The struggle to match expectations has left the Maryland men’s basketball team with conflicting emotions entering this week’s ACC tournament. In the immediate moment, the Terrapins will continue to celebrate their overtime victory over No. 5 Virginia at home, because never before this season have they scored a bigger one.
But soon after their attention also turned to Greensboro, N.C., because only there can keep up the momentum built at Comcast Center and save it from falling by the wayside. The NCAA tournament remains an improbability, only because Maryland would need to win four games in four days to get there, but all the optimism born while the fans stormed the floor can at least provide a foundation for whatever comes next.
“We hear it,” guard Dez Wells said. “We hear all the jokes and people trying to push us. We want to go out here and do what we know how to do. We all really know what our status is as far as the NCAA tournament, but we’re just playing like we have nothing to lose. Any team that you’re playing against that has that mentality and that type of attitude about them is a very dangerous team.”
Hours after the court had been cleared of all revelers, the Terps learned their fate for the ACC tournament. After North Carolina State beat Boston College to wrap up the No. 7 seed, Maryland will be seeded No. 8 and will face No. 9 Florida State on Thursday at noon.
The Terps, Seminoles and Wolfpack all finished 9-9 in league play, but N.C. State won after beating both Maryland the Florida State. The remaining two teams split their two meetings this season, so Maryland won out by virtue of a higher-ranked ACC win, which happened to come against Virginia, though seeding at that point was a mere formality.
“We definitely knew that we could play with anybody in the league,” forward Jake Layman said. “This win shows those other teams out there that we’re not just team that can get there, but now we’re right there and we’re going to get those wins.”
If the Terps win Thursday, they will face the top-seeded Cavaliers on Friday at noon. Win that and it’s onto the semifinals, with the championship game on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Behind 16 three-pointers, Maryland was routed in Tallahassee on Jan. 12 by 24 points, and that game has been referenced by Coach Mark Turgeon in each of the past two days to qualify the last time his team “embarrassed ourselves.”
The Terps had turned it around by the rematch, winning 83-71 behind a career-high 32 points from point guard Seth Allen. Since then, they became the only ACC team to come within single digits of Virginia at John Paul Jones Arena, lost to Duke by two points, beat Wake Forest in a snoozer, lost to Syracuse by two points, lost to Clemson in double overtime, routed Virginia Tech and handed the Cavaliers their first loss since mid-January.
“It’s good to be on a roll,” forward Evan Smotrycz said. “If any time, no better than now going into the ACC tournament. We’ll see what we can put together.”
The full ACC tournament schedule is below:
Wednesday, March 12 (First Round)
No. 12 Wake Forest (16-15, 6-12 ACC) vs. No. 13 Notre Dame (15-16, 6-12 ACC), 1 p.m.
No. 10 Miami (16-15, 7-11 ACC) vs. No. 15 Virginia Tech (9-21, 2-16 ACC), 3:30 p.m.
No. 11 Georgia Tech (15-16, 6-12 ACC) vs. No. 14 Boston College (8-23, 4-14 ACC), 7 p.m.
Thursday, March 13 (Second Round)
No. 8 Maryland (17-14, 9-9 ACC) vs. No. 9 Florida State (18-12, 9-9 ACC), noon.
No. 5 Pittsburgh (11-7, 23-8 ACC) vs. 12/13 winner, 2 p.m.
No. 7 North Carolina State (19-12, 9-9 ACC) vs. 10/15 winner, 7 p.m.
No. 6 Clemson (19-11, 10-8 ACC) vs. 11/14 winner, 9 p.m.
Friday, March 14 (Quarterfinals)
No. 1 Virginia (25-6, 16-2 ACC) vs. 8/9 winner, noon.
No. 4 North Carolina (23-8, 13-5 ACC) vs. Pittsburgh/12/13 winner, 2 p.m.
No. 2 Syracuse (27-4, 14-4 ACC) vs. N.C. State/10/15 winner, 7 p.m.
No. 3 Duke (24-7, 13-5 ACC) vs. Clemson/11/14 winner, 9 p.m.
Saturday, March 15 (Semifinals)
1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Sunday, March 16 (Finals)