- The Washington Times - Monday, March 7, 2005

The bubble has engulfed area basketball teams. Maryland, Georgetown, George Washington and Virginia Tech need strong showings in coming conference tournaments to burst through on Selection Sunday.

Maryland coach Gary Williams is lobbying the NCAA tournament selection committee after losing three straight games. So are his contemporaries. The Big Dance isn’t always choosy about its invitations, but stumbling into March or playing too many patsies makes it harder to enter the 65-team tournament.

In fact, NIT tournament officials might have area teams on speed dial. All four could slip to the second-tier tournament, which usually favors local matchups.

Maryland (16-11, 7-9 ACC) appears to have the best chance of making the NCAA tournament thanks to a No.46 RPI and the nation’s fifth-toughest schedule. However, the Terrapins face nemesis Clemson in the ACC’s opening round Thursday at MCI Center. Even if Maryland beats Clemson, which swept the Terps this season, it also may need to upset North Carolina on Friday to warrant an NCAA bid. The Terps also were swept by the Tar Heels, who are the second-ranked team in the nation.

The Terps reached the NCAAs last year with a 7-9 conference mark after winning the ACC tournament to earn an automatic bid. Williams said the Terps already may have done enough for an invitation this year, beating No.6 Duke twice and Memphis and Georgia Tech when both were ranked 25th. However, Maryland has lost three straight and has defeated only one winning team in the last five weeks.

“We didn’t win some games we should have, [but] we had some great wins and some great games,” Williams said. “You go in [the ACC tournament] with the idea if you get a couple it puts you in pretty good shape.”

Said Terps forward Nik Caner-Medley: “All I know is we have some good wins, and we’re going into the ACC tournament with the same record as we did last year.”

Georgetown (16-11, 8-8 Big East) has lost five straight entering Wednesday’s Big East tournament opener against Seton Hall. Losing to Providence 68-65 on a last-second shot Saturday dropped the Hoyas’ RPI to 93. It has been a solid season for new coach John Thompson III, but the Hoyas’ first NCAA bid in four years is unlikely unless Georgetown goes deep into the Big East tournament.

“We’re a team that came a long way throughout the whole season; we had our ups and down,” forward Brandon Bowman said. “But if people can find it in their heart to give us a postseason invitation, we’ll take it.”

Said Thompson: “The season’s not over. … We play in a terrific league. We’ve done some things this year.”

GW (19-7, 11-5 Atlantic 10) also has a low RPI despite winning the Atlantic 10’s West Division. The Colonials’ No.77 RPI reflects a lack of standout victories since they defeated Maryland and Michigan State in the BB&T Classic in December. The A-10 figures to be a one-bid conference, so GW probably must win the tournament in Cincinnati to earn its first NCAA invitation since 1999.

“Nineteen-and-seven, that’s a great record,” GW coach Karl Hobbs said. “That’s a lot to be proud of. Three years ago, we went through a 10-game losing streak, so I’m realistic. I’m not going to allow some guys sitting in a room somewhere to dictate what kind of season we’ve had.”

Virginia Tech’s 86-76 victory over Maryland on Saturday left the Hokies (15-12, 8-8 ACC) tied for fourth place in their conference debut. However, Virginia Tech’s 117 RPI leaves the Hokies needing two victories in the ACC tournament. Finishing .500 in their ACC debut with victories over Duke and then-No.12 Georgia Tech was impressive, though.

“Our theme this year was ‘Not an opponent,’” coach Seth Greenberg said. “We are not in this league to give everyone else two more wins. No matter what anyone says, we are here to compete like everyone else.”

cThe Associated Press contributed to this article.

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