By Max Marcilla
The Maryland Terrapins’ chances at making the NCAA tournament for a fourth consecutive season are dwindling, and are becoming slimmer and slimmer with each crushing Big Ten loss.
After a 75-67 loss on the road to No. 3 Purdue — a game in which Mark Turgeon’s Terps showed fight despite being shorthanded — Maryland dropped to 4-7 in conference play.
And it’s certainly not a good sign that recent history suggests that teams that finish .500 or below in conference play typically don’t make the tournament. The exceptions only occur for those programs that have at least one or two statement wins, or make a deep run in the conference tournament.
Last season, of the 68 teams in the Big Dance, only four made it despite suffering at least nine conference losses: Kansas State (8-10 in Big 12), Xavier (9-9 in Big East), Wake Forest (9-9 in ACC) and Oklahoma State (9-9 in Big 12).
All of those teams boasted more impressive resumes than Maryland does currently.
Kansas State earned a win on the road against then-No. 7 West Virginia, and also defeated Baylor twice, including a win against the Bears in the Big 12 tournament.
Xavier earned a nonconference win against Wake Forest, beat No. 22 Creighton on the road and made the finals of the Big East tournament.
Wake Forest beat No. 8 Louisville and were victims of a tough schedule: five of its nine conference losses came to ranked teams.
Lastly, Oklahoma State beat No. 7 West Virginia on the road and were one of the nation’s hottest teams, winning 10 games in 11 chances from January to February.
Meanwhile, the Terps have failed to pick up a statement win this season, and their opportunities to do so are slim. They have lost all four games against a ranked team and have just one conference win on the road, an overtime squeaker against Illinois, the second-worst team in the Big Ten, by conference record.
In order to just reach .500 in conference play, the Terps will need to win five of their last seven games. It’s not an impossible task, as they only play one ranked team (Michigan in the season finale), but midweek games on the road against Nebraska and Northwestern could prove to be just as challenging.
Maryland has a fair excuse if it does miss the tournament: It lost forwards Justin Jackson and Ivan Bender before the New Year to season-ending injuries and center Michal Cekovsky injured himself on Tuesday and has an uncertain future.
Missing the NCAA tournament would be a disappointing, albeit defendable, finish to what looked like a promising Terrapin season.