Maryland Basketball: Duke Win Is a Stepping Stone, Not a Safety Net for Terps

Ryan SatskyContributor IIIOctober 29, 2016

Feb 16, 2013; College Park, MD, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Josh Hairston (15) defends Maryland Terrapins forward Charles Mitchell (0) at the Comcast Center. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

In an game that embodied the term "must-win" to the fullest, the youthful Maryland Terrapins pulled off the unfathomable last Saturday.

Aside from ball security, the Terps, fueled by Alex Len, outplayed No. 2 Duke in every facet of the game en route to a two-point victory, which preceded riots and bonfires throughout College Park.

Believe me, I was there, and it was quite the spectacle.

Leading up to the game, Maryland found itself slowly slipping off the elusive NCAA tournament bubble.

The win against Duke certainly puts them right back in the mix, but the Terps would be well-advised to avoid complacency. There is plenty of work to be done in between now and Selection Sunday if coach Mark Turgeon would like to hear his team's name called.

The remainder of Maryland's schedule features four games that can only hurt Maryland—on the road against Boston College, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, and at home against Clemson.

Assuming Maryland takes care of business against the quarter of ACC bottom-feeders, Maryland must split its final two games against North Carolina at home and Virgina on the road.

The Terps currently sit at 18-7 overall, with an RPI rank of 62 and an overall SOS of 90. With a 2-4 record against Top 50 opponents, the NCAA tournament committee will have a tough time sending Maryland to the Big Dance.

A win over North Carolina would at least give the Terps a third Top-50 win. A win over Virginia wouldn't suffice in that sense, but would certainly qualify as a solid road win, which Maryland has a dearth of.

If Maryland indeed only drops one more game, coming at the expense of either North Carolina or Virginia, it would showcase a pretty 23-8 record and likely move its RPI rank into the Top 50.

So, while it's easy to want to move the Terps into the NCAA tournament field following a massively imperative win over Duke, there is evidently more work to be done before Maryland carries an NCAA at-large caliber profile.

The Terps cannot view this as a safety net to fall back on if they drop a few games down the stretch-run in conference play. This must be a stepping stone towards a convincing late-season run.