If, on October 15th, you had the opportunity to chart out an ideal course for the non-conference portion of the Terps season; you’d be hard pressed to map out a better trip for our Terps.
Two wins over marquee opponents (Michigan and Michigan St.), some gutsy performances (Vasquez’ three against Vermont), holding their own in rebounding dept (almost +2!), and best of all– the Terps have averaged just over 12 turnovers per game.
Sure, those two blowout losses to Gonzaga and Georgetown were unsettling to say the least; but we all knew going into the season that Maryland would be outmatched by certain teams. Both the Zags and the Hoyas are highly regarded. Ken Pomeroy even has Georgetown sitting at #1 in his power rankings (Gonzaga is #5).
In terms of the only rankings that matter, the RPI, the Terps are sitting pretty at #19. Such a lofty ranking at this point in the season, means that the Terps are in great position to finish the season in the Top 30. As of 12/26 Clemson, Duke, FSU, Wake, Miami, and UNC were all in the top 30 along with Maryland.
Those rankings are bound to change as the ACC schools start beating each other; but the fact that the ACC has had such a strong non-conference start to the season means that each loss can’t drop the Terps too far. As long as the Terps can avoid losing to the conference bottom feeders (BC, VT, GT, UVA, NCST) and hold their own against the aforementioned upper tier; the Terps are a shoe-in for the big dance.
Let’s put some numbers behind it. The Terps have 7 games against the bottom tier: two vs. UVA, two vs. GT, and one each vs. BC, VT and NCST. Of the single games, only NCST is away from Comcast. If (and I know it is a big “if”) Maryland can win these seven; then they would only need to take two wins from the upper tier to get to 9-7. With a “revenge” game looming at Clemson, a winnable road game at FSU, and four home games against the top tier (UNC, Duke, Wake, and Miami); the Terps will have the their chances to get those two upper tier wins.
I’m completely biased obviously, but Ken Pomeroy and his predictive algorithm are not. He has already mapped out the rest of the season for us. Check it out for yourself.
Ken’s model seems to think that we will hold serve against the bottom tier and get those two wins against the top tier (it predicts the home games against Miami and Wake are the W’s). That puts the Terps at 21-9 (9-7) and in my opinon a virtual lock for the NCAAs.
As fans and alumni, we should be proud of how the Terps have played so far this year. Vasquez is a 1st team All-ACC performer and there are by my count three Terps who can create their own shot (Milbourne, Bowie, and Vaz). Interior play will be a challenge all year, but Gary will make sure he is getting the most out of his front line.
I still have concerns (Dave Neal is the only Terp averaging better that 35% from three); but I know that the Terps will not be out-hustled down the stretch. If they continue to play smart and unselfish basketball; we will be rewarded with what may turn out to be Gary Williams greatest coaching performance to date.