But for the past two seasons the team has transformed into the Mercurial Terrapins--a peculiar combination of athleticism and an apparent lack of basketball I.Q., periods of intense determination belied by borderline apathy, and moments of flawless execution voided by stretches of YMCA Youth League precision. This frustrating amalgam has resulted in sweeping Duke last year but missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 12 years, and yo-yoing to a 14-7 record (4-4 in the ACC) this season (they're now on a three-game losing streak), inching themselves dangerously close once again to NIT territory.
The latest blow to their NCAA chances came yesterday with a 63-58 loss at NcState. Now, sure it's tough to win on the road in the ACC, the Wolfpack are a good team, blah, blah, blah. With two minutes left in the first half, the Terps had a seven point lead, but in '05-'06 Terp fashion, they squandered away chances to push the lead to double digits and only lead by one at the half. In the second half the Terps' utter futility to defend the three-point shot (something so certain it's on the brink of pushing its way into the "death and taxes" cliche) yielded eight three-point baskets. Nonetheless, the Terps managed to stay in contention only to come up a bit short.
At 4-4 in the ACC, the Terps still have a realistic shot at finishing 8-8 and nabbing an NCAA bid. Of course, they've also shown they have a realistic chance to lose all eight of their remaining games.
I've wondered at times what causes people to root for particular sports teams, to take such a personal interest in a team that they wind up experiencing euphoria or digust. Whatever the reasons, I've long since resigned myself to being a Terp addict. If this season ends in disappointment, then there's always the hope of a new one less than seven months away.