The national attention was bound to descend on College Park at some point this season. Had the Maryland basketball team upset Kentucky, then ranked third nationally, in the season opener last month, the spotlight would have arrived in droves shortly thereafter.
But with Maryland’s talent level and potential on the rise, questions about top 25 rankings and the like are sure to pop up, provided the Terrapins continue taking care of business.
Maryland received just two votes in the latest coaches’ poll and none in the AP top 25. A convincing win over George Mason on Sunday at Verizon Center may vault the Terps into the discussion, but further opportunities to do so before ACC play rolls around in 2013 will be few and far between.
Part of that is Coach Mark Turgeon’s scheduling, which occurred well before the Terps brought in Dez Wells, Logan Aronhalt and Charles Mitchell. When Turgeon crafted the schedule, they also still had Terrell Stoglin, Ashton Pankey and Mychal Parker. And so scattered between Kentucky, Northwestern and George Mason are cupcakes like Maryland-Eastern Shore, South Carolina State and Delaware State to close out the calendar year.
But even if the Terps were experiencing a Duke-like run, regularly beating top 5 opponents, the attention wouldn’t matter. With equal parts encouragement and criticism – some practices tipping towards the latter – Turgeon has kept his bunch very humble thus far.
“We’ve won one game. We’re 1-1,” Turgeon said. “We beat some teams that we should beat at home. They know I’m nowhere close to being happy yet. We know George Mason is a huge game for them. I don’t know what I was thinking when I scheduled it, but I’m glad we did. They’re a good basketball team, it’ll help us if we want to get to the NCAA tournament. Our guys are really grounded. We’ve practiced so hard the last two days. “
Even if the Terps continue to hover under the radar until the ACC opener against Virginia Tech on Jan. 5, all bets will be off when the nationally televised games become a regular occurrence.
“We’re really scratching the surface,” Wells said. “We don’t want to listen to people when they tell us how good we are. Coach Turgeon does a good job of breaking us down in practice, telling us that we’re not good. We’re just an average team right now. He keeps us hungry and competitive, get us to the next game and win.”
The more Maryland wins, Wells pointed out, the harder it will be to remain anonymous. Yet that Maryland’s capabilities have gone, for the most part, unnoticed up until this point is nothing short of remarkable, especially given the off-the-court story lines swirling around the Terps this season.
Alex Len has elevated himself into top five discussions for the NBA draft. Wells arrived in August amid much hype, which only swelled once the NCAA granted his eligibility waiver shortly before the Brooklyn trip. Oh, remember the Harrison Twins, too?
And yet here are the Terps, ranked by some college basketball analysts as the ACC’s second-best team behind Duke, perfectly content with remaining anonymous, insistent that they’re still nowhere close to maximum production.
“We haven’t practiced well. Maybe it was because Northwestern game gave us confidence, but we’ve been really good in practice the past two days,” Turgeon said. “Really getting after it. It’s fun to watch.”