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Did Terps put their NCAA Tournament hopes in danger?

/ by Ryan Homler
Presented By Chasen Boscolo
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Entering the month of March -- a period that is known for mayhem and chaos in the college basketball world -- the Maryland Terrapins men's basketball team looked to be avoiding just that. 

Rattling off five straight wins to close February, the Terps pushed themselves off the bubble and squarely into the NCAA Tournament bracket. All Mark Turgeon and company had to do was finish up the regular season with winnable games against Northwestern and Penn State and coast into the postseason. Easy enough, right?

It turns out that no, it wasn't easy.

An uninspiring performance against Northwestern gave Maryland its second "bad loss" of the campaign. Not great, but a win against Penn State would put to bed all worries. Yet despite leading by 14 points with just around 11 minutes left to play, Maryland couldn't do that either.

A collapse down the stretch left the Terps with a brutal home loss on Senior Night to conclude the regular season. Now, after back-to-back losses against teams that Maryland shouldn't have lost to, it's fair to ask if Maryland has put its NCAA Tournament chances back on the bubble.

The answer may not be a simple yes or no, but it's clear that the Terps are way worse off than they were just seven days ago.

According to ESPN's Joe Lunardi, Maryland currently sits as a No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament. That projection came before the Penn State loss, which will surely bump the team down. But how far will they fall?

 

Penn State is really just the third "bad loss" for the Terps on the season, as it'd the third loss against non-Q1 teams. However, it's a really bad loss. To lose at home after leading by double-digits late into the game to a team under .500 at the most important point of the season doesn't really help the resume.

Maryland is now 15-12 and 9-11 in the Big Ten. The big wins over the likes of Wisconsin, Illinois and Purdue help, but that record has the characteristics of a team that will be living life on the bubble come conference tournament time.

It's there that Maryland's future could most likely be determined. The Terps will see Michigan State on Thursday in the Big Ten Tournament, a team that is also fighting for its life on the bubble. A win there could be enough, but at least two would create a more secure scenario. In a week where there are crucial games throughout the country, winning is the only way Maryland gets a boost. There are too many other teams fighting for spots to risk a loss and some help. 

If the Terps fall to the Spartans, Michigan State could jump them on the bubble and burst the last shred of hopes and dreams in College Park.

When Maryland fell to Northwestern, there was speculation that a 10 seed was more likely to happen than any bubble nonsense. The Terps didn't fall much - they had just won five games in a row after all - but that line of thinking was also with the assumption that a win over Penn State was likely.

Now, unable to take care of business in the final two regular-season games, the future is murky for Maryland. Heading into the Big Ten Tournament, it's likely the Terps are right on that bubble. That will lead to a bumpy ride and plenty of nail-biting if they can't beat Michigan State as they did last month in a home blowout in what seemed to be the game to secure their spot, but hasn't quite yet.