Maryland finally got a signature win when it beat then-No. 3 Iowa at home on Jan. 28. Or so they thought.
Now, the Terrapins’ signature win is against the only ranked team in the conference struggling more down the stretch of the regular season than Maryland itself.
Despite using an 11-0 run to tie the game late, the No. 5-seed Hawkeyes fell to No. 12-seed Illinois, 68-66, in the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis. Iowa has now lost six of its last eight games and gone from in contention for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament to being in danger of falling out of the Top 25.
In a way it affects Maryland because the Terrapins are trying to solidify themselves as a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament, but a weakening perception of its formerly signature wins will not help.
With Iowa slipping, what becomes Maryland’s best conference win? Either at home against Purdue or on the road at Wisconsin -- though that win over the Badgers came before they turned the corner under then-interim head coach Greg Gard.
The best path forward for Maryland is to take its destiny into its own hands. Wisconsin awaits in Indianapolis on Friday night if they beat Nebraska. A win there should instill confidence in the selection committee that Maryland is a No. 4 seed. A loss? Being a No. 5 seed is very much still in the list of possibilities.
In talking to the media before heading to Indianapolis, Maryland seems to have hit the refresh button after its poor end to the regular season. Being on a neutral court should help, as should its greater reliance on small-ball lineups that open the floor and help to best align its talented pieces.
Tip between Maryland and either Wisconsin or Nebraska is at 9 p.m. on Friday.
NOTE: An earlier version of this story did not make note of Wisconsin's game Thursday against Nebraska. The Badgers would face Maryland only if they defeat Nebraska. In the case of a Wisconsin loss, Maryland would face Nebraska in the Big Ten quarterfinals.