Maryland basketball hits the reset button in advance of NCAA Tournament

Maryland has struggled recently, so the Terps are trying to change their approach heading into the tournament.

If Mark Turgeon were a computer geek, it might be as simple as rebooting a laptop with a mouse cursor that keeps getting frozen. If he were a car mechanic, it might be as easy as turning the ignition over a few times to get the pistons firing again.

It's not the same for a college basketball coach trying to get a team to rediscover its January magic in the middle of March.

That is what Turgeon and his young Terps have been hoping to do the past few days, first at Xfinity Center after returning from a disappointing loss to Northwestern in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament in Washington last week and again here since arriving late Monday night.

Maryland (24-8), which received a surprising sixth seed despite its late-season slide, will play No. 11 seed Xavier (21-13) in the first full round of the NCAA tournament Thursday at the Amway Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:50 p.m. and will be televised on TNT.

Asked Wednesday whether it is difficult to seemingly try to start over after losing six of 10 games, Turgeon said: "No, it's been easy because of the way we played in the Big Ten tournament. We wanted to get back to who we've been most of the year.

"The guys have really bought into it. I don't think it's been hard at all. We changed the way we practiced a little bit. We're trying to get a little rhythm for our bench guys, too, which is important. It's been a great week. It's been an unbelievable week of practice."

Turgeon is trying to get his team to play the way it did when the Terps won seven straight after blowing a double-digit lead at home to Nebraska on New Year's Day.

The 8-1 start in the Big Ten allowed Maryland to get off to a 20-2 start overall, the best in school history.

That seems as if it was another season.

"As a coach, you're always trying to figure it out," Turgeon said. "You never stop. I think I've tried it before. You just do different things to try to motivate your guys and get them going and playing their best basketball. Hopefully we've done that and we get a chance to play some really good basketball this weekend."

Fortunately for the Terps, their opponent Thursday has struggled as much, if not more. The Musketeers have gone 6-7 since star point guard Edmond Sumner suffered a season-ending knee injury in late January. That stretch included a six-game losing streak.

Junior guard Melo Trimble doesn't think the deflating loss to Northwestern — in which the Terps saw a 10-point lead early in the second half disappear quickly during a 20-2 run for the Wildcats — has anything to do with the team's new mindset.

"Even if we did have a good tournament at the Big Ten, it's still a reset button because March Madness is different," Trimble said after the selections were announced Sunday. "This is where it counts. This is what we had an offseason for and practices throughout the season. This is what we prepared for."

Trimble said Wednesday that what he and his teammates hope will be a return to how they played in January started in practice the past few days.

"We didn't really have a good week of practice heading into the Big Ten [tournament]; this week has been a big change," he said. "I think we're really prepared."

Turgeon called it a "mind thing" in the difference between how his team has played recently and how it played in January.

"If you're mentally focused you do all the things you're supposed to do," Turgeon said. "You make free throws and you make jump shots, just being mentally there. I think we're fresh right now. It's just a mindset that you're going to do it. We were so determined during that streak. We've got to be determined this weekend."

Freshman guard Kevin Huerter, one of the team's three freshmen starters, said there was a different feel at practice beginning Sunday. The team is trying to bond, saying "Team first" as a mantra.

Rather than using defined first and second teams at practice, as he does for much of the season, Turgeon mixed his lineups as he would during the preseason, when he's still trying to figure it out.

"We scrimmaged a lot. We had a lot of different lineups playing together," Huerter said. "It was a really fun practice for the players. Hopefully we can continue the team-like attitude throughout this tournament."

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