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In the first half of my season preview (the Ugly), I outlined some of the biggest questions our young Terps will have to answer in order to be successful this season. Now, let’s take a look at the schedule and try to make some relatively unbiased (as if) predictions for the season to come.
Let’s break the season down into three manageable parts:
1. The No-Way-In-Hell-Could-We-Possibly-Lose Games
North Florida, Hampton/Tulsa, Lehigh, Northeastern, Morgan State, Ohio, American, Delaware, Savannah State, Holy Cross.
Total that up and you have 10 guaranteed wins. If any of these games wind up in the loss column, well you can pretty much forget the season because our RPI ranking will sink so low, that it will be extremely difficult to dredge it up to at-large status without some big ACC road victories (UNC).
2. Out-of-Conference Tests
Illinois (at home), O’Reilly Auto Parts Semifinal Game (likely UCLA), O’Reilly Auto Parts Championship/Consulation Game (either Mich St. or Missouri) , Charlotte (Away).
First of all, what the hell is the O’Reilly Auto Parts Classic? Can’t there be some sort of screening process for sponsors? I mean there are plenty of brands out there willing to shell out dollars for a sponsorship and the best they could come up with was O’Reilly Auto Parts? I actually went to the O’Reilly Auto Parts web site (yes, I am a loser) and of the four flagship schools participating in the Tournament (Maryland, Missouri, UCLA, and Michigan State), only one of them (Missouri) actually has an O’Reilly Auto Parts Store located in the state. Who are the ad wizards who came up with that one? Seriously, I think we if all threw in $100, we could rename the Tournament ourselves. How does the “John Scheyer Disturbing Facial Expressions Classic” sound? But I digress.
Back to the preview. I think that of the games listed above, Illinois at home will prove to be the easiest. That program has been hit pretty hard in recent months (you may recall Jamar Smith’s DUI related accident that injured several of his teammates). What’s more, we beat these guys on the road last year and I think that we will be able to handle them at Comcast.
While we are here, do you think it is possible to for the ACC and Big Ten to vary the matchups a little? I think that over the last 8 years, Maryland has played Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Illinois. Could a brotha get an Iowa or a Michigan as a change of pace? Sheesh!
Charlotte concerns me because it is a road game and in the middle of the ACC schedule. That is a trap game if I ever saw one, but we will be favored.
As for the “John Scheyer Face Classic” games, I think it is a stretch to assume we will win the thing. UCLA will be tough, so look for us to be playing in the consolation game. I do think we can eke out a win against either Michigan State or Missouri (Note: this is played in Kansas City, so Mizzou is basically at home should we meet them).
So what to make of this jumbled mess that is the challenging part of our non-conference schedule? Let’s say three wins and one loss. For those keeping score, that gives the Terps a 13-1 non-conference record. Historically, this is in line with most of Gary Williams’ teams. The Terps rarely make it out of the non-conference schedule unscathed, but it is just as rare thay they have more than two losses. Looking at this year’s crop of opponents, I am sticking a 13-1 stamp on it, wrapping it in a bow, and calling it day.
3. The Meat (aka ACC Schedule)
What do we know? We know UNC is the odds on favorite to win the conference. We know that Duke has John Scheyer prominently involved in their plans (this is a good thing for us, trust me). We know that UVA has a Terp killer in Singletary. As for the rest of the schools, it is exceedingly hard to predict anything. BC could suck or finish second in the conference. I feel like I could say the same about Wake, NC State, and Va Tech. I can’t imagine a world where Florida State, Clemson, and Miami are simultaneously in the upper echelons of the conference, so let’s assume its more of the same from those bottom feeders. Ga Tech is always a wild card. I never know what to expect.
So what does this all mean? Let’s try to keep things simple. At worst, the Terps will finish 6-2 at home and at best they could go undefeated. I just can’t see them losing more than two conference games at home. As for the road games, I envision somewhere between 3 and 5 wins. All told, I think the Terps will likely grab somewhere between 8 and 11 conference wins.
As much as I’d like to believe the number will be closer to 11, reality tells me that with this many underclassmen; the number will be closer to 8. I think the Terps will head into the ACC tournament with a 9-7 record, 11-5 if we get some breaks along the way.
If I were to place a weighted average on some scenarios, it would like this:
10%: 20 – 10 (7-9) NCAA bubble. Need two ACC Tournament wins to get in
20%: 21-9 (8-8) Good side of the NCAA bubble. Still need to win a game in the ACC Tourney to punch the ticket.
40%: 22-8 (9-7) Somwhere between #5 and #8 seed depending on the ACCs
20%: 23-7 (10-6) #4 seed in the Tourney
10%: 24-6 (11-5) #2 seed in the Tourney
When one throws it all together, it is easy to see that Gary has built this team for 2009 and 2010. These guys will be good this year, but if everything goes according plan; they could be cutting the nets down before the end of the decade.