Terps Top Three: Maryland seeks first Top 25 ranking in three seasons with Wisconsin win

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Break time is over, and Maryland football begins a two-game road trip this weekend, while basketball season is ready to tip-off. This week’s “Terps Top Three” looks ahead to both:

Injury update: Along with quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, two key members of Maryland’s defense will return for Saturday’s game at Wisconsin.

Linebackers Ruben Hyppolite II and Jaishawn Barham will both be back against the Badgers, coach Mike Locksley told reporters Thursday.

“They’re both back and practicing and will be able to play this weekend,” Locksley said.

Hyppolite has been dealing with an injured ankle originally sustained in the Sept. 17 game with SMU. He has missed Maryland’s last five contests.

Barham missed the first game of his stellar freshman season Oct. 22 against Northwestern due to an undisclosed injury sustained on Oct. 15 at Indiana. The District Heights, Maryland, native picked up another accolade this week, as he was named as one of 14 semifinalists for the Shaun Alexander National Freshman of the Year Award.

Numbers game: With a win at Wisconsin, Maryland would likely enter the AP Top 25 rankings after knocking on the door of the list over the last year. 

The Terrapins started 4-0 in 2021 before a disastrous home loss against Iowa knocked them off the ranking path. Now at 6-2 in 2022, Maryland has received votes in the poll for the last five weeks, reaching a high of 36 votes this week. A win should push them into the Top 25 for the first time since Week 3 of 2019, per Sports Reference.

“Just earning the number isn’t enough. It’s maintaining it, it’s staying consistent,” Locksley said. To his point, over the last decade, the two times Maryland cracked the poll, they only stayed for a week: A No. 25 slot Week 6 of 2013 and the aforementioned 2019 appearance (No. 21).

“I’ve been here when we’ve been ranked and didn’t play very well and didn’t get back into that ranking,” Locksley said. “So, for us, being ranked is not something that’s important, other than it continues to show that we’re doing some things the right way.”

Roundball rock: Don’t look now, but it’s already basketball season in College Park, with the Maryland men and women both beginning their 2022-23 campaigns on Monday.

Kevin Willard’s maiden effort as Terrapins coach begins at Xfinity Center with Niagara. The former Seton Hall leader has immersed and ingrained himself in everything Maryland, both school and state, since his hiring in March. He’s visibly worked to reconnect the program with former players and alumni over the summer — bonds that had gone cold towards the end of former coach Mark Turgeon’s tenure.

Willard has said he understands the high expectations Maryland backers have for the program: “I’ve been told how passionate the fan base was … and everybody’s right,” he said at media day last month.

He has asked for some patience from those watching in the first months of this season, describing what he’s doing as “laying the carpet” to build his version of Terrapin basketball. Willard said as things start to gel, “I think we’re going to be really good once we get through December.”

Maryland women’s basketball starts its season at George Mason (7 p.m.), as coach Brenda Frese’s 21st season looks to be one of her most complex. The No. 17 Terrapins welcome nine new transfers and freshmen after losing five players to the transfer portal, including stars Angel Reese (LSU) and Ashley Owusu (Virginia Tech).

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