This could be the big farewell for Maryland.
Goodbye to the Terrapins' seniors in the season's home finale. Seeya to old rival North Carolina, who was Maryland's Duke before Duke was. And adios to NCAA tournament chances if the Terps lose. Throw in a predicted blanket of snow and the grand exit might even go unnoticed.
Then again, beating North Carolina (21-8, 11-5 ACC) could get Maryland (20-9, 8-8) into the NCAA tournament. And the Big Ten is hot after the Tar Heels to join along with the Terps in 2014, so the two still might play regularly.
Sure makes it a big night either way.
If the ACC doesn't schedule North Carolina at Comcast Center next season, and it's unlikely the league will give the Terps a marquee home opponent, then older fans will appreciate one last look at their bitter rival of the 1970s and '80s when coach Dean Smith and the Tar Heels dominated college basketball while Lefty Driesell and the Terps tried to muscle past. Back then, Duke meant nothing to Maryland. Ironically, the expected snow will probably keep many alums from coming, with students carrying the crowd.
The Terps need another rabid following to fuel them past a better opponent like court-storming victories over then-No. 2 Duke and then-No. 14 N.C. State. Maryland is 16-2 at home, falling only to Virginia and Florida State.
Maryland needs to beat North Carolina and Virginia (20-9, 10-6) on Sunday to clinch the sixth seed in the ACC tournament and remain alive for the NCAA tournament. Indeed, Maryland might even help N.C. State steal the third seed over North Carolina and Virginia by sweeping the pair this week.
The question is which Maryland team shows up. Oh, the Terps now think Pe'Shon Howard can finally be the missing point guard, but the offense is a turnover machine no matter who's bouncing the ball. It's what they are this season -- a sloppy offensive team that plays excellent defense to remain competitive most nights.
Beating Wake Forest on Saturday was a big win given Maryland also seemed to be facing the three officials, too. Exiting the conference means nothing will go Maryland's way, but the refs appeared intent on fouling out the Terps over the second half's opening five minutes alone. Maryland still managed a 67-57 win that was its second best win of the season after the Duke game.
But then, the past month has also seen awful losses to Virginia, Boston College and Georgia Tech. Just when the Terps seem together, they fall apart. Indeed, the last seven games, the Terps have alternated wins and losses, going 4-3 overall in that stretch. Maryland has won two straight just once in ACC play this season.
The Terps either end the home season with a stirring win or they're headed for the NIT Tournament. Unfortunately, it's just too hard to predict the end.