In the just concluded NFL season, the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl 45 by winning their last six games. At the beginning of the winning streak, the Packers were facing the possibility of missing the playoffs. They then stacked up a winning streak that carried them to a championship. Consider the Maryland Terrapins’ men basketball team in a similar state, if the stakes aren’t quite as high. The Terps can’t even begin to think about winning a national championship, given their current situation. To even get a chance to play for the national championship, the Terps need to ensure a place in the tournament. Given how things look currently, even after Sunday’s win over the North Carolina State Wolfpack, there remains lots of work to do. The win should hopefully give the team the much needed sense of urgency quoted in the title of this post.
The title is not to say that the Maryland Terrapins men’s basketball team isn’t playing hard, or doesn’t go all out to win each game it plays. They do. This isn’t to say Gary Williams isn’t coaching the team as well as he ever has. He is. It is noticeable that I haven’t seen or heard (or maybe I’m not looking in the right places) for the usual sense of outrage that accompanies a season like this for the Maryland basketball team. The general complaints are that Gary can’t coach, or that he can’t recruit, or that the players underachieved. If you want the tag line for the Terrapins this season, it is this: the team had its chances to win against good teams, and didn’t get it done.
Look up and down the schedule so far, and you see the close calls and near-misses dotted all over. The first Duke game. Games against Temple, Pittsburgh, Illinois and Villanova. All were close, and the Terps ended up on the losing end in all of them. A win over Duke or Pittsburgh, and the Terrapins would probably be on the good side of the bubble, rather than the no-man’s-land they find themselves in now. The closest thing to a bad loss on the Terrapins’ tournament resume would be the blowout to Virginia Tech at home, with losses to fellow middle dweller Boston College following right behind. A run to the NCAA tournament has to start with last night’s victory over the Wolfpack, continue through the remainder of the regular season (earning two important victories over Florida State and North Carolina in the process) and winning if not two games, then the whole ACC tournament outright.
Elsewhere, due to the carnage at the top of the polls over the last week, Duke has ascended back to the #1 spot in the country after somehow avoiding being beaten. The Blue Devils cruised to relatively easy wins over Virginia and Georgia Tech last week, and may have put themselves in the running for a top seed in the NCAA tournament. North Carolina’s Tar Heels are looking solid also, even after one of the ugliest wins in school history on Saturday-a two point win over Boston College. The Tar Heels had the lowest offensive output (48 points) in 25 years of playing at the Smith Center in the game. The Eagles were desperate for that win; partiallly to get payback on an ugly 32-point beatdown from a few weeks earlier, but because a win would give the Eagles a boost in their case for an NCAA tournament bid. Virginia Tech suffered another costly loss to the Cavaliers on Saturday, dealing another blow to their chances to avoid the bubble on Selection Sunday. The loss on Saturday gave Virginia a season sweep of the Hokies. Clemson, another team in the mix for a tournament bid had a week with mixed results. A loss to the Wolfpack earlier in the week followed by a win over Miami on Sunday kept the Tigers over .500 in conference and their bubble hopes alive as well.