Even with the loss to Duke, Maryland seems to be on the inside looking out, as far as the Big Dance goes. Let’s assume Maryland ends up 8-8 in the ACC, beating both NC State and Virginia, but losing to Wake. That might be enough, or it might not. Here are a few teams, some in action tonight, who could sneak up and steal Maryland’s spot in the bracket.
Notre Dame: A pre-season top ten team, who then lost seven, that’s right, seven games in a row. Now, they’re 7-8 in the Big East with three games remaining. They go to Uconn this weekend, where they’ll get whacked, but then they come home to play Villanova, and St John’s. If they win both of those, they’ll be 9-9 in the Big East. They won’t have the win against a #3 team like Maryland does against Carolina, but they did beat a #7 Louisville team by 33 points.
Cincinnati: Nobody gives the Bearcats any love, but if they beat West Virginia tonight, at home, they’ll be 8-7 in the Big East. With South Florida and Seton Hall remaining, they could very easily go 10-8, and 10-8 in the Big East will get them in.
VA Tech: At 7-6 in the ACC, the Hokies would appear to be in good shape, but considering their remaining three games are: home versus Duke, home versus Carolina, and at FSU, VA Tech is going to have earn their way in. They will be expected to lose all three of these games, but if they can win any of these games to get to 8-8, coupled with their wins at Clemson and at then #1 Wake Forrest, the Hokies might be hard to leave out.
Miami: This is the team everyone has given up on. Right now they sit at 5-8. However, when looking through their schedule, the soft part is coming up. While Maryland, at 6-7, has three of their six conference wins against ACC doormats Virginia and GA Tech, Miami has yet to play EITHER Virginia or GA Tech. In fact, their five conference wins are: Maryland, FSU, Wake (by 27) and Boston College, twice. None of those were easy wins. Now, with a remaining schedule of: at Virginia, at GA Tech, and home versus NC State, the Hurricanes have a very realistic shot of ending up 8-8. Their best non-conference win was only against Kentucky, but they don’t have a bad non-conference loss. Would 8-8 with a blowout win against Wake and a season sweep of BC do it for Miami? It just might.
UAB: Their conference is pillowy soft, and their brutal non-conference schedule left them without a big win. However, if they beat Memphis tonight, at home, they’re in.
Michigan: If they beat Purdue tonight, at home, they’ll be 8-8 in the Big Ten with two road games (at Wisconsin and at Minnesota) remaining. I think the Big Ten stinks, but the RPI has it rated as the second strongest conference in America. No one can score in this league, but somehow it’s rated higher than the Big East. If Michigan ends up 9-9 in the Big Ten, having non-conference wins over Duke and UCLA, they would be hard to keep out.
As far as the Terps go, last night’s loss doesn’t hurt nearly as much as a win would have helped. They still find themselves in good shape. I think if they beat Wake, and win one of the road games, they will be in as good or better shape than a lot of teams come conference tournament time. However, if they lose to Wake, and end up 8-8 by beating NC State and Virginia, they find themselves in a very interesting position. They would only have two good wins on the year, and while beating Michigan State (by 18) and Carolina are certainly good wins, they may prove out to be the only wins the Terps have against teams making the tournament. Maryland has beaten Michigan, VA Tech, and split with Miami, so that would play in their favor. However, it Maryland finds themselves on the bubble with all of these teams, it would be hard for the Terps to say “those are quality wins against really good teams…but not really good enough to take out spot.”
These next two and half weeks are going to be great!