After an up-and-down season, Maryland men’s basketball finds itself in a familiar place. The Terps are back in the NCAA tournament, slotting in as a No. 10 seed. Maryland will face No. 7-seed UConn in its first-round game Saturday.

But getting to this point was no certainty for the Terps. The COVID-19 pandemic loomed large over the entire season, though none of Maryland’s games were canceled due to positive COVID-19 tests within the program.

On the court, the Terps had to adjust to the losses of Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen Smith, the team’s two leading scorers the season prior. Coach Mark Turgeon remade his squad into a defensive juggernaut led by the Big Ten’s eventual defensive player of the year, Darryl Morsell

Inconsistencies in play combined with a brutal schedule kept Maryland to a 10-10 start, but a five-game winning streak — in addition to earlier victories over top-25 teams Illinois, Purdue and Wisconsin — made its postseason hopes more clear.

Now, the Huskies (15-7) await. This will be the eighth meeting between Maryland and UConn and their third clash in the NCAA tournament, with the Huskies holding a 4-3 series edge. They last met on Dec. 8, 2015, a 76-66 Terps win.

[The Maryland-Michigan men’s basketball spat was three games in the making]

Maryland (16-13) is among nine Big Ten teams that made the tournament, the most from any conference in the country. The Terps went 7-9 against other tournament-bound teams this campaign.

This is the fifth time in Turgeon’s 10 seasons in College Park that his squad has made the big dance. Last time out in 2019, Maryland progressed to the second round as a No. 6 seed before falling, 69-67, on a last-second layup to No. 3-seed LSU. With a share of the Big Ten regular season title in 2020, the Terps would have easily returned to the tournament last year had it not been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In Turgeon’s tenure, the Terps have advanced past the second round just once. Maryland made the Sweet 16 in 2016 as a No. 5 seed before falling to top overall seed Kansas, 79-63.

This year, the entire tournament will be played in Indiana with limited fans.

[Maryland men’s basketball falls to Michigan in Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal, 79-66]