When Lefty Driesell, one of the great salesman in the history of college basketball, took the Maryland job in 1969, he promised to make it the UCLA of the East.
And it made sense. Hadn’t he done an incredible job at little Davidson? And wasn’t Maryland, close to DC and Baltimore talent, perfectly situated to build a powerful program?
It all seemed so tangible and as Driesell began to recruit, the pieces of a great program fell into place: John Lucas. Tom McMillen. Len Elmore. And, very nearly, Moses Malone, who shocked the world when he went pro in the ABA directly out of high school.
In the spring of 1974, Maryland and NC State were both Top Three programs and of course only one could go to the NCAA tournament. State won in the ACC Tournament and beat UCLA in the Final Four before knocking off Marquette for the title (the NCAA expanded the field for 1975).
Maryland lost McMillen and Elmore after the 1974 season but UCLA lost four starters and Driesell, perhaps sensing weakness and a chance to get a statement win, invited UCLA to the MIT - the Maryland Invitational Tournament.
It was a tight game, but UCLA won 81-75. UCLA would go on to win the national championship that spring, John Wooden’s 10th and final title.