Don't count the Terrapins out just yet.
Maryland scored a big win Feb. 23, knocking off the ACC's third-place team, Florida State, in a 78-62 upset at Comcast Center. Now the stage is set for another big test, the Terrapins heading to 19th-ranked North Carolina on Feb. 27.
A road win there would be the kind of result that could put the Terrapins back into the NCAA Tournament discussion after their roller coaster 18-10 season (7-6 in the ACC). The win over Florida State was Maryland's first this season over a Top 50 RPI team -- the Seminoles were 50th heading into this week.
But the Terrapins don't have any horrific losses either. In fact, they've lost seven times to teams that have been ranked at some point this season, and they only have two losses by more than nine points.
The knock on this team is that it just doesn't have that big win to turn NCAA selection committee heads. And thanks to a down year in the ACC, the Terps haven't had as many chances as usual. The game at Chapel Hill is their last regular-season opportunity.
With two wins in a row and four victories in the last six games through Feb. 23, Maryland is making a case for a third straight NCAA Tournament bid. Three regular-season games remain, so the suddenly torrid Terps have a chance to enter the ACC tournament with 20 wins, a level they've reached the last two years and three of the last four.
Typically, coach Gary Williams has his team playing its best basketball as March closes in.
"I don't know what's going to happen, but we've put ourselves in a good position now," Williams said.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: Playing the country's top-ranked defense in terms of field-goal percentage Wednesday night, it was Maryland that turned in the great defensive effort, holding the Seminoles to just 39 percent shooting in the second half while the Terrapins were shooting 52 percent in each half. Florida State finished at 43.4 percent (23 of 53).
Maryland's offense had accounted for 83 or more points in five of the last six games, but Gary Williams had intimated he thought his defense had let the team down on occasions recently as the offense took off. On Feb. 23, against a tough, veteran opponent, the Maryland defense won the game.
While Florida State led the nation, allowing just 35.7 percent shooting from the field, the Terrapins hadn't been too shabby either, yielding 39.7 percent, the third-best figure in the ACC.
Maryland had five players in double figures against the Seminoles, but it also had a great team effort defensively, surely another good sign that the Terps just may be playing their best basketball at just the right time.
--After hitting no 3-pointers in the win over North Carolina State on Feb. 20, Maryland canned seven of 14 against Florida State. Freshman Terrell Stoglin led the way with 3-of-4 shooting from behind the arc on his way to a game-high 17 points. Stoglin was averaging 22.3 ppg over the last three games through Feb. 23.
--After a streak of 407 consecutive games with at least one 3-point field goal made, Maryland had failed to make a trey twice this season, including Feb. 20 against North Carolina State. The Terps attempted just one 3-pointer, instead giving the Pack a steady diet of Jordan Williams and Dino Gregory around the basket.
--Hitting .661 from the free-throw line this season through Feb. 20, the Terrapins canned 23-of-25 (92 percent) in holding off North Carolina State on Feb. 20. Maryland has been above the 66 percent mark in six straight games as of Feb. 20.
--The 2010 ACC Player of the Year, Greivis Vasquez, who also won the Bob Cousy Award last season, was honored at the Feb. 20 game, his No. 21 hung from the rafters.
BY THE NUMBERS: 16 -- That's how many Maryland men's basketball jerseys hang in Comcast Center now that Greivis Vasquez's jersey was placed there Feb. 20.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "If you look at the history of Maryland basketball, we have a tendency of surprising people toward the end of the season. I don't know what that is, whether it's a spell on us, or a curse. Seems like we always do well toward the end of a season. I don't think it's too late." -- Senior forward Dino Gregory.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--at North Carolina, Feb. 27
KEY MATCHUPS: What a difference a couple of days make. At North Carolina, the Terrapins tangle with what entering the week was the ACC's second-highest scoring team (78.2). Maryland was third (77.8) as of Feb. 20. The Tar Heels' size around the basket could be troublesome for the Terps, who will try to press and create an open-court game.
FUTURES MARKET: Sean Mosley, bumped from the starting lineup for just the second time this season Sunday against NC State, looked more comfortable and made more contributions coming off the bench. Mosley, who had just four points in the loss at Virginia Tech, bounced back with 10 points, including eight in the final six minutes as the Terps took control against NC State.
An undersized (6-foot-4) small forward, Mosley showed his versatile, scrappy game with 10 points, six rebounds and two steals in 26 minutes, and he's a better player when he's not a focal point offensively.
--Senior F Dino Gregory started slowly, scoring just two first-half points, but he finished with 14 points against Florida State on Feb. 23. It was his fifth consecutive game in double figures, a career-best streak. Gregory bumped his scoring average up to 8.9 points a game.
--Sophomore C Jordan Williams had 11 points and 11 rebounds against Florida State on Feb. 23, his 20th double-double this year but his first in five games. Williams also went over 600 rebounds for his career, just the seventh player in ACC history to reach that plateau as a sophomore.