Maryland Vs. Villanova Basketball: Terps in Doghouse If They Lose to Cats

Posted by Scott Harris on January-14-2011 Add Comments

Got a little math problem for you. Picture a basketball team. Let’s call it, oh, say, Team Maryland. This team is 0-4 against Top 25-caliber teams but 11-1 against teams with a combined record of 82-111.

Now, say that team goes 0-2 against its final two ranked opponents and 10-3 against teams with an average RPI of 119. What do you get?

Give up? You get a 21-10 basketball team sitting on the sideline bleachers with a warm cup of orange drink in one hand and a flaccid slice of pepperoni in the other. No ladies to be found. No two-steppin’. No dance.

Maryland is not a bad team this year—the Terps are actually pretty respectable. But in terms of their dance prospects, they have two things working against them. 

First, the ACC is currently fourth in Jeff Sagarin’s conference ratings. They are below the Big East, Big Ten and Big 12 and only barely ahead of the SEC, the surging Pac-10 and the Mountain West (yes, the Mountain West). So it’s not like regular years in the ACC, when opportunities for résumé wins dotted the schedule like so many succulent pippins on an apple tree. (Just to illustrate, last year the ACC had the second-highest conference RPI, when they had six tournament teams, and highest overall in 2008-2009, when seven ACC teams made the dance.)

Second, as mentioned, Maryland has lost all four of its games thus far against top 25 opponents: Duke, Pitt, Illinois and Temple. Maryland played impressively—especially against Duke and Pitt, which at this point look to be juggernauts—but fell short each time. 

Maybe this is why Terps fans sound a little like used car salesmen these days. Say, what if we take this College of Charleston win, package it with Penn State and promise you two Virginia Tech victories? Hey, I’ll even throw in a split with Boston College. Do we have a deal?

Either way, stars have aligned to throw a white-hot beam on Maryland’s two remaining games versus top opponents: the February 2 rematch with Duke, and tomorrow’s showdown in Philly against seventh-ranked Villanova.

The Wildcats are daunting. They’re led by the Coreys—but these Coreys don’t want you to get out of their dreams and into their car (rimshot). Guards Corey Stokes and Corey Jones are combining for 32 points per game.

Maryland’s perimeter defense has been very strong this season—see their tempering of Duke’s Nolan Smith, Penn State’s Talor Battle and Charleston’s Andrew Goudelock—but this two-headed beast could be their stiffest test to date.

And it doesn’t end in the backcourt. Stalwart senior Antonio Pena and young Mouphtaou Yarou are waiting in the post. Villanova is firing on all cylinders and has won 10 games in a row, including a 14-point tail-whupping of No. 17 Louisville Wednesday night. This is not going to be easy.

Nevertheless, Maryland has a shot. Their offensive inconsistency has forced Gary Williams’ team to dance with the horse that brung them: defense. If they can protect the rim and the perimeter and disrupt passing lanes as well as shots, their chances improve.

If Terrell Stoglin can get off the schneid, if Cliff Tucker continues his brilliant all-around play and if Jordan Williams can be Jordan Williams despite his formidable opposition on the blocks, then the Terps might have a winnable game on their hands. As always, we shall see.

I’m not saying Maryland can’t make the tourney without a big-time scalp, but if they don’t have that signature win, they’re probably looking at a table full of billiard balls and no room for a scratch. After all, Virginia Tech found itself watching the madness on TV last season, and it won 23 games in the nation’s second-ranked conference. Problem was, they never got that signature win.

The ACC had six teams in the tourney last year. This year, it could be less. I’m not saying anything. I’m just saying.

(For this and plenty more news, analysis and fun stuff on all things Terps, visit us over at Shell Games, or follow us on Twitter @Terpsblog.)

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