COLLEGE PARK -- If Maryland wins its final three games of the regular season, it guarantees itself at least a share of the Big Ten title. Straightforward enough.
But those final three games include two against ranked teams on the road, the outcomes of which could help Maryland to a title or perhaps force them out of the Top 4 seeds in the conference and out of a double bye in the Big Ten tournament. That’s how bunched the standings are in the league.
In the face of losing two out of their last three, though, head coach Mark Turgeon says that he hopes what the tough final stretch did for one fellow Big Ten team last year is what it does for his team this year.
“I think our schedule’s set up to really challenge us and prepare us,” he said Friday. “I remember watching Michigan State late last year.
“Their schedule was really difficult and they finished 12-6 in our league but they were prepared when the postseason hit and I’m hoping that because our schedule is so difficult down the stretch and it’s been very difficult on the road, that it’s preparing us to be successful in March.”
After an overtime loss to Minnesota on Feb. 26 of last year, Michigan State took a loss on the road to then-No. 5 Wisconsin. Four straight wins followed (Purdue, Indiana, Ohio State, and No. 8 Maryland) before a loss to Wisconsin again in the Big Ten tournament.
But the Spartans, in classic Tom Izzo fashion, entered the NCAA tournament as a No. 7 seed and ran all the way to the Final Four before losing to a Duke team that featured three first-round NBA draft picks.
Maryland has far more on-paper talent than that Michigan State team, which is a credit to Izzo and what he was able to do with the group. That’s why so many are looking at the clock and wondering when this Terrapin team will fully come together.
There is no team in the country with a more talented starting five. The bench has its questions, but Maryland has evolved into an elite defensive team. Now offense, which was supposed to be the calling card for them, is the issue.
In a year like this where the field is wide open, there is more time than usual as the calendar flips to March. But there has to be some kind of real indication soon. Maybe we see it in the season’s final three games.