- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 11, 2007

Georgetown is back as a beast in the East, Maryland is back after a two-year hiatus and George Washington never left.

All three area schools — plus four programs from Virginia — earned NCAA tournament berths when the 65-team field was announced last night.

Of the nearby teams, Maryland (24-8) probably faced the most questionable seeding situation entering the day. The Terrapins won seven straight to close the regular season but were stunned by Miami in the ACC tournament. But it appeared to do little damage to their status.

Rather than getting shipped out west as many players believed might happen, the Terrapins earned the No. 4 seed in the Midwest regional and will meet Southern Conference champ Davidson (29-4) in the first round Thursday in Buffalo, N.Y. Freshman guard Stephen Curry, the son of former NBA player Dell Curry, averages a team-high 21.2 points for the Wildcats, who have won 13 straight and 25 of 26 entering the tournament.

“Here we go,” coach Gary Williams said. “It could be a little cold in Buffalo, but we’re playing inside the last time we checked, so it’s OK.”

Just being in was gratifying for Maryland, which was relegated to the NIT the last two seasons. Players gathered in the team lounge at Comcast Center and let out a cheer audible in the adjacent press room when the Terps popped up on the screen early in the selection show.

“It was exciting just to hear our name called,” senior guard D.J. Strawberry said. “I’ve been waiting for this since last year around this time. We worked hard, and we played well at the end of the season. I feel we deserve where we’re at right now.”

The selection permitted Williams some levity on a day that produced dour moments the last two years. When a reporter jokingly asked whether Williams had watched any tape of Davidson, the coach produced a typical deadpan response: “Yeah, I just looked at two games. C’mon, I just found out like 15 minutes ago.”

Meanwhile, nobody wanted to see Georgetown (26-6) in their bracket after the Hoyas’ strong finish. The Big East regular season and tournament champs head to Winston-Salem, N.C., as the No. 2 seed in the East Region and will face Belmont on Thursday.

Asked whether he knew the location of Belmont, which is in Nashville, forward Jeff Green replied, “Is it somewhere in Pennsylvania?”

Green and the Hoyas might not know much about their first-round opponent yet, but coach John Thompson III watched the Bruins (23-9) rout East Tennessee State in the Atlantic Sun title game and came away plenty impressed.

“They like to spread you out, and they can put five shooters on the floor,” Thompson said. “Much like us, they are a very balanced scoring team, so it’s hard to key on anyone specifically. And they have a big strong kid inside [6-foot-10, 255-pound center Boomer Herndon] who can hurt you.”

The veteran Hoyas are well aware of the dangers lurking after last season’s run to the Sweet 16 as a No. 7 seed. That said, the draw looks relatively favorable, and CBS analyst Seth Davis gave the Hoyas a pass all the way to the regional finals.

“I was kind of confused when he said that because I think there are a lot of great teams in our bracket,” said Green, who has averaged 18.3 points over the last 12 games. “There’s no such thing as an easy road through the NCAA tournament. We know it’s time to focus.”

George Washington drew the No. 11 seed in the East Region a day after winning the Atlantic 10 tournament to secure a program-record third straight bid. The Colonials (23-8) will meet No. 6 Vanderbilt on Thursday in Sacramento, Calif.

“We’re just excited,” center Dokun Akingbabe said. “We didn’t expect to have this at all, so we’re just excited.”

GW, whose return to the NCAAs came after losing four starters from last season, has won eight straight.

“It all came together in the three most important days of the season, which is the tournament,” coach Karl Hobbs said.

Virginia is the South Region’s No. 4 seed and will face No. 13 Albany on Friday in Columbus, Ohio. The Cavaliers (20-10) are in the tournament for the first time since 2001.

“It means a lot,” coach Dave Leitao said. “Right now, it is all about preparing for Friday. For all the other stuff, we will have to look back after the season and see how far we’ve come.”

Elsewhere, Virginia Tech (21-11) ended an 11-year NCAA drought after earning the No. 5 seed in the West Region and will play No. 12 Illinois in Columbus on Friday.

“Our goal from Day One was to make the NCAA tournament,” Greenberg said. “It is going to take a day to hit them. Now it’s our goal to turn around and be successful [in the NCAA tournament].

Meanwhile, the Colonial Athletic Association sent two Virginia teams to the tournament. Virginia Commonwealth (27-6) earned a No. 11 seed in the West Region and will meet sixth-seeded Duke in the first round in Buffalo.

Old Dominion (24-8) secured the CAA’s second at-large berth in as many seasons and is the No. 12 seed in the Midwest Region. The Monarchs will play fifth-seeded Butler in Buffalo with a date with Maryland possible in the second round.

• Staff writers Barker Davis and Jon Siegel contributed to this article.

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