COLLEGE PARK - The job of the Maryland basketball team on Sunday is to make sure the school's tenure in the Atlantic Coast Conference ends with a bang, not a whimper.
Next year, all of Maryland's sports programs will compete as members of the Big Ten.
So, the Terrapins will say goodbye to 61 years of basketball tradition in the ACC when they host border rival Virginia at noon.
In the context of the 2013-14 season, the game means almost nothing. No. 5 Virginia, one of the surprise teams in the country, is 25-5 and has already wrapped up first place in the conference standings, regardless of the outcome against Maryland.
The Terrapins, on the other hand, have been a disappointment. They come into the matchup with Virginia with almost no hope for an NCAA bid and instead find themselves scrambling to ensure a winning record and a possible NIT spot.
"I know there's a lot going on, but we just want to play well," said Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, who has seen his team fall just short in several games against topflight opponents this season. "We've been really close to a lot of teams. This is the best team in our league, so it's great opportunity for us."
If Maryland is somehow able to spring an upset, it would certainly make the last ACC encounter one to remember. It could also potentially give the Terrapins some momentum heading into this week's conference tournament. Maryland hasn't won more than two games in a row since the first of the year.
"We're just trying to get a win against at really good team," junior Evan Smotrycz said. "If we could beat them in our last home ACC game, that would be huge."
Maryland put a scare into Virginia in the first meeting between the schools on Feb. 10. Maryland trailed by four in the late-going before Virginia put the game away at the foul line en route to a 61-53 victory.
The second matchup figures to be just as low-scoring, thanks to Virginia's effective sagging man-to-man defense and its deliberate offense. Virginia leads the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 54.8 points per game.
Turgeon thought Maryland coped effectively with Virginia defense, but didn't shoot well enough (40.4 percent) to come all the way back from a nine-point deficit late in the game.
"We executed pretty well down there," he said. "Hopefully, we can make a few more shots."
When the Terrapins try to go inside against the Cavaliers in the regular-season finale, sophomore Charles Mitchell will be one of the players Maryland employs in the post. Mitchell was asked to leave the Maryland bench late in the first half of Tuesday's home game against Virginia Tech after he got into a heated argument with assistant coach Scott Spinelli. Mitchell did not return to the Maryland sideline until midway through the second half and remained at the far end of the bench, away from the coaching staff.
But he will not face any additional discipline as a result of his outburst, according to Turgeon.
"He paid his dues," the coach said. "I don't want to get into it too much, but off the court he does everything right, goes to class. On the court, he gets a little too emotional during games. He was embarrassed by [his early exit], but he needed it. Hopefully, he'll grow up a little bit."
Mitchell had started the previous eight games, but may get bumped aside for classmate Shaquille Cleare against Virginia.
Cleare offered both bulk and energy in the 64-47 victory over Virginia Tech, contributing six points and three rebounds in 17 minutes in relief of Mitchell. That performance may earn him a start against Virginia, although Turgeon wouldn't commit to that on Saturday.
"I was really happy for Shaq," Turgeon said. "He responded He really played well. We'll see [about the starting lineup]. I don't know what I'm gonna do."