COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland has a collection of nice wins. They are nice -- at Madison Square Garden against Connecticut, at Wisconsin (regardless of how down the Badgers might be), and at home in a rivalry game against Georgetown.
But where is the signature win? That will be the criticism nationally of these Terrapins. They have no bad losses, but they also have no elite wins. North Carolina beat them in one of the best games of the early season. A Top 35 Michigan team beat them on the road. Michigan State bounced back to snap a three-game losing streak this weekend against them.
So up next is Iowa on Thursday in College Park, the nation’s No. 3 team and arguably the hottest program in the country. As chaos ensues around them, the Hawkeyes are undefeated in league play and not leaving many questions in their wake.
A lack of signature wins for Maryland. An Iowa team that is plowing through the Big Ten schedule. But no added pressure, head coach Mark Turgeon says.
“I don’t think we’re desperate in any stretch of the imagination but what a great opportunity for us,” Turgeon said on Wednesday.
“Playing a great [Iowa] team that’s playing as well as anybody in the country -- just killing teams. The games aren’t really close, so it’s a great opportunity for us. We won’t put that kind of pressure on us, but we want to play well.”
Turgeon said he would not call a game a “must-win” in late January, especially considering where his team is. They are solidly in the NCAA tournament and still contenders for the Big Ten title and the national title. The ceiling is still unquestionably that high.
But this is where the elite teams should start to create separation from the very good teams.
“We know going into this game that they’re talked about more than us, they’re even ranked higher than us,” sophomore point guard Melo Trimble said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to get this win."
Even with the unbelievable amount of parity in college basketball this year -- you could make a case that any of the top 10 to 15 teams could still win the national title -- these are the types of games that could determine whether Maryland borders on the 1-seed/2-seed line or the 3-seed/4-seed line.
Elite vs. very good.
“This is what we play for,” senior forward Jake Layman said. “So we’re going to come out and try to show people that we are for real.”
Tip is set for 7 p.m. on Thursday in College Park.