Maryland coach Gary Williams will be making his 17th appearance in the NCAA Tournament -- his 14th with his alma mater -- but he never takes it for granted.
"As you get older you appreciate it more because you know how tough it is," he said after the Terps were awarded the fourth seed in the Midwest Regional to play Houston in a first-round game.
"You see some teams get left out that are probably good enough to be in the tournament, and you appreciate being there first. You don't gloss over the fact that you're in the tournament. You don't worry about where you're being sent. If you are a four seed or a five seed, fine; you just go play.
"I think that comes through experience. You realize you don't know when your last one is."
The Cougars come in with only a 19-15 record and were seeded ninth in the Conference-USA Tournament, which they won to get the league's automatic berth. They are a No. 13 seed in the NCAAs.
"I think once you get into the tournament those seeds don't mean anything," said Williams, whose Terps won the 2002 national title. "In other words, here's your bracket, that's who you have to play. Whoever plays well wins this thing.
"We were a No. 1 seed when we won it. I think there's probably an advantage to being a No. 1 seed, but after that a lot depends on your bracket, if you run into a hot team or a team that's not playing as well as they did during the year.
"Things like that come into play. I think you go in there with a very positive attitude and it snowballs very quickly. You win two games and you're in the Sweet 16. Things can happen quickly."
--Maryland has won at least one game in the NCAA Tournament in its last nine appearances in the event. Only twice in 13 years have the Terps failed to win at least one game.
COACH: Gary Williams, 21 years at Maryland, 14 years in NCAA Tournament.
KEYS TO VICTORY: An intriguing backcourt matchup is coming when Maryland and Houston get together in a first-round NCAA game. Senior G Greivis Vasquez leads the Terps with an average of 19.5 points, but Houston G Aubrey Coleman leads the nation with his 25.6 average. Maryland gets an edge, however, because Vasquez can always look to his backcourt mate, Eric Hayes, for an outlet. The key up front for Maryland will be keeping freshman Jordan Williams out of foul trouble. He has come on strong and should have the advantage inside against the Cougars.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's got a great player that's scoring 25 points a game, and any time you have a player that can go off like that it's a challenge for the other team." -- Coach Gary Williams, referring to Houston's high-scoring guard, Aubrey Coleman.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SCOUTING REPORT: If G Greivis Vasquez is on his game, the Terps have a difficult offense to contain. If double-teamed, Vasquez has the ability to get the ball to an open man, who often turns out to be 3-point threat Eric Hayes (45.0 percent from behind the arc). The Terps are vulnerable up front, however, where they lack depth. Freshman Jordan Williams has developed nicely, but he must stay out of foul trouble.
Georgia Tech 69, Maryland 64 (ACC tournament, quarterfinals)
vs. Houston, Friday, March 19, NCAA Tournament, Midwest Regional first round.
--Senior F Landon Milbourne, who had been mired in a bit of a slump, scored 15 points in the ACC tournament loss to Georgia Tech, his biggest output since scoring 15 against North Carolina on Feb. 7. He had been in double figures only once in his previous eight games.
--Senior G Eric Hayes had two assists against the Yellow Jackets to raise his career total to 500.
--Senior G Greivis Vasquez missed a free throw late in the first half against Georgia Tech, snapping his string of consecutive made free throws at 35. Juan Dixon holds the school record of 40.