COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland knew that this day would eventually come. After an offseason of hype and talk about the possibility of a national championship run, the expectations placed on this program have officially been quantified.
The Coaches Poll ranks the Terrapins No. 3 in the country to begin the season, as does the Associated Press. ESPN.com has them at No. 1.
“It is a lot of hype,” head coach Mark Turgeon said on Thursday before his team’s exhibition against Southern New Hampshire on Friday. “It’s been awhile since Maryland has been ranked this high to start a season.
“Fortunately for me, I don’t read a lot of it and I think our kids, our players embraced it during the summer. I think our program embraced it and recently we’ve just been working hard, especially the last week we’ve really worked hard so we don’t really think about those things but we’ve just continued to work hard and tried to get better.”
It’s not empty hype or hypothetical hype for Maryland. This is a team with a mix of veterans and key young players, led by the Big Ten’s Preseason Player of the Year, a borderline first-round NBA Draft pick who chose to come back to school, and perhaps the best-kept transfer secret in college basketball.
That’s not to mention their complements -- a five-star freshman, a transfer from a national title team, and a bench full of pieces that just seem to fit.
“It’s hard not to hear about it, but it’s upon yourself and how your team handles it, how your coaches handle it on how you move forward after it happens,” senior forward Jake Layman said.
“I think Coach Turgeon does a great job of making sure we don’t buy into that stuff and kind of keeps us grounded.”
Friday’s exhibition unofficially begins Maryland’s season-long journey, but it also puts an end to what is difficult for prognosticators and teams alike -- predicting outcomes before a single game has been played.
It begins Friday.