It's always bittersweet to be a top seed in the NIT. So close, yet so far.
After a tough loss to Florida State Wednesday, Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon prepares his players for the rest of the ACC. As the season moves on, it is getting harder to ignore the similarities between this team and the Virginia Tech Hokies that were snubbed in the 2011 NCAA tournament.
Poor strength of schedule, inability to finish games, and only a few "big" wins are just some of the reasons why Maryland may face the same fate as the 2011 Hokies.
Here are five reasons why the Terps could become yet another snubbed bubble team.
The Rating Percentage Index (RPI) is a method of schedule analysis that the NCAA uses to determine which teams reach top-25 status and which bubble teams deserve to make the NCAA tournament.
This is where Maryland's similarities with the 2011 Hokies begin.
Through the first 20 games Maryland's RPI is a mediocre 65.
When Virginia Tech was snubbed from the tournament in 2011, it had an RPI of 60 and only went 1-4 against teams ranked in the Top 25.
Right now Maryland is 1-2 against ranked teams with its only win coming in a hard-fought defensive battle against #14 NC State Wolfpack.
This ranking leaves the team with a lot of room to work. In order to improve, the team would need to get some quality wins against either Duke or UNC and hold onto victories against less notable ACC opponents.
Maryland's non-conference strength of schedule ranked 289th in the nation. This goes hand-in-hand with RPI.
The Terps managed to finish 12-1 over that period, losing only to No. 3-ranked Kentucky. Despite the tremendous talent of the young Kentucky team, a loss is a loss, and it is a blemish on Maryland's record.
This means Maryland's performance in ACC play is crucial, and up to this point they have not stood out with a 3-4 record. The coming weeks of conference play will determine Maryland's tournament hopes as it seeks wins against the #5 Duke Blue Devils and UNC Tar Heels.
Through seven games of ACC play, the Terps have gone 3-4. Their offense has trouble starting and finishing games and have been relying far too much on their defense against good teams.
Maryland was most recently shellacked by Duke and lost by 3 points to the Kentucky Wildcats earlier this season. However, they managed to beat one top 25 team.
Although ugly, that win was against #14 NC State. It was a hard-fought game on defense as both teams failed to impress on the other side of the ball, but Maryland took an early lead and held on until the finish.
It's a win that the Terps can build on in the coming weeks.
In 2011, the Hokies finished 1-4 against ranked teams. Maryland will only be facing one more ranked team, a rematch against Duke. The Terps will need to come out with a victory to avoid a potential snubbing, much like the 2011 Hokies.
There was an air of uncertainty as Maryland started lacing up its Under Armour sneakers this preseason.
The discussions were about whether Alex Len and company could take this team to the next level and be competitors in the ACC. Many analysts believed that this team would linger within its conference and fail to impress to a great extent.
Those people were right.
Every year there are average tournament teams that win one game, maybe two. There are also plenty of average teams that fall into the bubble and fail to make the tournament while mid-majors get a chance to play.
Maryland is looking more and more like an average team that could end up falling by the wayside come tournament time. Wednesday night's loss in the Florida State rematch did not help its case.
In order to make it to the tournament, the Terps will need to beat Duke in the confines of Comcast Center later in the season
There is no more important time for bubble teams than the conference tournament. It's where teams heat up and make a name for themselves or cool off and fail to achieve postseason glory.
In 2011 the Virginia Tech Hokies fizzled out very early in the conference tournament, which played a large role in their being left out in March.
Maryland's fate will be determined by its performance in the ACC Tournament. The team needs to avoid a first-round exit and win some key games in order to have a chance. A big win against UNC or Duke would put the Terps over the top, sealing a place in the tournament.