COLLEGE PARK -- No. 4 Maryland enters Big Ten play with an 11-1 record, its only blemish coming on the road in Chapel Hill against North Carolina -- an all-out heavyweight title fight on national television during which the Terrapins actually held a lead in the second half.
And it was that game, really more than any of its wins to this point, that told us the most about this Maryland team.
“I think after we lost to Carolina is where we really saw where we were at and we knew we had to get better and I think the whole team can speak on this,” sophomore guard Melo Trimble said on Tuesday, one day before the team’s Big Ten opener against Penn State.
“I think we were glad we lost because we needed one of those losses to tell us where we were at and it’s going to get us ready for conference play.”
You could hear it in head coach Mark Turgeon’s voice in that postgame press conference. He did not sound disappointed, but rather hopeful and like he now had an understanding of the type of team that he has.
Because remember the context, too. Before the game in Chapel Hill, the Terrapins had been struggling with mid-majors and had to come from behind to beat Georgetown on their home floor.
“To battle back the way we did and fight kind of opened our eyes to how good we really can be if we cut down some of those turnovers or whatever like that, it might be a different game,” senior guard Rasheed Sulaimon said. “Hey, it happens and we learned from it.”
By playing a schedule with three big-time, high-major matchups, Maryland now better understands its personnel and the limitations of said personnel as conference play begins on Wednesday.
In some ways, things may actually be easier in conference play because Maryland’s biggest hurdle in the non-conference portion of the schedule was smaller lineups that forced Maryland bigs to chase opposing guards around the perimeter. They will not see that as much in the Big Ten.
Expect a lot more big-on-big basketball.
“Every game is going to be a little bit different,” Turgeon said. “Big Ten play should be better for the big guys.
“We’ll do what we have to do to be successful.”