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What if… there were at-large bids in 1974?

Lefty Driesell never won a National Championship but had his 1973-74 team been able to play in the NCAA Tournament, even if they hadn't won, the experience his team got could have helped them on their run the next year that ended in the Elite 8.

Lefty Driesell never won a National Championship but had his 1973-74 team been able to play in the NCAA Tournament, even if they hadn’t won, the experience his team got could have helped them on their run the next year that ended in the Elite 8.

This time of the year you always hear the complaints about teams being snubbed from the NCAA Tournament. In a way, it’s hilarious to say any team is snubbed from a field of 68 with 39 at-large bids available. Could a team deserve to be in the field that is not there? Sure, but it is not like they would really be prevented from competing for a National Championship. Those teams would probably be one-and-done. If you want to talk about a true snub, go back in time, all the way to 1974.

That year, you’ll see a team that has a real claim to being snubbed: Maryland.

In 1974, only the 32 conference tournament champions could make the NCAA Tournament, everybody else went home. There were no at-larges, no play-in games, no selection committee, none of that.

But that was the best team Lefty Driesell ever coached. It was loaded with NBA talent, including Tom McMillen, Len Elmore and John Lucas. That team went a remarkable 23-5. Their losses, were by one-point at UCLA, led by the great Bill Walton; by nine at North Carolina, one of the top-ranked teams in the country led by Bobby Jones and Walter Davis; and three times at the hands of NC State, the No. 1 team in the country and eventual National Champions.

The most devastating loss, their season finale in the ACC Championship game to the Wolfpack. Maryland lost in overtime, 103-100 and shot 61-percent in what is still referred to as the greatest college basketball game ever played. They went home after that. Their season was over.

Maryland never ranked out of the top-10 and finished ranked fourth in the country despite not even playing in the NCAA Tournament. Their absence from the NCAA Tournament was so egregious, it led to the NCAA changing the rule the next year and allowing more teams and at-large bids into the tournament.

What if those were the rules the year before?

At that time, the region locations did mean something. In order to cut travel costs, the NCAA kept teams located up and down the eastern sea-board in the East Region but Maryland could also qualify for one of the two Midwest regions as well.

Considering Maryland ranked No. 4 in the nation by the season’s end, they probably would have been a top seed in one of the Midwest regions, likely in place of the Vanderbilt team thank ranked 11th heading into the NCAA Tournament but was in because they won their conference. And it wouldn’t really matter who they would play during their regional bracket; that Maryland team wouldn’t have faced any team capable of competing with them.

Marquette came out of the bracket to face Kansas, a good but far from great team with one one future NBA player on the roster.

Basically, Maryland would be looking at fourth shot at North Carolina State, a team they played tougher, and tougher, and tougher as the year went on. Would the Terps actually beat them a fourth time around? Who knows? But if the NCAA had at-large bids in 1974, the Terps would have played in the NCAA Tournament and most likely for a championship.

A National Championship was one of the very few things Driesell never won. Had he at least played for one that year, Lucas and the Terps would have had experience in that setting for the next few seasons and possibly won one or multiple titles, meaning even bigger recruits and better players.

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Corey Johns

Editor in Chief
You could say Corey was born to become a sports journalist. His father won a national championship coaching college soccer. His mother is a baseball fanatic who hasn't missed seeing an Orioles game since 1983 (literally, sometimes it's annoying). His great uncle was a big-time boxing promoter and his maternal grandfather was once a department head at the Baltimore Sun. Basically, sports and journalism run through his blood. He played just about every little league sports there was when he was a kid and was a multi-sport athlete in high school; even playing in the first-ever high school sanction Rugby game in the country. Eventually he retired from sports as an undefeated Maryland state Rugby champion as a high school senior. Perhaps lack of athletic talent has more to do with the retirement, but he will tell you that it more had to do with a great desire to jump right into media. Upon his graduation from University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a triple communications major, Corey started the So Much Sports network and has continued to grow his websites and continues to work to make them premier sports media outlets.

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