Terrapin players gather for a timeout during the second half. (Lila Bromberg/ The Left Bench)

Maryland misses out on the NIT, finishes the season 19-13

After finishing the season with less than 20 wins for the first time in four years, the Maryland Terrapins failed to qualify for the 2018 NCAA Tournament. The Terps were not even named in the list of 32 team selected Sunday night to appear in the 2018 NIT.

Maryland ends the 2017-18 season with a 19-17 record – the second-lowest win total the team has had in the Mark Turgeon era. The only other times the Terps dipped below 20 games since 2011 was the 2011-12 and 2013-14 seasons in which they finished 17-15.

Maryland’s hopes at an NCAA Tournament selection were all but diminished about two weeks ago when they were eliminated by Wisconsin in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament on March 1. Still, it was a common belief that Maryland had done enough in the regular season to warrant a berth in the NIT.

But Maryland did not appear on the list of 32 teams when the NIT bracket was released late Sunday night. Instead, two other Big Ten teams – Penn State and Nebraska – were selected as a No. 4 and No. 5 seeds, respectively.

Penn State will play Temple in the first round, while Nebraska will play Mississippi State.

Maryland’s season began to fall apart at the start of the new year when it was blown out by Michigan State on road, snapping a seven-game winning streak. The Terps went on to lose five of their following seven games, four of which were by single digits.

Maryland was also hit with a plague of injuries to key members of its rotation, most notably to sophomore Justin Jackson. Jackson tore his labrum in his right shoulder in December, and was officially ruled out for the rest of the season on Dec. 28.

The Terps’ biggest weakness was that they couldn’t play the entire season in the Xfinity Center. Maryland had a 15-3 record at home, which ranked as one of the highest in the conference. On the road, however, the team lacked the energy and conviction it needed to finish close games against conference opponents, limiting the team to a 2-8 road record.

Those weak performances in big games meant Maryland would have to put together a strong showing in the Big Ten Tournament to have a chance at postseason play. Winning the tournament would require beating teams like Michigan State and potentially Ohio State or Purdue, all three of which swept the Terps in the regular season.

The chance to avenge those losses never came, though, because after battling with the Badgers for two halves, Maryland fell behind in the opening round and eventually lost 59-54.

The exclusion from the NIT means Maryland’s offseason officially begins, and there are many crucial decisions to be made from its key players.

The sophomore trip of Kevin Huerter, Anthony Cowan and Jackson is likely to return for the 2018-19 season, but there will still be a handful of departures. Michal Cekovsky, Jared Nickens and Sean Obi are all going to be graduating. What’s more, the team will also be awaiting a decision from freshman Bruno Fernando on if he will enter the NBA Draft.