COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland has rightfully drawn criticism for its up-and-down regular season, which included having to use late runs to beat less talented teams and lacking the type of signature wins that would have locked them into a higher NCAA tournament seed.
It was 1-5 against the RPI Top 25 and had only five wins against RPI Top 50 teams.
But now the regular season is done. Maryland deserved the seed that it got. Its "punishment" will be traveling out to Spokane, Washington instead of starting the tournament closer to home and it will have to face the No. 1 overall seed, Kansas, if it reaches the Sweet 16.
All of its past shortcomings have been quantified and are accounted for with that No. 5 seed. Now reset.
“Whether we’re playing South Dakota State or Michigan State, we’ve got to play the same way and we’re to that point,” head coach Mark Turgeon said on Tuesday. “The guys understand that.”
Turgeon has consistently called Maryland a work in progress all season, even when expectations were high in October through when the team reached No. 2 in the national rankings as recently as early last month.
The lack of a Big Ten regular-season or tournament title is likely disappointing, but the mood around this Maryland team does not seem to be fixated on that. Much more it seems focused on the number of points the team posted against Nebraska and the defensive battle it put up in a narrow loss to Michigan State.
Those last two games showed an encouraging versatility, which can often be key as opponents change from round to round -- and also on a turnaround of two days.
Maryland can win games by locking down defensively. It can win games in a shootout that reaches into the 80s. It has as much on-paper talent as any team in the country. But can it win games against this level of competition, and consistently?
“I feel like this is what we were preparing for. Everybody wanted us to win every game, but this is what we prepared for the whole year,” redshirt junior Robert Carter, Jr. said. “This was our goal from the beginning of the season. We wanted to be our best by this time. We feel like it’s time for us to make a run.”
Want to put your NCAA picks to work? Enter CSN’s Bracket Challenge here, presented by Window Nation. The grand-prize winner gets floor seats to see Wizards-Hawks on April 13. You will also compete against the SportsTalk Live crew, Brian Mitchell and Rob Carlin. Finish with a better bracket than BOTH and win a coupon for a free large, one-topping Papa John’s pizza.