The Terps had an exciting season filled with great success and it was enough to get them in this year's NCAA Tournament. Let's look at their season.
Coming into the season, Maryland was projected as the 8th best team in the Big Ten. No one had them ranked higher than 7 in the Big Ten Network poll. While the Big Ten is one of the strongest conferences in the nation, finishing 8th place in the Big Ten is roughly equivalent to being a bubble team at best. Throughout the season, Maryland has exceeded expectations, and has been #2 in our Power Rankings for most of the season.
To begin their non-conference schedule, Maryland faced a few smaller schools and won their first three games comfortably. Their game against Arizona State was a close and important victory, even though Arizona State most likely will not be going to the NCAA Tournament. Their biggest test was against then ranked #13 Iowa State. Behind strong performances by Jake Layman and Melo Trimble, Maryland completed the 72-63 upset. Behind their standout guards Dez Wells and Melo Trimble, along with support from their front court, Maryland greatly surpassed their preseason expectations so far. However, their real test was to get through the deep Big Ten to try to stand out in the conference.
To begin the Big Ten conference schedule, Maryland faced off against Michigan State. In one of the best games of the Big Ten season, Maryland needed two overtimes to beat Michigan State 68-66. This was a good upset victory for the Terrapins, but they still had a long season ahead of them to prove they were for real.
Maryland defeated Minnesota and then lost to Illinois 64-57 in Champaign. With a loss against another team competing in the middle of the Big Ten standings, Maryland failed to create a name for themselves early on in the Big Ten Season.
The next turning point in the season was their second game against Michigan State, which they won convincingly 75-59. They lost two of their next three games to Indiana and Ohio State respectively. While they had a few nice performances and Melo Trimble continued to surpass expectations, the Terrapins' lack of consistency game to game was derailing their strong performances. After losing to Iowa two games later on February 8, were sitting at 7-4 in the Big Ten, a strong performance and certainly better than how they were expected to perform, but there was a feeling that Maryland's best was yet to come, especially considering Trimble was gaining experience playing in the Big Ten.
After the Iowa game, the Terrapins regrouped and their season changed in a way that no one saw coming. They won eight (!!) straight games in the Big Ten, including wins over Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin. Their 59-53 upset over Wisconsin was the game where the country knew that Maryland was for real. As a conference, the Big Ten was a bit weaker and Wisconsin was the only stand out team early in the season, until Maryland's rise. Throughout the later stages of the Big Ten season, the nearly unanimous top two teams in the Big Ten were Wisconsin and Maryland, by a wide margin.
Yesterday, Michigan State avenged their losses earlier in the season in the Big Ten semifinals and defeated Maryland 62-58. Michigan State's athleticism and toughness proved to be too much of a challenge for Maryland
While their outlook is largely dependent on who is in their bracket (who wants to be in Kentucky's bracket? -- no one), Maryland has been selected as a 4 seed in the Midwest region. In their region, the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats are the number one seed and the two and three seeds are Kansas and Notre Dame, respectively. Maryland has a small chance of making it into the Final 4 even though they are in a tough region. While it is tough to predict their performance in the NCAA tournament since games are won and lost at such small margins, but Maryland has done nothing but defy their expectations and prove their doubters wrong. They have upsets against Wisconsin and Iowa State and have proven that they aren't afraid to play the best teams in the country. I believe the Terrapins will make the Sweet 16 and will have a shot to upset the Wildcats. However, due to the strength and depth of Kentucky's front court, I believe the Wildcats will defeat the Terrapins in the Sweet 16. Regardless of the tournament performance, Maryland fans have to be pleased with their performance this season.