The math for Maryland is now much more simple.
Win and you're in. Anything short of an ACC tournament championship this week in Greensboro, N.C., likely means the Terrapins miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years.
That's what happens when a team finishes the regular season with three consecutive losses, losses in five of the last seven games, and posts an 18-13 record and a 7-9 mark in the ACC. It's the fifth time in the last eight seasons the Terps have been below .500 in league play.
The latest blemish on a decreasingly impressive argument for inclusion in the NCAA field was a 74-60 home loss on March 5 to Virginia, a team the Terrapins beat by 24 points in late January.
"What we do now is get ready to play in the ACC tournament," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who has taken 17 straight teams to postseason play, including 14 NCAA Tournaments. "I know no team has ever won four games (in the ACC tournament) since the expansion. At the same time, we're going down there to try to win the thing."
But Williams' team has faltered down the stretch, the exact opposite of what his last two teams did to reach the NCAA Tournament, including last year's squad that surged into a tie for the ACC regular-season title with eventual national champion Duke.
Against Virginia, the ACC's eighth-place team, Maryland got outshot, outrebounded and out-hustled in the regular-season finale. The Terps let Sammy Zeglinski hit six of seven 3-pointers en route to a career-high 25 points. Maryland forced just six turnovers, and the Terrapins' offense shot just 37.5 percent in the second half.
Still, the Terps, who had trailed by 13 points, crept within five with 5:14 to play and missed three opportunities to get closer. It's the kind of frustration that has marked the disappointing season but also gives the team hope it can flip a switch this week in Greensboro and capture its first ACC tournament crown since 2004. The seventh-seeded Terrapins meet No. 10 North Carolina State on March 10.
"We're going down to Greensboro to win the ACC championship," sophomore center Jordan Williams said. "That's what we want to do."
--Entering the ACC tournament, Maryland needed one more victory to keep alive a streak of 14 consecutive seasons with at least 19 victories. The Terps have posted at least 17 wins in 17 straight years.
--While Maryland's overall defense wasn't good against Virginia on March 5, the Terrapins did block a season-high 10 shots, including a career-high six by Jordan Williams.
--The March 5 starting lineup -- seniors Dino Gregory, Adrian Bowie, Cliff Tucker, sophomore center Jordan Williams and freshman point guard Terrell Stoglin -- was the eighth different combination Gary Williams has used. Only Gregory and Jordan Williams started every game, and Gary Williams said he would throw things wide open at the March 7 practice.
BY THE NUMBERS: 43 percent -- Seven of Maryland's last nine regular-season opponents shot 43 percent or better from the field, even though the Terps previously ranked among the national leaders in that category. The two teams that didn't reach that level were Longwood and North Carolina, which overcame that field-goal statistic by nabbing 20 offensive rebounds.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We played one of the toughest schedules in the country regardless. We've been in every game. We have one of the best coaches in the country, hands down, who (has) won the tournament. We have one of the best players in the country, hands down. I think Terrell (Stoglin) is one of the top freshmen. So we've got the players to do it. -- Freshman guard Pe'Shon Howard, on the Terrapins' chances of winning the ACC tournament.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--vs. North Carolina State, ACC tournament first round, Greensboro, N.C., March 10
KEY MATCHUPS: Sharpshooter Scott Wood gave the Terps all they wanted with 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting from 3-point range in the teams' previous meeting this season. Look for Maryland to play its best perimeter defender, likely Sean Mosley or Adrian Bowie, on Wood.
Maryland shot 57.7 percent in the second half to pull away for an 87-80 home win in that Feb. 20 meeting. Jordan Williams had 26 points and Terrell Stoglin had 25. N.C. State got 19 from F Tracy Smith and 18 from freshman C.J. Leslie, both interior players, but 3-point specialists have killed the Terps down the stretch.
Maryland's current eight-game winning streak in the series is the longest ever for the Terps in the rivalry, but the Pack own a 17-7 advantage on neutral courts. Gary Williams would argue the ACC tournament, in Greensboro, hardly qualifies as a neutral court.
FUTURES MARKET: Junior center Berend Weijs, the 6-foot-10 Dutchman, gave the Terps a lift off the bench that helped in the rally against Virginia. The rail-thin Weijs hit his only shot -- a jump hook -- and blocked a shot. Freshman Mychal Parker, who has played the least of Maryland's healthy scholarship players this year, has surged lately in practice, too, and he saw 10 minutes against the Cavs.
--Sophomore Jordan Williams had a team-high 17 points against Virginia, but his six rebounds were an 11-game low for the big center. With 359 boards this season through March 6, he should pass Joe Smith's 362 in the next game for the third-best rebounding season in Maryland history. Len Elmore's 412 boards in 1973-74 top the chart.
--Senior F Dino Gregory had 15 points in his final home game. Gregory, who averaged just 2.8 points in his career prior to this season, had scored in double figures in six of his last eight games through March 6, and he was tied for fourth on the team with a 9.0 ppg scoring average.
--Senior G Adrian Bowie had a steal against Virginia, the seventh straight game he had at least one theft. His 124 career steals through March 6 were 17th all-time in Maryland history.