- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 9, 2003

Maryland won't know until nearly tipoff tonight in Charlottesville whether a victory over Virginia will earn it the No.2 seed in the upcoming ACC tournament. Either way, the 13th-ranked Terrapins won't be lacking motivation.
The Terps will seek to maintain their momentum by avenging their most embarrassing loss (86-78 to the Cavaliers at home Feb.6), earning a seventh straight 20-win season and staking a claim for a high seed in the NCAA tournament.
Wake Forest's 78-72 victory over N.C. State yesterday clinched the No.1 seed for the Demon Deacons (23-4, 13-3). Maryland (19-7, 11-4) can finish second by beating Virginia (14-14, 5-10) or if Duke (21-5, 11-4) loses to North Carolina (15-14, 5-10) earlier today. Maryland has the tiebreaker over Duke.
Regardless of which team finishes second, Maryland and Duke are likely to meet again in Saturday's ACC semifinals in Greensboro, N.C. Many of the Terps players don't see much of a difference among the top three seeds, considering that the conference doesn't provide many breathers.
"The way the ACC is this year, any team can beat anybody, so the numbertwo and three seeds will have it as tough," Maryland forward Tahj Holden said. "It doesn't have much of an effect because the two and three are going to meet each other [in the semifinals]."
In their first meeting with Virginia, the Terps led by as much as 10 points in the second half before absorbing their only ACC home loss. It cost Maryland a share of first place in the final standings.
"Virginia will have motivation," Holden said. "There's nothing better than to ruin somebody else's season."
Said guard John Gilchrist: "Anytime you lose to a team, you have that sense of urgency to come back harder the next time."
Guard Drew Nicholas put it this way: "We owe them a little something."
The Cavaliers have lost seven straight games, three at University Hall, and must beat Maryland to be eligible for the NIT.
"Nobody has quit," Virginia coach Pete Gillen said. "I'm sure [the players] confidence is down. Each game takes a little more out of you. The traveling and losing beat you up. We have to regroup, because we're in a league that's unforgiving."
The Terps know how unforgiving the NCAA tournament selection committee can be when it seeds teams. A 20th win would go a long way toward earning Maryland a No.2 or 3 on Selection Sunday, and an ACC tournament title could help keep the Terps in the East Region.
"You want to go out strong in the regular season … because there are other things [beyond] the league we're looking at," coach Gary Williams said. "What we've done this year is equally impressive as last year given the two different teams."
Players also believe 20 wins will give them credibility. For much of this season, they've felt overshadowed by their national champion predecessors despite being ranked all season, including three weeks in the top 10.
"I'm sure there's a lot of people that didn't expect us to get that many wins, so to accomplish it would mean a lot," point guard Steve Blake said.
Said Holden: "It will prove a lot of people wrong. Even 19-8 [would be] a lot better than a lot of people thought we would do. A lot of people were surprised we stuck around and were as tough as we were this year."
Williams was especially pleased with the passion of his five seniors after the Terps stumbled to a 4-3 start. He had worried about a letdown after last season's title.
"Most gratifying is, the seniors have been hungry enough to have a good team," he said. "[I wondered] whether they would have the fire to be competitive this year because they'll always have the national championship ring regardless of how they played this year."

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