Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Don Markus and producer-editor Jonas Shaffer weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in Maryland sports.
How surprising is it that the Maryland basketball team found its way onto ESPN.com’s latest NCAA bracket, and what do the Terps need to do to stay there?
Don Markus: Truthfully, I had to check the date of Joe Lunardi’s latest post -- twice. It was hard to imaging that Mark Turgeon’s team had done anything to deserve even the 12th seed that it was given.
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Obviously, it’s very early in the process, and two of Maryland’s four losses going into Saturday’s game against Boston University have come against teams currently ranked in the Top 10 -- Ohio State and Connecticut.
What it says to me is that Lunardi, who has never seemed like a big fan of either Turgeon or the Terps, couldn’t find enough teams to fill out his bracket. It also says that the addition of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame should give the Atlantic Coast Conference the respect it has lacked the past few years.
What do the Terps do to stay there?
In the short-term, which means very little, they need to win the rest of their nonconference games -- after Boston University, Maryland plays Tulsa and North Carolina Central -- and get off to a decent start in the ACC.
With three of their next five ACC games on the road, including one at Pittsburgh, I think Maryland needs to be able to steal at least one (if not two) wins away from Comcast Center to stay in the top half of the ACC standings. Winning at Pitt on Jan. 6 will go far.
Another game that looms large in Maryland’s early ACC schedule is against Notre Dame at home on Jan. 15. That’s certainly a winnable game, given the struggles of the Fighting Irish in the early portion of its nonconference schedule.
The more quality wins the Terps put together -- and Boston University should be viewed as one if the Terriers emerge as the Patriot League’s NCAA tournament representatives in their first year in the league -- the quicker they will put the loss to Oregon State behind them.
I also think it’s important that the Terps prove they are a different team once Seth Allen comes back. Though the sophomore guard might not be held in that high regard from a national perspective, he was supposed to be Maryland’s starter at point guard.
No matter how shaky the Terps have been this season, including during last Saturday’s four-point win at home over Florida Atlantic (which then lost at Stetson), Turgeon is right in one regard: they will have plenty of chances to prove they are worthy of being among the top 65 teams in the country.
As hard as it is to believe, they are worthy right now. At least according to one prominent bracketologist.
The Terps will play their first bowl game since 2010 next week. What is your assessment of the regular season?
Jeff Barker: Which season? The one that started 4-0? The 1-4 stretch that followed? Or the final, redemptive period in which Maryland won two of its last three games?
I can't help but look at the season in chunks.
The worst moments were the beginning and end of the 1-4 tailspin. It started with the sobering, 63-0 loss to Florida State and its Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback Jameis Wimston. It ended with a game that, I think, was even worse for the Terps -- the 20-3 loss to a middling Syracuse team on Maryland's home field.
But the Terps salvaged their season the next week, upsetting Virginia Tech in overtime on the road. It was the biggest victory of coach Randy Edsall's Marylamd tenure, and it made the Terps bowl-eligible. I think Maryland looked like a different team after that, and so did Edsall.
Edsall said that some players -- including running back Albert Reid and linebacker Keith Bowers -- stood up and challenged the team before the win over the Hokies.
"That was something that I was waiting to have happen, because that’s when you become good, when those guys go and take the bull by the horns, and now they’re starting to hold each other accountable," Edsall said this week. "After that, there was a difference in how we handled ourselves and what we believed in."
What’s this I hear about a Melo Trimble-Dion Wiley showdown?
Jonas Shaffer: The rumors are true. And because events like Saturday’s DMV Tip-Off Classic come with a level of hype that makes next-day highlight reels a near certainty, I couldn’t blame you if you blew off a trip to Wise High School in Upper Marlboro to kick back on your La-Z-Boy and throw down some eggnog. 'Tis the season, after all.
But for only $10, wouldn’t you rather have a front-row seat to a game pitting Maryland’s possible backcourt of the future against one another? Think of all the proclamations about the Terps’ glorious future or impending doom that would entitle you to. And while guard commits Melo Trimble and Dion Wiley could, and probably will, take the same court again sometime in the next few months for some silly postseason all-star game, this game should mean something to their teams.
There are other top-level players slated to compete in Saturday’s Classic -- Chinanu Onuaku (Riverdale Baptist/Louisville), Tre Campbell (St. John’s (D.C.)/Georgetown) and James Palmer (St. John’s (D.C.)/Miami) among them -- but O’Connell-Potomac is the nightcap for a reason. The teams have a combined one loss to area teams between them this winter, and maybe another future Terp on the court. Class of 2016 Potomac guard Randall Broddie is averaging almost 20 points per game and could be a future Maryland target.
If you’re a fan of Washington-area basketball, or just want to see how many 3-pointers Trimble and Wiley will combine for (hint: It will be a lot), support the showcase. Tickets will be available at the door the day of the games. As stated, admission is $10, but children under the age of 7 get in for free.