Following Maryland basketball is a health hazard.
The team has won five of the six games it’s played against Division I opponents by six points or less. In three of those games they were losing or tied with one minute left. Of those three games, they won one in overtime and the other two on Melo Trimble points with seven seconds or less remaining. One of those wins came on a seven-point comeback in under a minute. Somehow it’s just November. Somehow Maryland is undefeated.
This group is a perplexing mix of talent. Since the beginning of the summer nobody could explicitly label the Terps a contender or a team in a rebuilding year. We still can’t. That uncertainty can be maddening, but it can also be fun.
The Terps have only knocked off one or two teams that could play in mid-March and they haven’t blown any teams out. It’s hard to get a read on them despite their perfect record.
Maybe they’re just overachieving or peaking early.
They can’t continue to win every close game. Can they?
Maybe the games won’t stay this close.
Maybe they unravel and start losing big to better teams.
Maybe it’s just the opposite, and they aren’t close to what they can be just yet.
Everything was laid out last season. Maryland was going to the Final Four. Any loss was a bad loss. Any win wasn’t by enough.
Now the Terps are loose, free from the shackles of too much attention. And they’re finding success.
Coach Mark Turgeon starts three four-star recruit freshmen next to Melo Trimble and is probably days away from starting his third different center. Each game has felt like a new adventure. He’s figuring out this team as we do and that isn’t easy. He knows Trimble is probably going to lead his team in scoring. But he goes into every game not knowing who’s going to be second or third or fourth or so on down the line. His team is stocked with unproven talent.
But that unproven talent has proven itself collectively so far. It hasn’t been the same player every game, rather a different one at different points of each game. That potluck of players has worked. Kevin Huerter hit clutch threes against American and saved the game against Georgetown with a block. Justin Jackson poured in points against the Hoyas. Michal Cekovsky set a career-high in points against Kansas State. Damonte Dodd is swatting shots like never before. Anthony Cowan has sprinkled a bit of everything into each game. Ivan Bender turned from bench-warmer to starter.
The pieces don’t look right on paper, but Turgeon’s combinations have yet to fail. The same can’t be said for a handful of other Big Ten schools. Indiana lost to Fort Wayne. Michigan lost to South Carolina. Iowa to Memphis and Seton Hall.
The only loss in College Park is the year of life taken off Terps fans who have involuntarily ridden a roller coaster they can’t get off of. Maybe Tuesday night’s game against Pittsburgh is where it ends. Or maybe it’s just the beginning.