Well, it's back to the drawing board. Again.
Three days after their monumental upset of Duke, the Maryland Terrapins came crashing back to Earth at Boston College. The Terps looked out of sorts and overmatched by BC's smart and disciplined play, lacking the focus, intensity, and most of all execution that was so evident last time out. They fell apart in the second half, played disjointed and without composure, turning a seven-point lead at the break into a shocking 69-58 loss. And with it, they dealt a serious blow to their tournament hopes and revived doubts about the program's progress.
There's no way around it: this is a bad loss. Oh, it's a bad loss for the resume, sure - the Eagles are in the 140s in RPI - but it's a bad loss in reality, too. Boston College is a team that plays everyone tough, especially at their place - which is surprisingly difficult to play in, given the total and utter lack of energy in the arena - and they're not a terrible team. But they're far from a good one; just a week ago they beat Wake Forest - the same Wake Forest team Maryland obliterated in College Park - by only three, needing an improbable late 8-0 run to do it. Then they turn around and topple a much superior Maryland team by double-digits. Showing up to these types of games, imposing their will, and gritting out a win: that was Maryland's next step as a team. And they failed it at the first opportunity.
There are redeeming points here. Boston College shot a ridiculous 21-22 from the free throw line, an absurd rate that has to be one of the best performances of the season anywhere in the country. Had they shot their usual 71% from the stripe, that's six points off the board, potentially at key moments that swing momentum. That's a factor Maryland can't control, and that the game was called with tight whistles - fairly, but tight - hurt the Terps.
Then again, there are a lot more damning points. Like the fact that Logan Aronhalt, he of 5.8 points per game fame, put up 26 points and the Terps still couldn't finish within striking distance. (Imagine what would've happened had Aronhalt not shown up.) Or that Alex Len completely went missing, making Mason Plumlee look like a bum one day only to get taken out of a game by Eddie Odio the next. Or that Maryland's disappointing defense let Olivier Hanlan turn into a world-beater.
But what was worst of all? That Maryland, the tallest team in the ACCin effective height, was out-rebounded by four against BC, the second-shortest. Rebounding can be about size; it can also be about technique; it can be about lucky bounces; and it can be about hustle. We know the Terps have the first two; the last two were lacking today. You can't control one of them, but you can control the second.
It's another case of two steps forward, one step back. (Or at least I hope that's the right ratio.) Maryland's young and not growing older quickly. They make mistakes. They lean on young players. They have less talent than it seems like they should have. And all that means they'll have games like this. It doesn't make the Duke game mean nothing, even if it feels like it does. But it does mean something in and of itself - this team isn't there yet, and it remains to be seen if they're close to there.
As for the tournament: it's ridiculous to talk about it, especially because this looked like a solid NIT team all night long. But I will: I thought Maryland needed six wins down the stretch to have a shot, which is to say five in ACC play plus one in the tourney, or four in ACC play and two in the tourney. That doesn't seem likely, but it's still possible. And that's all I'll say about that.
More later. Keep angry, hot-headed venting to the GameThread, if you'd be so kind.