Terps' road to NCAA tournament? 'Four wins in Atlanta'

Mark Turgeon had been talking Monday about how he had no true point guard, how his team couldn't finish games, how his center was reluctant to shoot, and how his post players have been maddeningly inconsistent.

So when the Maryland coach was asked about the Terps' chances for an NCAA tournament bid, he seemed headed for a Jim Mora Sr. moment.

Mora — the former NFL coach — famously responded "Playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs? I'm just hoping we can win a game" when asked about the postseason prospects for his 4-6 Indianapolis Colts in 2001. The squeaky-voiced monologue was later featured in a beer commercial.

Turgeon was calmer than Mora but equally blunt. The coach, whose team lost by 27 points at Virginia on Saturday to drop to 15-11 (5-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) replied that Maryland would need to win the ACC tournament to claim an NCAA berth.

The Terps, who host Miami (16-9, 7-5) Tuesday night at Comcast Center, have four regular-season games remaining before the ACC tournament begins March 8 in Atlanta. The ACC tournament winner receives an automatic NCAA bid.

"Four in Atlanta. Four wins in Atlanta," Turgeon said quickly in response to the question, ruling out any possibility of an at-large berth. "Yeah, let's don't kid ourselves. We've got to win four in Atlanta or eight straight, however you want to look at it."

It's uncertain whether Turgeon's outlook would have been any different had the Terps managed to defeat Virginia, then ranked No. 22. Maryland hasn't beaten a ranked opponent this season. Its best win came against Notre Dame, which wasn't ranked at the time and is now No. 20.

The Terps probably needed to play their best game of the season to beat Virginia — which entered the game second in the nation in scoring defense — but played one of their worst.

"We're down 18 the last media timeout and we lose by 27. It's just who we are," Turgeon said. "We don't finish games very well."

Maryland scored just 13 points in the second half. Senior Sean Mosley said he is glad the Terps play another game so quickly so he can begin to forget about that miserable half.

"We probably played the worst basketball that we could have played the whole year," Mosley said. "We can play 30 minutes great but the last minutes … we kind of have some slippage."

Turgeon, who usually balances criticism of his players with praise, said that until Saturday, the Terps had managed to avoid playing so poorly since the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in November. "That's a long time since we played not very well," he said.

But, as the team practiced for the Hurricanes — who beat the Terps, 90-86, in double overtime in the first meeting on Feb. 1 — Turgeon was left with issues that included:

• How to get more depth since point guard Pe'Shon Howard's season-ending knee injury three games ago. The coach said he is likely to play a walk-on guard — perhaps Jonathan Thomas or Arnold Richmond — some against Miami.

• How to get center Alex Len to shoot more. Len has taken less than five shots in each of the past four games. "He's been a reluctant shooter for awhile," Turgeon said.

• How to get improved play from post players Berend Weijs and Ashton Pankey. "Two out of the last three games they haven't been very good. All of them," Turgeon said.

Win or lose, Turgeon said he just wants to see players perform better than Saturday and regain some swagger.

"Our bus was silent for three hours coming home" from Virginia, the coach said. "Really, the only one talking was me and I was just venting to my assistants."

Note: Turgeon said he would one day like to see the Terps play Georgetown in men's basketball. No games are scheduled, and the Washington Post reported that Maryland isn't scheduling games with the Hoyas in other sports until a men's basketball agreement is reached. "I hope there is a game between us in the future when we get a little bit better," Turgeon said. "It'd be great for everybody. But [Hoyas coach] John Thompson and I have to be on the same page for that to happen."



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