Maryland to face Niagara on Tuesday in NIT first round


(Associated Press)

UPDATE 9:13 P.M.: Maryland will host Niagara on Tuesday at 7 in the NIT first round. The game will be televised on ESPN2. The Purple Eagles won the MAAC regular season title but lost to Iona in the MAAC semifinals.

Should the Terrapins win, they will play either Denver or Ohio in the second round, likely on Thursday.

Tickets are available for $25 to the general public, free for students through www.tickets.umd.edu and $4 for student guest tickets. The link is here.

ORIGINAL POST: Maryland entered Sunday clutching faint hopes of an NCAA tournament at-large bid after its run to the ACC semifinals. But for the third straight season, the Terrapins will be missing out on college basketball’s main event.

The news came as little surprise. The Terrapins doomed themselves with a soft nonconference schedule and a 4-10 record against the top 100 teams in the Ratings Performance Index, a metric used by the NCAA tournament selection committee. Losses at Georgia Tech and Boston College, both ranked worse than 100, likely pushed Maryland outside the bubble, while a regular season-ending collapse at Virginia might have sealed its coffin.

Tack on an 0-5 record away from College Park against the RPI top 50, and Maryland will likely earn a National Invitational Tournament bid despite two wins over Duke, which received a No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region.

The NIT will announced its selections at 9 p.m. on Sunday night.

Pursuant to his contract, obtained in a public records request, Coach Mark Turgeon will receive a one-time $25,000 bonus for an NIT bid, the same amount awarded if Maryland had received an NCAA tournament bid. He will also make $10,000 for each NIT round the Terps reach.

The NIT’s first three rounds are hosted at the highest seed before the semifinals and finals take place at Madison Square Garden on April 2 and April 4. The first round takes place from March 19-20, the second between March 21-25 and the quarterfinals between March 26-27. Comcast Center will play host to the women’s basketball tournament on March 23-25.

“In the big picture, we think that if we can get in the tournament, we’ll do well and play well,” point guard Pe’Shon Howard said Saturday after the Terrapins lost to North Carolina in the ACC semifinals. “If we get in the NIT, we think we can compete to win it. Just the fact that we’re playing, we really feel positive about our team.

“We play for each other, for the people in this locker room. Whenever we get on the court, step between the lines, we don’t want to let anyone down. That’s our main motivation.”

Since 1993-94, only three teams had beaten the top-ranked RPI team twice in the same season. Both Wake Forest, which swept North Carolina in 1994-95, and the Tar Heels, who did the same to Duke in 2008-09, made the NCAA tournament.

Powered by Dez Wells’s career-high 30 points, the seventh-seeded Terps topped the second-seeded Blue Devils on Friday evening in the ACC tournament quarterfinals. They also defeated Duke at Comcast Center on Feb. 16.

Turgeon, which took Texas A&M to four straight NCAA tournaments before coming to College Park in 2011, traditionally holds Selection Sunday celebrations at his house. But upon losing to North Carolina by three points in Saturday’s semifinals, the Terps instead flew home with no viewing party planned, bracing for another postseason run, albeit in a consolation bracket.

“Hopefully this continues, wherever we’re at in the postseason,” guard Logan Aronhalt said. “We have more work to do. That’s going to be our mindset from here on out.”

When Turgeon booked the likes of Maryland-Eastern Shore (RPI: 345), South Carolina State (342) and IUPUI (327) for Maryland’s nonconference schedule, he was dealing with a thinned roster, unaware that Aronhalt, Wells and Charles Mitchell would arrive for the upcoming season. According to Kenpom.com, the Terrapins’ nonconference schedule ranked 345th out of 347 teams nationally.

 

“Unfortunately, in today’s world, you get judged on whether you make that tournament or not,” Turgeon said. “But I’m judging us on where our program was when I took the job and where it is today, where we were two months ago, where we were a month ago and where we are today. That’s really how I’m going to judge it.

“A month ago, I’m not sure I wanted this season to keep going. These guys were tough to coach. Now I’m just having a blast coaching them. I’m having so much fun. They’re listening. What this group’s done in the last three weeks is pretty amazing. It’s pretty amazing.”

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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Alex Prewitt | March 17, 2013