Now all they can do is wait.
The Maryland Terrapins are going to be sweating out the next 23 some odd hours until the NCAA Tournament Selection Show has completed on CBS tomorrow evening to find out whether or not they will be heading to the Big Dance after falling to the North Carolina Tar Heels, 79-76, in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament Saturday afternoon.
This marks the Terrapins third loss to the Tar Heels on the season as they fell to 22-12 on the y ear. Selection Sunday will be more stressful than anyone associated with the program would have hoped; the Terps fate will hinge on whether those 22 victories were good enough to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament. I have been fairly steadfast in the fact that, with the non-conference schedule the Terrapins played, 23 wins would be the magic number for this team to make the Tournament. With the loss against North Carolina, clearly they will fall short of that number.
In the two previous meetings between these two conference foes the Terrapins had been bested by the Tar Heels “Big Three” of Reggie Bullock, PJ Hairston and James Michael McAdoo. Despite what looked to be a fairly gruesome hand injury suffered by PJ Hairston last night against Florida State, the sophomore stretch PF was able to play 36 minutes and pour in 13 points. However the real star of the show for the Tar Heels was Dexter Strickland, who finished the game with 15 points on 7/12 shooting. For a player whose career high in a single game is 19 points, Strickland showed all the offensive ability that made him a McDonald’s All-American while a prep player at St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, NJ. The foursome of Bullock, McAdoo, Hairston and Strickland accounted for 56 of North Carolina’s 79 points on the afternoon.
Alex Len led the Terrapins with a 20-point effort in the loss despite only taking 7 shots. Len did what a big man with a major size advantage on the court should be doing: getting to the charity stripe for freebies. On the day, Len shot 10/12 from the foul line which certainly helped the Terrapins stay in the game down the stretch. For an opposing coach there is nothing more frustrating than giving up points while the clock is stopped, and Len was able to make use of the advantage he had on the inside to do just that Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately for the Terps, his efforts were not enough to push them over the hump into the conference title game on Sunday.
Dez Wells and Nick Faust were the other Terrapins players who helped carry the load today, as they finished with 15 and 17 points respectively. Faust was especially hot from beyond the arc, going 5/9 on three point attempts on the afternoon. And yet despite his hot hand from the outside today, Faust did not get the last shot for the Terrapins as they trailed by three points with little time remaining on the game clock.
This have proven to be a point of contention throughout the social media world. Despite Faust’s exploits from the outside, Logan Aronhalt took the final shot for the Terps on what was a clean, albeit deep look, from three point range. Aronhalt has been the Terrapins most consistent three point shooter on the season, so the decision to draw up a play for him was more than fine by me. However, the shot he elected to take, with the time that was left on the clock, was questionable at best and his attempt didn’t even draw iron. The Tar Heels were then able to successfully drain the remaining time off of the clock, effectively ending the Terps run through the ACC Tournament.
There is nothing left for the Terrapins players and coaches alike to do but wait for their postseason destination to be decided for them by the selection committee tomorrow evening. The overwhelming consensus — at least by those who make a living projecting these brackets — was that Maryland needed to win this game against the Tar Heels to solidify their spot in the NCAA Tournament. At this point, they have to hope that a strong showing against a school that could potentially win the ACC tomorrow will be enough to push them over the hump.
Should the Terrapins end up falling short of their postseason dreams and wind up as a high seed in the NIT, hope is not lost. Granted, it would be a disappointment to once again miss out on heading to the Big Dance, but with a team as young as the Terrapins any sort of postseason experience could be paramount in terms of building continuity for the 2013-2014 season which will be here before any of us know it.
While I have said that it would take 23 wins for this team to make the NCAA Tournament for quite some time, I am not completely convinced that they will not sneak their way in tomorrow. The odds are certainly stacked against the Terrapins at this point, but in the words of the immortal Kevin Garnett “Anything is possible” despite how unpromising the outlook may be.