COLLEGE PARK -- If you thought a two-game losing streak was enough to knock Maryland out of the race for a share of the Big Ten title, then you must be thinking of a different college basketball season.
After Maryland scored a bounce-back win over Michigan on Sunday, they got a little help from the Wisconsin team that had just beaten them as the Badgers traveled to Iowa and beat the Hawkeyes -- just the latest instance of unpredictability nationally in the sport this year.
Now the Terrapins have three games remaining, beginning with Purdue on the road on Saturday. Three wins and they are at least co-champions.
“The only thing we talk about is winning the league and we can control our own destiny,” head coach Mark Turgeon said on Friday. “We don’t have to have anybody beat Indiana for us to win the league so we have to do it.
“We have to beat Purdue first. We don’t beat Purdue, we’re probably out of it, but we know we control that.”
The question is which version of Maryland we will see down the stretch and into March.
Perhaps no other team in the country has as much talent in its starting lineup as these Terrapins, yet there are still wild swings from struggling to put up 62 points in an overtime win against Northwestern to hanging 86 on Michigan last week.
Finding stability likely means finding success.
“What I want us to do is start playing our best basketball. That’s really what’s important and we’re getting closer to that. We really are,” Turgeon said.
“I know we just went and lost two out of three and you’re like, ‘How can Coach be saying that?’ But it kind of woke us up and I think we’re getting closer to playing our best basketball.”
These final three games have important implications beyond just a possible league title. It can swing back in the other direction, too.
Just as easily as Maryland could contend for a share of the league title, they could slip out of the conference’s Top 4 seeds and miss out on a double bye in the Big Ten tournament.
That would mean having to play a pesky lower-seeded team and risking an early exit, not to mention having to play another game and play a day earlier than double-bye teams.
“We know we have an opportunity to win the conference so we just got to take each game one game at a time and continue to get better,” forward Robert Carter, Jr. said. “I feel like we have an opportunity to play our best basketball at this point.”