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Rick Snider: Maryland's Turgeon is recharged for tournament time

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Sports,College,Rick Snider

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon lives for March Madness.

The Terrapins coach never won a conference tournament in 13 years at three schools before arriving at Maryland this season. But Turgeon made four straight NCAA tournaments at Texas A&M and reached a Sweet 16 with Wichita State in 2006.

It has been a bittersweet relationship between Turgeon and tournaments. Yet, he's savoring the start of the ACC tournament when eighth-seeded Maryland meets ninth-seeded Wake Forest on Thursday.

"I love [tournaments,]" Turgeon said. "I grew up loving them. I loved them as a fan. I loved them when I played. I loved them as an assistant coach. I've loved them as a head coach now.

"I look forward to them, especially a year like this where it's a chance to do something you haven't done all year -- beat a great team. Win a couple games in a row."

The Terps have to win the ACC tournament to reach the NCAA tournament and probably win at least two games for even a chance at the NIT. Maryland's next loss will likely be it's last of the year.

Clearly drained by the 16-14 season, Turgeon admits his enthusiasm is tempered or maybe realistic. Still, tournaments recharge him.

"Usually I'd be a lot more upbeat this time of year," he said. "I love the music. I love everything about it. I love the smell in the air. I always have. I get excited. That's what drives me to recruit harder and everything I do, coach harder, because of this time of year.

"That's why you leave mid-majors to move up to be part of what lies ahead the next four weeks. Unfortunately for us, if we don't win four in a row we're not going to be part of the big one."

Too bad the Terps are a mess entering the tournament. Turgeon admitted the team's "immaturity, to be quite honest with you, has taken over this team."

Losing sophomore guard Pe'Shon Howard for the final seven games with a torn ACL stopped the Terps' improvement. Maryland finished 2-5 and lost the final three games, including an overtime loss to Virginia on Sunday.

Turgeon admitted having to act like a "clown" when drawing a technical foul against Virginia before the team awakened. Maybe next season, when gaining several recruits, the Terps will better respond to their coach.

For now, Turgeon hopes his tournament love affair isn't brief.

"I want to fight to the end," he said. "I thought we fought to the end of Virginia. I want to fight to the end. I want our guys scrapping and clawing and fighting."

Examiner columnist Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more on Twitter @Snide_Remarks or email rsnider@washingtonexaminer.com.

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