Florida vs Maryland, thread of the game: Can the Gators end a weird week?


So far, Florida Men’s Basketball Week: Get crushed by South Texas, trample North Florida, then travel to Brooklyn to participate in another power conference program at the first anniversary of Keyontae Johnson’s collapse.

Finishing against Maryland (4:30 p.m., Big Ten Network or BTN +) connects the Gators with another program that has arguably had an even weirder year.

It starts at the top for the Terrapins, and with Mark Turgeon who is no longer there. He resigned on December 3, not even a full month in what would have been his 11th regular season at College Park, and was provisionally successful by ancient Kansas legend and Wake forest Head Coach Danny Manning.

The Terps have only played one game since, a 67-61 loss to a good Northwest team, but their 5-4 record which includes no win better than an 86-80 triumph. in a track and field competition against Richmond is always a disappointing mark for the program.

Maryland has yet to establish its identity as the Big Ten program since it traded affiliations with the ACC, but its recent history is arguably one of a stalled momentum. Turgeon, who enjoyed significant success at Wichita State, then competed in four NCAA tournaments at Texas A&M before arriving in Maryland, seemed to make the Terrapins a powerhouse in the mid-2010s, when he played three consecutive NCAA tournaments. And the 2019-2020 team he could have piloted to an Elite Eight or a Final Four didn’t have the chance to play in a 2020 NCAA tournament thanks to his cancellation.

But Maryland also fell hard last year, going from a 24-7 team that shared the ACC title in 2019-20 to a 17-14 team in 2020-21. The losses of Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith in the pro ranks transformed an excellent balanced team with only a few weaknesses into a good balanced team with little exceptional strength that were beaten by a brutal Big Ten. And with this year’s debut including a surprising home loss to George Mason and the failure to score 60 points in the losses to Louisville and Virginie Tech, Turgeon leaving a job that he would have been more and more frustrated by – and the one Maryland fans had started to resent with him – wasn’t a big surprise.

Turgeon seemingly most disturbed by the loss of fan confidence, however, has been an unusual development during this college basketball season – and when Gonzaga’s coach Mark Few, a longtime friend of Turgeon, in spoke unequivocally this week, it only made things weirder.

There are parallels to Florida’s own situation here – but although Mike White’s results may not appease a small but strong group of social media critics, for whom every loss seems to be counted twice while every victory counting for half, it would be difficult to suggest these results are not superior to Turgeon’s over a shorter period of time in virtually any area apart from a conference title.

And while Gators fans don’t boo White during introductions, Florida also doesn’t have the same length of basketball lore as the Terrapins, though Florida’s highs overtake Maryland’s thanks to three. solid decades. (Maryland has made the Sweet Sixteen in every decade since the 1950s, except for the 1960s; Florida made its first in 1987.)

The depth of discontent is longer at College Park, although the previous tenures of Hall of Fame coaches (Lefty Driesell and Gary Williams in Md., Lon Kruger and Billy Donovan) have left long shadows. This may be because Williams never had a second act like Donovan’s, never having done a Sweet Sixteen after 2003, or because Maryland moved up to the Big Ten and lost rivals they did. he had known for decades as a founding member of the ACC helped spark an identity crisis. . Maybe those Maryland fans who tweet on social media are also fans who go to the games, voicing their discontent literally.

But the Gators are still potentially on the rise this season, even with that South Texas loss as a foothold, and the Terps are treading water. Senior Eric Ayala shoots his worst percentages on ground and distance; Fatts Russell, imported from Rhode Island as a transfer whose four-year career with the Rams has been impressive, hasn’t been a clear positive on the pitch; the former great Qudus Wahab of Georgetown has been powerful inside on occasion, but has also been extremely inconsistent.

Even with their bruised loss, the Gators have what appears to be a better CV than Maryland’s, and possibly a better roster. They might have a hard time defending Wahab, will likely have to both close on sniper Hakim Hart and make three to build a comfortable lead, and obviously can’t take anything for granted after their egg was laid there a week.

But if fans have indeed booed Turgeon from his big chair, what happens next for Maryland in a long season in which teams like Florida – good ones, if not big ones – are in hiding? all around the Big Ten, with a few monsters also on the prowl, and Manning can only steer the same ship Turgeon left at sea, it seems unlikely they will like the near future more than the recent past.

Is it better for these fans than the same old frustrations that cloud any ability to derive joy from games?

With an effort showcasing their typical defensive intensity and a few shots taken, Florida could give them another chance to contemplate this dilemma.

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