By Connor Bell
Maryland men’s basketball finished up their 99th regular season with a 24-point loss to Michigan on senior day in College Park.
In a season filled with letdowns and plagued by injuries, the Terps still fought to the end and secured the No. 8 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. However, it is unclear how the Terps will perform with a difficult road ahead.
Maryland’s first game against the University of Wisconsin Badgers tips off noon Thursday. As the No. 8 seed, the Terps get a one day bye. But so does their opponent.
The Terps beat Wisconsin 68-63 in College Park on Feb. 4 behind Anthony Cowan’s 23 points, and despite senior center Michael Cekovksy’s absence because of an injury.
However, since that game the Badgers have gone 4-2, beating No. 6 Purdue at home and playing No. 2 Michigan State to a close game, losing by just five points. Wisconsin will likely look to feed the ball to junior Ethan Happ, or rely on the three ball if Happ’s shot is off.
On defense, Maryland’s look to pressure someone other than Happ to make plays for the Badgers. Despite Happ’s 18 points on Feb. 4, Wisconsin’s bench was 0-7 from the field and the team shot 42 percent as a whole. As for the offense, the Terps should look to play through Cowan and sophomore Kevin Huerter. The duo proved to be unguardable in their previous matchup, combining for 42 points.
Even if Maryland wins on Thursday, senior journalism major Josh Coggins sees this as the Terps only Big Ten Tournament win and thinks they have no shot at March Madness.
“We beat Wisconsin already this year,” Coggins said. “But they’re gonna have to go far to make it to the NCAA Tournament and I just don’t see that happening.”
Maryland (19-11) went 0-8 record against top 25 RPI teams and won only once against a top 50 RPI opponent. Maryland’s only chance to make the NCAA Tournament is to win the Big Ten tournament and earn the automatic qualifying bid.
However, some students feel that it’s time for Maryland to move on from head coach Mark Turgeon.
“He’s the worst coach and there’s zero offense to our team,” said sophomore finance major Jared Cohen. “We’re probably going to play in the NIT and have zero shot there too.”
Cohen and a group of his friends started to chant “fire Turgeon” during the closing seconds of Maryland’s loss to Michigan on Saturday.
Turgeon’s future aside, the fact remains that the Terps face a daunting route to Big Ten Tournament glory. If Maryland wins on Thursday, they’ll play the No. 1 seed Michigan State on Friday.
The Spartans dominated the Terps with a 30-point victory in East Lansing in January, but Maryland played them closely in College Park three weeks later and even mustered a 13-point halftime lead before losing 74-68.
A victory over Michigan State would give Maryland the signature win its lacking. But even after that unlikely feat, they’d still have to take on a quality opponent like Nebraska or Michigan, and then Purdue or Ohio State in the championship — if they made it that far.
Maryland never lost its fight this season despite all the injuries and close losses, and they will need to keep that maintain that fighting spirit if they have any hope of winning four Big Ten Tournament games in four days, for a chance to go to the big dance.
Unlikely? Yes. But they don’t call it March Madness for nothing.