By Ronnie Bethke
The 2013-2014 Men’s basketball season has been one of both ups and downs for the Terrapins. Though the team has shown genuine promise and boasts a roster full of talented young players, they seemed to struggle early in the season to play to their full potential. They failed to notch any wins against major non-conference opponents, including ranked opponents such as then #18 University of Connecticut (20-5) in the season opener and future Big-10 rival, then #5, Ohio State University (20-6),
This hurt the team because it left them without any notable signature wins heading into the bulk of Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) play, and an overall record of 9-5. Currently, the team is 15-12 overall, and 7-7 in the ACC. Because of this seemingly poor record, fans are disgruntled.
“We have no chance of getting into March Madness this year,” added Senior Computer Engineering major Zack Miller.
Fans have reason to be frustrated. In conference play, the general trend has been that the Terps have played fairly well at home, but have struggled on the road.
Both of these trends are in many ways a result of the schedule. Due to the additions of Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse to the conference this year, the Terps no longer play every team both home and away, and it seems clear that Maryland has had to play most of their weaker opponents thus far on the home court, where they already seem to be able to win more easily.
Generally, someone on the team manages to step up in a big situation, be it scoring leader Dez Wells (15.1 PPG), vastly improved big man Charles Mitchell (6.5 RPG), newcomer Evan Smotrycz (11.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG), or sharpshooter Jake Layman (12.2 PPG), After a road loss to then #17 University of Virginia (22-5, 13-1) After a road loss to then #17 University of Virginia (22-5, 13-1) the teams’ record was 6-6 in the ACC and 14-11.
“On defense we’re just bad, we get dominated in the post. It’s just not a strong game plan; we don’t seem to run too many good plays on offense or defense,” said senior accounting major James Peters following the aforementioned game.
However, the team’s brightest spot this year may have come in the most unlikely package of all: a heartbreaking loss against bitter rival, #2 Duke.
In what could be the rivalry’s final game ever, the Terrapins were electrifying, holding the Blue Devils to just 5-24 on 3-pointers, out-rebounding them 43-36, and playing with immense passion and teamwork in what must be one of the harshest environments a Maryland team has ever had to face.
The Blue Devils had no answer for team leader Dez Wells, as he scored all 17 of his points in the second half.
Even after referees incorrectly gave Duke possession after a jump ball, a call that was recently declared as incorrect by the ACC, Maryland was still in position to take the lead. They had the ball down 68-67 with only 1:15 remaining in the game. However, a victory was not to be, as Charles Mitchell’s final effort bounced twice on the rim and refused to fall.
Now, it seems that the team’s only chance to make it to the NCAA tournamentwould be to win it all in their final ACC tournament. Admittedly, this would be a difficult feat, but given the way they played against Duke, it no longer seems impossible.
More realistically, if the team is able to finish the season strong, they may receive a bid to play in the NIT tournament for the second straight season.