Tuesday, February 8, 2011, 12:06p.m.
By Todd McElwee
TERPS PAGE TERPS VIDEO
The college basketball season has reached the stretch run.
With more than two-thirds of its season in the books, the time is now for Maryland (15-8, 5-4 ACC) to make a move. During the next two weeks, the Terps will have the opportunity to record some quality wins, as well as a few easy ones, as they begin their push through the bubble and into the NCAA Tournament.
"Every game now is crucial," Terps sophomore forward Jordan Williams said. "We have to play hard every game. Winning four out of our last five isn't bad, especially since we lost to a top-five team in the country."
Maryland's NCAA fate could be decided during the next few weeks. Though the Terps will still have three regular-season contests and the ACC Tournament remaining after the next 14 days, anything less than at least a 4-1 mark during their next five games will only accelerate the bursting of the their bubble.
Coming off an embarrassing 80-62 loss to Duke on Feb. 2, the Terps drummed Wake Forest 91-70 Saturday at the Comcast Center. Williams led the way with 27 points and 16 rebounds.
"It was a good team effort," Maryland head coach Gary Williams said. "I think guys were hungry to play today. It makes a difference in our team when we're like that and I told the players after the game that we're just going to try to continue to get better as time goes by here.
"We've got Longwood Wednesday and seven league games left, so we'll see how many of those games we can win. This team -- we can keep improving and we haven't hit the ceiling yet."
Farmville, Va., independent Longwood comes to College Park Wednesday in Maryland's last non-conference game of the year. The Lancers (8-18) shouldn't pose a problem.
The road gets a bit more difficult from there. Maryland will try to avenge earlier home setbacks by Boston College (15-8, 5-4) and Virginia Tech (15-7, 5-4) by taking down the Eagles, on Saturday, and Hokies, next Tuesday, in their own gyms.
Following their trip to Blacksburg, the Terps will have days off before returning to College Park to play North Carolina State (12-11, 2-7) on Feb. 20. On Feb. 23, Florida State (16-7, 6-3) visits the Comcast Center.
Out of the four ACC opponents Maryland will play during the next two weeks, the Wolfpack should be the easiest out. As of Feb. 8, NC State had dropped four-consecutive league games, all by at least eight points, and were second-to-last in the conference standings.
With no signature wins to their name, the Terps cannot afford to drop any of the aforementioned contests. Each win is significant, but defeating the Seminoles would do the most for Maryland's Big Dance resume.
Florida State is widely regarded as a tournament team. Currently sitting in third place in the ACC, the Seminoles toppled then No. 1, and undefeated, Duke in mid-January and also have a Christmas Day win over a then-ranked Baylor on their resume.