At this time last year, the Maryland men's basketball team had just suffered a blowout loss to Pittsburgh. But it had five more nonconference matchups, including four at Xfinity Center, to recover from that setback.
The Terps won each of those contests to build momentum before Big Ten play.
Maryland doesn't have that same opportunity to reset after suffering defeats to St. Bonaventure and Syracuse over the past week. Instead, the team will play one of its most important Big Ten games of the season Friday, needing a victory over Purdue to avoid its worst start since 2013-14 — the last time it missed the NCAA tournament.
The conference opener comes 26 days earlier than the Terps began their Big Ten slate last year, the product of an earlier conference tournament. After facing the Boilermakers, Maryland will match up with Illinois on Sunday, marking its second straight weekend with two games in three days.
For a team that hasn't looked right since beating Butler on Nov. 15, this stretch comes at the worst possible time.
Coach Mark Turgeon admitted the Terps, who have three newcomers in their rotation, aren't completely prepared for their tilt with Purdue. The Boilermakers received extra practice time over the summer at the 2017 World University Games, allowing them to gain more experience.
Plus, Maryland has primarily faced zone defenses over the past week. Purdue plays man to man.
"They're way ahead of us," Turgeon said. "They've got their February playbook in, and I feel like we're still in September because we've been zoned so much lately. It's a huge challenge for us."
As a result of Maryland's busy schedule, which contains five games in 10 days, Turgeon has reduced the length of practices. But while that provides much-needed rest for the players, it has also limited the time they can work on new plays.
So, there has been extensive in-game tinkering on offense this season, with no two contests featuring the same sets.
"We're still just trying to get comfortable," guard Kevin Huerter said.
But things won't be comfortable Friday night. They rarely are when Maryland faces Purdue, which has beaten consecutive top-20 foes behind the play of three returning double-digit scorers.
The Terps and Boilermakers have split their four games since Maryland joined the Big Ten in 2014. That competitive history raises the stakes of their latest showdown.
Purdue beat the Terps, 73-72, last February in College Park. Huerter couldn't convert a potential game-winning 3-pointer, which he said has motivated him to earn revenge with a victory this time around.
Center Michal Cekovsky labeled Boilermakers center Isaac Haas "the dentist" because of how he uses his elbows to clear out defenders in the post, endangering their teeth.
But can that bad blood alone allow Maryland to overcome its recent funk?
With a challenging January ahead, it better be enough.
The Terps can't afford to enter 2018 in the bottom-half of the Big Ten standings with a rematch against Purdue, two games against No. 3 Michigan State, and matchups with No. 12 Minnesota, Michigan and Indiana all coming next month.