Over the last few years, Maryland fans have grown accustomed to hearing a familiar phrase: "wait ‘til next year." With both basketball and football, that's been the go-to motto. Next year, our recruiting class will give us the boost we were missing. Next year, our players will be more mature and experienced. Next year, we'll make the tournament.
There comes a point where "next year" starts to seem like an elusive dream that never seems to materialize.
Perhaps that's an exaggeration. After all, last year the Terp nearly made the tournament after seeming dead in the water at one point. But last season is the same one that featured blowing a 10-point lead to Florida State at home, losing to them again on the road, getting embarrassed at Boston College, a loss to Georgia Tech and two more to UVA. Two huge wins over Duke salvaged things, and -- important as they were -- in my opinion paint that year in a better light than it was when you look at the big picture. Nevertheless, the future was most certainly looking bright.
Last season, Turgeon opted for an easier non-conference schedule that had the Terps at 12-1 when it was over but told little about how good the team truly was. This season's OOC schedule isn't a cupcake walk, but it was one that, outside of a couple games, seemed extremely manageable. Seth Allen or no Seth Allen, tell most Terps fans before the season that they'd lose to Oregon State, Boston University (a team that had just lost to Norfolk State at home) and George Washington, as well as as be down at halftime to Abilene Christian and defeat Florida Atlantic by just four, and you'd have almost certainly been met with reactions of shock and disbelief.
Calling for Turgeon's firing right now is too extreme, in my opinion -- but he should absolutely be on the hot seat. This was supposed to be the season Maryland basketball finally makes the jump. Everyone from fans to Turgeon himself said the goal was the NCAA Tournament, and yet as things stand right now this team is going to be lucky if it even makes the NIT. Making the NIT last year was met with division by the fanbase: some said it was an acceptable stepping stone as the team getts back to national prominence, others said it's something Terrapin fans should never be satisfied with.
If Maryland makes the NIT again this year, they'll have made more NITs than NCAA Tournaments in the last five seasons, which granted, weren't all under Turgeon. But is this what Maryland basketball should settle for? And what if they don't make either? Something that seemed unimaginable just a month ago now could become a reality. Kenpom.com has the team at an expected 16-15 finish. If you added on a win in the ACC Tournament that would equal the record from Turgeon's first season -- a mark that the Terps are supposed to be far removed from at this point. Basketball could end up the same way they were in 2011-12 - missing the postseason entirely -- despite most agreeing this team is much more talented.
Of course, this year's team still has time to turn this around. Seth Allen should be back in a few weeks and will hopefully provide the boost that many are banking on him giving. But Seth Allen alone cannot solve this team's myriad of problems, such as the fact that they have held a halftime lead in just half of their 12 games this season. Slow starts are something this team has struggled with long before this season. There comes a point where something has to give and blame needs to fall on the coach.
Turgeon and the team should be supported as they go through the rest of this season, because there's plenty of basketball to go. But when the average Kenpom.com rank for the teams you have beaten so far is 197 and the average rank for the teams you still have to play is 60, there is more than enough reason to be very concerned. Furthermore: the average Kenpom rank of the teams on the Terps' ACC slate? 36. The average rank of the teams who have already defeated Maryland this season? 65.4 (take out second-ranked Ohio State and it jumps to 81).
This team has a lot of strides to make if it is going to improve while going against much better competition. Otherwise, this season could go from disappointing to disastrous in a hurry, and a lot of that burden is going to need to fall on Turgeon. Which will leave the ever-important-yet-controversial question to plague the offseason: is he the right man for the job?
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