The Maryland men’s basketball has a lot of work to do if they want to make the tournament.
The Terps sit at 13-9 overall and 3-5 in the ACC at the halfway point of conference play in their first season under head coach Mark Turgeon. They have just three wins over teams in the RPI top 100, which were victories over Colorado, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech. Only one of those, the one over Notre Dame, was a win against a top 68 RPI team.
The best 68 teams, according the selection committee, will go to the NCAA tournament. The next best 32 will go to the NIT (National Invitation Tournament), making 100 total teams in the postseason for NCAA D1 men’s college basketball. Right now, Maryland, who is ranked 98th in the RPI themselves, is in danger of missing out on all of it like they did a year ago.
Not much was expected of a team that lost two key Williams’ (Jordan and Gary), so it isn’t shocking that the 2011-12 Terps are in this position with eight ACC games down and eight to go. What is perhaps surprising to some is that this team seems just as willing to fight for Mark Turgeon as it was for Gary Williams. The question is: will that fight be enough?
The Terps would likely need a few signature wins to receive an at-large bid to the tournament, and, seeing as they don’t really have any right now, they probably need to win all, or close to all, of their remaining games. Most importantly, they will need to knock off a ranked opponent, which they will have ample opportunity to do, seeing as they play #10/9 Duke, #5 UNC and #19/20 Virginia twice. However, the Terps may not have the talent to pull off wins in any of those games.
This year, Maryland has only played an opponent that was ranked at the time on three occasions and came up short in all three contests. First was their second game of the season at then #16 (AP) Alabama, a game the Terps gotten beaten badly in: 62-42. Then, of course, there have been the UNC and Duke games, both at Comcast. The Terps put up a fight in both games, before falling 74-61 to the then #8 (AP) Blue Devils and 83-74 to the #5 Tarheels.
None of the teams Maryland has defeated are currently ranked, though Notre Dame has received votes in both the latest polls.
Looking on the positive side of things, Maryland did take Miami, a team that recently beat Duke, down to the wire. In addition, Notre Dame has beaten #2 Syracuse, indicating that maybe the Terps can play with anybody.
If Maryland doesn’t boost their resume enough over the next eight games, there’s always the ACC tournament. And if not that, then Maryland fans will be looking to see how good Mark Turgeon will be at recruiting better players for the years to come.
In case you’re wondering what Turgeon has to live up to, Gary Williams didn’t do anything earth shattering in his inaugural season at Maryland. It was 1989-90 and the Terps went 19-14, 6-8 in the ACC, and made it to the second round of the NIT. Maryland actually had losing overall records in Williams’ third and fourth campaigns and failed to make the tournament until Gary’s fifth year.
The rest is history. From 1994 to 2004, Williams led the Terps to 11 straight tournament appearances, including seven sweet sixteens, two final fours and the national championship in 2002. But Gary knows it took a while, which is why the night he had the Comcast Center floor named after him he told fans to give Turgeon the same chance he had to win them over.