At most, the Maryland men’s basketball team can play 10 more games this season. At the least, the Terps have two games left, assuming they’re fine with a National Invitation Tournament bid that could include a possible home game at Comcast Center. The most likely scenario falls somewhere in between.
Barring a miraculous run at the ACC tournament, which for Maryland begins Thursday night against Wake Forest, the Terrapins are in line to miss the NCAA tournament for the third straight season. An NIT appearance would be its fourth in nine years.
Mark Turgeon is keeping an eye on the future.
“We’re getting there,” the second-year coach said on Monday’s ACC coaches’ teleconference. “Guys are feeling comfortable. They’re hungry and want to win. They’re determined, and that’s good to see. We just keep talking about building the program. We don’t talk about NCAA tournaments or whatever.
“We’re trying to become the best team we can. [Sunday] night would have been a huge road win, against a [Virginia] team that’s really good at home. That would have been another step for our program. We came up short so we’ll have to do it next year. We’re so young, that we’re focused on building a great program. We’re not accepting losing, we’re not accepting where we are. That’s all you can ask as a coach, and they’re finally starting to buy into that, which is great to see.”
Turgeon began the season tempering expectations with similar long-term talk, which ultimately subsided as Maryland upped its goals. Dez Wells didn’t have to sit out a year as a transfer. After losing to Kentucky in the season opener, the Terps reeled off 13 straight. NCAA tournament talk swelled entering ACC play, as did hopes of a top 25 ranking.
After Maryland blew a 17-point lead Sunday against the Cavaliers, Turgeon said that he wanted a gritty road win “to put in the bank over the summer.” So whatever happens in the upcoming weeks will be used as a springboard into the offseason.
Up first in the ACC tournament is Wake Forest, which the Terps have already drubbed twice this season. Win there, and it’s off to face Duke, which is 18-0 with a healthy Ryan Kelly. The team leaves College Park on Tuesday afternoon and have an open practice at 1 p.m. on Wednesday. Turgeon said the Terps will “pack for five days, see if we can get on a roll and get some confidence as it goes along.”
“We never talk about it,” Turgeon said of the postseason. “We just try to get better. If you play well, things will take care of themselves. I think we’ve been way below the bubble for a couple games now. If we win [Sunday] night, we’re probably back on it and have a chance going into Greensboro. We’re a young team, played exceptionally well last night, came up one stop short in regulation. That’s what we’re concentrating on. We’re trying to build a program. I was down to six players on day two of the job. Trying to do it the right way and get better. Hopefully we’ll go to Greensboro and get better.”
>> Turgeon didn’t offer any clarification on Pe’Shon Howard’s technical foul, nor did he receive suitable justification from the evening’s referee.
“I’ve not gotten an explanation yet,” Turgeon said. “I’ve got a call in [to the ACC], they’re going to watch it, I got the referee’s explanation, I don’t think…I’ve got to be careful. I can’t say. I’ll let the league try to handle it. The next foul put them in the bonus, seven fouls with 14 minutes to go, and we’re a team that likes to play without fouling. On the film, you can say Pe’Shon waving and being a kid, getting excited. I’ve got to be vague.”
>> Shaq Cleare has sat out three straight halves and played four minutes over the past two games. Turgeon, however, still seems very high on the freshman center, whom he once called his favorite player to coach on this team.
“Shaq’s fine,” Turgeon said. “Shaq’s a great kid. Shaq wants to win. We went small lineup which really helped us. I had no intentions on not playing Shaq last night. As a coach, should have put him in at the 16-minute mark in the second half when they went big. First game Shaq hasn’t played in, but I promise you he’ll play Thursday.”