- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 30, 2002

ATLANTA — Maryland or Kansas.

Kansas or Maryland.

There's the other game, too.

Williams is either Gary or Roy but not Richard, the official interpreter for Serena and Venus.

Duke is not here because of Mike Davis, who, as it turns out following a thorough investigation, is black. Davis is one of two minority coaches in the Final Four, the first time the underrepresented have been overrepresented. Anyone for three? Is there a four out there?

That is one black, one red and two whites, if you're counting the jelly beans at home.

A Lumbee Indian from Raleigh, N.C., a good friend, is sitting out the obsession on race, if only because it is predictable.

He is a very smart fellow. He also saw something special in Steve Nash before anyone else.

He acknowledges the presence of Kelvin Sampson, the Lumbee Indian from Lumberton, N.C., but leaves it at that.

Go, Oklahoma?

Not really.

The friend remains ever loyal to N.C. State, a second-round loser in the tournament.

Davis is still black, Sampson still red, and it is not nice to notice until the media elites say it is time to pull out your coloring books and work within the lines.

"Every thang's gonna be all white," as determined by the red men in Northern Colorado.

The message is a commercial success, just not a political success.

It's all good. Honest. Really.

How do you spell boys in hip hop? Is that with two z's at the end or three? The answer determines your level of hipness and sophistication.

Who's going to win? Who knows?

The Terps advanced to hype central last season, in Minneapolis, no small advantage.

Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter and Steve Blake each hit a big shot against UConn in Syracuse, N.Y., last Sunday. It was a game that could have gone the other way, that might have gone the other way if the Terps were not well-tested.

The Terps are the local team, natural favorites, and not to disparage the other three dots on the map, fine towns all. It has been 18 years since a local university, Georgetown, stood atop college basketball.

The Terps are long overdue, no matter how you measure their history and their one-time stint as the "UCLA of the East."

The Terps are moving from one dome to the other, inhospitable basketball places though they are. That, too, is in their favor.

The Terps have gained a new supporter in Dick Vitale, the professional shouter who doles out plaudits and superlatives to all those in his vicinity. He is picking the Terps to beat the Sooners on Monday night. That sounds as good as the next pick.

The Terps have no obvious flaws and no obvious rough spots in their 30-4 record. They lost by 16 points to the Sooners in December, if losing on the road nearly four months ago means anything.

They can atone. If not, the Terps are not obligated to apologize. The same goes if they had fallen to UConn or Kentucky. The all-or-nothing thinking is inappropriate in the last hours of the single-elimination tournament.

The season begins with 327 Division I entries. So an Elite Eight finish is disappointing? Try telling that to No. 327. The tournament determines the better team only some of the time. Indiana is a testament to that. Duke beats Indiana 4-1 in a best-of-seven series.

The improbable is both the joy and curse of the tournament. A Maryland-Duke final would have been delectable.

Not that the replacement game is poised to lack drama, as long as Maryland is included.

The basketball is impervious to the NCAA's system and the unsavory stuff around it.

That was some misguided celebration in behalf of the Fab Five at Michigan in the early '90s, judging by the charges against a former booster. Money laundering. Illegal gambling operation. Loans to players. Hip, hip, hooray.

Michigan is merely the latest scandal to hit college basketball, and hardly the last. No one is about to let it spoil the three-day party, starting with CBS.

The games are real enough, the rest is up to you to decide.

Tonight, inside the Georgia Dome, it should be Oklahoma and Maryland.

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