Maryland has been through 15 games, which, of course, happens to be half of their 31 on the year, or at least as close as it can come to half. And that means there's no better time for an early evaluation of the season and a guess of what's to come.
The year hasn't exactly gone expected for Maryland. Ranked within weeks of the season and expected to seriously challenge for the ACC title for the first time in years, the Terps sit at a respectable but not mind-blowing 10-5, 1-1 in conference.
Looking back, the beginning of the year was a slight disappointment. Maryland was supposed to win Maui - instead, Born Ready and Wisconsin handed Maryland two early season losses. There wasn't supposed to be a winter mid-major loss this year. Then William & Mary came along. Villanova was supposed to be upset bait, until they couldn't miss from 3 the first ten minutes of the game.
Then again, Maryland is better now then they were then.
Greivis Vasquez has returned to form. Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne are looking better each game. Adrian Bowie is no longer invisible. Dino Gregory has returned to give valuable, experienced bench minutes. It only stands to reason they'll be more competitive in ACC play than they were in OOC play.
Also, those early games saw some important developments, most notably those of Sean Mosley and Jordan Williams. Williams saw his first double-double against Villanova, and those games ended up being invaluable in terms of experience. He figures to be Maryland's best big man since Lonny Baxter. Mosley isn't fully developed yet, or close to it, but he's a great hustler, a surprising rebounder, and is on the verge of ACC stardom. He's not yet there offensively, but he's damn close. He'll have to take over for Greivis next year, and I think he just might be able to.
The Wake Forest loss hurts more than any of the other losses because Maryland really came damn close to winning it and would've been 2-0 in ACC play in amazing position to make a run. They would've been two quality wins back-to-back against two top-tier ACC teams. Instead, they sit at the much more precarious 1-1, albeit an impressive 1-1.
Looking ahead, predictions vary on the Terps. One site is calling for 15-14 and 6-10 in the ACC, and that's borderline NIT. Another predicts 18-12 and 8-8 in the ACC, which would place Maryland squarely on the bubble for the second straight year. Most Terp fans don't even think 20 wins would be out of the question at this point, as unlikely as it may be.
Personally, I don't think another 10 wins would be out of the question. A lot of things are still too volatile to get any decent read on it - is Virginia really 2-0 in the ACC good? Probably not. But that's what the computers see, and thus they predict a loss for Maryland in JPJ. I disagree. There are a lot of places that Maryland could vary, and this is traditionally an inconsistent, unpredictable squad.
Gun to my head, I say 19-11, 9-7. Will that be enough to get the NCAAT? Probably not on its own. They'll need at least one or two wins in the ACCT to seal the deal. It would be very nice if one of those wins came against Duke, too.
The one really interesting thing I see on the schedule is the way Maryland can finish. Between February 20 and March 6, Maryland gets two games against quality but beatable opponents (Clemson and GT) at home, two games against average opponents on the road (Virginia and VT), and Duke at home. The Virginians should be hard-fought road wins, boosting RPI. The Clemson and GT games are possible resume wins. And then there's Duke, always an unpredictable contest, particularly when Maryland's season is riding on it.
Then again, Maryland could very well lose all those games - road games are unpredictable, Duke is Duke, and the home games are against good teams. I wouldn't be surprised to see the season come down to that final stretch entirely. Win a majority of those games, and they finish strong - always a positive for the committee. Finish weak, and they probably don't have a shot. Somewhere in between, and welcome back to the bubble.
If nothing else, it'll be an interesting finish, as it always is. This time, though, let's hope we can keep any Kathy Worthington-esque matters in house.
Another, bigger halfway post will be on the way six games from now, as Maryland reaches the halfway point of the ACC season. That one will have player evals and the like.