- The Washington Times - Monday, March 14, 2005

It was unwelcome but not unexpected news. Maryland missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1993 and is headed for the National Invitational Tournament.

The Terrapins (16-12) will play host to Oral Roberts (25-7) at Comcast Center on Wednesday at 9p.m. Georgetown (17-12) will play host to Boston University (20-8) at MCI Center on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

“As long as you have the opportunity, then that’s all you can ask,” Maryland coach Gary Williams said of the failed NCAA bid. “The one thing I get out of this is the most important thing is [reaching] a certain number of wins.”

Maryland spent 19 days on the bubble, losing its last four games when one victory probably would have landed it an NCAA invitation.

Ultimately, the Terps hoped their 2002 national championship and 11 straight tournament trips would weigh heavily with the selection committee. However, no combination of RPI, strength of schedule or two victories over No. 1 seed Duke was enough. Alabama-Birmingham (21-10) and Northern Iowa (21-10) most likely edged Maryland for the final two bids.

“You don’t want somebody to arbitrarily say, “You’re not going to make it,’” Williams said. “We had our opportunity to get in, and we didn’t take advantage of it. I think part of that is you grow up a little bit. … Hopefully, we understand it’s not automatic and you have to earn your way.”

Georgetown also missed out by stumbling late. The Hoyas lost their last five regular-season games before reaching the second round of the Big East tournament.

But in contrast to Maryland’s disappointment, Georgetown was happy to make the NIT in coach John Thompson III’s first season. The Hoyas reached the 2003 NIT finals.

“If someone had told us at the beginning of the season that we would be on the NCAA bubble in March, we probably would have been thrilled,” Thompson said. “Given the way the season unfolded and we finished, however, it’s difficult not to be somewhat disappointed at the result. That said, there are an awful lot of people that aren’t fortunate enough to be playing any longer, so we’re very excited about this opportunity.”

Williams said he never wavered on whether to accept the NIT bid. Maryland won the 1972 NIT title in its first of four trips but hasn’t entered the 40-team tournament since 1990.

“I respect the NIT because they’ve given a lot of teams the opportunity to play in the postseason,” he said. “It can help you for next season.”

Still, Williams conceded, “There’s two groups of teams in the NIT ” one’s very happy to be there; the other group is not real happy to be there.”

And Maryland’s players aren’t real happy.

“One of our goals was to win a national championship, and we’re not in the [NCAA] tournament,” forward Nik Caner-Medley said. “That’s disappointing.”

Williams empathized but still made them practice immediately after the NCAA announcement.

“When the feeling of not going to the NCAA wears off, this is a good time to look at some things against outside competition,” he said.

Notes ” Forward James Gist (bruised knee) and John Gilchrist (sprained ankle) remain questionable. … Gilchrist isn’t close to deciding whether to return for his senior season, saying, “I’m pretty much 50-50. I still have a lot of time to weigh options.”

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