Maryland will miss college basketball’s postseason for a second consecutive year, passed over for a spot in the 32-team National Invitation Tournament after falling well shy of an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament.
While Maryland’s omission from both fields had been expected on the heels of a 17-15 record, Terrapins Coach Mark Turgeon didn’t deny that it packed an emotional punch.
“Been an unsettling day,” Turgeon posted on his official Twitter account shortly after the NCAA tournament’s 68-team field was unveiled. “It’s tough not to be a part of Selection Sunday. It’s something I am not used to. But, we are working hard and doing the right things to make sure that the Terps return to the excitement of March Madness.”
Turgeon took Texas A&M to the NCAA tournament each of his four years in College Station (2008-11) and led Wichita State’s 2005-06 squad to the Sweet 16.
But in the coach’s first season at Maryland, the Terrapins failed to beat a ranked team and lost four of their last five regular season games. It’s the fifth time in eight years that Maryland has missed the NCAA tournament.
Turgeon stepped into a terrific job at an unenviable time last May. Three recruits reneged on commitments following Gary Williams’s abrupt resignation. Freshman center Alex Len was ruled ineligible for the season’s first 10 games as a result of NCAA eligibility problems. And point guard Pe’Shon Howard missed the first nine games with a broken foot, leaving Turgeon with just seven scholarship players.
The Terrapins’ reshuffled roster was finally starting to jell when Howard suffered a season-ending tear in a knee ligament Feb. 9.
Still, the postseason was within Maryland’s reach, but two losses were costly: A lackluster 63-61 defeat at Georgia Tech on Feb. 25 and a 75-72 overtime loss to Virginia in the regular season finale at Comcast Center.
Needing an impressive run through the ACC tournament to salvage any postseason hopes, Maryland notched a solid victory over Wake Forest but was manhandled by North Carolina in the quarterfinals despite sophomore Terrell Stoglin’s 30 points.
On balance, the Terrapins fared better than expected. They beat the teams they were supposed to but didn’t pull off any stunning upsets. About every victory was a struggle, but Maryland fought hard to the end. That was a victory in itself.
“We’re proud of the progress this team made from the beginning of the season until the end,” Turgeon said in a statement Sunday night. “Playing so well in all facets of the game against Wake Forest at the ACC Tournament will give all our players and our fans something to be proud of as we head into the spring and summer.”
Maryland won’t play in the College Basketball Invitational or any tournament that requires teams to pay for home dates, Turgeon said, noting that “given the current financial situation in the athletics department, we feel as though now is not the right time.”
Maryland’s outlook is brighter next season, with top 100 prospect Charles Mitchell of Georgia (a 6-foot-8 forward) recently joining a promising class that includes Shaquille Cleare, a 6-9 center from Houston; 6-7 forward Jake Layman; 6-2 guard Seth Allen; and 6-9 forward Damonte Dodd.
Said Turgeon, “With a very good recruiting class coming in and looking at the positive aspects of the season we just finished, we look forward to working throughout this upcoming offseason to getting Maryland Basketball where we all want it to be.”