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Can Maryland Make the NCAA Tourney with an 8-8 Conference Record?

Maryland's win last night against American puts the team at 8-2, with 4 more non-conference games remaining before ACC play begins. Assuming the Terps win all 4 of those home games, that puts the team at 12-2 going into ACC play. At 12-2, I wouldn't be surprised if the Terps were ranked, or at least close to being ranked (the Terps are receiving votes in both the AP and Coaches polls this week). That means if the Terps go .500 in ACC play, they'll be 20-10 with big out of conference wins over Michigan State and Michigan and their only non-conference losses would be against two of the top teams in the country in Gonzaga and Georgetown.

Last year's team went 8-8 in conference play and missed the Big Dance, but last year's team also lost to Ohio and American at home, while also losing several ACC games they should have won. Although Maryland's team this year doesn't feature the same front court talent that last team of Boooom Osby and James Gist possessed, this year's team has been able to defeat lesser opponents and has done a much better job of rebounding and free throw shooting, The Terps hit 16 of 18 attempts last night and continue to lead the ACC in free throw shooting. Don't underestimate the importance of free throw shooting. With this guard-dominated team, it could easily be the difference between a win and a loss, especially in ACC play.

Maryland's remaining schedule is below. I've indicated a W for a game I think they'll win and an L for a game I think they'll lose.

W - December 27 Bryant University 2:00 PM ET
W - December 30 Elon 8:00 PM ET
W - January 3 Charlotte 4:00 PM ET
W - January 7 Morgan State 8:00 PM ET
W - January 10 Georgia Tech 12:00 PM ET
W - January 14 at Miami (FL) 9:00 PM ET
L - January 17 at Florida State 12:00 PM ET
W - January 20 Virginia 8:00 PM ET
L - January 24 at No. 5 Duke 12:00 PM ET
w - January 27 Boston College 7:30 PM ET
w - January 31 Miami (FL) 8:00 PM ET
L - February 3 at No. 1 North Carolina 8:00 PM ET
W - February 8 at Georgia Tech 7:30 PM ET
W - February 14 Virginia Tech 4:00 PM ET
L - February 17 at No. 20 Clemson 7:30 PM ET
L - February 21 No. 1 North Carolina 3:30 PM ET
W - February 25 No. 5 Duke 9:00 PM ET
W - March 1 at North Carolina State 7:30 PM ET
W - March 3 No. 6 Wake Forest 9:00 PM ET
W - March 7

at Virginia

That puts the Terps at 11-5 in Conference play. Can the Terps go 11-5? I think it's possible, but that all depends on the continued development of Dino Gregory in the front court and of Milbourne continuing to grow in the power forward position.

So even if the Terps lose 3 more games then I indicated above, they'll still be 8-8 in the conference and likely make the dance, so long as one of those losses isn't at home to a team like UVA. 11-5 in conference (assuming they win the rest of the non-conference schedule) would put the Terps at 23-7, which would be a pretty darn good year for a team that some, including The Sporting News, predicted would be the bottom feeders in the ACC this year. I think if we're in the 20-10 to better range, we're in. It would help if we could go 1-3 in the 4 games against UNC and Duke. But don't think this team can't beat UNC, Duke or Wake. I think Maryland matches up very well against Duke, since they basically run the same guard dominated offense as the Terps are this season. UNC is going to be a problem because Hansbrough is good and we're going to have a hard time slowing him down, in much the same way that we had problems against Gonzaga and Georgetown.

How many ACC wins do you think the Terps will get this season? Vote in the poll below!