COLLEGE PARK -- This year's Maryland women's basketball team seasons will be remembered for what might have been.
The Terps' wealth of talent and their standing in the national polls make their subsequent collapse in the NCAA tournament that much harder to reconcile.
The Terps lost, 86-82, to Southwest Missouri State at Cole Field House Saturday night in the second round of the Midwest Regional, finishing 22-8. They completed the fourth most successful two-year run in the 18-year history of the program, with a 47-14 mark and a winning percentage of .770.
But, unlike the 1977-79 squads (49-11, .817), the 1981-83 teams (51-12, .810) and the 1987-89 teams (55-9, .864), the players at Maryland the past two seasons didn't win either an Atlantic Coast Conference title or a berth in the Final Four.
"The level of talent is about what we've always had," said Maryland coach Chris Weller. "We've had tremendous talent and I think people have forgotten how much talent and tradition we've had."
The talent was definitely there this year. Center Jessie Hicks was a two-time all-ACC selection and All-America finalist, and guards Malissa Boles and Katrina Colleton made the United States select team that won a gold medal in international competition last summer.
But a series of factors combined to ruin their run, including:
* An inability to win in pressure situations. When the then-third ranked Terps beat No. 1 Virginia 67-65 in January 1992 to end the Cavaliers' 33-game home winning streak, it seemed as though the Maryland players had learned how to survive tense situations.
Instead, the Terps were 0-4 this year in games decided by three points or fewer.
* Inconsistency. The Terps played brilliantly during some stretches and were awful during others. For example, the Terps beat Virginia by four at home and lost by three in the classic, three-overtime ACC tournament final. But they also lost to seventh-place Florida State and eighth-place Wake Forest, teams they should have beaten easily.
In the most obvious example of their up-and-down play, the Terps blew out North Carolina State by 40 in College Park in January, then lost by two to the Wolfpack two weeks later in Raleigh.
* Lineup juggling. The Terps employed 11 different starting lineups through the season, which perhaps contributed to their inconsistency.
When players made a bad pass or took an off-balance shot, they often looked to the sidelines, seemingly waiting for Weller to take them out.
Hicks, Boles and Colleton started all but two games as a unit. Weller rotated the other two starting positions, with forwards Bonnie Rimkus and Kesha Camper losing most of their playing time in the lineup shuffle.
Though Maryland will lose four seniors -- Hicks, Colleton, Boles, and guard Monica Bennett -- the Terps should start next season in the Top 25.
"I think we're going to be pretty good," Weller said. "And for the first time in a while, there won't be great expectations on us, which will be nice."