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The Immediate Future of Maryland Basketball: Must-Wins Already?

Maryland basketball is sitting a crossroads for this year way earlier than they wanted to reach it. In the next two weeks, they will play two games that will, in all likelihood, decide their season. It's not a stretch to say that the next two games - actually, all remaining OOC games entirely - are games Maryland has to win, unless they plan on having an amazing conference run.

Here's what Maryland's looking at in the next month, with two games (W&M and UNC-G) following them:

Terrapins Basketball Schedule

Every year, people talk about teams that, despite good records, don't get into the tournament because they have no great out of conference wins. Thanks to losses to Cincinnati and Wisconsin, unless Maryland beats Indiana and Villanova, they'll fall into that same trap.

Indiana isn't so much of a good win as it would be a bad loss. The Hoosiers are still rebuilding, and while they'll be back in a couple years, they're not close yet. They're still bottom three or four in the Big Ten, so even though it's an away game, the RPI boost will be minimal and claiming it as a resume win is tough. Another loss against a team that low would be a lot to overcome without a major win. If they lose to Villanova as well, you could probably finish off the year at that.

Nova's the make-or-break game, this year's version of Michigan State. They aren't who we thought they were (almost lost to George Mason) and they're missing key components (Reggie Redding, Mouphtaou Yarou) but they'll almost certainly turn it on at the end of the year for a nice RPI boost. Just like MSU last year, Maryland could be getting them when they're most beatable, and then, when they plow through the Big East, the win would look amazing.

Without Redding and Yarou, Villanova...still completely outclasses Maryland at every position. And unlike Michigan State last year, they're proven at most of their positions, most of all PG with Scottie Reynolds. Winning that game will be very difficult, but it's also very possible. Everyone will have to be clicking and Nova will have to have a bad day, but if George Mason is an Isaiah Armwood 3 away from victory, Maryland can pull it off.

They win both of those games and win out the OOC schedule, and they'll enter conference play at 11-2, with one big resume win and one very minor resume win, along with no bad losses. Put up a 9-7 year in the ACC to get to 20-9, and a couple of ACCT wins will probably still be necessary. Go 10-6, and as long as they win in the first round of the ACCT, their ticket will be punched.

If they lose to Villanova, 10-3 with no resume wins completely changes it. I still think that a 10-6 year probably gets them in along with one or two ACCT wins, but is that really realistic? They'd also probably have to top both UNC and Duke at some point to prove they can beat the best of the best.

Now, it's still too early to do this type of stuff in any detail - it could be a weak field, like last year, and it would be significantly easier to get in. Maybe Maryland goes off in ACC play and dominates, and this is all rendered worthless anyway. But right now, it seems like these two games could well decide Maryland's tournament hopes.