Mark Turgeon’s Terps dive head-first into their first Big Ten Tournament in Chicago Friday night facing Indiana. Maryland shocked The Big Ten world in their first season in the league, picked to finish tenth in the 14-team conference Maryland is the second seed in the tournament having beat top seed Wisconsin in late February. Maryland’s season in their new conference has been a special year for so many reasons.

Maryland is back on the basketball map! The Terps’ 14-1 start was their best in 18 years, Maryland won a school record 26 regular season games. They were undefeated at home in The Big Ten and finished 14-4 in their first year in the conference. They’ve earned their first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 5 years and the AP poll has Maryland ranked number 8 in the nation the first time they’ve cracked the top 10 in 13 years.

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The timing couldn’t be better for Maryland or Terps coach Mark Turgeon. It’s never easy when you follow a Hall of Fame coach and three lackluster seasons had Maryland fans wondering if Gary Williams’s replacement was the right guy. There may have been times Mark Turgeon wondered, but he didn’t blink he just kept working and now he’s building something special. The former Missouri Valley and Big 12 Coach of the Year is now The Big Ten Coach of the Year.

The Maryland revival has been fueled by three key players Melo Trimble, Dez Wells and Jake Layman. The big three are why opponents “Fear the Turtle.” Point guard Melo Trimble is the most exciting freshman at Maryland since Joe Smith. Trimble leads the Terps in scoring (16.1), assists and steals. He’s fifth in the nation with 190 free throws made and first in the Big Ten in free throw percentage (.874).

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Senior Dez Wells is the Terps leader. He’s provided highlight reel slam dunks and has been Mr. Clutch with games on the line. He hit a last second game-winner against Northwestern, his 3 at the end of regulation lead to an overtime win at Michigan State, he put the team on his back to beat number 5 Wisconsin and with 8 seconds left his jumper was the game clincher at Nebraska.

Junior forward Jake Layman is a 6-9 matchup problem for opponents. Layman has scored in double figures 27 games this season. He can hit the outside shot or blow by defenders attacking the basket with slam dunks. His game has grown considerably (13.1, 5.9) and he’ll be needed in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

This might not be a great Maryland team but it’s a damn good one. In the last 30 years the Terps have won only 1 ACC Tournament (2004). In their first year in the Big Ten they have a legit chance to win it. Turge’s Terps have found a way to win, they’re 10-0 in games decided by 6 points or less.

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So expect them to play like there’s no tomorrow this weekend in The Windy City, but know that on Selection Sunday the Terps will be called back to the dance as a three or perhaps even a two seed in the NCAA tournament. Welcome back Maryland basketball!