After the Maryland men's basketball team's loss to Wisconsin on Saturday night, fans got really, really down about the Terps. I don't need to paste a bunch of tweets or post a bunch of comment screenshots to drive that point home, because if you're reading along here, you almost definitely saw some of it, too. Many of us have participated in it, either from the perspective of fan or reporter or both.
Maryland's in big, big trouble.
The Terps are wasting their talent.
This team could be so much better.
My opinion: Not just yet, sometimes, absolutely. But that's not important right now.
As Mark Turgeon pointed out after Saturday's game: "The reality is we're 22-4." That's certainly true, just as it's true that Maryland remains a Big Ten title contender and top-10 team heading into the regular season's final weeks.
It's also true that Maryland has serious flaws, and nobody is wrong to feel morbid about the Terps' problems: They're a legitimately terrible turnover team, get pushed around on their defensive glass and lack a distinct offensive identity. Their best player, Melo Trimble, is one of a few mired in a brutal shooting slog at what seems like a bad time for it. The Terps don't look like one of the best teams in the country, and time will tell whether they really are or aren't.
But we shouldn't forget to have some fun with this team.
All of the points my friend Andrew Emmer made in this December 2014 column still ring true, but particularly this one: "Not every loss is the end of the world." It's true! Maryland's chances at making a Final Four run are probably incrementally smaller now than before Saturday's swing-and-a-miss, but the season's still happening. On the other hand, Maryland certainly has a tendency to play clunkers, and that makes the Terps vulnerable to an early NCAA Tournament exit.
So, how to reconcile Maryland's awesome talent with the chance its naysayers are correct?
That's simple. It's time to live in the moment, because moments like these don't happen a whole lot.
The tournament starts in a month. In that time, it's likelier than not we'll witness the last Maryland home games of every player in the Terps' starting five. Rasheed Sulaimon and Jake Layman are out of eligibility, and it's increasingly unlikely that any of Melo Trimble, Diamond Stone and Robert Carter Jr. will return. All have NBA potential. Whether all three leave or not, it's a certainty that Maryland's roster takes a step backward in raw talent next season, even if the Terps land uber-shooting guard prospect Josh Jackson. Such is life in college sports sometimes.
So, enjoy this ride.
College basketball has a unique way of uniting our school, much like I imagine SEC football does at campuses in the South. I'm a senior at Maryland as I type this, and I've never seen a greater coalescing of school pride in College Park in four years than around basketball games this season. My current job has pushed me a ways away from the unadulterated fun I sometimes wish I felt around these games, but I've still found myself getting goosebumps sitting inside Xfinity Center right before tipoff this season. People here are really and genuinely excited, and they're excited about the same thing, together. That's a neat thing and speaks to the unique role sports can play in building communities. Maryland is a somewhat insular school sometimes, but not around basketball. At least not this year.
It wasn't like this when Maryland was bad in Turgeon's first three years, because losing teams don't unite people the same way winning teams do. Maryland has a winning team right now, and that will continue as long as these Terrapins keep playing. Whether that ends at the Final Four in Houston or on some drab opening weekend in Brooklyn, it could be quite a while until Maryland has it this good again. Whether you're a student now or not, you should enjoy every second of it.