Just checking in on you guys, to make sure you’re still alive and that the arsenic you took following the FSU loss didn’t actually work.
Still here? Okay, good; that’s the first step.
There are tons of things to takeaway from that 67-65 gut-punch of a loss that ended a season which felt like repeated kicks to the groin for most Terp fans. What was supposed to be the season that launched Maryland back to relevancy on a national stage and made the ACC rue the day they ever dissed the program, ended up being a cacophony of errors and one of the most mediocre seasons in a decade. Seventeen wins and a .500 record in the ACC for the first time since ’09-’10 can only be viewed as a failure, because the end goal was always the NCAA tournament.
Might as well start with the very last ACC game we’ll ever play, though.
Maryland lost to Florida State because they didn’t have Evan Smotrycz, in my eyes. You know, Smotrycz is far from the perfect player, but you lose about 11 points, some great three point shooting, the second-best rebounder on the team, and an adept passer who makes the team deadly when he plays within himself. But perhaps even more crucial is that they don’t have a replacement player for Smotrycz, who is undeniably a large part of the offense (he’s got a 20% usage rage, after all).
Baseball has this statistic called WAR (wins above replacement), and if we apply that statistic to the Terps roster, the replacements are so paper thin for Smotrycz that his WAR would be about 8 (astronomically high given how few games Maryland won and how many less they’d win if Smo hadn’t played). You throw someone like Damonte Dodd or Shaquille Cleare out there for extended minutes and you’re going to get some very diminished returns.
The two of them combined for 2 points on 1-of-4 shooting and 5 rebounds over 24 minutes. That’s awful, in case you were wondering.
Smotrycz supplies so much more than that, and is a major reason why Maryland just doesn’t get outrebounded by such a drastic margin as they did against Florida State (39-26). If you outrebound teams you can play with pretty much anyone, and that’s why Florida State beat Maryland; because Dodd and Cleare aren’t capable of stopping the Seminoles bigs. If you think Smotrycz, even as slow as he is defensively, is going to get Bojanovsky outplay him so badly, you’re kidding yourself. Smo is a gamer through and through, and that’s rarely happened this season against almost anyone.
The other thing I alluded to earlier that hurt the team was rebounding. Being outrebounded by 13 is killer, but giving up 13 offensive rebounds is even worse. The Seminoles took one more shot than Maryland did despite turning the ball over 19 times because the Terps just gave them possession after possession. Turgeon will agree on this one: you don’t win games like that.
You can look at Maryland’s shooting percentage and think they didn’t shoot well enough to win the game and Florida State did, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Maryland did just fine in a lot of ways, but ultimately losing Smotrycz and his rebounding (and a few extra point) damned the Terps.
Now that that’s out of the way, we can mull over a important topic, like what happens next.
Outside of allowing you to cross one team off your list of potential NCAA tournament seeds, Maryland has nothing left to offer at the moment. As it stands, the season is over and to be quite frank, I’m not certain the Terps are going to make any tournament (NIT or otherwise). Unwritten rules typically stipulate that a .500 record or better will ensure that your team has a shot to at least make the NIT, but there are some pretty good teams this year. So while Maryland might fulfill one prerequisite, they’re dangerously close to not being invited to any tournament.
Maryland had the 31st toughest SOS this year, so I think there’s a chance Maryland gets some credit for that and ends up as a five seed in the NIT. That would pair them up with a team like Marquette or a pretty talented mid-major school. That’s okay for the Terps, but even their first game won’t be easy since they aren’t going to be a one- or two-seed.
But I’ll be honest, my only curiosity with the NIT is being able to play Georgetown. Why? Because in a season that has left me inconsolable, I want a damn consolation prize.
Georgetown is probably a three seed, so Maryland should kind of hope they can fall to a six seed and perhaps get a first-round matchup close to home that everyone will attend. But both teams could end up playing in the second round should they win, and I think the NIT realizes that. Either way, it’s looking like Maryland (should they get an invite) will eventually play the Hoyas. That’s good because the Hoyas suck, always.
Finally, we move onto the ACC. I don’t have much to say about this topic. After this season, I’m ready to leave this godforsaken conference. Maryland may have been one of the founding members, but it feels like they created a devil-baby. I can let it loose now after a full season of holding my tongue, but Maryland got jobbed on numerous occasions this year. The road games against all three North Carolina teams, the non-calls and falsified ones at Duke (literally a fake call), or even the 93-61 disparity in free throw shooting during all three of those games.
The conference isn’t inherently bad, and there’s little doubt in my mind that there is no conspiracy theory against Maryland. That doesn’t change the fact that during the vast majority of “iffy” calls, or in any instance where preferential treatment can be doled out, Maryland was rarely on the receiving end of that. From the conference tournament locations to publicity, all of it. The Terps are second in ACC titles overall (trailing only North Carolina), and yet they were treated like shit. That’s insulting to me.
The ACC loses their second-best athletic school (if we’re going strictly on athletic championships), and the Big Ten gets it. I fail to see how that’s a loss for Maryland in any way outside of saying goodbye to tradition.
As for how Maryland’s going to do in the Big Ten? Who knows? Maryland doesn’t play Big Ten football, and they don’t play Big Ten basketball. Nonetheless, both programs are on the up-and-up, and will have both momentum, the element of surprise, and their most talented rosters in nearly ten years. That’s a recipe for success.
Regardless of what Wilbon says, Maryland is fully prepared, and it’s nice to get out of the ACC win or lose. At least we have a new saga to discuss, rather than the same old story.