- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 12, 2017

Florida isn’t so bad this time of year.

That’s what Maryland is thinking after being sent to Orlando for the NCAA Tournament.

Maryland is a six seed that will play No. 11 seed Xavier (21-13) of the Big East as part of the West Region on Thursday in Orlando at 6:50 p.m.

Maryland (24-8) and Xavier had one common opponent this season: bumbling Georgetown. Xavier beat the Hoyas twice, once by five points in Verizon Center and once by 11 points at home. Maryland beat Georgetown by a point in the Terrapins’ second game of the year.

A lot has happened since. Maryland vaulted to a 20-2 start, the best in school history, before becoming an average team down the stretch. The Terrapins closed the season by going 4-6 in their final 10 games. The last time they were on the court produced one of those six losses. In front of a filled Verizon Center predominantly clad in red during the Big Ten Tournament, the Terrapins lasted just a game. They lost 72-64 to Northwestern, which has made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.

Following that loss, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon lamented his team’s lack of toughness. Sunday night, he set up a buffet in his home to watch the selection show with his team. Instead of being sent west in the first round, Maryland was slotted an easy flight down the coast to Orlando, where it gets a restart on the season.

There was no doubt the Terrapins would be in the tournament, but that didn’t mean Turgeon’s blood pressure didn’t rise as region after region was revealed before Maryland popped up at the end.

“Once we weren’t in the lower part of that bracket, I knew we were going to be one of the last names called and my heart was coming through my sweater,” Turgeon said. “You never know. There are no guarantees; 99 percent sure we were in. The last two years, our name has popped up quickly. It was kind of like anti-climactic. Today was fun. I’m sure you’ll see it on the Internet here soon. We had quite a celebration in my basement.”

Looming over anything Maryland does is the future of guard Melo Trimble. The 22-year-old junior decided to return to College Park for this season instead of enter the NBA draft. It seems unlikely he would choose to do that again, particularly at his age. The older a player becomes, the less appealing he is in the NBA draft.

“Even if we did have a good tournament in the Big Ten, it’s still the reset button,” Trimble said. “March Madness is different. Different than every other tournament. This is where it counts.”

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