There are inactive astir 2 months until Selection Sunday, but Maryland men’s hoops is facing a captious juncture astatine the extremity of its January docket that could beryllium the quality betwixt making and not making this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Four of Maryland’s adjacent 5 games volition beryllium astatine location — the sole objection a roadworthy crippled astatine No. 3 Purdue, which looks similar the people of the Big Ten and the league’s lone existent nationalist rubric contender. The location games are: Michigan (Jan. 19), Wisconsin (Jan. 25), Nebraska (Jan. 28) and Indiana (Jan. 31).
No crippled successful the Big Ten is easy, and immoderate squad tin bushed different connected immoderate fixed night. But the accidental has presented itself for the Terps to pad their resume and caput into the last afloat period of the play connected the close broadside of the NCAA Tournament bubble.
All 4 of the teams the Terps volition look astatine location are beatable. Despite a commanding triumph implicit Maryland little than a period ago, Michigan doesn’t look similar a tourney squad to this point. Wisconsin fell retired of the rankings aft 3 consecutive losses and Nebraska hasn’t been competitory successful its past two. Indiana hasn’t looked the aforesaid without Race Thompson — not that the Hoosiers were surviving up to their preseason billing with him steadfast anyway.
It’s incredibly important to debar losing winnable location games, particularly erstwhile roadworthy wins person seemed intolerable to travel by, arsenic has been the lawsuit with Maryland successful league play. It is 0-4 against Big Ten foes distant from College Park, suffering done lengthy scoring droughts that doomed it successful each 4 games. At home, though, the Terps are 2-0 successful the conference, beating Illinois and Ohio State, some of which were ranked astatine the time.
More apt than not, Maryland isn’t going to beryllium playing postseason hoops if it can’t get astatine slightest a triumph (or a few) connected the roadworthy by season’s end. But unless a power magically flips — and we’ve made it to the constituent successful the play wherever that is becoming improbable — those roadworthy victories won’t beryllium numerous. Out of the team’s six remaining roadworthy contests, Feb. 4 astatine Minnesota and Feb. 19 astatine Nebraska are the lone 2 that KenPom.com projects arsenic wins.
What that means is that the Terps’ NCAA Tournament destiny is astir apt going to travel down to whether oregon not they tin support their location court. That’s what makes this upcoming agelong truthful important: taking connected excessively galore losses this aboriginal leads to a spread excessively large to excavation retired of. Given the caliber of teams they’re astir to look and however unconvincing they’ve been astatine arenas not named XFINITY Center, the Terps won’t beryllium capable to punch their summons to the NCAA Tournament with a beardown homestand, but they’re facing a monolithic uphill ascent if it goes poorly.
“I deliberation location games are going to beryllium really, truly important,” caput manager Kevin Willard said. “... I deliberation we played beauteous good astatine home. The crowds person been great. I deliberation they’ve fixed america a truly bully boost successful our archetypal 2 league games, truthful I deliberation you know, get done this agelong wherever we’ve benignant of been connected the road. We’ve got to effort to marque definite we travel location and we instrumentality attraction of concern astatine home.”
Since Maryland joined the conference, lone 5 teams person made the NCAA Tournament with a losing grounds successful Big Ten play. Four of those finished 9-11 — including Maryland successful 2020-21 — and the lone 1 to decorativeness 8-12 and suffice was Ohio State successful 2018-19. Using 9-11 arsenic a benchmark, the Terps would person to spell 7-7 successful their past 14 games to person a better-than-minimal accidental astatine qualifying.
Assuming Maryland loses to Purdue, a 3-1 grounds successful those 4 location games means having to spell 4-5 successful February and aboriginal March — KenPom projects Maryland to spell 5-4 successful that stretch. Go 1-3 oregon worse successful those games, and present they’re looking astatine having to debar immoderate missteps and knocking disconnected a squad they’re not expected to.
Maryland presently ranks No. 52 successful the NET — a metric the enactment committee uses to assistance its decision-making — astir apt not bully capable to support fans’ bosom rates debased if the Selection Show was to get 7 weeks early. Maryland was astir precocious projected arsenic an 11 effect by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm and a 10 effect by FOX Sports’ Michael DeCourcy. To enactment it plainly: astatine this constituent successful the season, the Terps are close connected the borderline of the tourney bubble and can’t spend to miss opportunities if they’re going to spell dancing. It won’t beryllium capable to instrumentality immoderate losses and anticipation the different bubble teams bash too; the borderline of mistake moving guardant is excessively slim.
Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams successful 1985, Maryland has had 4 caller caput coaches instrumentality implicit (Lefty Driesell’s past play was successful 1985-86). Bob Wade made the tourney successful his 2nd season, though the different 2 of his 3 successful College Park were immoderate of the worst successful programme history. It took Gary Williams until his 5th play to suffice and Mark Turgeon until his fourth.
Even successful the epoch of instantly-eligible transfers, Willard didn’t person a existent accidental to physique his archetypal squad arsenic Maryland’s caput coach. The results connected the tribunal volition much than apt not beryllium arsenic beardown an indicator of aboriginal results arsenic recruiting and play benignant will, and a nonaccomplishment to suffice for the NCAA Tournament wouldn’t beryllium massively astonishing for a squad picked to decorativeness 10th successful the Big Ten successful the league’s preseason poll.
Still, it would beryllium a welcomed show for Maryland fans to spot their squad backmost successful the bracket aft a messy 2021-22 play that ended with the Terps connected the extracurricular looking in. The location agelong of January could beryllium to beryllium a harbinger of whether oregon not that anticipation volition beryllium realized.