The Washington Times - March 7, 2009, 07:17PM

CHARLOTTESVILLE – This was not the end to the regular season Maryland had in mind.

It’s not just losing two straight to enter the ACC tournament. It’s not just falling to 7-9 in the league.

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It’s the fact Maryland loss to a vastly inferior team, which is something the Terps simply have not done.

Seriously, roll through the losses. No one is begrudging Maryland losses to Duke (twice), North Carolina, Wake Forest, Clemson, Florida State and Gonzaga. Sure the Boston College and Miami games were winnable, And losing to Georgetown looked better in November than it did now.

Even the Morgan State setback came against a team that won its league’s regular season. It doesn’t erase the blemish, but at least the Bears are good.

But Virginia’s track record does not suggest anything approaching “good.” Instead, Maryland did precisely what it could not afford to do – absorb a loss for which there was no excuse.

Given the bumblings across the land, Maryland had a chance to simply do what it was supposed to do – beat a bad Virginia team, upend N.C. State and not get humiliated in the ACC quarterfinals – and stand a pretty good chance of NCAA tournament inclusion. That was the bar facing Maryland, and it was lower than in past years.

Instead of stepping over it, the Terps tripped, and life isn’t about to get any easier.

It will probably still take 20 wins (though at the rate everyone’s going nationally, who really knows). And that means playing a rested team 24 hours after having to play either Miami or N.C. State.

That’s not a welcome scenario. Maryland has won consecutive games once in the last two months; now, the Terps have to do it in back-to-back days.

All the NCAA talk does get old, especially when it starts in early January. But, for a few days anyway, it is the story – and one in which Maryland has plenty of work left to do to secure the outcome it is seeking.

Patrick Stevens