Wake Boarded

Now they must do more.  The Terps had their chance to lock up a bid to the NCAA Tourney last night.  A win over Wake Forest would have been their 3rd over a top ten this season, and guaranteed at least a .500 record in the ACC.  Their placement in the brackets could have been written in pen. 

Instead, Maryland falls just short 65-63. 

No great faults for the loss.  Sure, they shot horribly the last ten minutes of the game, but their defense proved sound and their effort unquestioned.  In fact, the 3-2 zone they employed on Wake left the bigger, more skilled Demon Deacons looking like the Biglerville  (PA) Jayvee team I once coached (loved the kids, but that is not a compliment).

Ultimately, the team with the better players won.  Bless Dave Neal’s heart, the senior gave all he had for what he hopes will be his final game at Comcast Center.  But two plays in the last five minutes of the game demonstrated why Maryland sits on the outside looking in.

1st team all ACC guard Jeff Teague went baseline on the break and threw down one of the top five dunks of the season, right on top of Dave Neal.  An absolute poster of a throw down that sucked the air out of Comcast Center. 

Then with :45 left to play and the Terps trailing by three, Neal drove down the lane, owning the courage to take the crucial shot but not the skill to pull it off.  James Johnson smashed his effort off the backboard, a perfectly clean block that had the Demon Deacons going the other way soon to score with a pair of free throws.  Ughh…

I’m not trying to pick on Neal.  He offered up a career high 19 points as the only Terrapin that could buy a bucket from three point range. He gave Maryland a chance to win last night when the team’s best player was bricking his way to a 7-24 night with four turnovers ( Greivis Vasquez, spectacular or spectacularly bad.  There is no in between).

So that leaves the Terps at 7-8 in the conference with a road date at Virginia remaining.  One would think, since collectively they’ve played pretty well the last month, that Maryland gets the win in Charlottesville.  But a rivalry game with post season implications creates an intangible that you can’t predict.  With a win though Maryland would finish .500 in the best conference.  An overall record of 19-11 heading into the ACC Tournament you’d think might be enough.  Not many mid majors have proven worthy of at-large bids so the big conferences will have their depth in March Madness.  But getting to 20 or 21 wins before selection Sunday ensures ticket is punched.

And now, having looked back over this recap, I am feeling bad for Dave Neal.  So Dave, I’ll share another video, one you remember more fondly.

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