Saturday’s result revived Maryland’s hopes for an at-large berth in the 68-team NCAA tournament, but with six regular season games to go — four of them on the road — the team’s status is far from certain. If anything, beating Duke pushed Maryland (18-7, 6-6 in the ACC) squarely onto the bubble.
The next hurdle is Boston College (11-14, 3-9), which has shown some signs of life in a one-point home loss to Duke and a near-upset at Florida State.
After that, Maryland faces Clemson, has road trips to Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, a home date with North Carolina and the season finale at Virginia.
Nothing, especially not during a wildly unpredictable college basketball season, is set in stone. Maryland can bolster its NCAA tournament chances with a strong finish. It can also see them disappear in a flash, just as quickly as they were rejuvenated Saturday night.
“We felt like we needed a big win and this was it,” said freshman guard Seth Allen, who hit the winning free throws with two seconds left. “Going into the locker room after the win, everybody was just relieved. This whole week, our theme was commitment to the team, just be committed. As you can tell, everybody played their role and everybody was committed.”
Bracket analysts remain bearish on the Terps. Both ESPN.com’s Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com had the Terps listed on their “First four out.” Andy Glockner of Sports Illustrated wrote that, “Home wins over the Blue Devils and N.C. State look nice, but Maryland’s poor nonconference schedule likely means more than that will be required a month from now for admission.”
The final third of their ACC schedule should dictate whether beating Duke will serve as a foundation block for their résumé, or simply a momentous blip in an otherwise disappointing, NIT-bound season. Even in the upset, the Terps remained their enigmatic selves. They committed a season-high 26 turnovers yet shot 60 percent from the field and outrebounded the Blue Devils by 20.
“I think it means a lot,” Allen said. “Just to be able to beat a team of that caliber, it shows just how good we are and how good we can be. We had 26 turnovers and beat them. Imagine if we slimmed down the turnovers, how different a game it would have been.”
An 11-point loss to Virginia at home last Sunday thrust Maryland into desperation mode. But the Terps looked as relaxed as ever on national television against their rivals. They sank clutch free throws and defended well down the stretch. Allen even cracked a smile before he clinched the game. Once their postgame joy subsided, however, it was full steam ahead.
“I’m not even going to mention the four-letter word out there, because we’re so far from it,” Turgeon said, referring to NCAA. “Got four of six [left] on the road. . . . We took a lot of steps in the right direction tonight. None of that other stuff matters. We’re going to enjoy tonight. We’ve got a Boston College team that’s very good, and we have to go up there and play better than we did against them at home.”