Like Maryland, Indiana has rebounded to become a surprise Big Ten contender

After matching, disappointing 17-15 seasons a year ago, Maryland and Indiana face off as Big Ten contenders.

Neither Mark Turgeon nor Tom Crean are in reflective moods these days.

The fourth-year Maryland coach and his Indiana counterpart would rather focus on Thursday's nationally televised matchup between the 13th-ranked Terps and No. 23 Hoosiers at Assembly Hall than talk about what transpired last season, or in the months that followed.

Maryland (17-2, 5-1 in the Big Ten) has already won as many games as it did all of last season, when the Terps finished a disappointing 17-15 in their last year in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Indiana (14-4, 4-1) finished last year with the same record, and even greater disappointment coming off a Sweet 16 appearance in 2012-13.

The tumult that followed the Terps into the spring, with the transfer of five scholarship players, seemed almost tame compared to the drinking-related arrests of four Hoosiers in a seven-month span, the last coming in September when freshman Emmitt Holt seriously injured teammate Devin Davis after hitting him with a car.

All the concerns surrounding the programs that met in the national championship game in 2002 — with Maryland winning 64-52 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta — seem to be a distant nightmare, as both teams are among the biggest surprises in the Big Ten, if not the country.

Turgeon has steadfastly declined to talk about what transpired last season, and he didn't mention to his players the adversity Crean's program has endured as they get ready for a game that could go a long way in determining which team might contend for an unexpected Big Ten regular season title.

"We won't talk about what they've done [off the court]. We'll talk about their players and what they run and what they do defensively," Turgeon said Wednesday. "But just talking to my guys the last couple of days, they know this is a big game, and a fun game. All road games are hard, but this one's got a little added meaning with them being 4-1 and us being 5-1. ... We'll be dialed in."

Crean, in his seventh year at Indiana, admitted earlier this week that the negative publicity that followed the Hoosiers — with an Indianapolis columnist calling for the coach's dismissal if another arrest occurred — has helped his young team respond when things haven't gone their way on the court.

"I'm sure it has. I don't think there's any question about that," Crean said. "I don't think you can have some of the things that we've had to deal with this year and not go one of two ways. I think this team has continued to bond, and grow up and get better."

Like Turgeon, Crean's focus this week has been mostly on Maryland. He wouldn't compare the similarities between the issues he and Turgeon had to endure in order to keep their respective programs from imploding. He only compares "the matchup issues" the Terps create because of their size and versatility.

"Maryland has so much more size than us, and they use their length very well," Crean said Wednesday. "They cover a lot of ground. When we move the ball and move without the ball the way Maryland does, then we are similar. They are as good of a passing team as there is in our league."

The Terps, who were picked to finish 10th in the Big Ten in an unofficial media poll prior to the season, returned to the Top 25 for the first time since 2010 on Dec. 1, and they've been in it ever since.

This week marks the first time in two years that the Hoosiers, who were picked ninth in the same Big Ten preseason poll, have been ranked in the Top 25.

"Being ranked, that just makes us work hard. You just want to keep moving up in the rankings," Indiana junior guard Yogi Ferrell told reporters in Bloomington, Ind., on Wednesday. "What I learned, especially from my freshman year, is being ranked doesn't really mean anything. You've got to get out there at the end of the day and still play."

That is the approach Maryland has taken for a while, even when the Terps dropped three spots from No. 11 after losing at Illinois on Jan. 7. Maryland has won three straight games since, including Saturday's impressive 75-59 victory over Michigan State at Xfinity Center.

Considering that Maryland hasn't contended for a regular-season league title since 2009-10, when the Terps tied Duke atop the ACC (and also beat Indiana in a non-conference game in Bloomington), the stakes are starting to go up.

"We're trying to play for a ring this year," junior forward Jake Layman said. "That's our main focus right now. It's not going to get any easier. I've been waiting for this team to kind of break open out of that shell, and I think we're finally there."

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Thursday, 9 p.m.

Where: Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Ind.

TV: ESPNU; Adam Amin (Play-by-Play), Seth Greenberg (Analyst)

Radio: 105.7 FM

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