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Terps all jumbled up about word ReSPEcT

March 21, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

Maryland was banking on its savings account.

The Terrapins men's basketball team figured it had a nice little nest egg of respect built up after all the years of success it had enjoyed under coach Gary Williams.

But when it came down to it, Maryland's respect check bounced.

It's no secret that Maryland's men's basketball team was upset by being bypassed for an NCAA Tournament bid. In fact, the Terrapins wore their pouts on their sleeves (they would have if their shirts had any) on Saturday when they lost to Manhattan in the first round of the National Invitational Tournament.

Generally, Maryland had openly thought respect should have been enough to get it in the big tournament.

The hard lessons here are the ones that every one of our parents have warned us about over the years.

  • Rule No. 1: Respect is not handed out. It has to be earned.

  • Rule No. 2: Respect isn't stored in Tupperware. It goes stale over time. Memories fade and then it turns into a matter of "What have you done for me lately?"



And when it came down to it, the Terps didn't earn anything and didn't do much to replenish their supply of admiration, outside the circle of loyal fans.

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I'll openly admit, I watched Maryland play from a distance. I didn't have the opportunity to go to College Park to cover games. Nor am I taking a late jump on the top of the pile of opinions already posted by other writers and broadcasters.

Still, from what I saw on TV, what I read and from what I tried to pick up from buzzwords and viewing with an objective, yet analytical eye, the Terps got exactly what they deserved ... and it wasn't an NCAA bid.

It has already been pointed out how the Terps had a tough schedule, but didn't produce victories against the vast majority of Top 25 opponents (1-8) and teams which played in the NCAAs (2-8).

And everyone knows that Maryland was the NCAA champion in 2002 and the most recent former champion not to be included in the field of 65 teams. The next most recent was UNLV, the 1990 champion.

But unlike the other nine schools that made up the other 14 years of champions, Maryland seems to have taken its laurels from the accomplishment and sat on them.

For the last two seasons - both ending in NIT invitations - the Terps have not had a floor leader, a player to build and rally around. John Gilchrist was supposed to be the guy last year and Chris McCray this season and neither was around at the end when the Terps needed them the most.

Team leaders don't necessarily mean ones with NBA superstar talent either. Juan Dixon and Steve Blake, the heart and soul of the 2002 team, have creases in the back of the knees of their warmup pants from sitting.

Without the focal point player, Maryland hasn't been able come up with a successful style of attack. Most successful NCAA teams have a decent inside player to go with a slick point guard and a dangerous shooter. The Terps would be lucky to that they had one of the three.

So, all Maryland can hang its collective hat on is respect. The Terps are a team in one of the power conferences. That should be credential enough to earn a bid.

The Atlantic Coast Conference was far from being stellar this year. Only four teams - instead of the usual six or seven - went to the NCAAs. Other teams, like Maryland, played their way out of consideration.

The world of college basketball has become more competitive over the last three years. Those pesky "mid-majors" that eat up at-large bids to the main tournament are proving they belong in the field this year. George Mason, Wichita State and Bradley are in the Sweet 16 and schools like Northwest State, Bucknell, Montana and Wisconsin-Milwaukee turned some brackets on their prongs.

The NCAA selection committee proved itself correct in taking risks with these teams. Those teams helped prove that matchup, location, tempo, style of play and how teams adjust to how tightly or loosely a game is officiated are intangibles that equalize talent - and conference reputation - on a basketball court.

Respect has nothing to do with it.

Maryland got its respect when the NIT decided to seed it as a No. 1 team in its new 40-team bracket. The NIT - a tournament which has to work to make money, unlike the NCAA - said it needed Maryland (along with Michigan, Louisville and Cincinnati) to be its glamour teams to reach its Final Four in New York.

The No. 1 seed meant home games until the semifinals, to help the process along the way.

Maryland showed no heart for playing the game until the very end when it scrambled to try to avoid the embarrassing loss.

It didn't work. Like it or not, the NIT was a chance for Maryland to play on and gain recognition - and respect - for the school and the program on a national, although smaller, stage.

In the end, the Terps lost respect by not showing any respect for the opportunity. There were a lot of other schools - probably a snubbed mid-major or two - who would have killed for the opportunity.

Moral of the story: Respect is only a little more than half of being respectable. Showing a proper attitude makes up the difference.

And for that reason, Maryland's respect account is quickly becoming overdrawn.




Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com

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