- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 17, 2007

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Maryland fans with a bent for lucky charms can rest easy: Assistant coach Keith Booth prepared the report for today’s NCAA tournament Midwest Region second round game at HSBC Arena.

The Terrapins’ perfect record in Booth-scouted games became a running joke around the team. Booth’s legend grew as Maryland (25-8) rolled up victory after victory against conference opponents Booth broke down.

“I was just thinking about that,” guard Greivis Vasquez said. “He’s undefeated and we’re playing Butler [today] and he got the scouting report. It’s maybe superstitious, but we’ll see what happens.”

The scouting report becomes even more significant in the tournament, when there’s only a few days to prepare. Coach Gary Williams delegated Butler and Old Dominion — the Terps’ potential second-round opponents — during the week while he focused on preparing for Davidson.

Booth drew the fifth-seeded Bulldogs (28-6), putting his perfect record on the line today.

“I hope he’s undefeated Sunday,” Williams said dryly.

Booth was surprised someone outside the team learned of his scouting report prowess, and brushed off any suggestion of its impact.

“It has nothing to do with me,” said Booth, a former star at Maryland now in his third season as an assistant. “I can’t get out there and play. It’s been up to our guys all year.”

Rams not reminiscing

No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth (28-6) advanced to the second round for the first time since 1985 with Thursday’s 79-77 defeat of Duke, a victory that set off plenty of celebrations in the locker room and among the team’s feisty contingent of fans.

The Rams have a more daunting task today in a second round West Region game — third-seeded Pittsburgh (28-7).

“The phone’s been blowing up, family is calling you,” forward Michael Anderson said. “In the hotel, you can watch ESPN and you keep seeing us as the first upset of the NCAA. It’s just a great feeling right now. Unfortunately, we have to flush it down.”

VCU will have one different look today. Coach Anthony Grant said forward Wil Fameni was fitted for a protective mask after breaking his nose while colliding with a teammate.

Neal appeal

Maryland forward Dave Neal was inserted late in Thursday’s first-round victory for his passing ability. No one — least of all Maryland coach Gary Williams — expected him to take free throws.

Neal, though, was fouled after making an inbound pass to Bambale Osby and then taking a pass back to him.

“I guess going into the game without playing the whole game in the last two minutes, the coaches are going to say ‘Well, who’s this guy? He’s probably cold and stiff,’ ” Neal said yesterday. “It probably put a bull’s-eye on my jersey saying ‘Foul him.’ ”

Neal made both free throws — his first attempts since Feb. 3 — with 1:09 left to give Maryland a three-possession lead for good in the 82-70 victory over Davidson.

The new Duke

How does the program everyone loves to hate become a little less despised? Losing 11 games and getting bounced in the first round of the NCAA tournament is a start.

Maryland center and humorist Will Bowers didn’t find it difficult to root for fellow ACC member Duke as the Blue Devils lost to Virginia Commonwealth in Thursday’s biggest upset.

“I like every team in our conference to go as far as they possibly can unless they face us, because it makes the conference look better,” Bowers said. “We beat them twice this year, so it kind of makes you hate them less. When they were killing us last year, you really hate them and you want them to lose. But this year, you don’t hate them as much.”

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