USA TODAY Sports
Will the Terps' late charge be enough to find themselves in the field?
Probably, of course, being the operative word. The field will be finalized at 6:00 tonight, but people who concern themselves with this kind of thing nigh-universally consider Maryland among the first four out, which means the unveiling will be worth watching but not exactly worth getting your hopes up over.
Even though almost everyone, from Joe Lunardi to Jerry Palm to Patrick Stevens, has the Terps among their first four out, it's tough to find anyone who thinks Maryland will actually make it in the field. That's a strange phenomenon, given that almost every other bubble team has someone going to bat for it, but it's at least clear that Maryland has fought itself legitimately back into the conversation.
As it stands, I think the Dagger is right in saying that this is the simplest way to look at it: there's five spots available for ten teams. Those ten? Kentucky, Virginia, Ole Miss, Middle Tennessee State, St. Mary's, La Salle, Tennessee, Southern Miss, Boise St. ... and Maryland. You might be able to throw Ole Miss into the field and Southern Miss out, which would leave four for eight, but other than that this is pretty much what the committee's looking at.
Do the Terps have a better resumé than five of those teams? I'm not sure. But I am sure that you can figure out a way to frame it like they do - does anyone else, for instance, have two wins over the #1 RPI team in country? And when you're a bubble team, that's all you can really hope for - give somebody in the committee an excuse to take a liking to you, if they value certain things that you're strong in, and see what happens. Maybe there's a few members who think big wins and teams coming together late in the year, like Maryland did, is worthwhile, and if so crazier things have happened than a team with the Terps' resumé sneaking into the First Four. The margins here are so thin that it's tough to make any definitive case for one team being objectively superior to another; it's all about what the committee cares about.
There will be challenges, namely that the Terps lost all three head-to-head matchups they've had with others in that field. The Kentucky game isn't too worrying - it was the first game of the year, UK had Nerlens Noel, and the Terps only lost by three - but given that Virginia's resumé isn't markedly worse than Maryland's, can the committee justify picking the Terps and leaving the Hoos out when UVA swept the season series? (Nevermind that, had the home and away games been switched and the Terps got them in College Park to end the season that they'd probably have won that game.)
I'm not big into bracketology and can't say definitively who has the best profiles here - especially because, as I mentioned before, what's "best" to you or me or Joe Lunardi or Jerry Palm might not be "best" to those making the decisions, given the way it's possible to frame this discussion in any number of ways. Maryland gave themselves a shot, but given the weak spots (avoidable weak spots) in their resumé I don't think they can have any qualms if they're left out.
I'd love to see this team in the tournament, but I'll say it once again: they were left for dead before the conference tourney, and their phoenix-like revival to the bubble in the ACCT was both unexpected and, I imagine for most, by that point unnecessary. If they make it, great and we get to see this team at least one more time; if not, then they'll be a one seed in the NIT and we'll get to see if the progress they've appeared to make is genuine. I know one thing: if the other bubble teams are the potential best of the NIT, I wouldn't pick any of them above Maryland head-to-head. (If the committee does the same,
Let this serve as your open thread for the day, and for bickering about whether Maryland or Alabama or Ole Miss or MTSU has the best resumé. But just like I said yesterday, and the day before, enjoy being at least somewhat relevant, and playing relevant, exciting basketball, in March.