Milbourne has a chance to recover from a sluggish finish to the season. He has reached double figures just once in the last six games but did snag a career-high 11 rebounds in the defeat of Wake Forest to help clinch Maryland’s NCAA berth - and his own debut in the preferred postseason tournament.
“It’s not really a new feeling because I pretty much know how it goes now,” Milbourne said. “Now it’s just a point of me getting it through to my teammates that it’s a big deal that we made it, but it’s over with now. Now we have to concentrate on getting wins because it’s a brand new season. I don’t want to seem like I’m too excited to be here.”
There’s no doubt he is, though. Sophomore guard Cliff Tucker said Milbourne has joked with everyone that this is really his first NCAA tournament appearance. Yet at the same time, Milbourne has remained the studious presence who is wryly aware of all that is going on around him.
The freshman who couldn’t be bothered with watching other games in Buffalo two years ago is now the steady presence who helps counteract Vasquez’s zaniness and Dave Neal’s goofiness. Suddenly, he’s the closest thing to a grown-up in the locker room but not so serious he isn’t savoring this chance.
“It does seem a little crazy, but I guess that just comes with experience,” Milbourne said. “I haven’t been here before, but at the same time I played a lot of games. I know how Coach reacts. I know how he takes things and doesn’t want guys to get too excited. We still have to keep the big picture in mind and know we have to come here and get wins.”
After all, Milbourne knows he’ll get only two chances to make a great first impression in the NCAA tournament.
Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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