Big Ten

In context of preseason expectations, was season a disappointment for Terps?

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In context of preseason expectations, was season a disappointment for Terps?

Maryland was one of the preseason favorites to win the national championship.

So is bowing out in the Sweet Sixteen at the hands of the NCAA tournament's No. 1 overall seed a disappointment?

Certainly, preseason expectations were enormous for the Terps, and certainly those expectations were not met. Along with North Carolina, Maryland was one of the two teams tabbed as title favorites back in the fall. What followed was a season that featured a whole lot of winning but never really saw the Terps consistently display championship potential.

The roster was the reason for all the hype. Melo Trimble was picked as the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year after a dazzling freshman campaign that landed him on the All-Big Ten First Team. Jake Layman joined Trimble in returning to school to chase a championship rather than get an early jump on a pro career. Diamond Stone was one of the top recruits in the country, a likely one-and-done player who provided a big body down low. Robert Carter Jr. and Rasheed Sulaimon were transfers, veterans of the ACC on board for this talent-packed season.

[MORE BIG TEN: Terps' NCAA tournament run cut down in loss to Kansas buzzsaw]

But there were shaky starts in wins over Georgetown, Rider and Illinois State. There was a Big Ten/ACC Challenge loss to North Carolina. But still, even after road defeats at Michigan and Michigan State, Maryland was still a strong 22-3 and 10-2 in conference play after a win on Feb. 9. That record, though, wasn’t enough to sell the Terps as a legitimate championship contender. Even in their own conference, the Spartans were everyone’s consensus as the team with the better shot to win it all.

When Maryland lost four of its last six regular-season games — including an inexcusable defeat at Minnesota — and split a pair of bouts at the Big Ten Tournament, the luster was almost completely gone, earning only a No. 5 seed on Selection Sunday. The Terps won ugly against No. 12 seed South Dakota State and No. 14 seed Hawaii to get to the Sweet Sixteen, and though they looked good in the first half Thursday, Kansas is no South Dakota State or Hawaii.

The campaign was no failure. Maryland won 27 games for just the fifth time in program history and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2003.

“I’m really proud of my team. It wasn’t easy this year,” head coach Mark Turgeon said after Thursday’s loss. “We won 27 games. Had great leadership, great seniors. We’ve only won 27 games five times, we haven’t been to the Sweet Sixteen in 13 years. So I’m proud of my group for what they did.”

[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Terps gear right here]

But Turgeon could be without that entire starting lineup next season if Trimble, Carter and Stone take their talents to the NBA. As strong as the Terps looked coming into this year, the championship window wasn’t exactly wide open.

A team the legacy of which was supposed to be a national championship will have to settle for a different legacy. What that is remains to be seen, though one of those departing seniors — who was only in College Park for one season, it should be mentioned — hopes it’s laying a foundation for the future of the program. Maryland returned to the national spotlight in the past two seasons, and perhaps that will yield recruiting successes down the line for Turgeon.

“We have nothing to hold our heads down for. I think we had a tremendous season,” Sulaimon said. “Through the ups and downs, we came together when it mattered the most. We did something that the school hasn’t done in 13 years.

“But ultimately, I hope this group’s legacy is a group that fought hard, that was entertaining, that was fun to watch. And in the future (I hope) that this was a springboard to lead to great Maryland teams in the future under coach Turgeon. Hopefully this group is remembered as winners, ultimately.”

Of the 36 games they played, the Terps won 27 of them. So winners they were.

But when it came to March, when seasons are made or broken, Maryland made a much quicker exit than many expected them to when the season tipped off.

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

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USA TODAY

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

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USA TODAY

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.