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Maryland Basketball - Exceeding Expectations

On December 3, 2021, Maryland’s Head Basketball Coach, Mark Turgeon, announced that he was stepping down, effective immediately.


It was odd timing, considering that it was roughly one month into the 2021-22 season and Turgeon had signed a three-year contract extension just nine months earlier.

Former Maryland Head Coach Mark Turgeon resigned one month into the 2021-22 season / Photo: 247Sports


At the time, the Terrapins were off to a disappointing 5-3 start with losses to George Mason, Louisville and Virginia Tech.


Assistant Coach Danny Manning took over for the remainder of the season while a national coaching search began. Maryland, which was ranked #21 in the country in the preseason, finished the year 15-17, its first finish below .500 since the 1992-93 season.

On March 21, 2022, just 11 days after the season ended with a loss in the opening round of the Big 10 Tournament, Maryland hired Kevin Willard as its next head coach.


Willard had spent his prior 12 seasons at Seton Hall, taking the Pirates to the NCAA Tournament five times in that span.


Willard and his staff immediately went to work on recruiting and bringing in transfers, while retaining the star players from a 2021-22 team that fell well short of expectations.


The two leading scorers from last season, Fatts Russell and Erica Ayala, left Maryland. The only player who returned to the Terps who averaged in double-figures was Donta Scott (12.8 PPG).


In the transfer portal, Willard picked up Don Carey and point guard Jahmir Young from Georgetown and Charlotte, respectively.


Heading into 2022-23, expectations were low with Maryland picked to finish 10th in the Big 10.


The Terps have wildly exceeded those expectations, winning 21 games, finishing 6th in the Big 10 and making the NCAA Tournament.


Maryland is the 8-seed in the South Region, taking on 9-seed West Virginia in the opening round on Thursday at 12:15 p.m. in Birmingham, AL. The matchup opens up the first full day of the NCAA Tournament, while the #1 overall seed, Alabama, likely awaits the winner.

West Virginia knocked Maryland out of the 2015 NCAA Tournament in the Round of 32 / Photo: Greg Bartram/USA Today


“We’re going into the national tournament with the same mindset,” Willard said after Maryland’s Big 10 Tournament Quarterfinal loss to Indiana. “Play hard, stay aggressive, and really try to get back into our practices, really trying to get after it this tournament.”

Maryland started the season 8-0 and was ranked as high as #13 before dropping 7 of its next 11 games.


From there, this streaky team won eight of ten and has now lost three out of four entering the Big Dance.


An 8v9 matchup in the NCAA Tournament is the ultimate 50/50 game. West Virginia is a 2-point favorite in a game that will likely be close wire-to-wire. I think WVU gets the nod here because they come from the tougher Big 12 conference and have a head coach in Bob Huggins that’s been there for 16 years.


Maryland can 100% win this game and could even cause problems for Alabama in the second round if they get there. It’s all about which team shows up.


This year, Maryland went 16-1 at home and undefeated at home in conference play. Away from College Park, the Terps are 5-10.

Maryland's only home loss this season came against #7 UCLA, 87-60 / Photo: Cam Andrews/The Diamondback

If Maryland can FINALLY play lights out away from home, they are more than capable of going on a run. Unfortunately, that’s something they have not done all season.


The good news for Maryland? It’s all gravy at this point.


The Terps were not supposed to be here. Picked 10th in the league and following its worst season in nearly 30 years, Maryland has climbed back to relevancy in just one season under Willard.


For next year, Maryland already has commitments from two of the top 56 players in the ESPN Top 100 recruiting class.


Regardless of what happens on Thursday, the future in College Park is bright. Not that they were gone for long, but Maryland basketball is back.


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