Over the past two weeks, the Maryland Terrapins have played themselves from the NCAA Tournament bubble to thickly into the tournament field. Wins over bubble teams -- Minnesota and Michigan State -- plus their win over tournament-bound Rutgers sealed the deal. A team that was once thought to fizzle out come February and March, was ending the season on a high note.
But then came Northwestern, the second-worst team in the Big Ten conference, and they deliver a blow to the Terps. A 60-55 loss where the offense relied on one player and the rest of the team went cold.
All the momentum is gone. It was evident as head coach Mark Turgeon only took questions from the media for three-and-a-half minutes in postgame availability. He was also not afraid to challenge his team who clearly underperformed in a winnable game.
"I thought the team that played the best won the game," Turgeon said postgame. "We had two guys play well. I'm not gonna mention names. The rest of us weren't very good. So, a frustrating night."
Losing momentum may be the worst thing for the Terps as they had the potential to take a seven-game winning streak into the Big Ten Tournament. Other than that -- barring a massive collapse -- the Terps' tournament resume should be fine. At this point, the rest of the season is likely only going to determine what seed the Terps are playing more than anything else.
A loss to Northwestern was metrically Maryland's worst loss of the season. A loss to a team ranked 91st entering the day in the NCAA's key system (NET) in determining the NCAA Tournament field.
That's not that bad. There are actually eight programs ahead of Maryland in the NET that have a far worse loss that could impact a resume.
In fact, it was only Maryland's second 'bad' loss of the season. Everything other loss has been against the top teams in the sport.
There are many teams on the bubble that would love to have a win over Northwestern just to boost their resume. As far as the bubble is concerned, Maryland is far from it and that will be seen when bracketologists update their projections in the coming days.
The seed conversation is where the damage could have been done. Most projections entering the day had Maryland on the No. 8 seed line, locked in there since the win over the Spartans. This loss probably prevents the Terrapins from ascending any higher than the No. 8 seed (unless there's a deep conference tournament run) and likely stuck in the dreaded No. 8/9 game that will in all likelihood play a No. 1 seed in the second round.
It may have dropped the Terps to a No. 10 seed in many eyes, but adding a win over Penn State and potentially one in the Big Ten Tournament and they're right back on the 8/9 conversation.
So yes, Northwestern was the worst loss of the year for Maryland. It won't hurt their tournament hopes, but it may have given the Terps a different reason to worry at the worst time of the year.
"I'm beyond frustrated guys. Same gamplan, I'll just leave it at that... A lot of mistakes on the defense," Turgeon said.