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Mark Turgeon and the Terrapins still dealing with the fallout of season's sudden end

Mark Turgeon and the Terrapins still dealing with the fallout of season's sudden end

Confetti, music, nets being cut down, and hugs all around. 

That was the scene when Maryland Terrapins celebrated a share of the Big Ten regular-season title for their most successful men’s basketball season since joining the league in 2014. 

Without even knowing, that was also the end. Four days later - minutes before a practice - the Terps learned the Big Ten Tournament had been canceled. Four hours after that, the NCAA Tournament followed, too. 

It was a devastating blow to a team that had Final Four hopes. Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon still has a hard time accepting the reality. 

“It happened so quick,” Turgeon said. “We hadn’t even left for the Big Ten Tournament yet.”

Even now, the raw emotions are still being processed. Senior point guard Anthony Cowan never got his final shot at an NCAA Tournament. Sophomore Jalen Smith didn’t get to avenge the second-round loss to LSU his freshman year and knew he was likely turning pro and headed to the NBA Draft.

“We’re disappointed the way the season ended,” Turgeon said. “Obviously everybody made the right decision to shut down basketball - and really shut down the world right now. But it’s still disappointing because we had a good team. We enjoyed coaching that team. We had a great group of players.”

The Terrapins finished ranked No. 12 in the final Associated Press top-25 poll and were almost certainly going to be a No. 3 or No. 4 seed in the tournament on Selection Sunday.  It was arguably the best team Turgeon has coached in his nine seasons with the program.

Telling his players that there was no more basketball was one of the most difficult conversations of Turgeon’s coaching career. But going out as winners offered some small sense of comfort. The end was abrupt, but it had been joyous, too. 

“We had an hour-long meeting. It was a terrific meeting,” Turgeon said. “We cried, we laughed, talked about the good times, all the things we went through. Almost everybody in the room spoke. It was a great way to kind of give us closure on the season.”

The team has not seen each other since, asked to stay home and stay safe during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

“That’s unusual when you’re a coach,” Turgeon said. “It’s a lot of phone calls to them now. We’re used to being around each other all the time. We really miss each other. It’s been tough.”

Who knows how they would have fared in the Big Dance, but playing the “What if?” game does no good, either. Instead, Turgeon chooses to think about the good memories the 2019-20 Terps created. He’s also using his free time to learn new technologies.

“Zoom is new to me, and I’m not great at this technology stuff,” Turgeon joked. “So, I’m putting my wife to work quite a bit.”

We are all trying to learn this new virtual world. It’s far from perfect. The video in this interview continued to freeze the entire way through. It’s frustrating, but it’s also our new normal – and, for coaches, the new classroom.
 
“I have certain coaches that talk to the players every day because they’re in charge of their academics,” Turgeon said. “This online learning is something that’s unique and new to our players.”

But Turgeon isn’t worried about his players picking things up. They are young and adapting to a new world of school work, workouts and group chats is just fine with them for now. They will bounce back. They are home safe with their families and loved ones.  

There will be basketball again at the Xfinity Center. And when the next Maryland basketball game tips, Turgeon knows Terrapins fans will be right there with them. Maryland finished in the top-10 nationally in attendance last season. 

“Our fans stepped up and they fell in love with this team,” Turgeon said. “They liked how this team played hard and played together and stuck together. And you could tell our team liked each other and our fans liked them because of it.”

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Report: Top quarterback recruit Caleb Williams gave Maryland last word before college decision

Report: Top quarterback recruit Caleb Williams gave Maryland last word before college decision

On Saturday night, the No. 1 quarterback prospect of the 2021 recruiting class will announce his decision on where he will spend his college career. And he may not even have to leave the DMV to do it.

Gonzaga’s junior signal caller Caleb Williams has narrowed his list of options down to three schools: Oklahoma, LSU and Maryland. Though the Sooners under quarterback guru Lincoln Riley are considered the favorites to land him, the hometown Terrapins have outlasted a plethora of other schools throughout Williams’ decision-making process. According to The Washington Post, he gave head coach Michael Locksley and the Terps final word, last speaking with Maryland coaches on June 27.

Ranked the fourth overall player in his class by 247sports, Williams is coming off back-to-back seasons in which he was named first-team All-Met. As a junior in 2019, he threw for 1,770 yards and 19 touchdowns while showcasing his dual-threat ability by rushing for 838 yards and another 18 scores.

Locksley and the Terps have already enjoyed a successful offseason of recruiting highlighted by landing 247sports’ fourth-ranked wide receiver in the 2020 class, Rakim Jarrett. A product of St. John’s in D.C., he flipped from LSU on signing day, surprising even Locksley.

RELATED: HOW STEFON DIGGS CONVINCED RAKIM JARRETT TO PICK MARYLAND OVER LSU

Though the Terps went just 3-9 (1-8 in Big Ten play) last season, the addition of Jarrett as a legitimate weapon in the passing game may be enough to convince Williams to forego Oklahoma and LSU. He plans to announce his decision Saturday at 9 p.m.

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Top 2022 prospect Emoni Bates commits to Michigan State

Top 2022 prospect Emoni Bates commits to Michigan State

The No. 1 prospect basketball in the class of 2022 Emoni Bates announced his commitment to Michigan State on Monday. 

The five-star small forward is considered the best high school prospect in more than a decade and will be taking his talents to the Big Ten.

Bates had offers from four other schools: DePaul, Florida State, Kentucky and Michigan. The Michigan native announced his commitment extremely early in the recruiting process –– so early that the top eight recruits in the 2021 class have not even announced their decisions yet.

The 6-foot-9, 205-pound forward became the first commit of Michigan State’s class. He is also the first five-star to become a Spartan since Jaren Jackson Jr. in 2017 and the first No. 1 prospect to sign with the school since ESPN began its recruiting database in 2007.

His commitment came at a crucial time for the Spartans who lost significant talent at the end of last season in 2019 Big Ten Player of the Year Cassius Winston, who graduated, and 2020 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Xavier Tillman Sr., who declared for the NBA Draft after his junior season.

Maryland will now have to face Bates at least twice a year in Big Ten play. The Terps have two commits in their class of 2021 – four stars Julian Reese and Ike Cornish – but have yet to add a member to the class of 2022. 

Last season, Maryland and Michigan State each won one matchup against the other. The two teams tied alongside Wisconsin as co-Big Ten Champions. All three teams posted a 14-6 conference record before the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments were cut short or canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

In the final AP Poll, Michigan State finished ninth while Maryland finished 12th.

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