Maryland men’s basketball guard Melo Trimble pulled his black hood onto his head and placed his hands over it. Guards Kevin Huerter and Dion Wiley stood in the back of coach Mark Turgeon’s basement with their hands on their heads, too. Forward L.G. Gill put his arm around forward Ivan Bender, their eyes glued to Turgeon’s TV.
After watching the NCAA tournament selection committee slot 66 other teams into the bracket during CBS’ selection show, the Terps knew there was just one matchup left. So when Maryland’s name was announced as a No. 6-seed in the West Region, every Maryland player, coach and manager jumped to their feet. Trimble tackled Turgeon from behind.
“It was total chaos in my basement,” Turgeon said. “We had guys rolling around on furniture, rolling around on the floor. It was a lot of fun.”
After about a 40-minute wait, the Terps celebrated their third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament, where they’ll play No. 11-seed Xavier on Thursday evening in Orlando, Florida. The Terps have won at least one contest in 12 straight NCAA tournament appearances since 1998, the second-longest streak in the country.
“We were really fired up,” Huerter said. “It didn’t hit me until we were leaving Coach Turgeon’s house. I was in the car going back. I was telling people I wanted to play the game tonight.”
The previous two seasons, Maryland was one of the first teams selected on the show. They didn’t react as enthusiastically those years because they seemed to be expecting higher seeds than No. 4 in 2015 and No. 5 in 2016. On Sunday, they instead watched Wisconsin, which beat Maryland this season and tied the Terps for second place in the Big Ten, claim a No. 8-seed early on in the show.
After that, Huerter thought the Terps (24-8, 12-6 Big Ten) could’ve dropped as low as a No. 10-seed. They watched as six other Big Ten teams were called. Michigan State, which Maryland defeated in its regular-season finale, got a No. 9-seed, and Minnesota, which the Terps bested in Minneapolis, claimed a No. 5-seed.
Turgeon was mentally preparing a speech if the Terps didn’t make the tournament after the first three regions were finalized, but he was confident Maryland would get in. While the Terps — who finished the season ranked No. 25 — failed to claim a marquee victory, they held an 11-3 record away from Xfinity Center with three freshman starters.
“A lot of those wins were games we came back and won,” Huerter said. “Every single year they dictate it differently on what your seedings are. This year, it must’ve been the road wins.”
Maryland’s seed came in a positive light after the team lost to Northwestern in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals Friday at Verizon Center. The team said it hit the reset button this week, viewing the NCAA tournament as a new season, which started Sunday with what Turgeon called an “unbelievable practice.”
Trimble is the lone returning starter from last year, when the squad made Maryland’s first Sweet 16 since 2003. But Turgeon wasn’t worried about his team’s inexperience or the Terps’ opponent during the selection show Sunday.
In fact, his basement was so loud and he was so excited he didn’t know Maryland was playing Xavier until about a minute after the announcement. Then he had to clean the room before driving to College Park for his press conference.
But Trimble is confident the Terps will be prepared for their biggest test yet.
“This is where it counts,” Trimble said. “You win or you go home.”