Maryland toeing line between confidence and cockiness

The undisputed No. 1 team in Division I, Maryland is enjoying the fruits of its labor after Saturday’s 12-10 upset of Loyola, the reigning national champion and the previous top-ranked squad.

Off to their third 3-0 start in the last four seasons, the Terps are widely regarded as the team to beat thus far, but coach John Tillman wants to make sure that those accolades don’t overinflate the players’ assessment of their progress.

“The confidence thing is always a tricky thing,” he said during his weekly conference call Tuesday morning. “You certainly want your guys to be confident. Yet, you don’t want them to go beyond the confidence part. They need to know that if they do things right, they play hard, and they’re selfless, they have the potential to beat anybody. But we also want them to realize that every time you go out there, you’ve got to earn it and you’ve got to do things the right way or else you’re going to put yourself in a position to be susceptible to losing a game. There are so many things that go into being a successful team, and I think every coach in every sport is always looking for that sweet spot between being overconfident and being confident, making sure you’re hard on them and challenge them, yet they realize that they do have potential, they can be successful. You just don’t want them too comfortable. I think our seniors have done a good job of realizing that Saturday was Saturday.”

Maryland will try to improve to 4-0 for only the second time in the last eight years with a visit to Atlantic Coast Conference rival Duke this Saturday. The Blue Devils are 2-3 and reeling from a 14-9 loss to unranked Penn last Friday, but Tillman is understandably wary of coach John Danowski, who has guided Duke to six consecutive Final Fours.

“I think they’re starting to get a good sense of their parts,” Tillman said. “They have some younger guys playing there. Their staff, they went through a little change there, and I think they’re still working with each other much like we are and trying to get everything into a position where everybody’s playing to their full potential, and no one does that better than Coach Danowski.”

Tillman also pointed out that in 2011, the Terps followed a 20-8 blistering of Georgetown with a 9-8 overtime loss to the Blue Devils in Durham, N.C. So he wasn’t ready to declare whether Maryland was catching Duke at the right time.

“You know how it is – and maybe it’s an old cliché – the conference games are just so different than a lot of other games because the records go out the window,” he said. “You know those teams, those teams know you, you realize the significance of it, you have everybody’s full attention, teams play really hard. I know two years ago when we went down there, we had come off a big win against Georgetown, and we went down and they beat us. So we’ve seen this before, and we’ve got to make sure we realize we’re going to play a really talented, well-coached team, a team that’s going to play really hard on Saturday, and we have to realize that’s going to happen.”

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