Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.
The chaotic final weeks before the NCAA Tournament have everyone clamoring for clarity, and as simple and as fun as it would be to announce that yes, you did hear a giant “POP” coming from Atlanta this evening, the reality is that Maryland’s at-large hopes haven’t completely vanished. Yet. With games growing few and their ACC record worsening, a 78-68 loss to Georgia Tech tonight has slid the Terps one step closer to the bubble chopping block. Three regular season games remain for Mark Turgeon’s bunch, with two road dates involved (at Wake Forest and Virginia) and a home finale against North Carolina. If Maryland wants to hear its name called on Selection Sunday, they would be well served to snag all three — no easy feat, but when you consider that accomplishing it would triple Maryland’s ACC road win total, a hard road starts to feel nearly impossible.
February 7, Blacksburg, Virginia – Maryland won a game on a basketball court not inside the Comcast Center, an accomplishment that had not occurred since November, and has not happened since. A difficult fact to process considering the Terps were likely on the right side of the bubble after the seismic Duke victory on February 16, but it’s hard to make a case for your NCAA Tournament inclusion when you can’t win more than a single road game.
Give Georgia Tech credit tonight, as the Jackets made a lot of plays they don’t normally make. Brian Gregory said it was the best 40 minutes his team has played all season, and Turgeon was effusive with praise for the home team. “Tech was good tonight, they were really good” he admitted, but he couldn’t quite seem to put his finger on what ailed his team — both tonight and on the road all season. Sure, there were criticisms – poor point guard play, a lack of toughness in the paint, too much 1-on-1 offensively – but you could tell that even Turgeon felt at a loss for answers. “I did think we tried hard,” he concluded, but with a resignation in his voice that suggested a full awareness that effort alone will not get his team to the Dance.