Maryland started its men's basketball season in New York, when the Terrapins took on Kentucky in early November at the Barclays Center.
The Terps' season will end in New York, too. Only this time they're playing at Madison Square Garden, in the mix for a national championship.
Maryland (25-12) faces Iowa (24-12) tonight in the NIT semifinals inside one of basketball's most sacred sites. The Garden, which bills itself as "The World's Most Famous Arena," hosts the NIT final four every year.
Most of college basketball is focused on the NCAA tourney during this time of year, but the Terps and coach Mark Turgeon seem happy to still be playing.
"It's almost been a six-month season for us, which is tiring just to think about it," Turgeon said after his team practiced last Friday. "But I think we're prepared."
Turgeon said he has mostly fond memories of Madison Square Garden, from his playing days at Kansas to winning the preseason NIT in 2007 as Texas A&M's coach.
"It's just really cool, really good for our guys," Turgeon said. "Any NBA player, any great player, 'It's the mecca, it's the mecca. This is where you want to be.' I know our guys will be fired up."
Junior guard Pe'Shon Howard played there as a freshman, when Maryland took on Illinois and Pittsburgh in November, 2010. Howard said he remembers the jitters when he took the court, and when he got a chance to toe the free-throw line against Pitt.
"My legs were shaking," Howard said. "The ball barely made it over the rim, but they both went in and I was just like, 'Whew.' In the [Illinois] game I got into foul trouble. I was so excited I kept fouling people."
It's been a long time since then, Howard said, just as Maryland feels it's a much different team now - winners of five of its last six - than the one that lost to Kentucky in Brooklyn on Nov. 9.
"We're a confident bunch of guys, I think you can see it," Howard said. "And I think that's why we're able to be so loose."
The Terrapins face an Iowa team that has won 10 of its last 13 games, coming off a 75-64 victory over Virginia in the NIT quarterfinals. The Hawkeyes feature 6-foot-6 junior swingman Roy Devyn Marble, who leads the team in scoring at 15.1 points per game, and could pose matchup problems with their size.
Freshman center Adam Woodbury starts and stands 7-1, and 6-8 sophomore forward Aaron White averages 12.9 points per game.
Turgeon has used smaller lineups in recent games to success but said the Terps shouldn't have trouble utilizing their big men if needed, led by 7-1 sophomore center Alex Len (11.8 points, 7.8 rebounds per game).
"I feel confident whichever way we have to go, we're ready for," Turgeon said. "We couldn't say that in January or early February. We're fresh physically, we're fresh mentally. We look like a team that feels comfortable now."
Baylor takes on BYU in the other semifinal, tonight at 7, and the winners face off Thursday night for the NIT championship. Maryland has prior Madison Square Garden NIT experience, having won the tourney in 1972 and reached the semifinal in 2005.
The moment isn't lost on Turgeon and his Terps.
"This is my first time going there, so it's going to be awesome," said freshman guard Jake Layman. "It's going to be fun to play there. My whole family's going to be there. I'll have a whole cheering section, so it will be fun to see."
Added sophomore guard Nick Faust: "It's a big stage. We just want to win."