A year ago, the Maryland men's basketball team had a lot of momentum going into its first Big Ten Conference tournament in Chicago. The No. 8 Terps were riding a seven-game winning streak as they headed to the United Center and had their first top-10 ranking in more than a decade.
Guards Dez Wells and Melo Trimble had been named first-team all-Big Ten. Mark Turgeon shared Coach of the year honors with Wisconsin's Bo Ryan after leading the Terps to a surprising second-place finish behind the Badgers and a school-record 26 regular-season wins.
When Maryland (24-7, 12-6) heads to Indianapolis later this week for this year's Big Ten tournament, the preseason hype and midseason buzz about the Terps has turned into a disquieting murmur regarding Turgeon's struggling team.
Ranked as high as No. 2 in the country a month ago, the Terps fell from No. 14 to No. 18 Monday in the Associated Press media poll after Sunday's 80-62 defeat at Indiana. It was the fourth loss in the last six games for Maryland and its most onesided defeat of the season.
When the Big Ten's postseason honors were announced Monday night, no Terp made the first-team. Trimble, the league's Preseason Player of the Year, was named to the second team. Freshman center Diamond Stone was named to the third team.
Reminded that the team's momentum last season didn't foreshadow postseason success — the Terps won a game each in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments — Turgeon said that this year's team is still capable of making a long run in March.
"Teams can turn it on a dime, but I'm not disappointed with the way we're playing," Turgeon said. "I'm disappointed that we've lost a couple of games late, we ended up a three seed in a great league. We had a very difficult road schedule.
"Not many teams won at Purdue or at Indiana. Those games late in the season in a tough road environment where we competed is going to help us in the postseason. It's going to help us grow as a team, keep us hungry."
Trimble, who has showed signs of emerging from a three-week slump by following up an 18-point, five-assist performance in a win over Illinois last Thursday by scoring 17 points against the Hoosiers, said Sunday that the Terps should have the same mindset as last year's team.
"We're just back to being underdogs," Trimble said outside the team's locker room at Assembly Hall. "All last year we were underdogs and we played through every game like we were going to come out on top.
"I think going into this post-season, we got the mindset that every team is going to think they can beat us because we're going through these losses, but hopefully we're going to be able to turn things around."
The Terps, who earned a double-bye in the Big Ten tournament for the second straight year, will play in Friday's quarterfinals as the No. 3 seed against the winner of Thursday's game between No. 6 seed Wisconsin and the winner of Wednesday's play-in game between No. 11 Nebraska and No. 14 Rutgers.
Asked what Maryland can do to end its recent slide, senior guard Rasheed Sulaimon said: "Just keep being together as a unit. We definitely hit some adversity late in the season, but we can't splinter. If we splinter, that can allow it [the losing] to roll forward into March."
Should the Terps advance to the semifinals, they could meet Michigan State, the No. 2 seed as well as the second-ranked team in the country. Maryland lost in East Lansing, Mich., in January. For good reason, Sulaimon is not looking that far ahead.
"We still have a game Friday," he said. "I definitely think this hard road game [against Indiana] has definitely prepared us for the postseason. Obviously we didn't do as well as we wanted in the regular season. "There's definitely some things we can learn from going into the postseason.
"Everything is a neutral setting and it will be to our benefit. We're looking to take care of business and if we happen to match up with one of these teams we lost to on the road again, it's tough to beat a team twice, so we'll be looking forward to it."
One of the more encouraging signs — maybe the only one — is that Trimble seems to be moving and shooting better than he did for nearly a month. Though the first slump of his college career saw his stature in the league slip, Trimble is encouraged going into the postseason.
"Like I told Coach Turgeon, my body hasn't been feeling right," Trimble said Sunday. "Last week in practice, I felt really great and it's been showing the past two games. My legs are just under me. When my legs are feeling great, I'm great."
NOTES: Senior forward Jake Layman, who was named third-team all-league last season by the media and honorable mention by the coaches, was named honorable mention Monday. Sulaimon and redshirt junior forward Robert Carter Jr. were also honorable mention selections. Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine was named Big Ten Player of the Year, Indiana's Tom Crean was named Coach of the Year, Purdue center A.J. Hammons was named Defensive Player of the Year and Wisconsin redshirt freshman center Ethan Happ was named Newcome of the Year.