps have the necessary personnel, along with a coach no longer cursed by the Sweet 16.

But will the Terps have a little luck on their side as well? Will they be able to slip past the one quirky game in their path?

It sometimes comes down to that in this affair.

Almost inevitably, the hunted teams come across that one oddball game and try not to blink.

For the Terps, it was the George Mason game last season.


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