Darryl Morsell still remembers the feeling of coming up short in the Big Ten tournament last spring. He and his Maryland teammates dropped a close contest to Wisconsin, 59-54, at Madison Square Garden in the second round of the tournament. It was the last game of their season.
“At the end of the game, we couldn’t get rebounds and we couldn’t score when we needed to score,” Morsell, now a sophomore, said Wednesday. “I just remember that feeling in the locker room, knowing that the season was over, and I don’t want to feel that this year.”
While a loss this weekend wouldn’t bring Maryland’s season to a halt, any victory would be the Terps’ first in the postseason since 2016, when they reached the Sweet 16. Since then, Maryland is 0-2 in the Big Ten tournament and 0-1 in the NCAAs. Nobody in the current team’s top eight has won a postseason game in college.
But the team hasn’t talked about that (or if it has, nobody’s admitted it). Players say they see this week as a new opportunity on a big stage. While it’ll be the first postseason for Maryland’s freshman class, head coach Mark Turgeon doesn’t expect his rookies to be overwhelmed by the moment.
“They’ve all continued to get better as the season’s gone on, and I know they’re excited for the opportunity,” Turgeon said. “We’ve played all the best teams [in the league], we’ve played great teams with our schedule, so competition-wise, they’re ready for that. And it’s a stage, but we’ve played on a lot of big stages this year, so I expect our young guys to play well.”
Maryland will play either No. 12-seed Rutgers or No. 13-seed Nebraska, who will play the tournament’s first contest at 6:30 p.m. ET Wednesday. The Terps’ second-round matchup is expected to tip off around 3 p.m. ET Thursday, which means they’ll have minimal time to prepare for their opponent. As a result, they’ve spent this week focusing on themselves and working to improve in specific areas.
“That’s the main focus throughout this week—just getting better, improving,” Morsell said. “Offensively, halfcourt sets, stuff like that, then transition, playing together as a team, ball-screen defense ... just getting better as a team. So I feel like we should be ready.”
That same challenge will accompany every contest, as Maryland will play every day until it loses, which could mean four games in as many days. The players all know that taking care of their bodies—via ice baths after games, getting enough sleep and managing their schedules—will be as important this week as any.
It’s been a season full of upsets in the Big Ten, as every team in the league has shown the ability to take down anyone else. Maryland enters as battle-tested as anyone, having played each of the other seven top-eight seeds on the road and seeing those teams 12 times overall. But with talented squads fighting to keep their season alive, the Terps can’t let their guard down.
“The postseason is different. Every team is different than it was going into the season. A lot of teams got a lot better,” sophomore center and First Team All-Big Ten honoree Bruno Fernando said. “Everybody’s trying to win a championship, so everybody’s gonna come in and try to bring their A-game, so we’ve got to make sure we come in and do our best to make sure that happens for us.”
When Fernando was asked if he had any aspirations for the tournament, he didn’t hesitate.
“Win,” he said. “I want to get a ring.”