Maryland basketball entrenched in NCAA Tournament projections, receives votes in AP poll

Maryland basketball’s four-game win streak has not only gotten them back on the bubble, but now they’re inching back into the top 25.

Maryland received 12 votes in Monday’s updated AP poll, unofficially ranked as the nation’s 34th-best team in the nation, to give head coach Kevin Willard and the Terps a chance to ascend into the top-25 next week for the first time since mid-December. Maryland will look to build off Saturday’s historic road win over Minnesota when they face Michigan State in East Lansing on Tuesday night.

While all four games of Maryland’s wins have been by double-digits during the streak, Maryland’s win over Minnesota equaled the largest win in a Big Ten conference game and was the largest Big Ten road win in program history. In a game where Maryland led for all 40 minutes, the Gophers’ 46 points were the fewest points that Maryland has allowed in a Big Ten game since February of 2019.

“I’m proud of these guys, we wanted to come out and play a solid 40 minutes,” Willard said following the win. “I thought we came out very focused in the first 10 minutes, I thought we got a little sloppy [in the first half] but the way we ended the first half and the way we came out halftime was really impressive.” Maryland also allowed Minnesota to shoot just 34.2% from the floor, including 14.3% from deep, all while the Terps committed just five turnovers in the win. “We wanted to come out and really defend at a high level and offensively get the ball moving side to side. I thought we got a lot of good open looks early and the ball movement was really good,” Willard added.

Four Terps finished in double figures as Julian Reese finished with a game-high 16 points to help Maryland outscore the Gophers 40-22 inside. “I think Julian has become a dominant inside player, he is a guy we feel very comfortable running an offense through. I think he is playing unselfish, physical and some really good basketball.”

Maryland was firmly entrenched in the bubble conversation following the Purdue loss with a nearly even split across outlets, largely including the Terps in the play-in game. Heading into Tuesday night’s matchup, Maryland has moved to 28th in the latest NET rankings and is now averaging a 9.07 seed across all outlets, according to Bracket Matrix’s latest projections heading into the weekend, with a handful of seven-seed projections. Maryland also landed at twelfth in Andy Katz’s updated Power 36 rankings on Monday as he made a strong claim for Willard’s squad. “Time to take the Terps seriously. Maryland beat Indiana and then did what they were supposed to by beating Minnesota on the road for their fourth win in a row,” he wrote. Maryland will get a chance at a signature win next week when Purdue, who held firm as the nation’s top team despite Saturday’s road loss to Indiana, comes to College Park. Maryland will get a chance to avenge its three-point loss back on January 22 while potentially moving to 4-6 in Quad 1 games.

While Maryland moved to 2-5 on the road, the Terps have a handful of tough matchups away from Xfinity starting with Tuesday’s contest. Michigan State is coming off losses in three of their last four games, including a six-point loss to Rutgers on the road on Saturday. While the Spartans have won the last three matchups, junior guard Don Carey knows the road games are a point of emphasis. “I think that’s a big step we’ve got to take and be road warriors and figure out how to win on the road, tough environments.” Willard will look to maintain his team’s momentum against the Spartans.

“We got to watch the Michigan State-Rutgers game, which was a great game, great atmosphere in Madison Square Garden. Obviously you have a really, really tough Michigan State team on the road, probably one of the best atmospheres in college basketball. We got a couple [of] days really gotta buckle down. I think we gotta work a little bit on a couple [of] defensive schemes that I think we’re having breakdowns, but overall really proud of the way the guys came out [against Minnesota], especially in that second half. They came out and didn’t, didn’t let up, played team basketball and played really well.”

Tipoff is set for 9 PM on Tuesday.

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Instant reactions: Maryland 81, Minnesota 46