Maryland Basketball: Blueprint to Finishing on the Right Side of the Bubble

Ryan SatskyContributor IIIJanuary 31, 2013

Maryland Basketball: Blueprint to Finishing on the Right Side of the Bubble

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    Optimism was running high surrounding Maryland earlier this season. The Terps sprinted to an overpowering 13-1 start, yet conference play has gotten the better of this young squad.

    The Terps have begun conference play with a 3-5 record, winning zero games on the road. Their win against NC State is their lone solid win in ACC play.

    Having already played Duke, Miami, NC State, North Carolina and Florida State (twice), Maryland has already played the tougher part of its schedule, which is a negative for Maryland's NCAA Tournament hopes.

    Maryland is desperate for resume-building wins, and soft upcoming docket which features just two games against teams with an RPI less than 50 for the rest of the season.

    Here is the blueprint for Maryland to right the ship and finish on the favorable side of the bubble.

Beat Duke at Home

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    In dire need of a season-defining victory, Maryland finds itself in the wrong conference. There simply aren't many major wins to be had in the ACC this season.

    Maryland only plays one more opponent ranked in the top 30 in the RPI or KenPom rankings, due to unbalanced scheduling. That one opponent is the powerhouse Duke Blue Devils, in a game that will be played in College Park.

    The Terps got their best win against NC State. The Wolfpack have an outstanding RPI measure at 19, but KenPom slots them at just 37. Most tournament teams have multiple victories against top 25 teams, not just one.

    A win against Duke is nearly imperative for Maryland to make the tournament, considering its soft schedule the rest of the way.

Win 2 out of 3 vs UNC and Virginia

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    While North Carolina and Virginia don't pop off a resume and signify a spectacular win, they do classify as top 50 KenPom wins. Maryland desperately needs those.

    The Terps play both the Cavaliers and the Tar Heels each at home, and also play Virginia again on the road.

    Maryland may have played a weak nonconference schedule, but a 15-6 overall record is unarguably solid.  For this reason, the Terps can afford to drop one of these three games.

    Nevertheless, racking up two, profile-enhancing victories would go a long ways for the Terps' postseason hopes.

Avoid Losses to Bottom Half of ACC

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    Still remaining on Maryland's schedule are six games against the five worst teams in the conference—Boston College, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest (twice).

    Not only does Maryland need to win those games to avoid picking up bad losses, but three out of five of those games will be played on the road. After dropping its fourth consecutive road loss against Florida State, Maryland desperately needs an away win on their resume.

    There isn't much room for error with the Terps' tournament hopes right now, and a loss to one of the weaker teams in the league would hurt those chances even more. Multiple losses may be a nail in the coffin.

Win 2 Games in the ACC Tournament

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    With a 3-5 conference record at the moment, it looks unlikely that Maryland will finish in the top-four of the conference, and ultimately will not receive a first-round bye.

    Assuming this is the case, Maryland would absolutely need to win its opening round game in the ACC tournament. The Terps will probably be the higher seed.

    Following an opening round win, Maryland would than face off against one of those top four teams. Knocking off a highly seeded opponent would do wonders for their tournament odds.