Baltimore Sun reporter Don Markus previews the No. 14 Maryland men's basketball team's game against No. 5 Wisconsin at Xfinity Center. (Kevin Richardson/BSMG)
Mark Turgeon's first three seasons with the Maryland men's basketball team were not devoid of memorable wins. Most of them happened for the Terps on their home court — against Top 10 opponents.
Maryland (22-5, 10-4 Big Ten Conference) will be looking to add to its scrapbook, rather than be added to the scrap heap of teams Wisconsin (25-2, 13-1) has defeated this season, when the No. 14 Terps and No. 5 Badgers meet Tuesday night at Xfinity Center.
History suggests that Maryland, which narrowly beat some of the Big Ten's weaker teams in recent weeks, could be up to the task given what has transpired the past two years.
Turgeon's teams have also played up — or down — to the level of competition this season.
"I hate to think that's what we do. It looks that way sometimes," Turgeon said Monday. "I do think we get fired up for big games. I know that."
The Terps beat No. 2 Duke twice two years ago, once at Comcast Center and later in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. A year ago, after nearly upsetting then No. 4 Syracuse at home, Maryland defeated then-No. 5 Virginia at home in their last regular season ACC game.
The only chance to beat a Top 10 opponent this season came in early December, when seniors Dez Wells and Evan Smotrycz were out with injuries, and then-No. 21 Maryland lost at home to then-No. 7 Virginia in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, 76-65.
"I don't think it really carries over year by year. Obviously we're a confident team at home," said Turgeon, whose Terps have only lost on their home floor once this season — the game against Virginia. "It should be an electric atmosphere [against Wisconsin] and all that. It should be a fun night. We're playing one heck of a team."
The Terps — currently in a three-way tie for second place in the Big Ten — will be only the third ranked team Wisconsin has faced this season, and the first on the road. The Badgers, then ranked No. 2, lost at home to then-No. 4 Duke in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Last month, the Badgers throttled then-No. 25 Iowa at home by 32 points.
Senior forward Jon Graham (Calvert Hall) said the Terps need to go into Tuesday's game with a similar mindset as they had when they were unranked and virtually unnoticed early in the season. It contributed to Maryand's upset of then-No. 13 Iowa State in late November in the final of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic.
"We actually try to preach that, just play like a team that has nothing to lose," Graham said Monday. "At the beginning of the year we really didn't have anything to lose. A lot of people around the country really didn't give us a chance to begin with, but we knew how good we were.
"But we had to have this attitude that we had then and we have to continue to keep that attitude. ... It's a mindset that we adopted and it's a mindset that we have to continue to adopt. ... We have to remember what got us there to begin with, having nothing to lose and continuing to get better every day."
Turgeon said he has seen the pressure of being ranked get to the Terps at times, and opponents, particularly those Maryland has faced at home, "played loose and played well, but in the end we've won most of those games and that's really what matters.
"We're still getting used to being good and being the hunted," Turgeon continued. "Obviously tomorrow night's different. They're the top team, they're probably going to win the league. ... Hopefully we're loose because we're the underdog, but hopefully we're dialed in to what we need to do to be successful."
It could also mean that Turgeon has to take a different approach, similar to last year's ACC regular-season finale against Virginia when the Terps — led by Smotrycz in the first half and by Dez Wells and Seth Allen in the second half — turned it into a higher scoring game the Cavaliers were comfortable playing.
Turgeon sees some similarity between the Badgers and Cavaliers in terms of their defense and disclipline.
"You can compare them to Virginia, especially the way they're really guarding this year, rebounding" Turgeon said. "You watch film, some teams try to speed them up and they can handle it. Some teams try to go with the flow. Everybody's tried something on, but they're so disciplined and so well-coached they usually adjust pretty quickly."
Senior guard Richaud Pack went as far as to say that the Terps will have to play "nearly perfect" to win.
Not that Maryland plans to make too big a deal about playing the first-place Badgers.
"I think every game we play up till this point is important," Trimble said Thursday's win over Nebraska. "We know [Wisconsin is] ranked high, that's an important game too. They got the number in front of them, we got the number in front of us. It's going to be a battle. Like I said, just another game."