By Luke Gentile
As the Maryland men’s basketball team enters the final weeks of the season, it appears that the Terps are not destined for the big dance. Maryland (18-11, 7-9 Big Ten) has failed to achieve any sort of traction on the road (1-8), making their NCAA tournament hopes look bleak.
“I think that it’s been a pretty disappointing season,” said Jason Lynn, a freshman letters and sciences major. “I came here after watching them be a sixth seed in the tournament last year, and I was expecting big things. Justin Jackson was returning after going to the combine, and Kevin Huerter was supposed to be this big thing. Also, we brought in good recruits like Bruno Fernando, and I expected to go to games and get ready for March Madness.”
Lynn, like many other fans, has had to watch the season dragon with little consistency and a lack of signature wins. One explanation fans have pointed to is the crippling injuries the Terps have endured. Season-ending injuries to forwards Justin Jackson and Ivan Bender cost Maryland two of its big men, which t has hurt them in paint.
“We are on the outside looking in,” Lynn said. “We are not in the top 68 or even the first five out, so, I think making it to the tournament is going to be tough.”
It will be tough, but not impossible. The Terps still have a shot if they win the rest of their games in convincing fashion.
The only way the Terps don’t go to the National Invitation Tournament(NIT) — or the tournament that hosts the teams that did not make it into the NCAA Tournament — is by convincing the selection committee with blowout wins. They have the team to do it, though, even with the injuries. There hasn’t been a single game this year where talent has been the issue.
Point guard Anthony Cowan is taking initiative. Last year Melo Trimble was the Terps’ unquestioned leader and clutch finisher. Cowan has been filling in that role this year, taking the shot or creating one for a teammate.
Another underclassman who has stepped up is freshman guard Darryl Morsell. Coming into the season, many people didn’t see him as a go-to guy because of proven players like Jackson. Yet he’s taken on big responsibility for the Terps, logging many critical minutes. Morsell has carved out an important role for Maryland. He’s a tenacious defender, a solid rebounder and an opportunistic slasher.
The Terps have a must-win schedule ahead of them, and they need to win each one in a convincing fashion.
“The NIT will be competitive,” Lynn said,” but it will be a lot more fun on Route One if we make it to the big dance.”