While Maryland's 80-60 win at Virginia Tech came against a bad, undermanned team that has lost eight straight games, the Terps showed that they are at least playing up to some of the potential their fans had hoped for going into the season.
A lot has to do with the continued rounding into shape of sophomore point guard Seth Allen, who had the kind of numbers (16 points, seven assists, five rebounds and only two turnovers) that Maryland coach Mark Turgeon believes Allen is capable of doing on every game.
A reporter who covers the Hokies asked junior forward Dez Wells after the game how a team that looks as deep and talented as the Terps could have already lost nine games this season?
"We can be pretty bad," Wells said in about as honest of an assessment I have heard from him in his two seasons in College Park. "We can be pretty bad. Tonight we were pretty good, and as long as we can continue to build off this, we'll be fine."
Maryland (13-9, 5-4) has a critical stretch of games in the next two weeks, starting with Tuesday's game at North Carolina. The Terps then host a Florida State team that beat them by 24 in Tallahassee last month, followed by road games at Virginia and Duke.
Forget what these games mean to Maryland's postseason chances, considering that the Terps are barely an NIT team right now -- if that. Their two best chances in what coach Mark Turgeon acknowledges is the toughest stretch of the season come in the first two games. Maryland has never beaten the Tar Heels (0-6), Seminoles (0-3) and Cavaliers (0-4) since Turgeon came to College Park. His combined record against the four teams is 2-17.
His two biggest victories at Maryland came last season against Duke, but after watching the Blue Devils nearly beat Syracuse at the Carrier Dome on Saturday night, I think it's going to take a lot for Maryland to win on its last foreseeable trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium on Feb. 15.
Turgeon made an interesting comment after the game Saturday. He said that after the recent loss at N.C. State, he had "to turn into a real jerk" when dealing with his team. It sort of affirmed what a couple of former coaches have said about Turgeon as his team struggled -- that he might be too nice.
Wells made it clear that the Turgeon the fans and media see is not always the same guy the players see in practice.
"They see a different coach than we see, especially when we were messing up and we're not executing and listening to him," Wells said after scoring 19 points against the Hokies. "We see a totally different person than the one people see when he's not around basketball.
"But he's just a great competitor. He wants us to execute and do exactly what he says and he's done it before. He's won plenty of games and been to the Elite Eight, and he's had great talent on his teams in the past. He knows what his offense and his defense can do if we all buy in."