- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2003

Maryland, despite drawing its worst seed in seven years in the NCAA tournament, got a favorable path to the Final Four last night when the 2003 tournament bracket was announced.
Sixth-seeded Maryland (19-9), the defending national champion, faces 11th-seeded UNC Wilmington in the South Region opener Friday at about 10 p.m. in Nashville, Tenn. The Terrapins could face third-seeded Xavier in the second round and a victory there could set up a showdown with second-seeded Florida in the Sweet 16. Texas is the top seed in the regional.
Maryland, the only school in the tournament to have reached at least the Elite Eight in each of the last two years, seeks its third straight Final Four, which this year takes place in New Orleans April 5-7.
Given the Terps' two-game losing streak, Maryland could have been shipped to Spokane, Wash., or Salt Lake City and faced tougher earlier-round opponents. Instead, Maryland certainly got a break or two from the seeding committee and became one of six teams in this year's tournament to reach the NCAA tournament for the 10th straight year, along with Arizona, Cincinnati, Kansas, Indiana and Kentucky. Maryland was 5-5 against NCAA tournament teams this season.
"Fifth seed, sixth seed doesn't matter," coach Gary Williams said. "We probably did drop a little bit losing that North Carolina game [on Friday]. Once the seeds are done, it really doesn't matter unless you're a No.1. Now you scramble and prepare."
Said senior forward Tahj Holden: "It really doesn't matter whether it's Spokane, Tampa, Nashville it all ends up in New Orleans. We hope there's a sense of urgency. We feel we can do the same thing [as last year]."
Williams said that earning a sixth seed makes it easier for his team after it drew a No.1 last year on its way to the championship.
"The challenge last year was making sure the players could handle the pressure. We were supposed to win our games," he said. "This year, the challenge is to teach and blend the team when you lose four starters. This year the pressure's not quite the same, but we feel we can be a good NCAA tournament team given our experience and depth."
Maryland stumbles into the NCAA after losing its regular-season finale and ACC tournament opener. The Terps were outplayed underneath in both defeats.
"The pain of those games is tough to take, but you don't let it run to this week," Williams said. "You go through so many different things because you play so many games. We hit a bad spot the last two games. We got through it even though we didn't play well. It's not like we were on a roll all year. We've had to come back from pretty tough situations. That gives us confidence we can play in the NCAA tournament."
Center Ryan Randle had only one point and two rebounds against North Carolina and played only 13 minutes because of foul troubles. Williams said he wouldn't make any lineup changes, though forward Jamar Smith could play extensively if Randle continues his poor play.
Randle said "personal problems" have contributed to his recent slump. He did not give further explanation.
"Sometimes people get out of focus and that's what I did," he said. "My confidence is not down. It's still up. I just have to fight through everything. I haven't been happy. … Basketball is a big thing, but there's some things on my mind that I'm carrying on the court and I have to stop that. I just have to let it go."
Maryland coaches were already scrambling to gather and watch film on UNC Wilmington and possible second-round opponents Xavier and Troy State. UNC Wilmington (24-6), which upset Southern Cal in the first round of last year's NCAA tournament, won the Colonial Athletic Association this season and was 9-3 against non-conference teams.
The Seahawks have won nine straight behind guard Brett Blizzard (21.3 points) and forward Craig Callahan (16.6, 7.1 rebounds), who combined to make 138 3-pointers this season.
UNC Wilmington first-year coach Brad Brownell said he expects outside matchups to be pivotal to his team's success against the Terps. Actually, that would certainly favor Maryland after it has struggled with its frontcourt defense lately.
"Maryland has a great backcourt with [Steve] Blake and [Drew] Nicholas and we too have a great backcourt with Brett and Craig," Brownwell said. "Their backcourt will be a great matchup with ours."

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