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Maryland Terrapins have a real chance to be ranked number one in the country next week

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The Maryland Terrapins have bounced back from their defeat a week and a half ago to the Michigan State Spartans with two consecutive wins in conference play including one against a red hot Iowa Hawkeyes team at home. With two wins in the next five days, Maryland could find themselves ranked number one in the country by this time next week.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Maryland Terrapins have bounced back from their defeat a week and a half ago to the Michigan State Spartans with two wins in a row, including one against a red hot Iowa Hawkeyes team. With two wins in the next five days, Maryland could find themselves ranked number one in the country by this time next week.

But first, Maryland has to handle their business on the road against the Nebraska Cornhuskers and at home against the No. 21 ranked Purdue Boilermakers.

What this week means for Maryland

After the No. 2 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels lost on the road to the No. 17 ranked Louisville Cardinals on Monday night, a path has potentially opened for Maryland to get even more nationwide attention if they handle their business this week against the Cornhuskers and the Boilermakers.

The Oklahoma Sooners, Tar Heels and the Villanova Wildcats are the only teams right now ahead of Maryland in the AP Poll. North Carolina already lost, but Villanova has to go on the road to play an No. 11 ranked Providence Friars team on Saturday and Oklahoma has to play the Kansas State Wildcats on the road this Saturday as well.

If Oklahoma and Villanova both lose this week and Maryland sweeps the week, the Terps could very well earn their first ever number one ranking in the AP Poll.

This week also gives Maryland the opportunity to improve to 10-2 in conference play and separate themselves from the mid-pack of the conference as well.

How steady have the Terps been?

In a wild season of college basketball where team after team can't maintain their spot in the AP top 10, Maryland is hanging on steady.

The Terps, Kansas Jayhawks and the Sooners are the only three teams in the country that have maintained top 10 status in the AP Poll and in the Coaches Poll all season long.

At 19-3 overall for Maryland, things haven't been pretty, but they have done what they are supposed to do, which is to avoid bad losses.

Last week, I wrote an article asking the question whether Maryland was overrated. The team was certainly talented, but given the preseason expectations and inconsistent play, it seemed like an appropriate topic.

The good news is that things seem to be coming together.

A big part of that improvement and success has come from the defense. Maryland's defense has been excellent so far and is allowing 74 points or less in each of the last 15 games. In fact, Maryland has held their opponents to 74 points or less in 35 out of their last 36 games dating back to last season.

Maryland, at their peak, can beat any team in the country. The balance on both sides of the court for Maryland gives them the opportunity to stay in any game.

When you have a floor general like Melo Trimble, a slasher like Rasheed Sulaimon, a stretch four like Jake Layman and two studs in the front court with Robert Carter and Diamond Stone, it won't be an easy night for any team.

When can we expect Maryland to reach their peak?

At this point in time, Maryland looks like a team that is built for a tournament run. Although unlikely, it's not unreasonable to believe that the Terps can run the table through conference play. After all, many of the team's toughest games are already in the books.

As I mentioned earlier, Maryland is a team that can match up with virtually any team in the country. This roster is built for an elimination scenario and as things get closer to March, look for Maryland to start making some noise.

Of course, for everyone else, that's bad news.