“I’m having a look at him dribbling down there, and I’m going, ‘Oh, my gosh, I will be able to’t imagine this is occurring,’ ” Turgeon mentioned. “After which I noticed ‘Stix’ status by way of the rim, and I believed, ‘K, I be ok with that.’ ”
Those are the Terrapins, ranked 9th within the nation, main the country’s hardest league, aiming to solidify their standing as Giant Ten favorites, with sophomore ahead Jalen “Stix” Smith and senior level guard Anthony Cowan Jr. offering, of all issues, calm and self belief. A 12 months in the past, that they had received seven immediately video games headed to East Lansing, Mich., and were given waxed. Now they’ve received seven immediately video games heading to East Lansing, and the distinction is stark.
“It’s completely other,” Turgeon mentioned.
It’s other as a result of they’re older, positive. However they’re additionally higher. For this Maryland crew, not anything is assured. However the rest is imaginable. And in mid-February, that’s the place the Terps will have to be — within the nationwide dialogue, now not lamenting the trouble of their very own agenda however slightly reveling in how tricky they make the schedules in their combatants.
“We’ve been a tricky out,” Turgeon mentioned by way of telephone Thursday evening after the Terps (20-Four, 10-Three Giant Ten) had installed every other apply to arrange for the Spartans (17-Eight, Nine-Five).
A tricky out, positive. However in Turgeon’s tenure in Faculty Park — which is now, amazingly, in its 9th 12 months — he hasn’t ever had a front-running season like this. The grueling Giant Ten marketing campaign isn’t a long way previous the midway level. But when was once the final time Maryland reached this level — mid-February — and was once taking part in from forward?
Those Terps have been ranked 7th within the Related Press ballot within the preseason. They’re 9th now. Extra vital, they’re 8th within the NCAA’s NET scores, which may have a pertaining to their seeding within the NCAA match. None of Turgeon’s 4 earlier tourney groups at Maryland were seeded upper than fourth. At this time, the Terps can be penciled in for a No. 2 seed. Win the Giant Ten common season and the match? Neatly . . .
“Our guys aren’t stuck up in it in any respect,” Turgeon mentioned in their mid-February, pre-Michigan State status. “There’s now not an oz. people feeling like we’ve completed one thing. Now, we’re assured. We imagine we’ve an opportunity to be the most productive crew.”
That’s the most productive crew within the Giant Ten — and past. It doesn’t sound like posturing. And it doesn’t sound loopy. It sounds cheap. In a school basketball season during which San Diego State, Baylor and Dayton could make claims to be probably the greatest groups, why now not Maryland?
Take Tuesday evening, an glaring lure sport for the Terps, wedged between a tricky sport at Illinois — sizzling on Maryland’s heels — and the approaching date with the Spartans, from which ESPN will broadcast its “Faculty GameDay” festivities. To a person, the Terps have been upset with their efficiency towards the Cornhuskers, who have been simply 2-10 within the league.
“We didn’t just like the efficiency,” Turgeon mentioned. “However we have been satisfied we received. It’s that onerous to win.”
True sufficient within the rugged Giant Ten, the place 10 groups are living a number of the best 40 within the NET scores. (The ACC, by way of comparability, has 3.) On Tuesday, Smith — whose growth from final season can’t be measured with a yardstick however slightly calls for a tape measure — swatted away Mack’s game-winning try, and the Terps survived in Faculty Park. He’s 3rd within the convention in rebounding. He’s 3rd within the convention in blocked pictures. He’s averaging 15.1 issues. He’s a pressure.
This is a measure of the Terrapins’ building that Smith — now not his movements however his presence — equipped Turgeon convenience towards the Cornhuskers and is a big explanation why for optimism at Breslin Middle, possibly the Giant Ten’s hardest venue. Final season, when Maryland had ripped off the ones seven immediately wins — six of them in convention play — Smith was once bodily ruled by way of the Spartans, who ended up going to the Ultimate 4. He controlled six issues and 3 rebounds, the latter quantity his lowest output in convention play.
That sport was once, in some way, a pivot level to get Maryland to the place it’s nowadays. Final season’s Terps sputtered to the end. The loss in East Lansing spurred a 7-Eight stretch run, one who incorporated a loss to Nebraska to open the Giant Ten match and a last-second loss to LSU in the second one spherical of the NCAAs. After which there’s the backdrop from earlier seasons: a Five-Nine end to 2018, when the Terps overlooked the match. A Four-7 end in 2017 that incorporated opening-game losses within the convention and NCAA tournaments. And a Five-6 stretch run in 2016 with a crew that was once ranked 3rd within the preseason.
This season feels other. It must be other. To battle repeating the ones outdated springtime effects, Turgeon mentioned previous this season that he had not on time apply, that every one his strikes have been made to assist the Terps succeed in overdue February and March and top slightly than peter out.
Are you able to review that roughly stuff midstream?
“Numerous occasions, coaches say issues,” Turgeon mentioned. “Perhaps I used to be hoping I may communicate it into life.”
Neatly, right here they’re, in place to will it into life. Turgeon gave his crew just about every week off over the vacations. The Terps had a couple of avid gamers switch midseason, in order that they aren’t as deep as anticipated. They’ve taken — gulp — back-to-back days off all through the season to check out to stay recent.
“We’ll see,” Turgeon mentioned.
What we all know: If an opposing participant is dribbling down the court docket within the waning seconds, Turgeon has explanation why to really feel assured and at ease. Those Terrapins lead the Giant Ten at a time when it doesn’t but subject. However they’ve Cowan operating the purpose and Smith guarding the rim. They’ve the items to complete the Giant Ten race proper the place they take a seat now: in first.
Not anything is assured. The rest is imaginable. That’s proper the place Maryland basketball will have to be at the moment of 12 months.