In other words, are they 'for real' being ranked #8 in AP poll? My answer is Yes. Yes, they are a legitimate contender to reach the Final Four (assuming they don't face Kentucky before then). Here is my justification (without delving too deep in statistics), in order of importance:

(1) They are currently (before playing in the Big 10 tourney) 10-0 in games decided by 6 points or less. Let's consider just how much 'weight that carries'. I have been following UM basketball for over 40 years (since Lefty Dreisel began coaching there), and I do not recollect such an impressive streak. Of course, the overall competition in those games is not impressive. But nevertheless, right now, it does mean that IF they can keep a contest close then their confidence as a team is something their opponent will need to play extra hard to overcome.
(2) Hey, they have a solid defense. THAT is a key element that's been missing under Turgeon.
(3) They are also 16-5 in their remaining games. None of their wins have been especially impressive. They certainly don't score a lot of points. But they have 'taken care of business' against the weaker teams on their schedule. THAT accomplishment was also sorely missing under Turgeon.
(4) They have dramatically improved in team foul shooting - thanks in large part to Milo Trimble's contribution.
(5) They have also improved in ball control (less turnovers).
(6) Dez Wells has finally emerged as the team leader, with a lot of self-discipline and self-control in supporting his teammates. As a senior, this is it for him.
(7) Potential rematch with UVA is promising. Terps lost to them by only 11 when Wells was out.
(8) Potential matchup with Duke is promising. Terps won two of three games just last season in ACC play. Looking forward to revenge for Final Four loss in 2001 (Terps blew a 22-point lead).
(9) Terps are 1-1 against teams ranked above them (Wisconsin, Virginia - both at home).
(10) Mark Turgeon's first trip to the NCAAs with Terps. No history to cause any doubt.

They appear to be headed there as a No.3 seed which means that they most likely won't face a No.1 seed before the fourth round (ideal). As a minimum, I see them winning their first two games (versus 14th and 6th seeds). It gets interesting in the third round against a No.2 seed (should be evenly matched). IF they win that one, then they should have all the confidence they need to take on a No.1 seed to determine who goes to the Final Four. All of this assumes no upsets along their path.

Meanwhile, all I ask is that they survive the Big 10 tournament, with no injuries, no ineligibilities, and no damage to their confidence (e.g., losing a second time to a conference foe).