I don't think the Maryland men's basketball team will have a long March.
The Terps have lost four of six games, and they've truthfully played far worse than their 24-7 record at many points this season. To make Final Fours, there's a conventional wisdom – and I tend to agree with it – that you've got to be your best at the right time. (After all, it requires a minimum of four-straight wins, usually at least two against top-flight competition.). Maryland might yet have a rabbit up its sleeve, but given this context, a deep run would be one hell of a magic trick.
But sports are, on some level, about hope. And if you're looking for hope, there's some recent precedent that a team in Maryland's position can look to for inspiration. Specifically, it's the 2010-11 Connecticut Huskies, who made a run to the Final Four and beat Butler to win the national championship. (Hat tip, Matt Ellentuck.)
If you want to feel a tinge of positivity, continue reading.
Why is this a parallel worth your consideration?
Terrific question. The simplest point is that the teams performed similarly to this point in their respective seasons. Connecticut ended its regular season in 2011 ranked No. 26 in Ken Pomeroy's national composite, while Maryland is currently ranked No. 24. The Huskies were ranked 21st in the last AP Top 25 of that regular season, which is surely within just a few spots of whichever placement voters will give Maryland on Monday afternoon.
Moreover, the Huskies closed their regular season by losing four of five games. These weren't terrible losses – all came against top-30 opponents – but were losses nonetheless, dropping Jim Calhoun's team to 21-9 (and 9-9 in the Big East). The Terps were 12-6 Big Ten slate and 24-7 overall. Both are underwhelming given the Terps' considerable talent level. Connecticut had great talent, too, mostly in the form of guard Kemba Walker but also in future NBA players (and tournament heroes) Shabazz Napier and Jeremy Lamb.
One of the Terps' biggest problems this season has been defensive rebounding. The Terps have been terrible at protecting their own glass, giving up rebounds on 31 percent of their opponents' misses since the start of Big Ten play (12th out of 14 teams). Connecticut, in 2010-11, gave up a ridiculous 35 percent offensive rebounding rate in the Big East. So the Terps' misery at least has some high-quality company.
If you want to keep feeling positive, stop reading.
Where does the comparison fall short?
The Huskies were a smaller team than Maryland on average, by about an inch. The Huskies built their offense around Walker and a brigade of guards, while Maryland gives up a lot of possessions to post players Diamond Stone and Robert Carter Jr. Given that the Terps have had trouble dealing with elite guards, this is a difference worth considering.
UConn was also a top-30 turnover team on offense, and Maryland is, uh, not.
The biggest thing, though, is that Connecticut was its own entity and isn't very replicable. Walker's run through the Big East and NCAA Tournaments that year was nothing short of legendary. He scored at least 16 points in each of the 11 postseason games Connecticut played, winning all of them. He shot better than 49 percent from the field in all but four of those games and had back-to-back 33- and 36-point outings in the NCAAs. No matter what you think of Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon, it's not fair to put something like that on them.