The last several weeks have been a trying time for the Maryland Terrapins Men’s basketball team. On the court they have suffered losses in three of their last five games, and several of those losses have been by double digits. In addition to on the court issues, off the court the team has had to deal with season-ending injuries to power forwards Justin Jackson and Ivan Bender. These losses have forced inexperienced players to play larger roles for the team as it enters its stretch run, and has put the team’s March Madness hopes in jeopardy.
Currently, the Terrapins sit at a record of 15-6, with a 4-4 conference record that ranks seventh in the Big Ten. The team’s most impressive win is a double-digit win over the Butler Bulldogs that occurred in the third game of the season for both teams, and only gets less impressive as the Bulldogs themselves struggle down the stretch.
All this turmoil has left the team in a position that it is not accustomed to; missing out on the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years. The latest ESPN bracket projects Maryland as an 11-seed in the NCAA Tournament, and it predicts them to be one of the teams playing in the “First Four” games of the tournament. On the other hand, the college basketball rankings site KenPom does not even list them as a tournament team or as a team on “the bubble.”
The consensus for this year’s Terrapins team, is that they must avoid double-digit losses in the regular season in order to still have a shot for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. With upcoming games against Michigan State, Michigan, and Purdue–all ranked teams–the Terrapins must be perfect in their seven other remaining games in order to keep alive their tournament hopes. Several trap games exist on the team’s remaining schedule, as they place Northwestern twice within a ten day period–once at home, and once on the road–and the Wildcats will be hungry to keep their slim tournament hopes alive after high expectations entering the season.
Outside of the Terrapins’ conference schedule, they must also make a run in the Big Ten Tournament. Since joining the Big Ten in 2015, the team has only won two games in the tournament, and has entered as no less than a three seed in every season it has been in the conference. As the current seventh seed in the Big Ten, the team will be in uncharted waters come tournament time, and will have to prove that its regular season is not indicative of its postseason prognosis.
Ultimately, the Terrapins still have a shot to get into the NCAA Tournament. With no embarrassing or unexpected losses, they can demonstrate to the tournament committee that they are one of the 64-68 best teams in the country. The committee has shown preference for the Big Ten in the past, as in each of the last two seasons the conference has gotten 7 bids to the postseason tournament, so the Terrapins should feel confident that if they play solid, they will get fair consideration.