Maryland men's basketball team falls out of top 10 for first time this season

The Terps have lost three of four to drop into a four-way tie for second in the Big Ten.

In a move that was expected and probably long overdue, the struggling Maryland men's basketball team dropped out of the top 10 for the first time this season.

The Terps, who came into the season at No. 3 and were up to No. 2 as recently as three weeks ago, fell four spots to No. 14 in the Associated Pres media Top 25 and two spots in the USA Today Sports Top 25 after Saturday's loss at then-No. 20 Purdue.

Maryland (23-6, 11-5 Big Ten Conference) has lost three of its last four going into Thursday's Senior Night game against Illinois (13-16, 5-11) at Xfinity Center.

The Terps, who are in a four-way tie for second in the Big Ten, finish the regular season Sunday at Indiana (23-6, 13-3) which is now ranked ahead of Maryland at No. 12 in AP and 11 in USA Today. Purdue (22-7, 10-6) moved up to No. 13 in AP and Iowa (20-8, 11-5) dropped from No. 8 to No. 15.

The Hawkeyes, who have lost three straight, host the Hoosiers on Tuesday in what will be a key game in terms of both the Big Ten regular-season title as well as the seedings for the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis beginning next week. Michigan State (24-5, 11-5) is up to No. 2 in the country behind Kansas in the AP poll.

Eight other top 10 teams lost since the rankings came out last week, the most recent coming Sunday when No. 5 Xavier, fresh off its home win over No. 1 Villanova, fell on the road at unranked Seton Hall and No. 8 Iowa later lost at unranked Ohio State.

The Musketeers remained No. 5 in both polls.

Arizona, which had been ranked right ahead of the Terps, lost on the road at unranked Colorado and at No. 22 Utah and dropped to No. 18 in the AP poll and No. 16 in the USA Today poll.

"I think for the teams that will be seeded in the top four lines, any team in there if they're healthy, in a good frame of mind, if they're confident going into the tournament, they're capable of doing something special because there's nobody out there that is invulnerable," ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said in an interview Monday.

Bilas said that going into the NCAA tournament a year ago, Kentucky was the clear favorite, but there were also five other teams "that were better than any team we've got right now. The top 25 is basically the same this year as it was last year. They're just numbered differently."

"The teams are nowhere near the same," he said. "More teams are capable of falling down, and more teams are capable of advancing farther than they could have last year. The top teams last year were not going to get in their own way, they were not going to fall down."

More important than the rankings is how these recent defeats will impact Maryland's seeding for the NCAA tournament and Big Ten tournament.

CBS Sports dropped the Terps to a No. 4 seed in its bracket released Sunday afternoon, then moved Maryland back to a No. 3 a few hours later after Iowa's loss, which pushed the Hawkeyes down to a No. 5 seed, and Duke's loss at Pittsburgh, which dropped the Blue Devils to a No. 4 seed.

The Terps are No. 21 overall in KenPom.com's latest RPI.

A lot will be determined this week in the Big Ten.

If Indiana beats Iowa in Iowa City, the Hoosiers will clinch the league's regular-season title before they even host the Terps Sunday at Assembly Hall. If Indiana loses and Maryland beats Illinois, the Terps still have a chance of winning at least a share of the title.

Based on the league's tiebreaker rules, Maryland would likely have to lose to the Fighting Illini and the Hoosiers to lose a chance at a top-four seed in the Big Ten tournament and the coveted double-bye [straight into the quarterfinals] that goes along with it.

Bilas, who picked Maryland to win the national championship before the season started, acknowledged that the Terps have issues with turnovers and rebounding — particularly on the defensive boards — but if sophomore point guard Melo Trimble can get his health and confidence back, Bilas said Mark Turgeon's team has as good a shot as anybody.

"There's nobody out there they cannot beat," Turgeon said. "It's just that the list of teams that can beat them is a pretty long one too. But that is true of just about everybody."

don.markus@baltsun.com

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