Mark Turgeon's theme surrounding Maryland men's basketball team never wavered throughout the season.
Turgeon told whoever was listening the Terrapins would be better in March than they were in November, although the second-year coach recently admitted he had his doubts at times.
Like in January, when the Terps lost four consecutive road games. Or Feburary, when Maryland lost to Boston College and Georgia Tech, teams that were lower in the ACC standings.
But the Terps regrouped, even after failing to hold a 17-point lead at Virginia in the regular-season finale. They reached the ACC tournament semifinals by beating Wake Forest and then-No. 2 Duke, their second victory over the Blue Devils, before falling to North Carolina.
Maryland's resume didn't warrant an NCAA tourney bid, but the Terrapins made the NIT and reeled off three straight wins to reach the semifinals. Iowa topped the Terps on Tuesday night, 71-60, leaving them one win short of their first NIT title game appearance since 1972.
"It was mid-February and I was like, 'I don't know if we're ever going to figure this out,'" Turgeon said last Friday. "And that would have been a long summer. Not that we've conquered the world or anything like that, but we have figured out how to win."
Maryland finished the season at 25-13 and posted the most wins since 2006-07, when the team went 25-9. Sophomore swingman Dez Wells became the Terps' offensive leader down the stretch and averaged 17 points per game in the postseason (ACC tourney and NIT).
Wells scored a season-high 30 points
against Duke in the ACC tournament quarterfinals and earned all-tournament team honors.
He wasn't as effective against Iowa and finished with nine points (4 for 11 shooting) before fouling out, and Turgeon said he felt sorry for Wells because he knew how much his sophomore wanted to win.
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Maryland has two seniors in forward James Padgett and guard Logan Aronhalt, so Turgeon should have the bulk of his roster back after having 10 players average more than 12 minutes per game.
One underclassmen that could be gone is Alex Len, the Terrapins' 7-foot-1 sophomore center (11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds per game) who is garnering attention from NBA scouts.
If Len leaves for the NBA Draft, the Terps will likely turn to Shaquille Cleare (6-9) and Charles Mitchell (6-8), who worked their way into Turgeon's rotation this past season, to fill the void.
The Terps' backcourt should remain intact, with Nick Faust (9.4 ppg) and Seth Allen (7.8) teaming with Pe'Shon Howard (3.6 assists per game). Wells and Jake Layman (5.5 ppg) also saw time as guards for Turgeon, who tinkered with his lineup all year long.
Perhaps it was a method of getting his players to jell and become a more cohesive unit late in the season
"I'm just really proud of the guys, and we've made huge strides, especially the young guys," Aronhalt said. "They've come such a long way."