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What Can The Terps Do In The NCAA Tournament?

The Terrapins’ road through the East bracket

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

I learned a new word on Testudo Times the other day: Turg-atory. It’s when your program is stuck in a position where your coach is doing well enough not to get fired but not well enough where you have some confidence that you can have a shot to make a deep run at least once every four or five years.

I’ve seen more talented Maryland teams than the 2019 version. I’ve seen more disappointing ones, too. But I’ve never seen the likes of Bruno Fernando get shut down defensively by Tanner Borchardt. That happened last week in Chicago. Maryland has not won a postseason game of any kind since 2016. Will this year’s NCAA Tournament put an end to their Turg-atory?

Opening Round

Maryland is one of four teams who don’t know who their Thursday/Friday opponent will be yet. They face the winner of one of the First Four games in Dayton, either Belmont or Temple.

Maryland fans should want to face Belmont. The Terrapins have an insanely bad turnover margin, and Belmont doesn’t force turnovers like Temple does. What’s more, Belmont lost their starting center in the OVC Tournament two weeks ago, and though it’s being reported that Nick Muszynski will play, it’s unclear if he will be at 100%. Muszynski has put up some nice numbers for Belmont this season, but the freshman hasn’t had to face anything like the frontcourt of Jalen Smith and Bruno Fernando that Maryland will be able to throw at him.

Temple will also have something to play for—their longtime coach, Fran Dunphy, has announced that he will be retiring at the end of this season. That could be some additional incentive for the Owls to play with more emotion than usual.

If They Advance

I started this article talking about Turg-atory, but in the Jacksonville pod of the East bracket, there are a lot shakier coaching situations than at Maryland. I already mentioned Fran Dunphy at Temple, but then there’s the Will Wade situation at LSU. All signs point to Wade cheating his ass off to get recruits to come to LSU, which is why he won’t cooperate with the university’s internal investigation, which is why he’s currently suspended from his head coaching duties.

Stuff like that can have an odd effect on teams. In 1989 Steve Fisher famously won the whole thing as Michigan’s interim coach. More often, teams collapse. (The 2008 Indiana Hoosiers are a perfect example of that happening.) So while Maryland could run into an LSU juggernaut channeling the spirit of Glen Rice, it’s equally likely that they could face Yale instead.

LSU is another one of those teams that forces a lot of turnovers. In fact, they are better at it than anybody in the Big Ten—only Illinois really hangs its hat on creating turnovers—and we all remember what happened during Maryland’s meeting with Illinois in Madison Square Garden earlier this season. I expect a game against the Tigers would end more or less the same way.

Yale, though, is in the bottom 20 in terms of turnovers forced. They have an efficient offense and shouldn’t be slept on, but their only somewhat impressive win this season came against Miami. If the Bulldogs catch LSU on a bad day, then I like Maryland’s chances to make it to the Sweet Sixteen. The Sweet Sixteen creates its own kind of purgatory (just ask Purdue fans) but getting to that point should be enough to stave off the worst elements of the Maryland fan base calling for Turgeon’s head.

Overall

At this point Anthony Cowan is who he is. He’s never going to be a point guard that has an outstanding, or even good, assist-to-turnover ratio. The Terrapins can win while turning the ball over. They’ve been bad at it all year and won 22 games. Cowan turned the ball over 6 times against Purdue and Maryland still won by 14. It can be done. Fernando is a load down low, and Jalen Smith isn’t far behind.

But man, it would sure help if Maryland got to face Belmont and Yale.