- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2003

Maryland guards Steve Blake and Drew Nicholas yesterday said winning a second straight national championship is possible despite probably not entering the NCAA tournament better than a No.4 seed.
"Why not? Why not?" Nicholas said. "We're in pretty good position to do well. It's just about putting together [good] games. We've been on the biggest stage so why can't we? This is about business. Just win and move on. That's what March is about."
The No.13 Terrapins (19-7, 11-4) are surging to the regular season's end at Virginia on Sunday. Maryland has won five of six, including a dramatic 68-65 victory over N.C. State on Sunday. Blake, the only returning starter from the title team, said he's seeing many similarities between the two seasons.
"I see flashes where we're good enough to win the whole thing again," he said. "We definitely have a lot of talent, we have the players. Watching a lot of college games on TV, I don't see any one team that's so dominant you can't beat. I have high expectation of what we can do in the postseason. Everyone knows we're not going in there settling for a first-round loss. We're trying to win the whole thing."
But coach Gary Williams quickly took the underdog role. After all, Maryland spent only a few weeks in the top 10 this season.
"We're not even being talked about as being a top-three seed so there's 12 teams ranked ahead of us in the tournament," he said. "Sure, when I was a player I wanted to win a national championship. That should be a goal of every player, but our players know they have to take care of this week [first]."
Beating N.C. State with a dramatic 11-point comeback in the final seven minutes capped by Nicholas' game-winning 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left has boosted the Terps' confidence. Beating North Carolina and Clemson by 40 and 39 points, respectively, was impressive, but winning on the road against a desperate bubble team like the Wolfpack was more representative of March Madness matchups.
"The way we fought against N.C. State and Duke, even though we lost, a lot of teams can't do that," Blake said. "That can get you a long way."
Maryland's late comebacks failed at Wake Forest and Duke. The Terps finally proved they could finish off a road rally.
"That was the turning point where we decided we were going to win," Nicholas said. "This time we just came through. Those are the kinds of games that come up in March."
Mostly, the Terps have realized that being defending champion means becoming their opponents' biggest game. Several teams have played their best games of the season against the Terps, including Virginia in its 86-78 upset at Comcast Center on Feb.6.
"This year's team really had to accept the fact that they were going to take the best shot of each team we face," Williams said. "It bothers you as a player they get so ready to play us, but you use it as a compliment to get ready to play and they did as the year goes along."
Said Nicholas: "Teams are making shots that when you watch film they aren't making those shots. They're coming after our name. Teams give you their best shot."
Williams discovered over the season that the roster has quiet confidence. They're not the emotional crew of last season, especially with four freshmen still learning the system.
"They're a pretty quiet group," Williams said. "Early, I was worried about our emotion. I was bothered by it a couple times, but just because they don't jump up and down doesn't mean they're not into it. It takes awhile to find that out."
Note Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow said she's not actively seeking Tennessee's athletic director opening after being nominated by its search committee.
Tennessee is in the early stages of replacing Doug Dickey, who retires in June. Yow is among dozens of nominees considered by the search committee without even talking to the panel. Yow, who has led a dramatic turnaround in Maryland's athletic budget since her 1994 arrival, has been previously linked to several other openings in recent years.
"I am very happy serving as athletic director at the University of Maryland," Yow said in a statement. "We are making significant progress on all fronts, our future is bright and I am looking forward to leading this athletic department for many more years."

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