Maryland entered ACC play with a gaudy win-loss record, though the team lacked any quality wins.
The focus for the Terps centered on the opportunity to show the team returned to the college basketball elite with some key victories in conference play. The first chance for Maryland to do so came last night against defending ACC champs Florida State.
Things started well for the Terps. Maryland enjoyed a nine-point halftime lead, and early in the second half the team grew that lead to double figures. But a stretch of abysmal basketball let the Seminoles back in the game, and then turnovers and selfish guard play cost the Terps the chance at a solid win.
One loss to Florida State should mean just that: one loss. But in Maryland’s case, it means much more. Based on Yahoo's RPI rankings, the Terps RPI fell from No. 70 entering conference play last week to No. 91 now. Combined with Maryland's putrid non-conference schedule, ranked No. 263 by CBS Sports, and the Terps are already trying to climb out of a hole in order to reach the Big Dance.
The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee gives significant weight to a team’s non-conference record, and Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated said that the Terps hurt themselves when the time comes to discuss the NCAA Tournament bubble:
“Like every coach, Mike Turgeon had to make a decision with his schedule. Did he want to load up on easy games to give his young team some early confidence? Or did he risk challenging them with games that would improve their RPI profile but could derail the season? He chose the former, which means the Terps have much work to do over the next couple of months. I'm also guessing that when Turgeon agreed to open the season against Kentucky, he was assuming that the Wildcats would be ranked higher than No. 62 in the RPI.”
Maryland banked on opening the season against Kentucky to bolster their non-conference schedule. In an off-year for the Wildcats, that bet will not pay off.
To reach the NCAA Tournament, Maryland must register quality wins in ACC play. Last night, they gave one of those away to Florida State.