At this time last year, Maryland basketball was nervously waiting to hear if it would make the cut for the NIT — it didn't. The year before that, the Terps made the NCAA Tournament field as a No. 6 seed, but lost their first game against No. 11-seed Xavier.
This year, they’re back, earning a No. 6 seed again and playing either Belmont or Temple in Jacksonville on Thursday afternoon.
Nobody on Maryland’s current squad has ever played in and won a postseason game, and only seniors Ivan Bender and Andrew Terrell were on the roster when the Terps made the Sweet 16 in 2016. This year’s team is hungry to reverse that trend.
“I haven’t won a postseason game, so that’s been my motivation honestly all year,” junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. said. “Now just the biggest thing is take advantage of the opportunity.”
The drought of postseason victories extended to this season, with Maryland losing its first game of the Big Ten tournament against Nebraska on Thursday. But by the time the Terps got to Chicago, it had played the Cornhuskers twice already. The players are confident they’ll have more luck facing a team that hasn’t been analyzing them all season.
“Now we get to play teams that we don’t know much about them and they don’t know much about us,” sophomore center Bruno Fernando said. “So it’s going to be a completely different game and we get to a chance to do a lot of things that we’re not able to do against teams that know us so much.”
Coach Mark Turgeon said his team is putting the loss behind them and starting a completely new season as it enters NCAA Tournament play.
“I can just tell by our team meeting today and our practice today that our guys truly believe this is a new season,” Turgeon said. “The grind is over and now the fun begins.”
Maryland is set to begin tournament play on Thursday and will face the winner of a play-in game between Temple and Belmont. Turgeon said he sees this as a good thing, despite not knowing until Tuesday who his squad will take on. He and his coaching staff typically don’t have the players work on preparing for a specific opponent until the day before the game, so the uncertainty doesn’t faze him.
“It’ll feel like a regular-season game for us, the way we’ll prepare and get ready for it, Turgeon said. “I’m going to look at it as an advantage because we’ll be down there Tuesday night sleeping in a hotel while they’ll be in Dayton playing a game that night.”
In other news
No. 6 Maryland men’s lacrosse defeated then No. 17 Villanova 17-7 on Saturday. Attacker Bubba Fairman was a huge part of the offense, scoring four goals.
No. 2 Maryland women’s lacrosse trampled Ohio State 16-1 on Saturday, led by the stellar goaltending of Megan Taylor, in its first Big Ten matchup of the season.
Maryland women’s basketball signee Ashley Owusu was named to the 2019 Jordan Brand National Girls’ Team and will compete in the Jordan Brand Classic on April 20.
Another 2019 recruit, Diamond Miller, just finished off another undefeated high school season.
Maryland baseball was swept by No. 17 East Carolina over the weekend. The Terps only scored one run in three games, and were on the wrong end of a perfect game Sunday.
Maryland softball won all four of its games at the Maryland Invitational in its first appearance in College Park this season. The Terps defeated UMBC, Rhode Island, Bryant and Villanova.
Maryland gymnastics placed first in its final meet of the regular season. The Terps earned 196.450 points, outscoring Towson, GW, Pitt and New Hampshire.
Maryland tennis lost both of its matches this weekend, falling to Wisconsin and Minnesota.
The Maryland men’s and women’s track & field teams finished with 10 first-place titles at the Maryland Invitational. Read more on the meet here.