Maryland basketball schedule release day is one of my favorite days of the year, right up there with Selection Sunday. It’s probably more so this year with it being the last season in the ACC. We already knew who the opponents would be and where, but you can only do so much with that information. Until you know when you play a team and where it fits in the schedule, you can’t come up with an accurate idea of how a team might finish.
The Terps schedule is an interesting one to say the least. Three out of the first four ACC games are on the road. In the middle of the ACC schedule, Maryland plays four out of five games on the road. But then Maryland finishes the year with four out of five at home. If the ACC was trying to mess with Maryland, and some might look at the opponents and say that they were, they ended up failing. Four of five at home to end the season, with the road game against basement dweller, Clemson, might give Maryland the momentum needed to make a run in the ACC Tournament.
Now with the full schedule, lets get into some quick thoughts.
1) Maryland starts off the year with a bang, having two major conference opponents before Thanksgiving. The UConn game is a neutral site affair, which could start off the season with positive momentum for Maryland. The next week they face Abilene Christian (which doesn’t count towards their RPI) and then Oregon State from the Pac 12. Last year, Maryland was young, and you could see that coach Turgeon was afraid to toss them big opponents right away, this year not so much.
2) Following the Paradise Jam, Maryland comes home to face Morgan State (11/29) before heading on the road to play Ohio State. The Buckeyes will be the first true road game Maryland plays, but with four out of seven games being neutral sites, Maryland should be more prepared to play on the road.
3) Maryland’s first ACC game comes at the right time, and against the right opponent. Many, including myself, think that Boston College is a team that will make a leap this year into the upper half of the ACC standings. They return a solid core, and were competitive in most ACC games, especially at home. Maryland plays them once and it’s on the road on December 12. Boston College struggled early last year before hitting their stride in conference, and Maryland will have already gone on the road once, at a tougher venue, and will have played five neutral site games already. I don’t think Boston College will be able to sneak up on us this year like they did last year, when Maryland beat Duke on Saturday then went to BC on Tuesday.
4) The stretch of Florida Atlantic, Boston University, Tulsa, N.C. Central, is always to be expected in December. High majors are more likely to schedule high majors out of conference in November, and Maryland was able to take advantage of that with UConn, Oregon State, Ohio State, and the Paradise Jam. Having a couple of bigger opponents before this stretch of cupcakes will give Coach Turgeon and company a better idea of what the team needs to work on heading into conference play.
5) ACC play kicks into high gear January 4, when Maryland hosts Georgia Tech. The following two road games against Pittsburgh and Florida State are tougher games on paper. Both teams are middle tier teams in the conference this season, and getting them early in league play could benefit Maryland. Splitting those two would be great, but ideally Maryland beats both of them. Florida State is still big up front, but lacks the guard play from last year. Pittsburgh will be looking for young players to step up, they are a bit of a wild card team right now until we see them play a couple of games.
6) Next stretch of four games is also a favorable draw for the Terps. Notre Dame will be good this year, but facing them at home is ideal. The trip to North Carolina State is tough, but with how much the Wolfpack lost from last year, they will be in the middle tier of teams this year. Pittsburgh and Miami are the next two home games, and both are winnable ones for Maryland. Miami lost nearly their entire team from last year, and Pitt I mentioned before. Maryland should ideally come out of the stretch 3-1. Would hate to lose to State, but winning home games is most important in league play, and Maryland’s guard play still isn’t great.
7) Four out of five on the road comes after the home game against Miami. Ideally the Terps enter this stretch 6-2, which eases some of the pressure off of these games. Virginia Tech will be among the worst teams in the conference, but then the Terps make their last ACC trip to Chapel Hill. A tall order for the Terps to knock off UNC on the road on a Tuesday night following a Saturday road game. Terps get a couple of days off before Florida State comes to College Park on Saturday February 8. Unfortunately for Maryland, their last trip to Charlottesville comes that Monday. Saturday-Monday is a new reality in the ACC, and Terps get hit hard by it, since Virginia is a team they will be battling for position with in the standings.
8) Saturday February 15 6:00Pm Maryland at Duke. Enough said. ACC helps Maryland by giving them six days to prep, with the time off and rivalry between the teams, I think Maryland can take this one. Or at least I hope so.
9) Home stretch for Maryland is about as good as you can ask for, regardless of the outcome from the Duke game. Terps have a Saturday-Tuesday schedule dilemma, but with Wake Forest being the Tuesday game, its not as bad. Maryland gets another six days to prep for a home game against a potential top ten team, Syracuse (2/24). Maryland gets another Sunday-Tuesday affair but with the Sunday game at Clemson and Tuesday home against Virginia Tech, Maryland dodges a bullet. Both teams are basement dwellers, and even with the lack of rest, Maryland should have the upper hand.
10) Schedule finishes up with Virginia at home on Sunday March 9. As someone who considers Virginia to be a rival, I thank the ACC for this game. Maryland usually finishes the year against Virginia, and I think it’s a nice touch to finish the year with a rivalry game. I’m happy to have the last ACC home game against Virginia, I think both fan bases will enjoy it.
Overall, the schedule could have been much worse. The Sunday-Tuesday/ Saturday-Monday scheduling aspects aren’t great, but Maryland lucked out with many of them coming against inferior opponents. The schedule will challenge Maryland to be mentally tough this year, but the early part of the schedule should have them ready for whatever the ACC throws their way. The key for how good Maryland can be this year will come down to how well they can handle the pressure of the road. If they aren’t mentally tough, we could be in for a couple of head scratching road losses, if they are more prepared and comfortable, then Maryland could be a threat to finish the conference in the upper half.
My Way To Early Schedule Prediction: 26-6 (13-5)
Conference Losses: @BC, @Pitt, @NCST, @UNC, @UVa